I’m sure many of you are familiar with the proverb ascribed to the Cherokee Indians about how each of us has two wolves inside battling for control.
A few months ago, inspired by others on Facebook who were making a determined effort to post something upbeat and positive every day, I gave myself a challenge to find three things I was grateful for or made me happy each day. Although I haven’t managed to do this consistently every day (sometimes you just run out of time and you know you should go to bed instead of writing another post…) I’ve kept up with it far longer than I thought I would. I’m on day 47 now. 🙂
I decided not to post to Facebook, however. Instead I’ve been posting these things to my fandom LJ account, so I could friends-lock the entries. Not necessarily to keep anyone out as much as to limit how many people I inflicted with pictures of my animals. On any given day, they *are* what makes me happy and grateful to be alive. 🙂
After a few weeks, I noticed a funny thing–the words “I hate my life” stopped being the first thought on waking each morning. If I was having a bad day, I would remind myself that it wasn’t over yet, and I still had to come up with three positive things to share–and that too, altered my attitude for the better. I began looking forward to drafting the ‘positive things’ post, and wondering what I would share. As someone who has a tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios and view the world as not only an empty glass, but as one cracked and unable to hold water at all, this was a big step for me. I was feeding the right wolf, but it was still weak. Some days, I couldn’t help but pepper my ‘gratitude’ post with all kinds of qualifications, with little Eeyore sighs about the things that had gone wrong instead of right. But I persisted, and I could feel the Good Wolf getting stronger.
Lately, with the terrorist attacks all over the world, the appalling rhetoric spewed by political parties in response to these attacks, the daily reports of a new mass shooting at a school or church that these same politicians refuse to recognize as domestic terrorism, and the saber-rattling and fear-mongering that is being used primarily to further a political agenda, it’s not that it’s been hard to find things to feel grateful for. It’s that it doesn’t feel right. It feels shallow and self-centered to post chipper updates about how I tamed the feral tomcat, or that Walk a Mile got an Honorable Mention in this year’s Rainbow Awards (something I wasn’t expecting at all!), or that the recently adopted dog has been an utterly delightful addition to the family. And don’t get me started on how feeling pleased over something like discovering I’d been nominated for a Best M/M Author poll on Gay Book Reviews (because that kind of thing never happens to me!) feels like boasting if I share that news–that’s a topic for a blog post another day. Bottom line, it felt wrong to be happy in the face of the unhappiness and tragedy of others.
But here’s the thing: I need those uplifting moments. I need to see funny animal videos or read George Takei’s latest pithy commentary. I need to share my joy over the upcoming season of Agent Carter (hey, at least we got 2 seasons before they canceled it) or the fact that John Scalzi is absolutely besotted with his new kittens. I need to squee with my friends over the things that keep us going every day–the shows we love, the characters we adore, the stories we found spell-binding and empowering. We are BOMBARDED with bad news every day. We need our talismans against evil and hatred. We need to feed the right wolf. That is not wrong or selfish. It is necessary.
My mother called me at a ridiculous hour this morning to say ‘it was all over the Internet that those IS people (as she called them) were planning a major attack on the US today.’ Well, I don’t know where my mom gets her information, probably FOX News. It doesn’t surprise me that the terror threat is high right now–after all, we’re heading into major holiday. But I wonder how this threat compares to the number of people that will be killed in car accidents this holiday week, or how many people have been killed in shootings since the beginning of the year. I tried telling my mom this, and advised that in all likelihood, this report was more fear-mongering by the far right to get her to vote for their candidate. Even if it is true, it is out of my hands and there was no sense in her getting into a stew about it.
She interrupted me. “I just wanted to tell you I love you. In case I never see you again.”
I found myself telling my mother we needed to live every day as though we were under threat of a terrorist attack. Not with fear, or barricaded in our homes clutching shotguns. We need to tell our loved ones how important they are to us every day. We need to share the things that bring us joy, hope, and strength. Fear makes us dangerous–not only to each other, but to ourselves as well. One of the most touching stories that has come out of the attacks in France is that Hemmingway’s love letter to Paris, A Movable Feast, has been selling out at bookstores. People are buying copies and leaving them at memorials in a show of defiance to the attackers. My eyes are tearing up as a type this. Yes. What a way to feed the right wolf.
And so because many other sources, both internal and external, are constantly shoving food at my Evil Wolf, the one that believes in the darkness and despair, it is imperative I feed the Good Wolf. It is not shallow or callous or indifferent to the pain of others. It is vitally necessary, or else the wrong wolf wins. I invite you to do feed your Good Wolf too.