Grace Notes

This week’s newspaper column:

“Happy is your grace,
That you can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.” ~ Shakespeare, As You Like It

Confession: I have always wanted to be graceful in all its diverse incarnations: elegant, willowy, lithe, agile, light on my feet, dignified, gracious, refined, charming and poised. Confession number two: I have always come up short—particularly in the lithe, agile, light on my feet definitions of gracefulness. The other meanings of grace I leave up to others to discern—you cannot judge your own graciousness or charm, you can only aspire to them.

Shakespeare’s definition of grace above, which I take to mean is the way in which we handle our fortune (or misfortune) is more abstract, but those of us not blessed with agility can try to emulate—“a quiet and sweet style”, rather than one that is brash and vulgar, arrogant and aggressive.

Another definition of grace derived from “The Book for Dangerous Women” is one that I can more easily aspire to as it does not require one to glide through life in a manner that does not include tripping (something I do quite regularly and will expound on more later). The three authors, Clare Conville, Liz Hoggard, and Sarah-Jane Lovett offer this wisdom under the heading of grace, and I have not read a more cogent and thoughtful treatment of the subject:

“We all have a higher self somewhere inside us. This is where your capacity
for kindness, wisdom and courtesy meets your love of family, and generosity
toward your friends and workmates transcends any negative or bad feelings
you have had. Graciousness reigns in this realm and if you can access your
higher self in times of strife it may well get you out of all kinds of trouble and
bring with it a feeling of great calm and serenity.”

So plumbing our depths for grace does not necessarily have to include that which I have so often reached for superficially—being swanlike and agile. I have never had inherent physical poise. I have to remind myself not to slump and to walk with my shoulders straight and head up. I try to tame my “duck” walk with feet splayed out rather than pointed in the direction I am going. And more recently, I try to cover up the fact that my balance is off.

Over the weekend I attended a lovely celebration for a couple who are now blissfully wed. Walking from one venue to the next, I attempted to climb the stairs to a restaurant in town, but for some reason I miscalculated and almost ended up hurling myself against cement steps and a brick wall. There are falls and then there are falls. But have you ever started to fall and just know that you are not going to be able to catch yourself? And you know if you do not, you are really going to maim and bruise yourself—and quite possibly break something? A helping hand reached out and prevented this—I do not know who helped me as I was quite shaken by the incident at the time, but whoever you are, if you are reading this—thank you, thank you, thank you.

I would like to be someone who floats effortlessly into a room but I am not. I have determined though that most of the factors that define grace are less contingent on physical gracefulness and more reliant on developing our higher selves—graciousness and kindness being at the top of the heap.

One of my heroines and the epitome of my definition of graceful is Audrey Hepburn. And it is not just because she exuded class and elegance—it is because her definition of beauty encompasses all that is graceful. She said:
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

In her words therein lies gracefulness.

What is your defintion of Grace?

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 2:13 pm  Comments (36)  
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  1. As far as a personal or behaviour or persona… I think there of course are several definitions of ‘grace’ but I think somehow that an important one would be, seeing perhaps a negative or undesirable trait in another person; having the ability or desire to NOT point it out to them (or anyone else) Diane

    • I think that is a very important aspect of grace–and one that many struggle with (lol)

  2. I conflate grace and graciousness all the time…for there is humility in both, sincerity in both and an elegance in a way to them both as well..

    • they are companionable aren’t they–one without the other seems unfinished

  3. I love this post so much! My definition of grace (at the moment) would be loud laughter, even raucous … followed by the quiet of happy exhaustion. You are such an inspiration, even though I don’t keep up very well. Thank you!

    • Laughter is so needed — I am glad you are finding it again–you are an inspiration to me as well my friend!

  4. To function in chaos, thrive after catastrophe, and be ready to do it all over again. Hey, it can happen.

    • that is quite a definition and if one can do it–definitely calls for grace

  5. My hubby calls me Bambi, so I take it he doesn’t think I’m very graceful LOL!

  6. Wonderful post. Esp loved and related to: I would like to be someone who floats effortlessly into a room but I am not.

  7. I’ve been told many times that I’m very graceful onstage (dancing) so you’d think this would translate offstage. Sadly, it was never the case and all my friends know they can count on me to trip over absolutely nothing and everything. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tripped in public and so I choose to deal with it as gracefully as possible– brushing it off like it was nothing and/or laughing about it. I think gracefulness is as much an attitude as it is a physical attribute. And for the record, I always think of you as graceful (even if its not embodied physically 😉 ).

    • aw, you are so sweet–and I trip over nothing all the time–little trips are not so bad–it is the big ones that I have to be careful of–this getting older is the pits in some ways
      –it is so nice that you are a dancer–I always wanted to be a dancer, and loved to dance when I was younger–I was always the first one up when a band played at a bar or pub or dance

  8. I try to model Audrey’s fashion sense, I should be modelling her grace!

  9. GooD post. I like the kindness part. I’m thankful your fall was saved.

    • I am thankful too–it would have been nasty. I like grace as kindness too–how come I am not hearing from your blog much or at all?

  10. I always think of grace as the gift that carries blessings. xoxoM

  11. There is the grace with how one moves but the more important grace is how one lives.

  12. Totally with you on this—Audrey, the epitome of grace, and a beautiful spirit too.

    • 🙂 – that is my picture of you too

      • Ah, LouAnn, what a compliment *blush* 🙂

  13. I think grace has a traditional meaning (that beautiful flawless movement) and a contemporary one – where you just are so wonderful, everything you do has its own graceful charm!

    Choc Chip Uru

  14. Grace is being able to carry on with kindness and style despite any naysayers, negativity and/or pitfalls; all of which will always be there. As we grow older we hopefully learn how to duck or bob and weave to get out of the way, and hopefully without falling, Lou!

    Hope you’re good my friend. Loved your post.

  15. I try to only be kind to others, but sometimes forget to do so at home. I have some work to do on that still.

    I’ve always admired Audrey H, but now I like her even more. I’ve never heard of that quote of hers before.

    • it seems sometimes we save our kindness for those who do not count as much as those at home–I know I am guilty of it

      I love Audrey’s quote too–says a lot about her

  16. In music, there are “grace notes”……..tiny little notes that are graceful and add just a bit of whimsy to musical pieces. Love your post.

  17. This is the second post about grace that I have read in the last fifteen minutes. It is one of my favorite words, but am not sure exactly how I would define it. May have to ponder that one. It’s that feeling where you want to fall to your knees because the Universe has blessed you in a way your ego couldn’t quite imagine. I don’t usually think of it in the physical sense, more in the sense of a gift after the ego has given up. Anyway, that hand reaching out to help you does feel like grace because the physical self couldn’t have done it alone. Maybe that’s the key…

  18. When I was kid, growing up Catholic, there was a lot of talk from the nuns about the need to be “in a state of grace.” I guess we tried to understand, but I don’t think it meant much to any child – not me anyway.
    But one day in recent years experiencing a day where all the parts of my life were running smoothly, all the people in it were cooperating and doing and saying delightful things, and where all the little extras , like nice weather, easy traffic, no technology glitches, etc etc – when I was having one of THOSE rare days, I had a sudden insight – such a day, surely, is one where I truly feel “in a state of grace,” or truly seem to be experiencing a grace-filled day.
    They don’t happen often, but that’s the “state of grace” I now hope for and try to be open to.
    And I do agree with Kathy that the “hand reaching out to help you,” – a moment of grace for sure: unexpected, needed, appreciated.

    • I have a rare day like that every once in awhile and for those days I am truly grateful–grace-filled days are what we live for!

    • I replied to this once–but must not have sent it–I love those rare gracefilled days!

  19. They are wonderful when they happen aren’t they. I guess it’s only in recent years I’ve been noticing them, and one day I just had this lightbulb-going-on feeling: “this really feels like something I’d call a ‘state of grace'”.

    I’m doubting that this is quite what the nuns who taught me had in mind, by the phrase, but it certainly works for me: God’s holiness (those words work for me, too, but I’m open to various interpretations from others and their traditions) seems to be at work and active in a helpful, positive way; and I’m open to it and cooperating with it.
    (Enough philosophizing! I’m getting in over my head! Here’s to “grace” and more of it.)

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