Grounded for Life

Posted by Stephanie Lawless on 1/31/2022

As early back as I can remember I have memories of sitting next to my grandpa looking at the stars. My grandpa was a farmer who loved history and the world. He studied maps, books and actively looked for things to learn. He didn’t talk a lot in big crowds, during parties you would often find him napping under the shade of a tree, but alone under the stars he talked alot. He would tell me stories about the constellations. He taught me how to track star movement and how to find my way using their location. He talked to me about politics, science, family, history and all of the lessons he had learned along his journey. He told me about the first girl he loved in elementary school and how they would play ring around the rosey at recess, how he rode the trolley to the end of the line and back for a penny, how he felt when his first son passed away. He told me about when my mom was young and had filled his gas tank on the truck with sand because she wanted to help. He said he could not be mad, after all, she was just trying to help.  He told me how to live a long, healthy life, eat oatmeal for breakfast, ride your bike as much as possible and don’t give up on living. My grandpa was calm, even, consistent, everything I needed. He had mastered the art of attentive listening and wait time. He instinctively knew that it was better to listen than talk, but if you were quiet enough he would share the world with you. During these conversations he would smile and pat my hand while I looked at the stars, slowly imprinting his memory onto the image of the night sky.  


No matter how overwhelming life gets I can look at the stars and think of him. I can look up into the sky and feel his hand on mine, hear him talk about problems far greater than my own and how people overcame them. Know that there is always a solution, I may not like it, but it is always there. Like the stars. It does not matter where I am in the world, if I can see them or not. They are there, the odd sense of insignificance helps me remember that I am one person in billions. Like our sun is one in billions of trillions of stars. Billions and trillions of stars. Like headlights on the highway at night. All existing together and separate at the same time. A crazy and amazing balance. People come and go, stars burn out, and time keeps passing. Regardless of my problems. Remembering that part of the balance is also realizing the overwhelming importance one star can play. Our sun, our star, is one in 200 billion trillion stars. To put that into some sort of perspective cites it as being “about ten times the number of cups of water in all the oceans of Earth.”  To me that is like the textbook definition of insignificant. But if something happened to our sun the 2.12 million species on the planet on this plant would notice (Biodiversity & wildlife). So the balance continues, immeasurably insignificant and significant at the same time. Exactly like my problems.  


All of that I get from looking at the stars, because of him. Because he inadvertently created a grounding memory for me. Something that will always be there for me. Multiple moments in time that I can pull back on when I need them. And while considering the vastness of space may cause some people more anxiety, I find calm in it because it is paired with his smile and the feel of his hand on mine. When I cannot sleep at night I can look at the stars for grounding. Grounding allows us a way to bring ourselves back to our moment. To stay focused. They can be physical actions you can take, distractions, smells, movements… (If you need to do a little technique shopping check out this site and give some a test run.) It is a personal journey to find what grounds you. Once you do it can be a strong tool to help you balance and stabilize when things get a little wobbly. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed some wobble.  He gave me a gift, but it is not enough to know it is there. I have a responsibility to pass it along to my children as well. To share the understanding that our problems don’t have to consume us. Now, some of my favorite memories include sitting with my boys under a blanket by a fire, talking about the stars, reading facts off my phone and telling stories. That is what we are doing in education, no matter what your job title is, you are here to pass along what you know to others. To share your journey, your strengths and your weaknesses. The balance of what we are and want to be. The beauty of teaching and learning. 


Stephanie Lawless, Assistant Director