“It is very hard for the world not to take advantage of someone who is without roots.” ~ Fay Simpson, Lucid Body
It’s almost inconceivable that I had missed such a warning, growing up.
A warning that reads so much like common sense. But looking back at my very colorful decade, it’s difficult not to notice the blank space.
I lived by Tolkien’s quote the moment the words landed in me: “Not all who wander are lost.”
These six words spoke to me more than any others I’ve encountered—they vocalized my identity, they were poetry that romanticized, justified, and denied all the right things for me to be safely and righteously bohemian.
My favorite book, before I could read, was the atlas of the world, and I wanted to see it all. The opportunity came when I was still in my teens, with a full scholarship cradling me as I pursued what I loved, and a handful of carefully crafted jobs (heavy on universal and transferable skills such as making music and making drinks) to keep me afloat.
I was extremely resourceful, and travelled extensively, much of it solo. I had built a nomadic status, and I took pride in maintaining this heavily exercised independence. I was alpha, fire, and water, all in one.
Throughout my decade of wandering, I only ever followed my heart. The things dreams are made of—isn’t this how all the commencement speeches harmonize?
I dislike the adjective “lost,” because unlike the real hippies I encountered, I always had a clear sense of purpose, a question I was seeking answers to, responsibilities I duly honored, and a passion I followed.
Finding my passion was never a problem, as I only had too many.
Perhaps this was my first sign of not having any grounding, but I was too consumed to notice—I was obsessed with expansion, and at the time, this sounded like the dream life of dream lives. On the surface, it seemed that way to many. On good days, I even fooled myself.
But I always knew, beneath the redwood that I had grown with overdoses of blood, sweat, and tears, was a grounding so vacuous, your footsteps would echo if you tread closely enough. Except, I grew up mostly alone, and echoes weren’t something I ever listened for.
One of the questions I had obsessed about was why my personal life derailed when I followed my heart, dreams, and passions. I didn’t lack life experience. I didn’t lack opportunities. I also didn’t lack tragedy. Therein lied the danger. No one ever remarked that I wasn’t grounded, in fact, my praises came in its affirmative. They saw the redwood, and no one supposed it grew from hollow grounds. They had confused my maturity as grounding. And I had no way of knowing what set them apart.
It was Fay Simpson’s work that spelled out what I experienced to be true.
Her chakra based work helped me calibrate where my energies are. I understood that we are not just the “thinking-feeling” duality, nor are we simply the “mind-body-soul” trinity, but we are, from grounding to crown, the alchemy of seven energy centers.
Seven. How foolish was I to think I had it all, when I followed only my heart, over-fueling it, while neglecting all six other energy centers?
Neglect is a grey term for things I simply wasn’t aware of or had chosen to abandon, because the alternative to that was too hard to take. I treated my root chakra this way. According to Fay, our root chakra is our grounding and survival energy: “This red hued root center holds our most primitive qualities. It represents our animal instinct to stay alive.” It is yang in nature, “as it governs the masculine aspect of self to express our physical needs in the world.”
Suddenly, I understood my masculine qualities differently. My assertiveness, my boss qualities, my insistence, and the way I called the shots in my life all made sense to me now. I behaved the way I did to compensate for the grounding I lacked.
When we are not grounded, we are likely to implode or explode, and I oscillated wildly between the two, being the textbook examples of both prime and extremes. The former is more commonly known to us as running away, the flight, and the latter is more commonly exhibited as the fight.
The problem with any variation of anger, as survival instincts often are, is that they are executed without forethought or hindsight, so we end up in places we should not. The high and mighty “should” is not recognized in states of fury.
The other function of anger is that it protects us from grief we may not be ready to address. When I wasn’t grounded, I ended up in the wrong company, thinking it was safe. Some call this naive, but for someone without grounding, it was both inevitable and unfortunate.
When I left “proper education,” there was nothing solid for me to hold onto. No more scholarships, no more leadership tracks, no more guidance. What made it worse was that I had just finished an acting conservatory, and I was more open and vulnerable than I had ever been.
When we have no grounding, we have no protection. Worse, we often aren’t aware enough to realize this lack. I certainly didn’t. In fact, the more I lacked grounding, the more other parts of me overcompensated to make up for this energy. Except, grounding can’t be feigned.
I only started to regain my grounding again at a writing retreat, in a circle of 20 strong women. There, I discovered my other lack. Perhaps more than grounding, which lends itself to interpretation, in no uncertain terms, I lacked strong women close to me, and I lacked strong women beyond my age group to guide me.
Schooling has divided us unnaturally into close age groups, so that when we graduate young and lost, we tend not to have wiser friends. I had always been a girls’ girl at heart, but somehow my masculine thinking paired with my physical qualities made me a guys’ girl more than anything else.
I remember clearly that one of the first questions a once close girlfriend had asked me, during a class break at Julliard, was whether I had a lot of female friends, to which I responded negatively. We would later become piano duo partners, then later break up because of a guy, and somehow in between those times, she pushed me to go out with another musician, and that would be the relationship that sent my innocence to the guillotine.
My 20s had been a decade filled with troubled men and few strong women. Of the three or four strong women I knew, none were in New York, and none were accessible at will. Women treated me differently than men, who always extended understanding of some degree. The women I knew were mostly antagonistic toward me, which in turn didn’t trigger kindness.
But they weren’t the right women. And I couldn’t have known that.
Earlier this year, I was embraced by a group of women who had all been writing their own memoirs. These women came from around the world and we found ourselves in a circle in a small Mayan village by a lake. It took my writing instructor telling me that my story isn’t one about betrayal as much as it is about losing innocence for me to realize how different a battleground I see before me.
She saw my wounds, as she identified my paths, and she saw a different landscape. And my world cracked open.
Among a group of 20 women, at age 30, I was the second youngest, with two more women in their early 30s, and the rest in their 40s through to their 70s or 80s. I had arrived in the village, injured and endangered, and a week in their company made me feel safety in a way I had never experienced in my life before.
No one condemned me for my mistakes; instead, they all opened their hearts and arms to me, and shared with me how they, too, made the same mistakes in their past.
No one shamed me. The ones who did had all been men—the very men who sexualized me. The very men who capitalized on my vulnerability. The very men who knew what I had lacked better than I was ever aware of. They are experienced predators who can sense a lack of grounding the moment they see you. Then they reach out to you the way most women won’t. It’s all a hoax.
But we can stop the game. We can refuse to play our part in self-destruction.
We must know ourselves better than those preying on us. We must find our grounding and root ourselves. Even if we root ourselves in barren land, when we sing, our tribe will come.
We must learn of how all seven of our energy centers work. We must make an effort to make friends beyond our age group. Because the women who have been through darkness can tell us more accurately than the men who are pushing us, what is truly ahead of us.
It bears repeating, Fay Simpson’s quote that started this piece, “It is very hard for the world not to take advantage of someone who is without roots.”
So perhaps more urgently than finding our passions, we must locate our grounding, and find our roots.
Because only when we are grounded, can we then manifest our goals of changing ourselves, our communities, and our worlds, where we are the empowered and active change agent. Otherwise, we are merely passively responding to fluctuating energies, as we are the ones being changed at the mercy of these assaults.
Change is a polarizing energy, and my decade of chaos has taught me that only those who are grounded can gain, even in disorder.