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?