I always work at home on Friday, so this is in theory a “normal working day”. It is as if Monday and Friday are two anchors for a rope bridge which I had walked across for three days, and now I am back on terra firma.
But that doesn’t seem right. I feel like I have been on very firm ground all week.
The word “grounded” has many meanings. I have been grounded – in as much as my feet have literally not left the ground. I have subsisted at ground-level for a week, rather than paying to have my body propelled through the air at 30,000 feet at 500 m.p.h – packed like sardines into a metal tube with other people, whilst drinking mediocre coffee from a plastic cup.
Then there is the miscreant teenager who has been “grounded”, not allowed to go out to play or party – in my case to Copenhagen or some other European playground. I just can’t recall what it was I did that was naughty. I will ask my wife later.
I get dressed today – my first proper clothes since Wednesday. I am wearing casual jeans and a more casual t-shirt – one has to maintain some standards. And besides, I have a video-conference with my leadership team in Copenhagen. One of them cheekily refers to the growth my facial hair. I clean forgot my Monday 3pm pre-travel shave – so this is two week’s of non-designer stubble. Yet another appointment missed, task left undone. Oh, the liberation of not responding to demands and expectations – whether they are our own or someone else’s.
We have a guy in our garden making an estimate for replacing our windows. He has brought his wife with him, who was born in Chile. Whilst he measures up, we compare notes about Santiago. I had spent a fascinating day there when I circumnavigated the world in 13 days – 6 times quicker than Phileas Fogg.
I love to travel, but it’s just as good to be at home. It’s good to go fast, but sometimes it’s better to walk slowly or to sit still. Maybe I have had that ratio out of balance in recent years. The furthest I travel today is a walk up the the chemist to buy some painkillers for my wife, who has wrenched her back. I realise I have not ventured more than a couple of miles from home all week.
Later still I go up to the school hall to help pack away the mats for my daughter, after her cheer-leading class. She is dashing to the station to go to London. It’s nice to be around town to help my family. I tell her to take it easy.
There is another, more profound, definition of being grounded – which is about being balanced, being mentally and emotionally stable. This includes living at a sensible pace, being realistic about life and expectations – enjoying what we have and not always striving for something else. Walking slowly and sometimes sitting still.
It includes being grounded – or rooted – in normal family and community life. It is about connecting with the people and places around your home. Like a cat marking out her territory. I have enjoyed walking and running the streets of my town this week, mixing with the locals – rather than dashing around foreign parts in planes, taxis buses and trains. Having our feet on the ground metaphorically, requires having them on our own ground physically.
I am a stranger to most around here. On the rare occasions when I meet new people here, I always say, “you probably know my wife?” And they do. She lives in the community every day and she can’t get past the fruit and veg. aisle in Asda without someone asking her about their child’s gymnastic badges. I know more people in Copenhagen than in my own town. It’s hard to be grounded – in any definition of the word – when you live a double-life, flipping between two different entirely unconnected worlds.
So that was week one. I seem to have done more than just survived. Two weeks to go before the world starts turning again.