I was awakened before five this morning by a pack of snarling coywolves outside my bedroom window on Cape Cod. It was not a happy sound. I flipped on the exterior lights and watched a half dozen of these denizens of the night—a type of coyote bigger than German Shepherds—as the howling turned into vicious fighting among themselves. The alpha was solidifying his dominance.
I am that alpha wolf.
Except I’m struggling to solidify dominance over myself instead of others.
After a lifetime of scrapping against competitors, working long days and weekends in pursuit of business ambitions, and preening myself on perceived advantages over others, I now am asked, “What do I want?”
For the first time, I am unexcited about getting out of bed in the morning. I’ve lost the motivation to eat healthfully and go for long, daily runs as I used to. I self-medicate with comfort food and too many vodka martinis, then drag through entire days with little accomplished. I weigh my heaviest ever.
My therapist suggests there are reasons for this. The death of my wife of fifty years, a discovered betrayal, the catastrophic damage to my house in Vieques, reaching an age this week attained by only six percent of Americans.
These factors have rendered me a beetle on its back, powerless to do, to resolve, to control.
How do I get back my motivation, my mojo, my juice—whatever you want to call it?
By beginning with the foundational question, “What do I want?”
I’ve been struggling with this question all week. This week I also happen to be reading The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos.
I was stopped short by this passage: “Faith is not a thing that we lose; we merely forget to shape our lives around it.”
I can say the same of hope. I merely ceased shaping my life around it. This is what seized me while watching the coywolves this morning: my life is no longer conformed to hope.
I simply forgot that I have within myself the power to grow . . . to increase in physical, mental, and spiritual strength . . . to focus my life on achieving what I want.
What do I want? I want the peace that comes with hope.
Bernanos goes on to write: “If ever our species is to perish, it will die of boredom.”
What is boredom, but the opposite of happiness?
They say that happiness comes from giving of yourself to help others.
I want to again be the most important person in someone’s life—not forever, but for just a day, an hour, a moment. This is accomplished by love of neighbor.
Which leads to peace.
The entire Judeo-Christian faith tradition is based on the cornerstone commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, for it is in your neighbor that you find God.
“Do these things,” Christ offered, “and my Father and I will make our abode with you.”
What else can I hope for?
My newest book, Saints and Poets, Maybe: A Hundred Wanderings, is available at https://www.amazon.com/Saints-Poets-Maybe-Hundred-Wanderings/dp/0990905039/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8