"This week may find you grappling with changing self-definition. The essays, tasks, and exercises are designed to catapult you into productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness. This may be both very difficult and extremely exciting for you. Warning: Do not skip the tool of reading deprivation!"
After three weeks of writing morning pages, problems, ideas, dreams, and buried emotions may be starting to poke through the surface like the tips of crocuses or daffodils poking through the snow. You may wish you were the groundhog with the luxury of running back into your warm hole and pulling the covers over your head. This week is the time to face your shadow --hold strong, keep writing, find out what needs to be said from deep within. Just as you may have hoped that the groundhog didn't see its shadow so that we would have an early spring, bring on your own springtime early by not fearing your own shadow.
Integrity -- 1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. 2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. 3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
When we bury things inside, our focus is clouded. Our attention is divided. Creativity has a hard time breaking the surface that we have hardened to hold within that which we do not want to see.
In looking up the definition of integrity, I discovered that it came from the word "integer". You must know that this thrilled the mathematician in me. I started drawing all sorts of inferences. Bear with me for a breif review of this mathematical term and you'll understand my excitement.
Whole Numbers are the counting numbers starting with 0. 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on are Whole Numbers. Integers are a larger set of numbers. They contain the Whole Numbers, but also contain their opposites -- -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, and 3 are Integers. Whole numbers are all positive numbers. Integers include these positive numbers, but also include negative numbers.
Ok, enough of the math, how does this relate to integrity? When we have integrity, we honor both our good sides and our bad sides, our strengths and our weaknesses -- both the positive and the negative. We acknowledge that we can be impatient at times AND we accept praise for one of our many talents. It is in honoring both halves of ourselves that we are truly honest with ourselves, and we are balanced.
"Whole Numbers" have convinced themselves that they are "whole," but they are living a lie. They are the eternal optimists who never turn around to see the shadow they are casting. They recognize all that they are good at, and feel these good things make them whole. They aren't complete. They are hollow, they are "hole". They are not real. They wear masks to disguise their "holey-ness" so that they appear to be "whole"some.
If you'll bear with me for one more mathematical parallel, I'll be able to complete this picture. A larger set of numbers than Integers are Real Numbers. Real Numbers include Integers, but they also include decimals and fractions. Any number that you can think of is a Real Number.
People are "real" or authentic when they recognize not only their strengths and weaknesses (their positives and negatives), but when they recognize their fractured parts, their broken pieces that lie among their strengths and weaknesses. Someone who is authentic is aware of a troubled childhood, but can also admit that out of that brokenness, some very positive traits were developed. It is from this real, authentic place that we, as artists, can express ourselves and our creativity, and be conduits for God as co-creators.
Everything within the number system is balanced. For every positive real number, there's a negative real number. The same is true within you. For every positive trait, you likely have a negative, or shadow trait -- and vice versa. If you have a tendency to be impatient, there are times that that impatience serves you well. When your partner or child is in the emergency room of a hospital needing care and being ignored, your impatience comes in very handy. If you have a tendency to be optimistic, there are times when your positive view can get you into trouble. That optimism can cause you to see life unrealistically through rose-colored glasses. This may set you up for a great disappointment.
This explanation is not meant to tell you that all positive traits are really negative, but that there's a time and a place for everything. Our shadow sides are not all bad. They serve us well on many occasions. If they didn't help us in some way, we would have left them on some street corner long ago! Having integrity and being "real" is accepting and honoring all part of ourselves, every piece of ourselves -- whether they be black, white, or some shade of gray inbetween. Find your integrity this week. Honor all that you are!
* * * Creative Expression * * *
Draw or find a picture of a see-saw. On one end, write, draw, or somehow symbolize one of your negative traits. Recall a time when that negative trait helped you in some way. One of the opposite side of the see-saw, write or image that memory to give your see-saw balance. Draw another picture of a see-saw and complete the activity again starting with one of your positive traits. Continue this for as many traits as you would like to make whole.