Thursday, November 26, 2009

Amazing Grace or DIY: Beginner's Guide To Gracious Living

Have you ever read something that just made you cry? I do all the time (big sentimental sap that I am!), but my favorite has always been the novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull. (Richard Bach)
Ever heard of it? It's a great story about one lone seagull who wants to learn to fly- not to eat, or fight, but just for the joy of flying. Throughout the book, each time he strives to better himself, his fellow gulls peck at him and tear him down, but he manages to overcome their ignorance and rise- quite literally, to new levels. He leaves his family behind and moves to higher and higher levels of existence, eventually learning that what he was really learning was not how to fly, but how to love. Once he learns to love- he no longer has a need to fly. Love can take you anywhere and anytime-once you can love, you can be or do anything. 
You are free.

All my life I have wanted to be graceful, to be able to move liquidly, rhythmically, beautifully. I figured my looks  and brains weren't anything to write home about, so I'd better learn to do something beautifully if I were ever going to make my life worthwhile. I have thrown myself into my job- working doggedly, ignoring stress and unhappiness, and the ultimate realization that while I was good at what I did- I didn't love it- and it certainly wouldn't love me when I got old. I threw myself into hobbies- learning gymnastics, yoga, meditation, dance, karate, painting, piano  tai chi, the waltz (yes, you heard me- the waltz. Be glad it wasn't the tango! "shudder"), all in an effort to be graceful. I used to be a tomboy- then I learned to paint my nails just so, to wobble in heels, to curl my hair- in vain attempts to offset what I thought were my less desirable features- inside and out. If I have one good trait, it's that I try to be honest with myself-(not too much, because that can get your feelings hurt), but if I do wrong- I know it and I acknowledge it. And it finally occurred to me that I have been living my life wrongly- a hurtful truth, because who wants to think they've wasted that much time? (Don't ask me how old I am- if you know, forget it- if you don't, good.) But while I have been trying to live gracefully, I have not been living graciously or lovingly.
This is not to say I haven't loved- I dearly love the people in my life-perhaps too much (No offense, fam, but I could write a book- call it
"Women Who Love Too Much While Not Loving Themselves Enough Because They Got Issues" -hmmm.  Too long, you think?)
 But while I know about loving, I know how to love, I know how to give love; I know nothing about accepting it for myself. Expecting people to be loving to you isn't graceful- graceful is giving up the last chocolate when you really want it. Graceful is looking beautiful for people who will never appreciate it or you. Graceful is working till you're sick as a dog- and setting the standard so that people will expect it from you from then on. Graceful is working without complaining because you don't want to trouble others- so, (muy intellig`ente) you trouble yourself. Expecting people to be loving- is selfish. It puts a burden on them to be more than they are- and, ooh, you know how people hate high expectations for themselves!

Being gracious is altogether different. Being gracious is living life without self imposed burdens, without shackling our natural exuberance, and humors- living our lives fully, without denigrating others, but realizing that our lives are ours to live.  Being gracious is not only that, but knowing  and telling (and you know some people need telling) the world that  we can live just fine without the disparaging commentary of others, and promptly proceeding to do so. If you have ever seen a person being happy- unselfconsciously, without peering around for judgment; if you have ever been that person, you know how good it feels...and how rarely it occurs.  Being gracious means being selfish-doing or not doing good and loving things because they make us feel good-not because they're expected of us. It also means being or not being  good (by your own, definition- not the beliefs of others!)  whenever you feel it is right.
I have never been gracious to myself- I have never expected others to love me, because like L'Oreal says, "I'm worth it."  My "job" has been to love others, to give of myself and hope it all pans out. In all my life I have never been free to accept love- or to not care if others don't love me.

When Jonathan Livingstone Seagull returns to his flock with all the knowledge he has gained, they turn their backs on him- all except for one seagull who says, "I want to fly-but I can't. I have a broken wing." What makes me cry whenever I read it is how true it feels, when Jonathan answers him,
 "You are free to fly, this moment, just as you are."
A simple line (albeit plagiarized- I mean paraphrased-yeaahh. "shifty look") 
and in the next moment the seagull with the broken wing  flies.
 I know it's just a story  (Ed . Note: bite your tongue! There is no such thing as "just a story!"), but it makes me cry everytime. 

I am not a seagull.
 I'm just a girl who can't dance, or sing, or write gracefully,
but who desperately wants to live graciously, to be loving  and loved.
I am the girl with the broken wing who wants to do more than just fly.
I want to be free.

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