According to an old Eskimo proverb, “There are two dogs fighting inside of you….the dog you feed is the dog that wins.” And since I’m technically an Alaskan native <ahem>, I feel particularly qualified to spout Eskimo proverbs. But that’s beside the point. The truth is, I fight with myself a lot. It’s part of the curse (and blessing) of being creative and analytical. I feel a lot. I think a lot. The two go round and round. And right now, thanks to all the running in circles, what I feel most is exhaustion. I feel like I could sleep for days.
Two dogs are barking. I find myself battling different ideas and notions about what it takes to find fulfillment. Some days I feel like I’m going in one direction, feeding one of the barking dogs and other days I’m going someplace totally different, listening to the other one yap. So I try to figure all this out by asking myself, “What’s missing? What am I doing wrong? What would make my life feel full?” Unfortunately my knee-jerk reaction when I’m feeling a void is to do one of two things: 1) run away or 2) look outward, seeking external fulfillment. I reach out to people, trying to fill the time and space so it won’t feel empty. I try to quiet the barking by surrounding myself with people, things to do, more projects, ANYTHING to avoid paying attention to what’s going on within…and the bad news is it usually works. But only temporarily. The dogs always start barking again.
Then I realized something.
I’m missing the boat. I’m busy listening to the chatter when I should be trying to quietly look inside myself and find that place of contentment, the place of peace that comes from being instead of thinking. A friend said to me recently, “You need to just be, figure out how to get back to who you are inside, and then project that feeling outward, instead of doing it the other way around.”
We have a tendency to be sponges and soak up all the external energy around us, allowing it to create our existence and define us. But it typically backfires…we see over and over that seeking happiness from outside ourselves doesn’t lead to contentment. Drawing it in from others just leaves us (and them) feeling more depleted and unsatisfied. It’s why I feel drained. I’ve been absorbing external energy and chaos, allowing it to define my existence. And I’ve lost sight of what it means to listen to myself, become centered and then…project that outward. And in some form or another, from moments past, I remember what it feels like to do that. But right now, the dogs are fighting…one says, “Go, go, go! Do more, keep going, keep doing…” and the other says, “Wait a hot second. Are you sure this is what you want? Be still. Breathe. Remember who you are…”
The two dogs are fighting. And I want them to be friends. But one dog is dominant and acts out of fear – fear of being alone, fear of failing professionally, fear that if I stop moving I might stagnate and die – and the other dog speaks up when I don’t necessarily want to hear it either…but that one knows me better. That one knows that no matter what I do I still need to find inner peace to find happiness- and that I need to stop running, stop seeking out ways to fill the void, and just listen to the quieter part of myself instead- the part that knows what to do if I’d only find the courage to listen to it. That dog is barking to be heard.
I hope for one thing – strength. Strength to get through this. Strength to know what the right thing to do is when the time comes. Strength to listen to the dialogue that’s going on within me. Strength to truly pay attention. There are two dogs fighting inside of me to get out. So which dog wins? Whichever one I feed the most.