The First Step in Living with Integrity

This past week I've been reading over an important assignment my students did in our Lifecycle Development course this summer wherein they reflected on their lives and explored what people, situations, and events shaped their development and helped inform who they are today. People's stories and backgrounds never cease to amaze me. One reason I'm a therapist, no doubt.

Meanwhile I started reading Writing to Change the World by psychologist and writer, Mary Pipher. In a chapter aptly titled "Know Thyself" she uses the prompt I am from for a poem about her upbringing. This poem inspired the following for me:

I am from Don and Judy, Albert and Wilma, Rudy and Rose. Cornfields in cold, rural Iowa; mountains, Mormons, and snow in square-corned Utah; and the heat, thrills, rush, and vanity of big-city Texas.

I am from simple, faithful, Germans. A preacher and a teacher. Hard-working, Bible-reading, Midwestern folk.

I am from a garden with carrots, cucumber, beans, and rhubarb. A small hill backyard with lilac, crabapple, scrub oak, and forsythia. A kidney-shaped pool to relax, play, and burn.

I am from a yellow banana seat bike. Mudpies. A weathered treehouse. Mutts, hamsters, a guinea pig, and Siamese cats. Church potlucks, opening presents on Christmas Eve, neighborhood hide-and-seek past sunset.

I am from impoverished people with a pattern of pinching pennies. Long car ride vacations visiting family in other states. A red Corolla, a beige gas-guzzling Dodge, a white diesel Rabbit.

I am from long hours of non-electronic house, school, store, and restaurant play midst the furnace, washer and drier, and big storage shelves. Sunday drives, babysitters, bridge club, choir, camping, and pong on the black and white TV.

I am from meatloaf and scalloped potatoes, corn on the cob, pigs in a blanket, macaroni and cheese, Thousand Island covered iceberg lettuce, chips and hot sauce, koolaid, and milk and cookies.

I am from The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, M*A*S*H, Brady Bunch, Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Green Jeans. Grease, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, and the whipped cream covered naked woman of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass.

I am from places so different from where I am now and yet pieces live on.

I've also been thinking lately how above all else, I want to live with integrity, i.e. in alignment with my values. I think that starts with knowing yourself. Part of knowing yourself is having the willingness to look at your past, even the painful parts, and learn from it.

For fun, you can write an I am from poem. Include your parents and grandparents, elements of your childhood play, what you ate, what you music you listened to, places you visited, pets, etc.

And if you're feeling bold, share it with me via Facebook or twitter or leave a link in the comments.