One of the most satisfying feelings in life is feeling the sense of being grounded. The dictionary definition of the word asks more questions about a person than it answers.
- The Oxford American English Dictionary defines grounded as: Well balanced and sensible.
- The Merriam Webster Dictionary has more to say: mentally and emotionally stable : admirably sensible, realistic, and unpretentious.
I’ve heard other phrases in my life that I also equate with a person who is grounded such as “knows who they are and they’re happy with it”, “comfortable in their own skin”, and “right where they want to be in life”. The classic view of a person who is “grounded” is of a person who is that way because that is who they are and nothing can shake them. People like that might exist, but I think anyone is capable of being shaken loose from their roots occasionally. Sometimes it is better to let yourself drift for a while than to hold on to a self-image that no longer works. I believe you won’t be able to hold on to that “grounded” feeling for long if your self-image doesn’t match your situation! Although I haven’t always felt that I was “grounded”, I can definitely think of four times in my life I felt that way.
When I was young and we lived just outside of my hometown, even though I spent a lot of time alone, I remember being very happy. I had a close family, felt I knew who I was, and where I fit in the world. Of course things have a way of changing, in fact they never stop changing. I hit puberty (never a likely time to feel grounded), my parents divorced, and we moved in to town. It is hard to feel grounded when the “ground” is shifting underneath you.
But I found my way and even though I was a rebellious teen, I felt grounded. I’m sure my Mom would feel differently about that time in my life, but I was happy with much of my life. I started working, had a more social life, a terrific best friend (who is still my best friend today), and I learned a lot about myself. But high school doesn’t last forever! After high school the ground shifted yet again. Behavior that worked when I had fewer responsibilities became a huge problem. I didn’t know where I was headed and no longer felt even a little bit grounded.
Eventually, I decided that a major change was necessary. I decided to join the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is a terrific organization and I loved every minute of my 21 years of service, but I can’t say that I felt particularly grounded during my first four years in the Marine Corps. I was constantly moving around, meeting new people, and learning even more about myself. I wasn’t particularly happy with some of the things I learned, so I decided to make some changes. At the end of my first enlistment I met a woman, got married and started a family. Responsibility and family allowed me to finally feel grounded again.
The years I spent married and raising young children was a defining time in my life. I was absolutely exactly where I wanted to be. I never wanted it to end! We were married 20 years. We were happy at least 80% of the time for the first 17. Unfortunately we were only happy about 20 percent of the time the last three years. This was different for me than after high school. After high school I didn’t really know who I was. Now I did! I was settled in my career, I was a father, and I wanted to be a family man. That included coming home from work to my family. My self-image no longer completely fit my situation. I saw my children several hours a week, not every night. I came home to an empty apartment, and I didn’t have a long list of interests to fill my life with. The interests of my youth – going to the bar, playing pool, and the rest of the things young men do, felt like a pretty hollow existence compared to what my life had been.
I didn’t all at once decide to “find myself” or to live a fuller life. In fact I did what a lot of people in my situation do, I jumped back into a relationship very quickly. I thought I could rebuild what I had lost. I thought all I needed was someone to come home to and then everything would be “good” again. It didn’t work out quite that way. I ended up married and divorced again very quickly. Although it was a 3 year relationship I was not able to regain that feeling of being grounded. After that experience I was even more “out of sorts”. I really was adrift except for one thing, my youngest son moved in with me.
I wish I could say that with my son there I had decided to just enjoy having my son there, not worry about dating, and take some time to build a life, but I didn’t know I needed to do that. I was a single parent, dating, and dealing with the challenges that all of those things together bring. It didn’t leave a lot of time in my life for self discovery. It didn’t take long for me to see that this wasn’t the way to happiness. I pulled away from online dating, focused on doing my own thing, not for years, but for enough time to find something that I could build on. I also started blogging. My first blog is no longer around. It was a 60 post in 60 days nonstop rant. I wasn’t ranting at the world for “what they were doing to me”. I was ranting at myself! I needed to change some things. It was too late to “Join the Marine Corps” again, and that is not the kind of change I needed anyway. I needed to accept that I wouldn’t go back to where I had been before. Besides, my kids were mostly grown and the nest was emptying out. I started to hike, and run, and sail more. I started going to plays and more concerts than I had ever gone to before. I also accepted the friendship offered by a terrific woman I was dating before my “60 posts in 60 days” rant/melt down. Again I wish I could say that I let this go slowly, that is absolutely what I needed, but I didn’t. After a few months I asked her to date again. At least it wasn’t because I needed to date, it was because I thought she was terrific and I didn’t want to lose her. However, I did commit myself to taking the dating slowly, and to continuing to find myself. I knew I needed to fill my life with not just the company of another person, but with my own interests if I was going to ever be happy again.
Much of the rest of the story is already told in the posts I’ve written for this blog over the last 3+ years, so I’ll skip to the good part. Last week I was rocking my grandson to sleep and my beautiful, tenacious, adventurous, wonderful wife bent over to give me a kiss and one word came to my mind – grounded! I was grounded well before this, but I felt it more strongly than ever before at that moment. I could not be in a better place. I cannot imagine a different life. I know exactly who I am and I’m happy with that person (well mostly). I know that there is change out there somewhere in the future. I don’t dwell on it… but it will come. Until then I will live every day to the fullest and continue to feel grounded!