Achieving Emotional Grace (Or, Don’t Be a Tool)

Achieving Emotional Grace (Or, Don’t Be a Tool)

My birthday is in September. Now, simmer down and stop buying me extravagant presents.

The reason I mention this is because, as opposed to January 1st, I consider my birthday my new year. I tend to stop and think about what went down this year and what I’d like to see happen in the next.

Sometimes I land on simple stuff like staying on top of the laundry, which is swiftly followed by swearing to stop wasting time on stuff like laundry. So, you see, I really never get too far.

This year I’ve decided that I need a lot (and I mean A LOT) of focus on just being a better person. Clearly not the challenge of my laundry debacle, but a worthy cause none the less.

I came to the realization that I have approximately two more years of my kids actually hearing a word I say before hormones clog them up into a sound-proof cocoon and they emerge like a butterfly at 25 as functioning humans. I hope.

I had better stuff as much usable information into their pre-pubescent brains before that time or god only knows what I will have unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Like many of you (I hope), I say a lot of useless crap to my kids. I like to think that I’m carrying on a very proud tradition, having been the recipient of just such crap from my own parents.

“Life isn’t fair”

“Because I said so”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees”

“What? This? This is Mommy’s medicine.”

I do not think that means what you think it means.

I do not think that means what you think it means.

But, every now and then, when the stars are aligned, the winds change direction and Kate Middleton farts at a precise moment, I say something pretty freaking brilliant that has some decent substance.

Approximately 100% of the time I am regurgitating some gold nugget that was passed on to me by some advanced human. I’m talking about those people we’ve all come across who seem to have life in sharp focus. They have, what I call, emotional grace.

So, I had this idea that, as a reminder to myself, I would start to write a series about all these little lessons and analogies that have resonated with me throughout my life. Sort of like an emotional personal improvement plan.

In addition, because I am lazy, I don’t want to continue to repeat myself with my kids. I suspect that this, in and of itself, makes me an emotional lummox.

I present, the Achieving Emotional Grace primer. Or, as I like to call it Don’t Be a Tool.

Let me just start with this disclaimer: I have absolutely no expertise in what I’m writing about. I have no degrees, certifications, doctorates in anything.

In fact, I chose to study film at an agricultural school in Oregon so clearly my educational decisions in general can be called into question.

I am tripping and guffawing my way through the shitpile just like everyone else. I screw up. A  lot. I have insecurities and personality blemishes too many to count. I have warned you sufficiently.

If Child Protective Services comes to your door or you are detained or incarcerated because you did anything I said, you have no one but yourself to blame.

So, what is emotional grace? We’ve all seen countless examples of physical grace – the ballet dancer, the gymnast, the ice skater. Everything they do appears effortless, almost as if they are not confined by the weight of gravity like the rest of us.

A stark comparison would be me. I walk into walls. Just talking will cause me to bite my tongue. I am convinced that I am being drugged and beaten while I sleep because I am constantly finding bruises and scrapes and can not tell you where they came from.

I have never been, nor will I be, graceful. I’m tight and don’t bend easily. I’m like dolls before they invented the bendable limbs.

What? I am relaxed.

What? I am relaxed.

The emotional equivalent of the ballet dancer are those people who seem to know how to navigate the intricacies of human relationships and situations. They know how to say the right thing at the right time. They appear unflappable but still have appropriate emotional responses. They expect a great deal from themselves and those around them while still being forgiving and realistic with both. They are often kind, giving, funny and honest. They do all of this naturally, without effort or artifice.

And, you want to hate them for all this but you simply can’t.

As I trip my way through life, I have been given so many lessons, large and minuscule, by people who have passed through my turnstile. Many were completely unaware they were schooling me. Others did it very purposefully.

I’ve listened and tried to apply those lessons to my life with rare success and more often in failure. Recognizing noble behavior and practicing it in your life are two vastly different things.

So, stand by while I pull some sage wisdom out of my back side to share. I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats.

Except those of you who are out shopping for a birthday present for me. Good choice!


Image credits:
Photo #1 –
Photo #2 – personal image
Photo #3 –


12 Responses »

  1. Pingback: Achieving Emotional Grace (AEG#1) – Find Your Naked Truth | Left of Plumb

  2. My birthday was yesterday. Viva la Septemberers! My stepson is 16 and past any help . . . OK, not so, but you know what I mean. I’m still going to read your posts very carefully. You never know where or when that nugget’s gonna land. And heaven knows, I too am neither graceful nor gracious.

  3. I think you’re on the right track. Kids do listen even when it seems like they aren’t. Mine will say, it’s like you said when we were growing up, and I do feel like I got through to them on some level because they are pretty good people with good values. If is sounds like I’m bragging, I am, even tho both of them are in their early 30’s and don’t have “real” jobs yet, at least they aren’t dicks.

    • Yeah….we’ll see how far I get on any of it myself. I’ve got the list that I want to write about and it all looks daunting. Can’t I just continue to be a self-involved and shallow dimwit? Dang it! Curses to those people who keep reminding me I should try for better! I’m just sharing out the suffering, like I usually do. 🙂

  4. I’m right there with you. My kids are 8 and almost 11 (in three weeks), and I’m pretty sure the 10.9-year-old has already ceased to listen to a word I say. I’m 99.999% certain that, to him, I sound like Charlie Brown’s parents/teacher/any authority figure whatsoever. Which means that for most purposes, he’s finished. All the complete and utter fuck-ups that I’ve had in raising him, the guinea pig, my first, are pretty much set in stone. And now it’s my job just to keep him alive through the teen years… even if, some days, that simply means not killing him myself.

    • Well, someone has to be the sacrificial lamb I suppose. Maybe there is still time for the 8-year-old!! I figure I’m still working on myself so it’s survival of the fittest around here….and I may not survive. The real horror is I think they are listening to me more than it looks like they are.

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