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June 24, 2021

From Galumphing to Grace: Broadening our way of being in the world

Do you know the English word galumphing?

Perhaps you’ve read it in children’s books, or heard it in songs? Turns out Lewis Carroll invented this word by combining the words ‘triumphant’ and ‘galloping’. It first appeared in his 1872 poem Jabberwocky.

If you do not know it, please allow me to enlighten you, Dear Reader, as it is a fabulous and much under-utilised word.

The meaning of galumphing is ‘moving clumsily, heavily or inelegantly and with joy’.

When I discovered this word, I immediately recognised its significance in my life.

I am a Galumpher.

As an innately playful human, I am often found running up staircases and down hallways, using my outside voice inside, and snorting with laughter in the company of people who do not snort with laughter. Still, sometimes, they raise an eyebrow. I’m 44, after all, not a child.

But I just can’t pretend not to be this person.

Galumphing is my natural mode.

I very much enjoy being the biggest version of myself. I like the giggles I can elicit from others – who are usually too meek to join me – with my flamboyant carryings-on. I like taking the joke too far. I like the shocked looks on the faces of the conservative people when I give them a wink and say something provocative. I have always enjoyed being a big personality.

As the years passed, though, I started to notice that there are times in life that call for a quieter presence. Not just sad or difficult moments. Moments, perhaps, when tenderness or sincerity brew. Or moments when I might fade a little to allow someone else to step forward to shine their brilliant light.

We Galumphers do not come easily to noticing such things.

You see, ‘fading’ is a terrifying prospect.

Choosing to lower my voice, my tone, or the speed at which I think, speak or move is practically choosing not to existing at all. At least, that’s what I thought. How on earth does a wild force of nature embody less is more?

And yet, I had a sense that it was time to explore this part of myself. Over and over, I found myself in spaces where a certain ‘tone’ was needed. This was not a coincidence. At 38, I joined a meditation group for the first time. Upon entering the meditation hall, the silence permeated my body. I felt still. For the first time, I could hear myself. I joined workshops on classical tantra and authentic relating. I shouldn’t have been surprised when the participants sat, for the most part, in deep contemplation of themselves and of one another, their voices low and their spirits calm. I noticed in these spaces that I was always the too loud one, the too talkative one, the too much noise when opening the door or filling up her water bottle from the tap one.

I noticed the gulf between the way of being of other participants in these spaces and my own. It was vast. I felt self-conscious, and I sought to become a quieter, more reverent version of myself. Interestingly, I never heard a ‘tsk tsk’ from the others in those spaces. I wondered if practising peace and presence may in time lend itself to a deeper acceptance of Galumphers?

I began to desire to broaden my range.

I still loved playing the role of sparkly, outrageous lunatic. But in the quiet places, surrounded by quiet people, I felt my whole being soften. A different part of my internal landscape came to life.

Mystery. Wonder. Grace.

It opened me to things I had never felt before.

During a night meditation, a man in my group was taking some air outside when I also stepped out. We stood in silence, as you might expect, looking at the stars. It was so cold, we could see our breath. In the moonlight, I saw him gently motion with his hand that I should follow him, and he took a few steps up the garden path, away from the hall. Once there, he took a torch from his pocket and shone it on a bed of giant ornamental cabbages, glistening with dew drops. I had never seen a thing so incredibly beautiful.

Mystery. Wonder. Grace.

A simple gesture was his, this ten-metre excursion into the garden – yet it lit me up. The invitation was a subtle motion of his hand and a tilt of his head. No words, only silence. He had carried, hidden in his pocket, the only thing he’d needed to surprise and delight me that night – a torch.  I found it enchanting! A personalised teeny mystery-adventure tour.

In that moment, I realised I loved subtle and poetic as much as I loved wild and chaotic.

I began to look for ways to embody grace in parts of my life – to move elegantly, to speak gently and with purpose, to be more present and to leave space for others.

Let me tell you, it did not come naturally or easily.

At first, I tried emulating the tone and movement of those people whose quiet presence bewitched me… and I felt ridiculous. There is a kind of quiet being that just is in those humans whose natural mode is Grace. It is not native to us Galumphers, nor is it a thing we wear with ease.

After many months of practice, I learned that simply shutting my mouth and not letting the thing that wants to fly out of it escape is, in fact, the best method of fake-it-til-you-make-it in this case. “Just don’t say it” became my personal mantra.

Today, I’m a few years into this process. I’ve courted a hundred different approaches to living a more gracious life, and I’m pleased to report that I now exhibit healthy levels of both Galumphing and Grace.

Not only have I learned to use an inside voice, but I’ve made an art of finding magic in the mundane and sharing it quietly, when it’s least expected. It’s more special that way. Indeed, my Gracious part is finding her own unique and playful way to co-exist with the mad Galumpher who runs the show.

And, of course, the Galumpher in me lives on, inciting mischief and uproarious laughter wherever she can get away with it.

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