On our daily walks, my dog Detroit and I usually pass by Lucy, a small, brown dog who lives a few blocks away. Lucy always greets Detroit the same way— racing back and forth along the fence, barking, baring her teeth and growling. Friday morning was no exception.
“She looks how I feel,” I thought, all agitated and angry.
Then I remembered the Native American story of the two wolves that live within me. One is good and does no harm. She lives in harmony with everyone around her and takes no offense when none was intended. She is joy, peace, serenity, hope, love, kindness and compassion.
The other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set her off in a fit of rage. She fights anyone, any time, for no reason. She is full of envy, greed, anger, regret, self-pity, false pride and resentment.
The two wolves vie for my attention and energy; whichever one I feed will dominate. Seeing Lucy reminded me that last week I had been feeding the angry wolf.
A series of unexpected events marked the week; each day brought new challenges—schedule changes, phone calls and emails to communicate among family members, and lots of uncertainty. I was frustrated, angry, concerned and scared. It was a week where I was reminded of how little control I actually have.
Unanticipated events are not new for me; I have had lots of them over the course of my life—opportunities to practice adjusting my expectations and letting go. I would say I am better at it now than when I was young, but I still have a long way to go.
One thing I have learned about unanticipated events is that I can make a choice in how I react. I can resist the change and hold onto how I think things should have been—and become an angry, resentful pile of self-pity. Or I can let go and accept that things have changed and I need to adjust my expectations.
A downside of choosing the former is that while I am focused on what I cannot change, I can I miss the good things that are happening right in front of me.
For example, on Friday evening, my mother invited me for dinner and gave me some things I need for my house. And when I got home from dinner, a package greeted me—a gift from my friend Michele who is living in Japan. Gratitude triumphed over self-pity. Agitation and snarling were replaced by appreciation and delight.
In the midst of upheaval, gifts continue to be offered. I need to let go of my expectations, live in the moment and be grateful—or else I may end up like Lucy.