When I was little, I was bossy. Just ask my younger sister. As an adult, I think they delicately call this “forthright.” Because I'm pretty sure I'm making the right decision in any given situation, I figure others will listen and do what is clearly the best idea. So when I find that what I want isn't happening, my first instinct is to turn to force. Not like I'm going to punch out the guy sitting next to me on the bus, but rather, that through coercion, persuasion, a little sale pitch, or some spiked and well-placed guilt, that I will get what I want. What I have found is that what I want is not always what's supposed to happen, and that what I want rarely comes effortlessly from force. Whatever it is that's supposed to happen, that makes life better, that brightens someone’s day, usually comes from grace.

As I'm swimming along, two types of strokes occur. One is the huffing, puffing, inefficient but difficult stroke. This gets me a gulp of water and leaves me winded. The other kind is graceful. My body slides, almost effortlessly, through the water. My arm comes up and over, dips in, reeeeeaaaches so I feel a pull in my side and I naturally rotate my body, a good solid pull through and a strong sweep back, my hand brushing my thigh as I begin again. And again, and again. Gracefully moving through the water, using less energy, less force, and nevertheless getting farther much faster.

Perhaps the lesson is that grace moves you farther than force. That you have to just let go sometimes. To gracefully meet others where they are. To allow yourself to just be once in a while. Know you are doing the best you can at any given moment, and that others are doing the same. By gliding through life instead of bulldozing it down, we get the good stuff: the relieved reaction when we smile as we walk past, the appreciation of the harried mother or the worried father when we take a moment to help them at the grocery store, the internal calm when we allow ourselves to accept who we are, without the need for change or improvement. 

Perhaps I will continue to meet the world forcefully sometimes. But maybe, if I can meet the world with grace, I will understand the depth, the exponential acceptance, with which it meets me back.

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