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Lessons to carry forward

By Amy Nielsen

This last week of the year is always fraught with peril for me. I spend half the time in high elation with the blush of Yuletide faeries and hearty fare still ringing through my head and belly, and the other half in defeated panic about all the things I said I would accomplish and find instead lying in varying piles around my house resembling so many miniature towers of Pisa gathering dust in corners and on steps.

Being the season for space between the worlds my sun sign matters a lot right now – I’m a Taurus Gemini exact cusp, completely black and white flip flopping about everything and decidedly bullheaded about it. Groan.

I saw a meme a few weeks ago that said, “Stories shared stay in this space, while lessons learned may leave with grace.” Another followed last week saying, “Grace is having a relationship with someone’s heart not their behavior.” Then this morning I awoke to a quote posted by a friend that said, “Grace will take you places hustling won’t.” While all very different these quotes all stuck me as something I need to pay attention to.

I usually take this time to set apart a space to write about a word that has come to my center over the last year or one that feels like a stepping stone into the New Year. I am not really resolutions kind of gal. I find them restrictive and confining, being that fickle sign of twins. This year in particular I am having great difficulty finding not only the time to write about my year but also exactly what to write about. I feel jittery and unsettled. More so than my usual seasonally adjusted freakishness.

I somehow feel like I am poised on the verge of a do-over year, one where I get the chance to make amends or pull my crap together in a way that this past year didn’t allow me to. Maybe I get to catch the balls I so casually tossed up in the air last year.  I understand that I have a chance to do something, something good and something really worthwhile, but that I have to be very, very clear to take lessons from this year forward with me.

If I listen carefully and read closely, I get the sense that the tauran full steam ahead attitude I have been racing along under for the last year is about to turn into a very different ride, I am about to reach a point where I must take my time or will well and truly screw up some potentially extremely rewarding and important work. Not only professionally, but also academically and personally.

I have learned a huge amount this past year. I completed two academic projects I started the previous year, two that were integral to getting me to where I am now. I spent a crazy amount of time connecting with far flung friends and closer acquaintances putting my presence where my presents used to suffice. I made several interesting and fun business connections through mutual social connections that have potential to drive dynamic professional change.

I am however a bull in a china shop when it comes to expounding to one and all my proudly new learned knowledge. I find myself regularly feeling awfully sophomoric among groups of friends these days. It makes me want to shovel sugar cookies in my mouth to stop talking at holiday parties. If I’m cooking up a storm I can’t be professing my love for a theory in a convoluted Facebook post that will haunt me every year on this day until eternity.

It has come to my attention that what I need to cultivate is grace.

My Mom used to chant, “Patience is a virtue. Virtue is a grace. Grace is a little girl who forgot to wash her face.” My Dad used to tell me, “Tough, do it anyway, Grace.”

So what exactly is grace? I know that ballet dancers are graceful and that if one is inspired by certain religious beliefs, grace is bestowed by a greater being to redeem an abhorrent action. While I have certainly been told I am a graceful dancer and I know for a fact I have been the recipient of profound Divine grace; grace is also, “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency” according to Merriam-Webster. It is this definition that suits my sensibility best.

In reading for this post I found this quote, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” Perfection is hard. Like so many, I am a perfectionist, but I am also a realist – going back to that bull headed twin. I can see if I will be good at something and get the hang of it very quickly, however I will also assume I am not good at something and won’t even try – or worse, if forced, will intentionally muck it up – just to prove I was right about me.

Moving from perfection and its easy black and white judgement to grace with its messy touchy feely greyness is going to take time and patience and presence. It is going to take lots of deep breaths and probably none too few inappropriately placed eye rolls. For me personally it is going to take faking it until I make it to some degree.

Grace asks me to touch parts of me that I chose to keep locked away. Grace takes feeling and understanding that within discord there is always hope. Grace teaches that with great power comes great responsibility and that that responsibility is to the other not to self. Grace demands gentleness, kindness, and strength.

Grace is a deeper sense of understanding. It means taking the time to see, hear, and feel the whole of an experience in order to reach more compassionate conclusion within the situation. It means slowing down. It means being present. It means taking a breath. It is the space in the pause. It is reaching into that space inside, the vulnerable part, that squishy soft stuff, and feeling compassion for oneself.

So I take grace into the New Year with me. Perhaps with grace I will learn to control the all on or all off nature of my flip-flopping beastly gemini-taurus self. Perhaps in grace I will find the professed Yuletide peace, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year.

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