Last week my dog Grace and I were deep in the woods when she flushed out a coyote. In the early moments of the encounter my first reaction was “Wow, Coyote! I wonder what it means to be seeing a coyote?” What it turned out to mean was that I would be finding a branch in my hand with no knowledge of how it got there. It would mean smashing that same branch over the coyote’s back when it became clear that my dog would be no match for this beast. It would mean being close enough to see its razor sharp teeth. And it would mean finding an even bigger branch along with numerous rocks to throw at it, while I screamed and fended it off for the next mile.
And while you may find it hard to believe, I had no fear. Not a speck. I simply did whatever the next thing it was that I had to do. I was clear, present and powerful. I had no past and I had no future. There were no “what if’s,” not a single one. There was only “what is.” And I was completely on board. No part of me felt the victim. No part of me imagined telling this story to anyone. No part of me wanted it to be any different than it was. And it was deeply empowering! I was an Amazon Queen.
Then. It changed. In the aftermath, my sleep and waking moments were disrupted by anxieties, fears and images. I began to make contingency plans for imagined repeat encounters with the coyote. Should I get mace? A gun? Should I carry a pack on my back and conceal an easily accessed weapon inside? I asked people, who I thought might have knowledge about this, for information I believed would guarantee me protection. I ruminated in bed, in my car, basically wherever I was (Note: And the coyote was not). And I anticipated over and over and over again future encounters and how it would be that I would handle myself.
And in the end, I am left with one terrifying and exhilarating realization: “I am not in control. I do not know how things are going to turn out on any given day.” And while most of us plan and schedule and create our stories to insulate ourselves against the reality of Life, the truth is that for all of our anticipations and planning and attempts at control, things will ultimately go the way things are going to go. And in the process of us trying to guarantee an outcome, we waste our precious life force trying to control the uncontrollable. We think if we worry enough, we will somehow protect ourselves. But I will tell you, I have had many worries in my life and not one of them has included a coyote.