Mary Musto was an ordinary woman. She didn’t accomplish anything noteworthy, she was never on TV and no one’s going to write a book about her any time soon. So why am I writing about her? Because when someone consciously chooses her life and lives it through The Standards* of The Uncompromised, it is an inspiring thing. It is worthy of note. It is what we should aspire to follow. And Mary Musto reminds us to recognize The Uncompromised around us.
The Uncompromised live consistently with who they know themselves to be, regardless of what others think. As a result, they live a peace and joy that eludes those who accomplish “great” things without such self-knowledge.
Mary Musto is a great example of this. She was born Mary DeVirgilio in Schenectady, New York in 1916 to Italian parents. Like many other immigrants, the DeVirgilios changed their names to better assimilate with their new culture, and so she became Mary Virgil in the 1930s. Brought up according to Old World customs and traditions, all seven Virgil children were assigned chores according to gender. This meant Mary and her sister, Lena, cooked meals, jarred homegrown fruit and vegetables and cleaned and ironed the ceaseless flow of dirty laundry produced by this hardworking family of nine, all of whom were crammed into a two-bedroom flat.
At this point, people often check out and miss the point of the story. They make judgments like, “Men should fill-in-the-blank just like women!” Or, “Women are equal and…” Or, “It’s ridiculous that women should be expected to…”
Perhaps, in this case, that’s not you. But we all are capable of heading down such trails. When we do, we completely miss the beauty of the countless Marys all around us, and we become victims of our own righteousness. Who are we to judge what constitutes duty? Who are we to stifle the expression of another’s conscience? Who are we to deny someone from living meticulously according to what s/he deems his/her purpose? Who are we to define Integrity for another person?
The compromised sit in judgment while The Uncompromised are busy changing their world—even if it’s from a small flat in Schenectady.
Mary was married and widowed, and eventually she moved back into that same home where she grew up and where the remaining Virgil children, now all in their seventies, lived.
I knew Mary for the last 16 years of her life, and this is what she taught me:
Mary became mute and mostly incapacitated in her final months, but she didn’t need to say anything more to me. Her life spoke volumes.
*The Standards of The Uncompromised
Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is your authentic expression of a positive attitude and abundant energy. Without a positive attitude, possibilities will elude you and victimhood will run your life. Without energy you won’t be able to get out of your own way, let alone do something worthwhile. Without your authentic expression of both, you simply surrender your life.
Courage: Courage is the catalyst for any great endeavor. Courage is decisive; it doesn’t abdicate responsibility but meets occasion with decision. Courage is active; it is doing what must be done, what is challenging to do and what most won’t do.
Endurance: Endurance is use of physical, emotional and intellectual energy to consistently and sustainably do what must be done. Endurance is not a spasm of effort or a sampling of activity. Endurance requires persistence, patience and discipline.
Integrity: Integrity is doing precisely what you say you’ll do. Integrity requires self-knowledge and wisdom. It’s exercising the internal fortitude to live according to that self-knowledge and wisdom, rendering your word as “good as gold” with no need of an oath or promise to substantiate it.