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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Confessions of a Covert Perfectionist

It doesn't have to be perfect

It doesn’t have to be perfect (Photo credit: Thorsten Becker)

Unique. One of a kind. Original. Distinctive. I have always thought of myself as someone who is just that little bit different, special (my humble self is upset with me for using this word), inimitable—or at least hard to imitate.

Imagine my horror at discovering myself in the book “Overcoming Perfectionism” by Ann W. Smith. It was as if she were spying on my psyche, then exposing me to the world. Smith defines perfectionists as overt and covert. I am of the covert school of perfectionism. Without exception I have every one of her indicators—now some are more pronounced than others—but they pretty well sum me up. I have put the ones that fit me to a T in bold letters:

~ May have exceptional gifts and abilities that they are reluctant to pursue

~ Compare themselves to overt perfectionists and fall short

~ Have low expectations of those around them

~ Have high expectations of themselves, which they keep secret

~ May exhibit overt perfectionism when they excel at or enjoy a task or activity

~ Prefer being average and under the radar but secretly want to succeed

~ Are prone to procrastination, thinking they must do things right, so they have to wait and do it tomorrow (but not all procrastinators are perfectionists)

~ Worry about what others think of them

~ Act as chameleons, trying to find the right opinion or the right thing to say to avoid making a mistake

~ Underachieve to avoid pressure to succeed or competition with those who are better

~ Are inconsistent in achievements and keeping order—despite liking order and success, may reach a point where they have it, then sabotage themselves and fall back into disorder

~ Fear both failure and success and will sometimes resign themselves to being average rather than trying and failing.

Of course I am uncomfortable admitting to the fact that I have exceptional gifts and abilities, but I counter that with the true belief that everyone has exceptional gifts and abilities. Other than that I am thinking of suing Ms. Smith for invading my privacy (lol).

She says that not everyone is a perfectionist, but I think many of us have these attributes—I am just blown away with the fact that almost everyone hits the nail on the head for me (she did not include over usage of clichés though—guess that is my own addition—thinking a cliché is better than my own words at times.)

Perhaps you are an overt perfectionist—from what Smith says one of the main differences between the overt and covert is a matter of control.  Here are a few of her indicators for overt perfectionists:

~ May be born with a preference for order, but other factors contribute to a lifetime pattern of perfectionism

~ Have increased anxiety when they don’t have order around them, which may appear as frustration, anger or even rage

~ Are hard on themselves and may be even harder on others

~ May appear arrogant or judgmental, thinking that they know what is best and that everyone should do it their way

~ Fear failure and try to prevent it by being in control

Now that I know the symptoms, I will have to read the rest of the book, if not to cure myself of my overt perfectionism, at least to find balance in imperfection, which just so happens to be the subject of her last chapter.

Did you find yourself in any of the Indicators? Do you think you are overt or covert, or have you found a good balance?

a summer frame of mind

Summer Shoes

Summer Shoes (Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis)

A good part of the first half of this year I spent looking for and at times finding my bliss. The second half of 2013 is going to be used to put that bliss to work. It will be a challenge.  All kinds of things enter into the mix—but I hope in the end I will come up with a lovely batter and not a lumpy mess.

Join me in my journey to add some lovely moments to days that will have some ugly elements; days when a little poetry will be needed to fight off the drama; days when a little Mike’s hard lemonade relaxes the stresses.

July and August, in all their glory, hot and humid at times, breezy and warm at others, lay before us. It is the height of summer and this year I am going to enjoy the two months I most dread. While others glory in the heat, I am a temperate kind of girl—but I am going to embrace my younger self and enjoy what summer has to offer.  The calendar is filled with barbeques, little weekend getaways, and perhaps a trip to Ottawa and the Kingston area to see my sister and brother. I am not sure what the summer will bring—but I have my sunscreen and shorts on—so I am ready.

Like many of you, just because it is summer—it does not mean we do not have a lot of work to do. I am more determined than ever to find a balance. Sometimes I get in a holiday frame of mind and find that work just does not fit into the equation—but I am going to work it into the sum total of a successful summer.

What are your summer plans? How do you get your vacation frame of mind under control to get your work done?

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm  Comments (36)  
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