I used to wake up with the full body sensation that I was being catapulted off the ends of the earth. The sensation was quite literal– a pre-Columbus image of myself standing on the edge of a flat earth disc that teetered like a see-saw. One strong step and off I tumbled into the oblivion of outer space. Sometimes I gripped my mattress to keep from slipping.
This image followed me throughout my twenties. I shudder to think what diagnosis a psychotherapist would draw from it. I never saw the image as a negative view of my life. Rather, an accurate one. Although I’ve always had a loving family and a fierce connection to my own mama, during the first decade of my adulthood I found myself utterly single. Not just single, mind you: utterly single. No boyfriend to speak of. Dates: yes. Sex: some. Love: never. Relationships: no. I never quite understood why I spent my twenties free as a bird. Free as a girl who could be catapulted off earth at any moment.
There was freedom in that image. I took it and literally ran to the ends of the earth. I landed on four different continents before age twenty-six. I taught English in a fishing village in Japan. I studied yoga with a guru in India. I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up by myself in a single day. I reveled with two million strangers as the millennium dawned in Sydney, Australia. I was blessed by Pope John Paul II at a gathering in Paris. The next day I climbed the narrow stairs behind the bookcase that hid Anne Frank. I spent a few weeks living in a tee pee in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
And then, in a single year, I stepped off that roller coaster and became a wife and mother. It sounds like such an abrupt ending to a breathless journey when a decade’s highlights are listed in a single paragraph. The terms wife and mother sound so ordinary and almost seem to herald: THE END OF ADVENTURE! But my fellow mamas know that these roles, wife and mother, are the most amazing, extraordinary adventures to be had on planet earth.
I no longer wake up feeling the temptation or ability to fall off the ends of the earth. Instead, I wake up to the sound of my one year-old discovering how to use his voice, a voice that will change forever in twelve years, but sounds so light and sweet right now, searching for sound to attach to his newly developed ideas. Or, I wake to the flips and flops of the child who lives inside my body and is getting ready to crash into this world in just a few months. Or, I wake to the sound of the man I love snoring in the soundest of sleeps.
I am the center of these lives and I simply can’t fall off the end of the earth. In our own micro solar system, I am the sun. I suppose I could implode or explode (believe me, there are times I think I will), but there is no eject button. If I left, orbits would collapse. My small planets, whom I love so dearly, would be as aimless as asteroids, set on a path of unknown, yet certain, collision. Don’t get me wrong. I have no illusions about myself being the center of the Milky Way. Just the small Cofiño solar system that exists in our 1200 square foot home on a dead end street in Miami. To the rest of the world I am, as ever, a transient creature.
And yet, I still couldn’t fall off the ends of the earth anymore if I tried. It happened midway through my first pregnancy. One day I woke up heavy. My feet touched the ground and I felt not only my growing body weight, but also the weight of gravity, driving me into the earth. It was as if all the minerals in my body suddenly magnetized and pulled me to earth’s core.
I am grounded to and grounded in Mother Earth. Her mud squishes between my toes and each step is an effort accompanied by a tug back down. There is no more possibility of being flung off the planet. I am now very much rooted in it. This is neither good nor bad. There is no escape, but there is also no possibility of sudden ejection. There has been an elemental shift in me, from air to earth. I have roots. I am here. I am the sun in one small world with my feet firmly planted in the world at large.I am the sun in one small world with my feet firmly planted in the world at large.Click To Tweet