Center Off Center

The funny thing about the concept of balance is that it assumes a sense of equilibrium. But what if you’ve never been grounded?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this buzzwordy concept of being grounded. In my own way, with my personal practices like yoga and meditation and ancestral worship, I’ve attempted to create this thing, being grounded. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with and learned from an array incredible healers & educators from across the diaspora of counseling, coaching, therapy, sex education, brujas, Romani witches, just to name a few. All of these people have been kind enough to share tools with me to aid in my various troubles. They have offered support not from an “on high/holier/wiser than-thou place” but rather from a currently in the thick-of-it, still bumped-up and bruised sorta place… They have taught me that healing doesn’t look neat and polished or follow a linear, easy to navigate path. One thing I’ve learned from them all is new ways of finding my own sense of discernment – on one particular thing: when to keep moving towards and with a person in the direction of healing together…and when the best thing to do is to disengage. 

Some people need space and time. Some people need to cool off. And some people will not see reason because they are living life in a closed-circuit. They aren’t really open to feedback and they can’t genuinely take your feelings or words into account. With those people, you need to cut ties with em’ and move along. 

Earlier this winter, I decided to stop communicating with a person who had consistently, insistently and unendingly worked at wearing away my boundaries – literally from the day we met. My boundaries around basic covid safety, the veracity of my words and whether they had true meaning. After this person spewed some vitriol and I let it ring out instead of immediately responding and trying to fix it, they came ambling back. And in what became our final interaction, I found myself at a critical juncture, where I could either re-engage, which would mean welcoming in the deluge of confusing, inconsistent and unaccountable chatter or I could step back and away.

Cutting people out or cutting them off isn’t the same as having a trauma response and ghosting. And I say that as someone who has been the ghost and the ghosted on. Nobody’s perfect. I have my own personal struggles with ghosting. I know that I have become overwhelmed and  my behavior from the outside would totally look like I ghosted on someone. Yet it’s also true that my wounded inner child experiences ghosting as THE WORST. I hate it so much that I’ve walked into the same wall (now smeared with my own blood) over and over, rather than let the silence lie. But I’ve come to understand that it’s a thing that happens. Good people, nice people, people who genuinely love you and care deeply will ghost. It basically always sucks when it happens. But that…is not what I’m talking about.

What I’m describing is recognizing that the person you are attempting to reconcile or create closure with is simply incapable of treating you with the same basic dignity and respect that you are granting them. If a person is repeatedly saying your words are meaningless, empty, not truthful, not genuine but expecting that you take every word they utter as gospel fact…you might be engaging with someone on uneven ground. If a person uses kind language until you cross them and then suddenly they mock *how* you speak, pick apart word choices until you can no longer remember where you started, or their language swiftly pivots to expletives and put downs…you might be engaging with someone on uneven ground. And you might want to consider choosing yourself over their own baggage, hangups and shitty treatment.

Your center may be so off center, that you can’t tell what balance feels like, you may never have known what being grounded even is.

If you are anything like me, you can relate to growing up in an environment wrought with tension. Such is the experience of many people who grew up with parents who fought a lot, in families where a parent struggled with drinking or substance, or in families who struggled with mental health conditions, and so on. If you grew up experiencing more than two of the ACES, you might see where I’m going. If you’ve never heard of a thing called ACES (adverse-childhood-experiences scale), in a nutshell it’s a landmark case study from which a list of common distressing factors a person can experience in their life were developed. From this research, theories on what having a certain number of those (ACES) can predict about wellness and life functioning into adulthood were developed. The data on this is illuminating. There are hard facts about the results of experiencing even one ACE in your life, but it’s estimated that more than a quarter of the population has experienced 3 or more and there are lasting negative impacts.

So, if you’re like me—you might be overly habituated to enduring shitty, icky-vibed spaces, places and people. Your center may be so off center, that you can’t tell what balance feels like, you may never have known what being grounded even is. So from one off-center person to another, here are some examples of what “balance or center” could be: 

It might feel like reciprocity of regard and attention — they listen to you as much as you listen to them. It could feel like not dreading to hear the key in the lock each evening. It feels like not having to talk to a friend after to get reassurance about reality and your basic understanding of it every time you finish an encounter with someone. 

We all come from a complex system. Our families and upbringing, our peers and friends, media, religion, location on the planet…it all matters, and none of it is simple. Everyone deserves grace and everyone deserves a second chance. But it really doesn’t always have to be with you. Sometimes the best thing for you to do, is to say no, and walk away.