Personal integrity is one of the most important guardians of mental health. Put simply, integrity is the absence of contradiction between what we know, what we profess and what we do. Nathaniel BrandonI like to think of myself as a woman of integrity. And I am. As much as I can be. Sometimes, I grow weary and simply need a place to rest my head for a moment to regain my strength to carry on. Sometimes though, I fall. And always, I get up and continue to be the best that I can be.
On the weekend, my daughters and I had a long discussion about life and next steps and what's happening. "You don't listen to us, mum," they both asserted. "You never do."
Now, never is a long long time and I do take umbrage to the idea I don't listen -- because I believe I do. It's a question of integrity for me. Listening to others.
It isn't the listening that's hard for me. It's the remembering.
Years ago I had a car accident. I was 27. Young and single. I lived in the country. By myself. A forty-five minute drive from the city where I worked. I loved living alone in the woods. Loved the solitude. The beauty. The silence. I loved the sunlight filtering through the trees. The nights of moonlight and owls hooting and coyotes barking. I loved it all.
One year, I bought myself a new little BMW. Very sporty. Very chic. I even loved the drive into the city -- both to and from. It was a time to decompress. To wind out the kinks of the day as my car wended its way towards my destination. Driving alone is and always has been thinking time for me. And I love it!
Now, before I tell you more, I must explain -- I always wear my seatbelt. Did back then. Do now. It's just my little BMW came with a defect. The locking part for the driver's seatbelt was missing when the car arrived. The dealership didn't have that part in stock and had to order it from Germany. The car was to go in the very next day to have it installed.
In the interim, I drove on the country road without plugging my seatbelt into the passenger's side as it was a stretch and uncomfortable against my neck to wear for long like that. When I hit the pavement, I clipped it together. I always figured on the back country road, I'd be fine.
It was on the back country road the accident happened. I came over a hill on a long stretch of road. There were no other cars, but earlier, a grader had passed along the road and piled the gravel into the centre line in preparation of making its swing back to smooth it out. When I came over the hill they think I must have hit the gravel, slammed on my breaks and the force of coming over the hill, along with the car's forward momentum and the loose pile of gravel that I hit, set it in motion. The car flipped and I fell out the open sunroof.
I was lucky. Had I stayed in the car I would have been even more battered up. As it was, the car flipped back onto its wheels and never hit me. But my head did hit the gravel road. My collar bone did break and I did require 50+ stitches in the top of my head along with needing an ear lobe reattached to my skull.
Other than that -- no cuts anywhere else on my body. My face was bruised, as was my entire body and I hurt, all over. But there were no other cuts.
The eerie part though is, I have absolutely no memory of the couple of hours before the accident, the actual accident or the thirty-six hours following it. All of it is blank. Gone. Wiped clean. Which isn't all bad. It's nice not having to re-live that horror. I can't even imagine it! It's just not there.
But, one of the residual effects is... my memory. It can be spotty. At times, downright non-existent.
Over the years I've done a lot of work at strengthening and improving it. I've taken various courses on how to exercise your brain and mental gymnastics. I've worked at memory games and nurturing my mental synapses to enhance recall.
And still, I forget.
Some of that they tell me is also part of my aging process. I'm trying to do it with grace but believe me, if I could remember where to tell them to stick it, I would. But I can't even remember who 'they' are and most times I don't even remember grace's name!
And when my daughters tell me they told me something, or I said something, and I don't clearly remember the words or circumstances, it frustrates me. I want to remember. I want instant recall. Sometimes, I do but it's different than what they remember. That frustrates me too because I'm sure I'm right. They're sure they are -- and I know how faulty my memory can be.
And then, there are the times I just don't remember.
And that can be scary. First off, I have to trust in other's to tell me what I don't remember. Hello? They might say it their way, and forget what I said, really!
Secondly, when their remembrance suggests I lack integrity -- I freak out! I mean seriously. I am a woman of integrity. I don't want to consider I could say or do things that lack in what I believe myself to hold as a principle of how I operate in the world! (Did I mention I'm a bit of a perfectionist? I don't like to make mistakes.)
And here's the tricky part. I don't want to beat myself up for the lacking in integrity part. I don't need to. It's not that I don't remember because I don't want to. I don't remember because I don't.
For twenty-somethings, or most people for that matter, that can be challenging to understand. "Of course you remember," they chime in and no matter how much I tell them I don't, they don't believe me.
And so, I struggle to believe myself. Do I really remember? Or not? Am I just choosing to not remember?
It's the struggling to believe myself that I struggle with most.
It's something I've always struggled with. Believing in me. Believing in my right to live the life I want. The life I choose. The life that fits me.
And one good thing about not remembering is, I don't have to remember the struggle. I just have to remember how much I like being here, right here. Becuause right here, I'm okay. I know it. I believe it.
I may not remember everything I hear. I may have trouble recalling what day of the week it is, but I do remember one thing always.
I love myself.
Spent my life getting here. And through it all, I've been gifted with insight to know -- I'm worth loving, just the way I am. Even if I can't remember who I am! :)
Just kidding. I remember. I am ME. In every way I am.