Integrity Has Grit

ImageIt’s easy to focus on the negative in this current climate. Like Elizabeth Gilbert said in yesterday’s Instagram post, “Before I start getting high off the crack pipe of outrage, I decided to do an integrity check on myself.”

Integrity. What a word. All Germanic and noble-sounding. Like a pillar, a Greek column to hold up our society.

Who has integrity? Who has grit? (The word ‘grit’ is actually found within the word integrity.) There is so much I’ve learned from educators like Angela Lee Duckworth who has proven that grit predicts success better than intelligence or talent. Creativity predicts success too.

I have worked with many colleagues who have integrity. They’ve not been perfect people. Lately, I’ve been wondering why the bond I had with my colleagues at the United Methodist Church was so strong. Was it that we had each other’s backs and we sought equity and inclusion? We did. We could never travel for work, representing only one race or age or gender. We had to be a diverse team. It was an unwritten mandate.

The most beautiful part of camping this summer with St. Paul and St. Andrew community was the final words from Pastor K. Karpen, who said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘Jesus traveled with a ragtag group. It wasn’t the ‘best people,’ or the most winning team.'” It was tax collectors and women who washed feet and mothers and fishers of men.

Yesterday, Gilbert asked, “Do I preach love and courage and peace and inclusion, but then use my social media platforms to spew rage and fear and panic and condemnation?” Yes, for sure, I am high on anguish and muted on hope.

How can I not be? I freakin’ hate intolerance. I hate the idea that this country is penning up children who are simply seeking sanctuary. I hate white male privilege. I hate I hate I hate. I have a righteous indignation. How can I — in my desire to overthrow an unjust system — not become the thing I hate? In making the world better every day, spreading my radical love and courage and peace and inclusion, how do I not destroy myself?

On a practical level, I can push myself to show courage. To have grit and integrity — to use my passion and persevere. To forgive people who do not think like me or act like me or love as well as I do.

I have a fatal flaw of righteousness. I like to be the designated driver, the responsible one. And I look down on those who have lost their compassion, humanity, responsibility for the least of these, for women and children who have suffered and are suffering.

This dichotomy of this showing off-ing kind of humility was on display yesterday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibit on Heavenly Bodies. The Catholic Church, notorious for covering up statues of nude bodies in the Vatican, inspired designers to glitter up the body-denial clothing. As if to say, ‘Yes, this nun’s frock is inelegant; yet in that black habit, there is a beauty and a style and hey, let’s throw some rhinestones on the bodice too.’

So let me dress up my humility — like fashion designers dressed up the spartan attire of holy men and women. It’s easy to hate the opposition as enemies. It’s too easy.

Like Versace’s excessive accessorizing, let’s take our self-denial to the nth degree. Let’s have integrity and courage by NOT hating. Add sparkles to the activism.

That after all is the secret to creativity. Throwing opposites together. I seek to love the intolerant. Love them into change — not hate them for their inelegant and false integrity. To be creative: take two opposites and make something new and better out of them.

Sometimes, I think, I’m going to be okay, but will this country? I  don’t know. Sadly, I’m actually not in charge of this varied and vast country.  I’m only in charge of a small piece of earth for a small piece of time. Myself. I can only take this one little mind and heart and body — and use my gifts of hope and courage and love. And while I’m at it, throw some glitter on my grit and integrity. Make integrity a pillar of society.

Integrity = Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete — having moral uprightness.

Grit = sand, gravel. Pluck, spirit, firmness of mind.

On Retreat

Leaving beautiful NYC today.

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I need a minute to unwind with a magazine or a walk or a good long conversation with a friend. (Or even the discovery of a cozy quiet corner to go back to work on my big project.)

When my kids were little, my friend K.P. told me that every year she tried to get away for a retreat – I think she mentioned Kirpalu. But the expense!

When I was on salary as a staff writer, biz trips served as a retreat in a way. I could focus solely on work. I didn’t have to cook meals or clean up.

I don’t really travel for work anymore, living the freelance life. So I’ve joined the lovely St. Paul and St. Andrew community for a day apart.

Here are some pics from Quinipet on Shelter Island.

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Volunteering at the Shelter

Last night I volunteered at the women’s shelter at St. Paul and St. Andrew’s. I sat around with six volunteers and my family of five (whom I’d made come to drop off the homemade cookies). My husband and son cut out as soon as we finished our job of setting the table with plasticware and my son was assured he’d get community service credit for the help.

The girls wanted to leave too, but I told them, “Stay until the women arrive.”

I was sitting by the door when the six or so women arrived. I jumped to my feet and greeted them. “Hi! Welcome! Good to see you!”

One women looked confused and indignant, “Do I know you?”

“No,” I said. “I’m just being friendly.” I was embarrassed. Behind the woman’s back, one of my daughters, C., lifted her eyebrows at me protectively. I rolled my eyes, shrugged. Maybe, at times, I can be too friendly. Maybe she didn’t want friendliness, she just came for dinner and shelter. I didn’t mind.

I chatted with a woman who sat beside us. I complimented her on her camouflage-patterned rubber rain boots. We chatted about the ease of slipping on rain boots and all the pretty patterns they come in nowadays. One of my daughters has a pretty pair.

The food was ready and one of the volunteers suggested, “Please help yourself.”

I suggested, “How about a quick grace first?” Then I asked my boot-wearing friend to lead us in prayer. She stood up in the center of the room and blessed the food. I think that’s what she did, I couldn’t hear her too well and she mumbled. It was a short prayer and heartfelt — my favorite kinds.

The girls and I left before dinner. As we said good bye, the Do-I-know-you-woman gave me and the girls a big smile — a huge silly giggly smile — like a kid who’s made a new best friend. We smiled equally wide back at her.

I said good bye to another woman one who was smoking on the front steps. “I’ll come right in after I finish this cigarette,” she said. “Thanks for volunteering.”

“No problem,” I said. And for some reason, she reminded me of my mother. We hopped in a cab and came home.

I don’t know which of my rules this experience relates to. Maybe to the rule about Expect the Best, Love What you Bet. Even from your overly friendly self.