What makes one Graceful?

Grace is one of the pillars that make up what I call “a whole package of goodness”. I want to capture this quality I see in some women in my network – their presence transforms the moment into a zone of warmth and appreciation.

But when I began to write about this topic, I had a second thought. Is Grace the right word at all? Maybe being graceful is all about demonstrating elegant manners, something that one can learn a la Eliza Doolittle? That does not quite capture the quality I have in mind. And if someone is very elegant but in an aloof way, can she still be described as being graceful? The lack of warmth is not right. And surely gracefulness is best shown through one’s interactions with others?

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So, I consulted the (online) dictionaries!

Grace is defined as:

  • Seemingly effortless beauty of charm of movement, form, or proportion
  • Smoothness and elegance of movement
  • Courteous, Good will
  • A pleasing or charming quality
  • (Graces) an attractively polite manner of behaving

 

Moreover, Grace is also

  • A sense of propriety and consideration for others

For me, that last point really gels everything together. Though important, elegant manners alone don’t make one graceful. That Je ne sais quoi quality I try to describe is built upon a genuine sense of considerations for others.

Do you agree?

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Do you play?

My children teach me the wonderful world of playing. 

playing

I don’t remember much playtime in my childhood. Not because I was not allowed to; I was just a bit of an odd kid, I suppose, who tended to be too serious and studious. That attitude carried on a bit into later years when I found myself, though suitably sociable, just wasn’t into playfulness that defines those magical decades of teenage and early adulthood.

Fast forward to parenthood. For me, the toughest part is not the duties of caring, teaching, feeding, and so on, but the ability to let go, play and be generally crazy (I have 2 active boys!). My husband, on the other hand, has always treasured the child in himself, and be able to switch between the roles of parent and playmate appropriately.

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What I have learned in the past 9 years since joining parenthood is that Play is a pivotal aspect of a healthy person.

  • Playing nurtures creativity which is the foundation of problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • Playing with friends plants the seeds of social skills and team spirits.
  • Playing allows your brain to flex its muscles in all directions.
  • Playing, if physical, is the best way to build and maintain a healthy body and mind (look at the billion-dollar industry that helps stressed-out adults to regain that balance!).

The list goes on. I must admit I am still a student in this regard. This, my friends, is one of my key resolutions for Year 2013 – Play More.

Infusing little delights, wherever you are.

When I was a university student, I frequently dropped into my friend Elaine’s house for some homecooking. We have known each other since 12 and both studied in London, she as a medical student at Guys’ and St. Thomas’ Hospital, and I at the London School of Economics.

I camped out at her place rather than the other way round for 2 simple reasons. She/her family owned a house and she was a patient and excellent cook – both obviously trumped my rental flat and same old same old live-to-eat meals.

One thing I never understood though was her insistence on decorating the dishes properly. I mean, we were care free students and old friends, we were alone at her place. A a gourmet dining experience did not seem important. I remember teasing her about her fuzziness which extended to other “feel good” things that she deemed necessary in her life.

It was not until 15 years later, when we repeated the same experience in a different country, that I began to understand the smartness of it all.

By then, our situations were reversed. I was all settled in Toronto, Canada, whereas she took up a limited-time job in organ transplants at the Sick Children’s hospital. Like many other visiting doctors, she was living in the residence next door, a rather depressing-looking building (see below) of which the only advantage is its proximity to the downtown hospital.

Elm and Bay, Toronto

Before I had a chance to visit, she already decorated (on a sound budget, let me add) her little apartment. Nothing outrageous or glamorous, not even a coat of new paint, just carefully selected new furnitures and floor lighting. And as always, the evening was spent on catching up with each other after a scrumptious home cooked meal.

I thought back to the many places I had rented while in England, both as a student and a young professional. It was all about being functional, being livable, and not investing any beauties in a temporary home. Elaine, on the other hand, took a different approach regardless of where she lived – she MADE it her home by infusing objects of delights. Maybe a cool floor lamp, or a nicely decorated dinner table for her friends. Back home in London, she also allowed herself one weekly indulgence – a fresh bouquet of flowers.

Finally, I understand that is Elaine’s way of Joie de Vivre.  Living in the moment, incorporating little delights in her daily life, wherever she is, whatever she is doing.

I may have her at the back of the mind when I decided to bring out one of our many sets of “nice China” for daily use. It has taken me more than a decade to learn that being practical should not prevent one from infusing beauties into one’s daily life.