I just finished re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s lovely masterpiece on creativity, Big Magic. I read it years ago and found it inspiring, so I decided to pick it up again in the downtime I had while awaiting the arrival of another book I’d ordered.
Inspire me it did (lit a damn flame under my ass) and last weekend I found myself lying awake in bed in the middle of the night with a shiny new idea for a blog post thundering through my brain, refusing to let me sleep. Knowing my mind wouldn’t give me peace until I’d properly emptied it, I grabbed my phone and utilized my iPhone’s “Notes” application in all its Dark Mode glory (wonderfully easy on the eyes for 12 am), executing a full brain dump.
Relieved with all my ideas solidly noted, I slid into sleep almost instantly.
The next day, I opened my computer to copy my sleepily drawn up notes into a proper document. As my iCloud synced, I got just the briefest glimpse of that…before it disappeared completely. I mean, it was gone, like it had never existed – not in the “Recently Deleted”, not in my iCloud backups, just POOF, erased from existence. It seemed my brain had also erased it from existence, as I couldn’t call up more than half a sentence from my drowsy state the night before.
I was furious.
Not only was I furious, I spent the rest of my lovely Sunday (my favorite day of the week) in a snit, half of it trying desperately to reinstate that note, and the other half sulking about the fact that not only was the note truly lost, but now I’d managed to create additional technological stressors for myself with all my failed attempts to bring it back (4 copies of every Contact in my phone, anyone?)
As fate would have it, my guided meditation the next morning provided a proverbial splash of cold water on my grumbling psyche. It received the old story of two wolves:
One day an old Cherokee man sits down with his grandson to teach him about life.
“A fight is going on inside of me,” he says to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is full of rage, jealousy, arrogance, greed, sorrow, regret, lies, laziness, and self-pity.”
He continues, “The other is good – he is filled with love, joy, peace, generosity, truth, empathy, courage, humility, and faith. This same fight is going on inside the hearts of everyone, including you.”
The grandson thinks about this for a few minutes, and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replies, “The one you feed.”
I’ve heard this story before, or a version of it anyhow.
Against the grain, my husband and I both love the Disney movie Tomorrowland. Many people wrote this movie off for a variety of reasons, but we were able to work past some of the Disney cheesiness to perceive the movie’s more serious undercurrent – humanity’s future, once filled with wonder, that has now faded and turned into something much darker.
Tomorrowland was the first place I ever heard an abbreviated version of the story of the two wolves in a brief scene between the main character and her father. But it stuck. And my husband and I have endlessly quoted it back to each other and to friends in the many years since we first saw that movie.
Turns out…last weekend I was feeding the wrong wolf.
I read it or heard it said somewhere once that you should choose your thoughts the same way you choose your clothing every day. Or, more likely, that you should choose your thoughts with much more care than you choose your clothing every day.
We don’t give enough credit to the power of our thoughts, or to just how much control we can hold over them. That is, with a little bit of practice, effort, and discipline. Instead, many times we let our monkey minds run rampant over us, dragging us all around and completely exhausting us in the process.
No doubt 2020 has been a rollercoaster, even a change to the very essence of lifestyle for so many people. It’s brought us a global pandemic that, outside of how dangerous that truly may or may not be in and of itself, has created fear, panic, loneliness, and despair, delivered to every person like a drip IV via both mass and social media.
Mass and social media…the kings of feeding the wrong wolf.
Just as those who are absorbing and internalizing those broadcasted emotions…feeding the wrong wolf.
Now we find ourselves once again on the precipice of a new year, which is never a promise for change but yet often provides us with that emboldening feeling of a clean slate.
And I want to ask you, which wolf will you feed this year?
We all only have two choices in life when presented with an obstacle or challenge. To change it, or, if it can’t be changed, to change the reaction to it. That’s it. That’s all we get.
But think for a moment about what an awesome power that is.
This delivers control over our lives and our fates into our hands. Because while we’re often preoccupied with events that have passed or planning for events that have yet to come, life is truly made up of all those small, present moments in-between, the moment you’re experiencing right now. And if those moments are within your power to change, either via action or perception, then so is the very material of your existence.
So again I’ll present the question to myself, to you, to all of humanity: Which wolf will you feed?