You may already know that my guiding word for 2019 is grounded. I am working hard to remember this,especially on the days it feels easier (or more desirable) to lose sight of it.
My kids have even been asking me what this word means and represents. In some ways, I’m still trying to figure this out. Having a guiding word doesn’t mean we’re supposed to have it all figured out, right? I sure hope not. While I’m seeing grounded as part of my commitment to being ready, I need some time with paths traveled to understand and plan for where I am going.
This morning, in fact, I was reminded of a previous path and a moment I wanted to push away and pretty much hide. I’m not trying to come across as dramatic here. In the larger landscape of what could be, this doesn’t set off alarm bells. But, for me, it was embarrassing, funny, sad, and telling all at the same time. I’ve hid it because it would only show me as not ready (sooooo not ready). So, here it goes…
One evening, I was commuting home from a few days of work in Chicago. I live in Michigan so it was quite a commute, but I could tell myself it was much closer than my “usual.” My “usual” was working full-time and traveling across eight states in an assigned region, attending graduate school full-time, and working some extra hours in my field of study. Somewhere in my spare time I met my now husband (no surprise that this happened while taking the train into New York City for a class).
I had moved out of Manhattan following 9-11 and chose to rent a house in a small shore town of New Jersey. I still spent a great deal of time in the city and with invitation and guidance from an amazing professor, I dove into the work of trauma and resilience. I learned first-hand about ways to restore a felt sense of safety, calm, and strength from the many children, families, and educators I was fortunate to meet and have time with while working within various early childhood programs. While grateful for these experiences, it was draining.
I eventually graduated and was accepted into a doctoral program. This was a very proud moment. As things ended up, my now-husband got a job in Michigan and we moved. For me it was moving back home (not sure I was fully ready for that transition). For him, it was leaving his family and friends.
We were married at a very, very special place – my aunt and uncle’s farm. While growing-up, I spent days there roaming the fields, riding horses (and falling off), climbing round bales of hay, soaring down waterfalls of corn, feeding calves, and from time to time (or, maybe just once) scooping cow poop. I loved it there; it was a place filled with many special memories and this was definitely another to add to the mix and hold tightly to.
A couple of days after our wedding, I flew to New Jersey. My new sister and brother-in-law kindly opened their home to me as I hadn’t found a job in Michigan yet. I loved my work and the people I worked with. I told myself it was no big deal.
Fast forward about six years and see me stopped at my usual place just outside of Chicago to gas-up. I was thinking about my family and getting home. I remember feeling distracted. So distracted, I just climbed back into my car and started to drive away with the pump still latched into my gas tank. I felt a slight pull, heard a fairly loud noise and saw liquid flying in the air. It took me a moment to realize I had pulled the pump completely off. The folks inside the gas station did not have the same delay in noticing what had happened.
When I walked inside to pay for an abundant amount of gas and apologize, the attendant wouldn’t look at me. She was silent and basically told me to move along. I knew about people, emotions, and behavior (knowing parts) in my mind, but I struggled putting the doing and being parts in motion. Zero congruence. I just walked out.
So there you have it. This is the story I have often wanted to hide – until now.
I could have paid closer attention to this moment in the moment. There were strong messages attached to this embarrassing event and I was more than just distracted and wanting to get home. This was a moment toward the end of a day that had started with a few Oreo cookies (okay, maybe five, perhaps Double-Stuff) and a Diet Coke in yet another lonely hotel room. Although, I’m pretty sure I tried to balance it all out that morning with a bowl of Cheerios from the hotel before I stepped out and headed off to work. I was good at that – balancing things out to move through the day – or so I thought.
The visions of being well rested, energetic, exercising daily, eating healthy foods, and connecting with and being fully present for those I cared about were abundant. But, somewhere along the way I stopped asking myself, “What do I want today?” and answering with things that helped me to feel happy, healthy, creative, loved, energized, secure, and purposeful.
I was reminded of this story today because I ate an Oreo this morning (okay, maybe three, yes, Double-Stuff) with some Diet Coke.
My experience this morning is different from this experience many years ago at my usual stop to fill my car up with gas. I have become more intentional with my choices (this is not to say that I exercise everyday, never get upset with my kids, and no longer drink Diet Coke).
While I know these moments are different moments, I do want to pay attention and even get back to the practice of asking myself (not just my kids), “What do you want today?” Anyone want to join me?