Be a Swan ~ this simple acronym can help

IMG_1996One day this week I had an ordinary opportunity to practice everyday elegance and remind myself to gracefully glide through life like a swan, not flap about like a chicken with its head cut off.

I was in the middle of cleaning our house when I realized I needed a couple of things from the store before getting on with a long to-do list for the day. I was tired, and the temperature outside was pushing 100 degrees. As I drove into the parking lot, a driver ran a stop sign forcing me to slam on my brakes. My purse flew off the seat, and its contents spilled on the floor.

As I began to pull into a parking spot, I had to swerve to avoid another driver going the wrong direction. My cell phone slid deep under the passenger’s seat. In the blistering heat of the concrete parking lot, I practically stood on my head while moving the seat forward and backwards trying to grab the phone that was just out of reach. By the time I retrieved it (ironically using an ice scraper from the glove compartment) I was hot and bothered.

Muttering to myself and ready to flap into the store feeling anything but graceful, I paused and remembered to be a swan. I walked around my car and got back in the driver’s seat. I started the ignition, turned the radio to classical music, and adjusted the air vents. For a couple of minutes, I sat still and let myself cool down.

Then I briefly closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and thought about the acronym I have used as a personal mantra for years. These four little words are a quick and easy way for me to quickly adjust my attitude and face the world with a modicum of elegance.

SWAN ~ Simple Wise Attractive Nice  

I’ve never written about this acronym for fear of revealing a silly little secret, but I’ve been thinking about how our personal lives, our relationships, and our communities could be improved if we all paid attention to those four simple words.

On this steamy ordinary day, I reminded myself that life is really pretty simple and my problems are relatively few. I was glad I’d wisely taken a few minutes to cool down and recenter myself. Wearing a casual denim dress, I felt reasonably attractive and thought about having good posture and a pleasant countenance. As my irritation melted away, I was more aware of simply being nice to fellow customers and store employees.

Simple. Wise. Attractive. Nice. Such an easy way to remember to be like a swan, gliding through an ordinary day with a little everyday elegance. §

“Grace will take you places hustling can’t.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Featured Art ~ White Swan on White Lake by Melissa Pinner

The Elegant Inspiration of Swans

Nature offers us all the inspiration we need to move through life with elegance and grace. Our physical world is filled with breathtaking landscapes, plants, and animals. Consider a majestic black stallion, a dainty gossamer butterfly, or a strong and courageous lion. Among these elegant creatures is the swan, an ethereal bird that graces the scenes of art, literature, and ballet.

My earliest encounter with storybook swans was Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Ugly Duckling and its powerful message of transformation, kindness, and love. Who can resist the idea that, no matter how awkward and rejected we feel, deep down we are all beautiful swans?

Another favorite novel of mine is E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan. It tells the sweet story of a trumpeter swan, Louis (cleverly named for Louis Armstrong), who learns several lessons on his journey first to self-love and eventually to true love with a swan named Serena.

My affinity for swans was sealed when I was a little girl taking dance lessons. My mother took my sisters and me to a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and I was mesmerized. Ever since, a picture book of the ballet has had a place on my shelf.

Seeing swans in nature only increases their fictional dreaminess for me, though they still somehow seem mythical. As I watch swans regally float on the water, I’m inspired by their natural beauty and simplicity. They might be paddling like crazy just below the surface, but they always appear to float serenely through life.

I began teaching middle school before my children were born. By the time they reached the same age as the eighth graders I taught, I had a daily routine of stopping by a park on the way home from school. For ten or fifteen minutes, I would sit in my car and watch the swans on the small lake, while I decompressed, meditated, and prayed.

In the midst of hectic days blessed by teenagers at work and home, the swans soothed my soul and reminded me how I wanted to show up in the world as a teacher, parent, and human being ~ peaceful, placid, and poised.

Now, as I near my sixties, swans seem to have the wise and mature sense of joy I’d like to possess. They aren’t as dramatic as peacocks or as cute and flighty as chickadees. Swans represent the simple deep contentment I seek in my own life.

Most of us feel drawn to certain things in nature. Do you have a spirit animal that displays traits you’d like to emulate? Though it may not be a swan, I’m sure you appreciate their beauty and are inspired by their grace and serenity. No matter what life brings, we can at least aim to effortlessly glide through our days with the elegance of a simple swan.§

“Swans always look as though they’d just been reading their own fan mail.”
~Jill Struther