Integrity in the Face of Self Preservation

Although I did not hike last weekend, I did have a trek that led to some self-reflection and insights.  For the first time in over a year, I got on a plane, and went to Providence, RI.  I ventured to New England to get some furniture and odds and ends from my parent’s house. I thought it was going to be a simple trip; come up, pack a U-Haul, and drive back to Maryland on Sunday.  Like many other Boomers, my parents are at the point where they need to downsize and start looking towards retirement communities and elderly care facilities.  Not at all elderly in mind, or spirit, this has been a very difficult journey for them.  My dad used to tell a story about when he realized that his dad was getting older.  They were walking and he was behind my grandfather.  When my grandfather lost his balance a bit, my dad reached out to help him from falling down, and described pushing his dad’s small butt and light frame upright.  He realized at that moment that he was stronger than his dad.  My siblings and I are at the impasse where we will soon be our parents’ caretakers.  Parkinson’s Disease and a leaky heart valve condition have transformed my dad physically, but not mentally.  I often joke that I have to break out my SAT words when I am around my family to keep up with their sharp intellects.  The one I came up with today is grandiloquent- which I am with them, as it implies, because of the way I do so in order to try to impress.  I watched him grab his arm when he would tremble a little.  We are all trying to hide the parts of ourselves that don’t work perfectly, or that are no longer whole.  The body is an imperfect machine.  Who doesn’t want to put walls and barriers up to hide what’s broken, or crumbling inside?  If a building doesn’t have integrity, who would buy it?

My parents house, well I guess it’s their former house now, was built in 1749.  It is large, yet awkward, and there are a few “barns” or outbuildings on the property as well.  My parents worked hard for twenty years to maintain the house, and it is in beautiful shape, particularly for an older home.  Hidden in the unimpaired structures was years worth of stuff, organized in a way that only makes sense to my mom, that had to be sorted, packed. re-organized and moved to different parts of the “ice house” before stagers could come for the estate sale.  I asked a friend to come with me, thinking it might be kind of nice, and not at all anticipating the grunt work he was going to end up having to put in. The people I hike with and I pick a theme word each hike.  Since I had one of them with me on this trip, we determined that the theme of this trip was integrity.  My brother-in-law, another intellect, brought the word up when he was recounting a podcast, or maybe it was a speech, about asking people to do an IQ test at the end and see what their score was for the last 24 hours, the caveat being that he was asking them to take do an integrity quotient test.  My apologies to Chris (my brother-in-law) that I have not completed the IQ test, and I am also weeks behind on all my podcasts (Insert:Human is his, check it out).  

I looked up the meaning of the word integrity, something I’ve always known as doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. has three definitions for the word; “adherence to moral, and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty” and “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished” and “a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.” I began to wonder about the idea of these various meanings connecting to one another.  In order to have integrity, the moral kind, do you have to first be whole, unimpaired and in perfect condition?  Reflecting on my own immorality of late, I realized I am too biased of a judge so I put it out to a few people who I’ve let in, very close, who know a lot about things that lead up to the dissolution of my marriage and why I had to leave my husband.  The average number I was rated, from 0 to 10, was a 7.  One friend put it best “you do what’s “right” the majority of the time, but will do what’s best for self preservation.”  Being in such a vulnerable place right now – nearing the finality of a twelve year marriage, single motherhood, going to a single-income household, finishing the most difficult school year to date – is it wrong that my integrity does not remain intact when I need to keep myself together?  Yes.  Morally, yes, it’s wrong.  Another person added that “truth telling to my loved ones has not always been my strong suit, but I am making progress in this area.”  Again, as I reflect on this astute observation, I know that I often lie or completely avoid conversations because I don’t want to hurt others. I often perceive that if I am brutally honest with some people, I would put holes in their self-esteem.  As I write, and try to finish this blog post, I’m going to be frank – I am sick to my stomach with my results.  I know I am making strides to improve myself, find myself and be more honest, but the 6s were hard to hear.  That’s a D.  I’d be way more comfortable with a B. Connecting the dots even further, I’d say that low C range is about where I feel on a scale of “whole” versus “impaired” in my life right now, if it were a physical structure.

I have a challenge for you, my readers, to reach out to those who know you really well. I asked 5 people, only one family member and he’s not blood related.  I purposefully picked people who I have confided in when my integrity (all senses of the word) has faltered.  I knew who I could ask who would give me a B because I want a B, but I went for those who would give me my real, as of right now IQ score.  Let me know what your ratings are, and if they also match your structure?


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