When You Yearn to Fly, Grounding May Be Just What You Need

by Ed Coleman

Until COVID-19, my life raced towards location independence and unbounded travel. Every day I searched to sever the last ties that bound me in place. In my mind, I imagined a balloon tethered to the ground. After cutting the last rope, it will sail beautifully into the sky. Then, seemingly overnight, everything changed. Instead of soaring away, I found myself planting roots and tearing out the weeds in my life, which comforted me in a way I have long forgotten.

For the last several years, my wife and I have been working on building our travel brand while I kept my toes in corporate America. In the previous seven years, we have moved three times. To start, we moved from the deserts of Arizona to the beaches of San Diego, where we could have one last fling of a corporate lifestyle soothed by oceanside views. Next, we were off to the bright lights of Orlando before finally landing in Huntsville, AL, last December.

Rocket City would be the final corporate hoorah where I could get the same pay at a fraction of the cost of living. We weren’t on a path to domestication, but rather one last dance with the 9-5, tying up loose ends. Just as we were unpacking our last box and letting out that sigh of relief as we looked at the light at the end of the tunnel, Alabama’s shelter at home orders commenced. And, just like that, our tunnel got much longer.

I found myself pacing the floor, clawing at the wall, and itching to go somewhere, anywhere. The wanderlust was palatable, like licking a battery. It swirled on my tongue with a bitter, acid flavor that wouldn’t go away no matter how much I swallowed. That feeling I had been running from crashed in around me in overwhelming waves.

The transition from winter to spring brought another bout of yearning for an escape, like some crazy spring breaks I took during my school years, but it brought something else too. Something quieter and more subdued: spring flowers, spring cleaning, and the return of weeds to the first lawn I have owned in 20 years.

Digging my fingers in the dirt again grounded me. I remembered the smell of fresh-cut lawns, lemonade, and summer days that seemed like they would last forever. I remembered my room where I always felt safe, and my home with my family sharing dinner and talking about our day. I also remembered the endless chore lists and instructions to weed the gardens.

I despised weeding as a kid, but something was changing. I learned I hate thistles more, but I love the release that comes from plucking them out of the ground with their roots intact. If you pull them just right, they pop out with a little plink. It’s an art form. Instead of feeling trapped in my house and climbing the walls, I cared for my yard and started building my corner of the world where I was safe, and I could Skype with friends and family over a take-out dinner.

When all I wanted to do was fly far away from my societally normal life, I quickly learned that the grounding effect the earth had on me was possibly what I needed more. This forced-upon situation made me realize that even if you don’t have a house or a yard, you can always seek out grounding from nature. You can raise house plants or care for pets or find some cathartic routine to connect you with your roots. Listen to music from high school, call your old friends you haven’t seen for years, and make a point to dine with your family on a group call. Maybe you’ll all cook your mom’s favorite recipe, and remember all the times she made it for you.

Reaching for the sky is so much sweeter when you can keep your feet on the ground. They say you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, you can get what you need. It wasn’t until I could no longer fly that I realized how much I needed grounding.

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