If you look at the logo for this site, you’ll see under it, the phrase “Ideas for Gracious Living.” Since the early days of my career, I’ve espoused the idea of living graciously. The phrase is even in the title of my book. But what does it mean? It’s a somewhat general term and could benefit from some definition.
What gracious living boils down to is an appreciation of all life has to offer. So often we get bound up in trying to get ahead, pursuing our goals with single-minded determination. We forget that life is now, not then. The articles on this site are designed to help you not only stop and smell the roses, but plant them, nurture them, arrange them and take pleasure in the whole process. So what constitutes a gracious life? Here are my thoughts:
Relationships are the foundation of a gracious life. And the most important relationship you have is your relationship with yourself. Developing that relationship is an ongoing project. One of the most valuable tools available for this process is meditation. If you’re not used to doing it, it can seem weird or difficult, but it’s not, really. There are lots of ways to do it and lots of disciplines. Look into it. You’ll be glad you did. A good relationship with yourself also includes attention to diet, some sort of exercise and a general attitude of kindness and appreciation toward yourself. These are all worth developing and will bring great rewards.
Our relationships with others are really built on our relationship with ourselves. Once we get that sorted out, we find that our dealings with others change for the better. Give it a try and see.
The next step on our journey to a gracious life is our personal expression. Expressing our individuality is a liberating thing. Our own particular combination of interests, talents and skills are what make us unique. Sharing them is our gift to the world. What if Beethoven hadn’t shared his gifts? Or Einstein? Or Charro? How much more diminished the world would be… These gifts take on several different forms:
We all have preferences – for what we wear, how we style our hair, do our makeup… These choices, when summed, up comprise our personal style. Some are more adept than others at putting these elements together, and that’s fine. The point is that even making no personal style choices is a choice. How you present yourself to the world says a lot about you. Having fun with it can be one of life’s little pleasures.
Our other avenue of personal expression is the creative outlets we choose. Are you a gourmet or mixologist? An artist? Do you fence, collect salt shakers? Our own individual take on the diversions we indulge in is original and unique to us. These obsessions can even become careers. For me, it’s sewing, cooking, interior design and vintage. That last one has defined my life since childhood, and it’s been the cornerstone of my career. Identifying and developing creative outlets is a big part of living a gracious life – like the seasoning to a life well lived.
What we do with our homes is the last big element in gracious living. Our homes are really extensions of our personal style. The environment we immerse ourselves in says a lot about us. Is it cozy and eclectic? Stark and modern? Does it evoke old Hollywood or is it a shrine to childhood diversions? The choices we make communicate our personalities to our guests.
This aspect of gracious living, more than others, is dependent upon some basic skills. Keeping house, to name names. Often times we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by what’s required of us and our homes start to reflect that. Finding the tools to help us stay on top of an orderly home situation is extremely helpful in giving our gracious life an HQ. The alternative to this is to throw money at the problem. However, hiring out the organization and maintenance of your home puts you at a distinct disadvantage. It’s my opinion that we should be adept at these life skills first, then we’re able to direct our minions with precision and understanding.
Once we have the skills needed to maintain a gracious home, we can start to feather our nest in a way that pleases us. Interior design is a great way to express your personality. I’ve always loved creating environments to inhabit. Interiors can soothe, they can excite, they can welcome or insulate. When in doubt, you can never go wrong surrounding yourself with things you love.
After we’ve built a nest for ourselves, it’s time to welcome others into it. Entertaining brings us full circle, back to the first element of gracious living – relationships. Sharing our gracious life with others is such a lovely gift to give them… and you. Whether it’s a Breakfast at Tiffany’s style cocktail party or just a casual movie night, having friends over can make for some of the best times of our lives.
So these are the aspects of a gracious life as I see them: Get straight with yourself, attract stellar people into your orbit, find a style that compliments you, get creative with your free time, make the most of where you live and welcome friends old and new to that home and you’ll be living graciously ever after.