Choosing Which Wolf to Feed

A young Native American was told by his grandfather that two wolves were fighting inside him.  One wants him to be courageous, patient, compassionate, and kind.  The other wants him to be fearful, vengeful, violent, and cruel. The boy thought about it, becoming worried and upset.  He asked, “Which will win?” The elder replied, “The one I feed.”

As Inspector Armand Gamache says, “We live in that place of perpetual choice.”

With my activities limited by health, I have been attentively feeding the wolf of kindness, patience and beauty instead of the wolf of frustration and impatience who keeps raising its head.  My strategy is to take one small action each day that brings beauty or joy to my life. One day I placed a bouquet of peach and white roses from my garden on my kitchen table.  Another day I listened to Charles Mingus jazz as I did household paperwork.  I listened to a friend’s struggle to control her asthma. I bought gourds and pumpkins that now decorate my front stoop. I ate rhubarb pie for breakfast each day until the pie was gone.I had a long conversation with my mother, a woman who brings laughter and joy into my life.  I discovered Louise Penny and read the entire Inspector Gamache series, each one a treasure.

When the wolf of frustration and anger rears its head at my current limitations, I remember my touches of beauty and joy.  Living in the place of perpetual choice, I have been choosing the wolf of kindness, patience and beauty, over and over again.

One of my joys was a New York Times article about people who turned the watermarks of Hurricane Sandy into emblems of courage and hope.  Standing in devastation, they fed the wolf of courage, compassion, and hope. N.R. Kleinfield writes:

     It was a foul, filthy thing that marred the aesthetics, something to scrub off or paint over, something to just get rid of. It stood for what once was: a sour reminder of the thundering water, unimaginable wreckage and exponential wounds.

No one would want it anymore, would they?

Marco Pasanella [stood in front of] the jagged white line that ran the length of the [interior] brick wall inside his wine shop, Pasanella & Son Vintners, in the South Street Seaport. It was about six feet above the floor. It was going to stay right there. The waterline from Hurricane Sandy.

When the East River slammed into the shop, he lost 10,000 bottles of wine. Nasty business for sure, but he prefers that the waterline stay preserved. “I guess I don’t want to erase the past,” he said. “I feel it’s like wrinkles in your face. I don’t like the Botox look.”

As he sees it, Hurricane Sandy, despite its effrontery, had not conquered his wine store; he had conquered it. This was his narrative of the storm.

A grudge, a temper, resentment, frustration or fear–feed these and they grow stronger until they overwhelm your soul.  Feed the wolf of kindness, courage, integrity, beauty, and peace and it will grow strong within you until it fills your character with its goodness.

We live in that place of perpetual choice.  Which wolf will you feed?

*The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny, Three Pines Creations, Inc. 2012
“Turning Hurricane Sandy’s Scars Into Badges of Survival,” by N.R. Kleinfield, 10/29/2013.

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