An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued,
"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
I sat in an ethics conference yesterday, reading this handout from the presenter. These words spoke straight to the battle I wage inside my head very often. I sheepishly admit that my tendency is to be the first wolf. I am the 'glass half-empty' girl and really struggle with positivity and joy sometimes. I can give myself the grace to know that I have been a very weird person for a very long time. While I was a typical high school student invovled in student council, cheerleading and ballet, I usually also stopped at Hospice Savannah on the way to one of those practices to see patients. I fed them sorbet in their last days of life, put their kittens on their beds, held their hands. I was drawn to suffering at a young age.
And I need look no further than my career choices to know that a part of me is most certainly a masochist. At 22, I was investigating child abuse allegations, taking children away from their families, taking photographs of physical abuse marks on their backs and elsewhere. Lord have mercy that seems like another life. How did I do that?? And to my current job of working with HIV/AIDS patients- suffering everywhere. I forgive myself for being a glass 'half empty' girl because I've seen a ton of the bottom of that glass.
But...but...I think when I am afforded the luxury of stepping away from social work for a season, I will look back and maybe transform into that second wolf. I will see love and hope and faith. Truly, I can see it now, from the safety of my desk with my sister's lemon bars in front of me as sustenance. I can see redemption and hope in every single abused kid, destroyed family, sick patient. But the minute I step into the ICU here, or into the recesses of my mind to a memory of a certain foster child or addicted mother, whew, the negativity comes flying back.
Anyway- so the background is there. But I don't want to be that wolf. I don't want to be the debbie downer in every crowd. The answer is there, from the Cherokee Native American. I can acknolwedge the existence of wolf number one. He's there, living in me. But I do not have to feed him. I do not have to give him any more power than he already has. The question is, how do I do that? Is it as simple as choosing kindness, humility and benevolence? It sounds so obvious. Duh Keri. Choose to channel the positive emotions. Ignore the negative ones. Right?
Thankfully, the presenter also offered some helpful tips into how I might channel wolf number two. From Loretta LaRoche's "The Joy of Stress", some of my favorite suggestions are
~Don't spend time on it if you have no control over it
~Get enough rest (hear me child? A little less tap dancing on the bladder please baby)
~Remember our feelings come from our thoughts; stay away from negative thinking
~Laugh whenever you can and hang around others who laugh- it's contagious (def need more of this!!)
~ Eat because it is a joy (check!)
~Stay away from Martyrdom
~Fake it till you make it sometimes
~Spend time with others who can experience joy!!
~Play along the way (more of this too)
~Don't wait for the right time to be happy (insert Homer Simpson's "DOH")
~Know you are the only one who can make you happy (me and Jesus)
So I'll work on this and in these final weeks of gestation, will try to become the second wolf that my little babe (and the rest of those who have to put up with me) deserve.
Wish me luck!