NEW CASTLE —
How honest are you with yourself?
I like to think I live a life of integrity. That probably means different things to different people, so let me explain. To me, living with integrity means that you always try to do the right thing, and never intentionally hurt anyone. For me, it’s pretty simple. If I base my life on those two tenets, I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of being true to myself.
Part of that philosophy is the reason I write this blog. I’ve been through some pretty crappy stuff, and I believe with all my heart that sharing the lessons I’ve learned throughout it all is the right thing to do. And so I offer up advice, hoping that someone, somewhere can benefit from it.
Everything I tell you here is true. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it. That said, I’ve found on occasion that sometimes it’s hard to follow my own advice. I found myself in this very situation just this past week.
I know I’ve written many times about letting the opinions of others roll off your back. And I believe this — I really do. More often than not, I find it amusing when someone criticizes me, and I feel sorry for them that maybe they didn’t have all the facts, or they simply don’t have the strength of character to rise above such behavior. Keep in mind, that’s all based on the other person being wrong. When I deserve the criticism, trust me, I feel the shame.
That was until two days ago, when I learned that someone in town with almost exactly the same name as me was charged with welfare fraud. Same first name, and only two letters off at the end of the last. Making it worse, she’s only two years older than I am. And I knew immediately that quite a few people already thought it was me. “I don’t even GET welfare!” was thought number one. Number two was, “And I’m not a criminal!” And lastly, “I’m only 40, bleep it!” (Just kidding on number three — sort of. At least I can joke about it a little now.)
Have you ever actually gone into shock? I mean real, physical shock, where you lose the feeling in your hands and feet, your breathing shifts into self-preservation mode, and a little piece of your mind becomes stuck in a circular pattern of disbelief? That’s what happened to me. And not to make excuses for myself, but I’m still battling PTSD (which I honestly thought I was over) and this bit of information was a trigger I never saw coming.
As soon as the initial panic subsided, I went into full-on defensive mode, texting all my friends, posting a denial of culpability on Facebook, and planning how I’d work this into my blog this week. And you’ll think I’m certifiable, but I actually started planning on moving away from the area altogether. Then I told the kids what happened and warned them to be prepared for taunting from their friends.
My kids listened, only half-interested, as kids tend to do, while I paced and ranted and breathed in a paper bag to stop hyperventilating. “K,” said my daughter as she reached for her Pokémon game. My son watched me do about 10 more lines of pacing, all the while looking at me like I’d sprouted a second head. He must be worried, I thought, so I started explaining again.
“Mom!” (Darned kids, always interrupting.)
“MOM!” again. And then this: “So what?”
(Seriously, did my kid really just use last week’s blog against me? Without even reading it, I might add.)
So even though I decided I wouldn’t write about this (I was worried about my reputation with you, and then realized that you know how to spell my name since you read it each week) I realized that, like most everything, there was a lesson to be learned from it.
I wasn’t being entirely honest with myself when I said I’m not bothered by what people think about me. There’s a lot more that goes into some situations than a simple question from a simple blogger can answer.
And so the lesson is this: Guilty of welfare fraud? No, thank God.
Guilty of sometimes being a little bit of a hypocrite and being far too prideful? Indeed I am.
My tenets were put to the test, and I failed. I hang my head in shame, but I come away from this even more resolved to do better next time. It’s said that pride comes before a fall, and I certainly fell.
It won’t be the first time, and I’m not naive enough to think it will be the last.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” — Ernest Hemingway