Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

This week’s challenge theme is Graceful. To think about it, grace means different things to different people in different times. In the 30s, grace was in the cinema (and even more so, in real life) looks of Grace Kelly – such a twist of words! In the 50s, grace was captured in the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson and reinvented in the silhouettes of Chanel’s drawings. Twenty previous centuries have defined grace so well, that there is little that XXI can add to it on the image front.

So in our time, grace is all about being: how you build your brand, maintain your relationships, develop your career, which books you read, the vibe your home has, your screen picture, how you spend your time when nobody sees you (assuming there is a time like that), what you leave after your Presidential term (and how you leave), and how you drink your tea, – how you live your life, really.

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For me, “graceful” has a lot to do with one of the central themes of my thoughts – and my life, really – balancing act. Being graceful was easier a century ago, when every gender had a role and grace had its own part of the script for both. Open the doors, offer flowers, be smart and well-read – say thank you, accept, put the flowers into water and ask good questions. Better fit with some personalities than others, but at least grace had its well defined place. Now being graceful is more of a choice, among others, sometimes more of a luxury – and sometimes more of a challenge. How do you remain a graceful host while working, gracefully of course, a 60h+ week? A graceful partner when you are tired and upset? A graceful parent? How do you insist, gracefully, on your point of view once it was rejected, sometimes in your face and often not gracefully at all? How do you remain graceful in the world, where grace has become something of an antiquity? When being graceful often puts you at a seeming disadvantage?

You do it by sticking to your values – and to your ways of being. Because being true to yourself is the most graceful act of all. For me, this building in London with a golden ballet dancer, – old fashioned and tiny in the shadow of a modern skyscraper, – is a perfect illustration to that.

For no one knows the dance you are dancing better that you do.

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Chapter II: London

I almost never talk about London but it is a big chapter of my life. I lived there for, in total, about two years. I walked the kilometres of its streets, indulged in its senses, breathed it, enjoyed it, loved it. Then I left, and with an exception of a short stint for an interview with Shell during my INSEAD year, did not come back until now, seven years after. A month ago, Louveteau and I went to London to celebrate his birthday. And just for the weekend in London, quoi. It was a good opportunity for me to reconnect with my memories of the British capital and to reflect on the aftermath of this city’s magic on me.

London has shaped me in many ways. The education I got there might not be the most relevant for my career (well, actually, you never know with education: something learnt a decade ago can suddenly come handy. Actually, that’s what usually happens.) However, the experiences I got there, the risks I took and the decisions I made, good and bad, affected many of my life choices. Maybe that’s why it seems very important to me to resurrect my time in London.

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Writing this chapter took me some time. Impressions fade over years, memories are getting replaced sooner than we realize it. London, however, stays with me in many ways, more than I probably know of.

When addresses, places, shows and fireworks leave the memory, when things, once precious, are worn out and thrown away, something inside, something forged by the dialogue with the city, by its gifts and the sacrifices it demands, by its generosity, its history, its magic, – this intangible something stays.

So I took my time to go through my first notes about London from as far as seven years ago, to reconstruct my first impressions, feelings about London, to breathe in my past. To cherish it.

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