The word integrity often is bantered about in the media, especially in reports of poor behavior by public officials or personalities. Perhaps we spend too much time worrying about others’ integrity though. Instead I’ve been curious to discover how integrity has evolved in my own life. And it begins with me being brutally honest with myself.
For me integrity is not a thing, nor is it a quality, or an experience as much as it is a constantly unfolding process that brings me into alignment with the Universe. The key ingredient in this process is my own mindfulness or consciousness. I need to be aware constantly of how God is showing me the true beauty of my life. I am seeking to understand how minor and major incidents bring together the disparate pieces of my life into a more harmonious whole, no matter how glorious or distasteful those incidents may be.
My quest for integration took a great leap forward this past year. I met a man who loved me and who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I was surprised in some ways because I had taken a break from “looking” for the right guy. And there he was in front of me. It took some soul-searching on my part to be honest with him about how I felt at the time. I allowed myself the time to let this surprise sink in. I soon realized that I loved him too.
Working on integrity is useless without also allowing love to evolve and deepen. I recently heard of a definition of love that makes a lot of sense. Love radically means wanting the best for the other, having a positive regard for the safety and security of the other. This is how my love for Jay manifested itself at first. I just wanted the best for him. The romantic aspects came a bit later. I realized that I had a man with whom I could form a good partnership for the rest of my life. And I worked on our relationship with the honesty and openness it deserved. We had to deal with a number of issues that seemed at first to stand in the way of our commitment. After 62 years of essentially living alone and being able to make most of my personal decisions without consulting anyone else, I learned to compromise, to let go, and to reorient my life in order that another whole person could fit into it, and I into his.
I also sensed a call to formalize our relationship in a sacred ceremony that meant something to both of us, God, and our friends and family. And so we got married at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. We also wanted a fresh start and an easier pace of life and so we sold our homes and moved to Florida (just in time to escape the horrendous winter of 2015!)
We’ve been married only a little over four months, but I have learned tons about commitment. I have also realized how self-centered my life had been for many years, despite the fact I was in a supposedly all-consuming vocation. What had been missing from the priesthood was love, not the love I might feel spiritually from God, but the concrete love of another human being who knew me, accepted me, and supported me from dawn to dusk. Partnering with another, interacting with a very different personality, and combining households, finances, and spiritualities have also tapped into two major sources of my personal anxiety: the need for material security and the sense of being valued by others. Both have been occasions to unveil my fears and deepen my honesty about my attitudes and beliefs.
I look forward to where the process of integration will take me next. I’m sure it will prove ultimately to bring me good even though it may occasionally take me through some dark moments. In the meantime I will ask myself, and urge any other seeker of integrity to ask:
- How does the bringing together of the different parts of my life into a beautiful and wonderful whole show up each day?
- Am I actively seeking the next good thing that awaits me?
- Is there a threshold over which I am being invited to step that will shift my life?
- What are the inner critics/fears I need to address in order for me to find greater integrity?
- And how is my integrity enabling me to live fully in this rich moment of life, right here and right now?
All artwork is copyrighted by the artist Michael Parise