Earlier this year I read an article in O Magazine by Martha Beck. It felt like one of the truest things I’d ever read, so I tore it out and I’ve carried it in my notebook since then so I can remind myself of its message:
The word integrity (from integer) means “wholeness.” Living in integrity means expressing and doing what’s true for you in all situations. Depart from your truth in any way – offer a fake smile, flatter your awful boss, marry for money – and you become two people: the truth knower and the lie actor. That’s duplicity. And duplicity, not social noncompliance, is the real enemy of joy. To start the Integrity Cleanse, first ask yourself, Where am I out of integrity? Where are you not feeling what you feel, knowing what you know, saying what you believe, and doing what feels most right? Once you’ve identified the duplicity, come back into integrity. Speak your truth. Act on it. No matter what.
Sound radical? It is. Plop integrity into an unfair system, and you’ll get back disapproval or attack. People have been imprisoned for living with integrity. People have died for it (sometimes moving society a little closer to equality and liberty in the process). Even if you consequences are relative minor – your parents object when you leave graduate school, your book group mocks your political stance – they’ll still sting. At first you may feel the same old outrage: “I put in virtue and got back punishment!” Stay the course. See What happens. –Martha Beck
This is the stuff that can change everything. If it looks sometimes like I am moving backwards, I probably am, but just by the world’s standards. By my own standards I have never felt so content and whole. I’m doing my work, in my own way. I refuse to be labeled and categorized. I reserve the right to change my mind. It’s hard for some to understand, sometimes even my husband. I overheard him telling my sister recently: if it goes against any little part of her self she just won’t do it. She turns down opportunities left and right, even when the money would be nice. The reason I turn down opportunities? It would mean choosing something that didn’t feel true to me. He gets it when I explain it that way.
Instead of long term yearly resolutions I now have daily and weekly resets:
Is this what I want to be doing with my time?
Is this decision moving me towards or away from my writing and creative goals?
What is the purpose behind my desire to do this?
Am I doing this for the right reason? Am I seeking joy or recognition?
Will this decision hurt those around me?
Basically: Is this a good choice?
And sometimes the answers to these questions don’t always immediately result how I want them too, and sometimes the results are painful at first, but as Martha Beck so eloquently put it:
“…paradoxically, each choice also increased a flow of happiness that seemed to arise for no reason except that I’d stopped blocking it. I was amazing to feel peace trickling through sorrow and disappointment, gradually dyeing everything some shade of happy. When people experience this – despite outward losses – they begin blooming like flowers, from misery to surrender to thoughtfulness to inner peace. Alignment in, joy out.”
It’s not always easy to choose joy, because alignment has to come first. And alignment has to be daily and weekly because yearly is too long a time period, especially when I can so easily get off track in just a few hours. Most importantly: alignment is individual. My alignment won’t work for you and your alignment won’t work for me. Maybe that’s how we get so confused!
My friend, author Mary Anne Radmacher, posted this quote today and I loved the idea of implementing bold intentions, daily, weekly, and all the time:
It’s true. Why wait three more days? Throw out the yearly resolutions and create new opportunities to begin hourly, daily, weekly.
Stay the course. See What happens.