There is an old, native legend (Cherokee, I believe) that tells of a grandfather talking to his grandson about an epic battle. This battle is waged within each of us. A white wolf pitched in an eternal war against a black wolf. The white wolf symbolizes all things good within us; joy, peace, love, hope, wisdom, kindness, compassion, etc. He battles to the death against the black wolf, which symbolizes all things evil within us; envy, anger, regret, sorrow, greed, guilt, dishonesty, etc. The grandfather told his progeny that these two wolves fight always in each person on the earth. The grandfather is tired from this never ending fight. Sometimes the white wolf is winning, sometimes the black wolf is winning. It is a long fight. It can be saddening. But they fight on. And on. The grandfather told his grandson that there are two such wolves within him also, fighting this same battle. The grandson was silent, thinking of all his grandfather had told him. After some time, he lifted his head and asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win, Grandfather?" The grandfather smiled and said, "The one you feed."
I first heard this story about a year and a half ago and I've thought of it often since. Today's world can be an ugly, confusing, frustrating place. Our lives swing on a pendulum; good times, bad times, balance. But it never lasts. Love is born, love dies. We are well, we are sick. We are content. For a time. There is little we can do to control the world at large. But we have absolute control over ourselves, over our attitude. We choose, every moment of every day, which wolf will get the steak. It's in how we react to the guy that just cut us off in the merge lane or the sound (and I swear there is a sound) of the sun bursting from behind a cloud and blazing down on the top of your head.
Maybe it's me, but it seems like too many of us must have bloated black wolves inside us sitting on top of a wasted but stubborn white wolf. Everyone is so quick to yell and blame and throw dirty, angry looks around like spears. It's so easy to be angry. So easy to come home and bitch and moan about your crappy day. So easy to feel defeated. Exhausted. It's so easy to give up.
I can't write when I've allowed myself to wallow in my own acidic self-doubt; when the black wolf is on top. But I've learned that, despite appearances, the little white wolf in me is a lot scrappier than she looks. Every time I think I've had enough, that's it, I'm done...there is a shiver in my belly. And I know that it's not true. My lips purse, I take a deep breath, I sit at the keyboard, and I just keep going on. It isn't pretty. I keep stumbling. I sit and rest for looooooong stretches of time. But I keep getting back up. I need to know.