Thursday, October 27, 2011

Learning to be who I might have been - one day at a time

"It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot

The Wolves Inside You
An elder Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me.. it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth,
compassion, and faith."
"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other
person, too", he added.
The Grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child
asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."

As we go through life, we're shaped by the things we think and do, the people around us, and the good and the bad that happens to us. In the midst of it all, it's easy to lose sight of what's important - especially when we are tired and discouraged by past missteps and disappointments.

The story of the wolves reminds me that an important way to stay on track is to be attentive to the choices I make. If I don't want to be consumed by a desire for stuff I don't need, I have to spend less time watching television and going to the mall. To avoid becoming discouraged and cynical about the world, I have to spend time with people who are ethical, compassionate and optimistic. To be able to make positive contributions at home and at work, I have to keep unhealthy distractions to a minimum.

The quote from Eliot speaks to me of two things. First and foremost, hope. No matter how lost I feel, no matter how far I feel I've strayed from who I wanted and expected to be, it's possible to reclaim my true self and live as I was intended to.

It also reminds me of the importance of remembering who I might have been - before I made all my mistakes and was knocked down by disappointment and despair. Deep inside, the optimism and passion for justice I felt as a young woman are still there - glowing embers waiting to burst into flame. Joy too. Genuine, uncomplicated joy capable of filling every part of me and spilling out into the world - if only I learn to let go of the past and forgive myself and others for all the hurtful things.

Yes, people behave in terrible, incomprehensible ways sometimes. Awful things happen. And very often the damage is irreparable.

But when and if I wake up tomorrow, I'll be luckier than the person whose body I saw lying beneath the Golden Gate Bridge last week, wrapped in a body bag surrounded by police.

Life is precious and every day is another chance to live it well - in closer harmony with the people I care about, attentive to my impact on the planet and other people, grateful for all that I have, and striving to be more compassionate, open-hearted and committed to creating a better world.


  1. An inspiring post, Janice. If it's OK with you, I'm going to copy the Native American story for my Inspirtation Wednesday blogpost! I love the message.

  2. Thanks, Janet.

    Of course, you're welcome to copy the story. I did. :-)