Sunday, July 28, 2019

Wearing an (In)visible Crown

When I was younger, I, like so many other little girls, had a fascination with princesses. I was so taken by their beautiful costumes, their magnificent palaces, and their generally lavish lives. Of course, I poured over every Disney princess movie there was, but my obsession didn't end there. I even grew interested in real life royalty; the likes of Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly, Kate Middleton...the list went on and on.  

What I admired about these leading ladies was their overwhelming gracefulness: the way they could lithely twirl around a ballroom in heels and a crown without missing a beat, or tripping on the hem of their gown like I so often did waltzing around my living room.

As I grew older, though, I began to realize that true gracefulness meant much more than just a lack of clumsiness, or perfect manners. It was something more ineffable than physical; an aura of poise, elegance, and quiet fortitude.

I also began to view this gracefulness like an invisible crown that has sat atop the heads of thousands of centuries of women, hardly just the ones who bore a title. I like to think of it as an admixture of perspicacity and poise; the epitome of the expression "whiskey in a teacup."

Living gracefully is a concept that sounds simple, yet is so difficult to put into practice because it requires an uncommon interior disposition of great moxie. Confronting challenges and frustrations is difficult enough, not to mention sometimes inherently messy, so how is it possible to be able to do so with grace? These are a few of the core things I think are at the core of achieving a graceful life. Graceful people know how to...

1. Take it all in stride

It's no secret that, at times, life can deal you a harsh blow you never expected. That being said, there's a real art to developing a sense of calm acceptance of the things that are impossible for you to change. First Lady Martha Washington once said, "I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." Graceful are the people who can check their emotions at the door, acknowledge what circumstances are immutable, and simply move forward, turning their attention towards what they can influence.

2. Be a force of nature

In no way does this sense of graceful acceptance imply a sense of resignation or submissiveness. In fact, some of the women who I think best exemplify grace are also some of the most tenacious. One of my favorite examples, dating as far back as Biblical times, is Esther, whose whole life is a testament to composed courageousness. Gracefulness is all about nurturing an attitude of dogged perseverance and strength...just doing so in a dignified, poised way. This I see as the hardest challenge; it can be easy to fight for what we believe in if we cast aside all delicacy and fight like a rabid dog, but it's the truly graceful women who can do so with staggering composure and majesty.

3. Show Resiliency  

A few years ago, I found a video of one of my favorite ballet dancers slipping on stage in front of thousands during a show. As soon as she stood up, she continued with the choreography like nothing even happened. Shockingly, it didn't look mortifying at all, and even ended up being pretty anticlimactic. Graceful people suffer the same blunders as everybody else, they just know how to pick themselves up and continue fighting. When failure befalls them, they are empowered and confident enough to dust themselves off and start anew, dwelling on their mistake only long enough to learn from it, and then letting it go.
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My notion of gracefulness challenges the popular belief that "well behaved women rarely make history." Of course, acquiescence and resignation can't lead to progress, but I would argue that neither can unrestrained ferocity. The women who make history for the better, those who leave an enduring sense of poise and dignity in their wake, are the ones who aren't afraid to strike a balance between relentless perseverance and humility. Graceful is she who can communicate just as much fortitude in her silence as she can in her speech. I believe it's the women who wear grace as their crown who carry the scepter.

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