The one you feed
An old Cherokee man is teaching his grandson the ways of the world. He says, “Within all of us, there are two wolves. One wolf is good. He does no harm. He lives at peace in your heart, and finds harmony in the world.
“The other wolf– he is full of anger, snarling, raging at everyone and everything. Yet all his anger changes nothing.
“These two wolves, they are battling in you, always. Always.”
The boy is silent, then asks, “Which one will win?”
His grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”
I never write about being a stepmom anymore. I can’t think about the wasteland of the last several years of my life for longer than about eight seconds before I’m incoherent with anger.
Eight seconds. The same amount of time allotted to bull riders hanging on for dear life.
Last night Dan told me he is working on forgiving Miss L’s mom, as if any of us needed more evidence that he is some kind of freakishly evolved human being.
“I don’t see that ever happening for me,” I say. “Being a honeybadger, yes. Not giving a crap, not letting it ruin my life, those things I can do. Forgiveness? No. I can’t do it. I don’t see how I can ever think how all the shit she’s done is okay. I mean… ever.”
He says he understands. He says he doesn’t blame me. He says, “I’m still going to work toward forgiveness.” Because he is a better person than anyone I know.
I’m not there. Not in a grudge-holding way, because I don’t believe in holding grudges. My anger flares up but burns out fast, followed by an equally fast (but genuine) apology.
But I am not actively angry. Our everyday life is very cheerful these days. Peaceful. It’s fun when Miss L is here, and she even keeps in touch with us when she’s not with us in person. All of the dark days are behind us. I know this. I believe it 100%.
Those way back when days, though. They’re dark like molasses: unexpectedly sticky when you think you’ve cleaned everything up and moved on.
I have forgiven worse. I have forgiven far less forgivable things. So why not these things?
Miss L is not my daughter; I should have no stake in this claim. For the love of pete, if I could forgive all the crap my actual biological daughter’s other parent has dished out, I should be able to get over this. This woman who shouldn’t even matter.
And still, there is just something about all the stupid bullshit that I cannot let go of. Maybe the using her daughter as a weapon. Maybe the calculating way she sabotaged our budding family when it was still so delicate, and destroyed our foundation so thoroughly that we will always be stunted as a result. Or maybe the myriad of other hypocritical, double standard, underhanded sneaky-ass things I can’t even list here except to just say sometimes other parents just suck.
Every time, I expect that discussing these things will lance the infection and drain all those soupy, putrid toxins out, leave my mind light and airy the way venting so often does. But not this pitted history.
These feelings fester. They feed the wolf.
I think someday down the road, maybe it’ll be safe to dwell. Eventually I’ll find the minefield is dormant, and– beyond the trenches– I’ll find forgiveness.
Until then, I’m starving the wolf out.