Chapter 1 What does it mean to integrate?
Having grown up an Irish Catholic School girl, I then never would have imagined I’d be writing about integration. But…
That Irish Catholic School girl was going to hit some interesting bumps in the road that made for her look on the world to be much larger than 3 boxes. My life changed quiet quickly in 5th grade when a depressive state resulted in my switching from catholic school education to public school. The switch was good for me however, the effects made for a different look at the world.
By third grade, though I was already standing against the norm, I’d started to grow in all areas. One of the tallest in the class, boys or girls, once puberty started the changes became even more drastic. And oh yeah I’d started to gain weight making me also the “fat” girl. By fifth grade the teasing, isolation and loneliness had become too much. My being with the same kids for 6 years, made it difficult to be different.
Still… who am I to talk about integration, am I right? Well, we were in the same boat. When I started thinking about the contents of this book (that you are sneak peaking on my blog) I didn’t think it would be about integration! Such a big word right? We’ve put so much on its shoulders, as we can do with words sometimes.
I grew up with a well off, upper middle class family. My parents had landed in my hometown after college — which is when my father started his newspaper career. My mother being Hispanic (and a home maker during this chapters stories), I never realized, made her one of the darkest complected people in our church and town. My father 100% Irish passed those genes down to me. I couldn’t look more Irish if I tried! But my mom and sisters all with dark hair, eyes and skin… Well we are a unique looking bunch, especially when I dyed my hair blonde. lol! ?
Before we get too deep into things why don’t we back up some and I tell you a little about myself.
You see, growing up a “white” catholic school girl, you wouldn’t think I’d have much to talk about when it comes to integration. And if my book ended after this sixth paragraph you would be right! ? But, I was able to write more than that, despite my doubt.
You see I first learned to integrate, though not knowing that’s what it was, when I was switching schools for the first time at the beginning of my sixth grade year. I had spent K-5 at the same school with the same kids. Not very common amongst public school but private schools were different that way. There are great advantages in having kids around that long, you end up with the potential for life-long friendships. I however, wasn’t having that experience. Because I was maturing physically faster than the other children, I also was the point of their bullying behaviors. I was teased taunted and tormented from second thru fifth grade which lead my switch over to public school.
Now to paint a little more of the picture, I was at that time, what is now know as having childhood depression, not diagnosed until later in adulthood. It had seeped into my school work alerting my teacher. And so you see, there was a 3 way experience happening…
1. I was leaving the only school I’d known, trusted and loved. (I too hadn’t moved homes but once in my life, a benefit of stability and traumatic when presented with quite the contrary.)
2. I would no longer be allowed to celebrate my religion and beliefs as freely as I did in private school.
3. The children I was going to school with now in public school, somehow despite my being ahead in academics, seemed older than me. I later realized they were seeing a bigger picture of our world.
You see integration to me has less to do with, the color of your skin, the car you drive, the house you live in but more the language you speak. Integration is about learning the lingo! Learning how to bridge the gap between you and another…and another, and another, and another. It’s never ending if you let it! The best part is, you can do it in your own backyard, your community and like a pebble in a pond the ripple is vast.
In my looking at the definitions for integration, I found it quite interesting on how we as a society have hacked apart a word in it’s definitions to indicate they can stand alone in the definition. However, as I found the definitions are all part of the process of integration.
Integration as defined by dictionary.com:
- An act or instance of combining into an integral whole.
- An act notes racial, religious or ethnic.
- An act integrating organization, place, school.
- Mathematics for solving a “differential equation”.
- Behavior as an individual harmony with the environment.
- Organization of constituent elements of the personality into a coordinated harmonious whole.
I want to talk the order of these definitions however, in order for def #1 to work, we have to start with def #6 and work backwards. See in order for us to “combine into an integral whole” (from def #1) we need to psychologically, organize our elements of our personality into a harmonious whole (fromdef #6). Integration is about seeing the whole circle. If you want to integrate your community, it starts with knowing yourself, FIRST!
For example – My being an, “in the closet” bi-sexual to “out” as a lesbian, to being an advocate for LGBT rights, to live with my wife for 10 years, to having a legal divorce. This example spans over 20 years. Integration takes time. But the steps all the same give great definition to all of those experiences.
When I was in high school I was only questioning the bi-sexual nature of who I was. (def. 6). The internal dialogue about who we want to be. The integration of you! I moved after educating myself to joining community. (def. 5) into the realization I was not bi-sexual (I first used this definition as a way to finding myself) as I really was a full blown lesbian. (def. 4). So, I found places to go and events to attend. (def. 3) However, I came out in the 90s so establishments were few and far between for lesbians (unlike the internet we have now, seeking had to be done in person and trial by error), unless you were okay with attending the gay focused bar. And for this old Irish catholic girl, there weren’t very many churches we could attend that would accept us and not require us to conform (not integrate), in order to worship with them. I had to wait 10 years before I found a church that at very least I wasn’t the only lesbian in the pews. (def. 2) My wife and I were married in that church. Yet it would be nearly another 10 years before that marriage would have been recognized by the state we lived in. The year marriage (not civil unions) was legalized in our state, my wife and I had been married in that church nearly 10 years before. (def. 1) The following year, we divorced without a marriage license, we had to dissolve our civil union with a divorce before we could take advantage of the new law. Talk about full circle!
This book is going to attempt to expand your definition of integration. Recognize where your definition may have been more about conformity than integration. Use the Definition Wheel as a guide during your intent for integration in your life. In this book we explore the idea that integration is everywhere. The opportunities can be endless, if you are willing to look! The push to have more understanding of one another is vital to our growth and evolution as humans.
Integration is about bridging between your perspective and “the other unknown” perspective. Perspective’s are as unique and the number of individual humans on the planet. Which means reality is part of the perspective. An ever changing and evolving perspective. The advantage is that once you see their perspective, it’s impossible to not see it. That’s the advantage of learning an integrative “Bridge Language”. Everyone has one! Everyone can be understood. Everyone has the power to change the means they have in their own perspective to allow in another.
For example, with the story I was mentioning about my switching from private to public education. Did you note the three things that stuck with me years later? I was leaving the only school I’d known, equaling a sense of my security left rattled (same rattle when you loose a job for the first time in your life, like so many right now in this outbreak). The morphing of my spiritual outlet (like now with no in-person church’s open); I was in the world of, don’t talk politics or religion. Though at the young age I wasn’t talking politics, it was a norm in Catholic education to incorporate the word of God into the everyday classroom. Even outside of Religion class, there was an environment of learning for God. I didn’t realize that my school left an impression to not speak my truth (not talking about my faith was the norm in public school). This quickly made me realize that I was different. This too reinforced the messaging from bullies who taunted me with already being the weird/fat/stupid girl. Now at the time I couldn’t give credit to not being around the bullies, for the first couple years of public school, because they still were in my life through to adult hood. The third being these kids seemed somehow, more worldly. And in some cases they really were. I had a friends from a variety of different groups, it’s how I started to learn how to integrate into the public world. The public kids had vocabulary I heard adults use, they dressed older (an impression from them having “free dress” everyday, I’d associated freedom of dress with adults, not kids unless we were playing sports or at home). These may seem silly but they were huge in learning how to integrate with this new group of children.
And yes, integration has an element of silliness. Sometimes you just have to realize you’ll feel silly trying something new. Once the practice has set in, you’ll see the silliness that once was is something you can actually chuckle at later! 😉 None the less, this was still a programming I took into my later years.
I was overwhelmed with learning to integrate in so many new ways. Heck even the process of getting dressed each day was new, no more uniform to make it mindless. I coped by pretend that the bullying never happened. I coped by pretending it wasn’t painful when they would tease me about my clothes or the way I walked. The longevity of these feelings rippled untreated into my adult years. No fault to anyone in my world, the knowledge we have now about childhood depression with the link from bullied behavior is only now being understood. I had a very supportive family life, and I had some wonderful teachers that helped me along the way. Without all of them, I never would have gotten to where I am now. This story is nearing at the 40 year old mark, after all! The messages however, left impressions and allowed for me to start looking through the lens of the other kids in public school. I tried to adapt. Sometimes I was successful at adapting; often it felt like an epic failure! ?
Adapting is integrating into new. Adapting we think sometimes as being uncomfortable because we lose something. And we do lose something. Adapting can be painful, if you resist. But as I mentioned to a friend once… A farmer never weeps when his crops die in the winter. Why? Because he has faith that the death will provide a rebirth that will be even more sustainable. Look back, some of your most painful times were when you learned something priceless, were they not? Give it a safe minute to think about a troubled time in your life. (Maybe the Covid19 Pandemic changes?) Did you learn something BIG? Even “don’t do that again” counts! You took away lessons that made things a bigger and brighter picture! You changed something about you before, that part of you died and became new. Integration is uncomfortable, change can be hard but what you get on the other side of the “Bridge Language” (more to come on this) is where the true PRICELESS adventure begins!
At various points I’ll be sharing parts of my life where I learned to integrate. I hope it brings you great empowerment to not only look in yourself for greatness but to share that with those in your community/tribe/family and world.
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