Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Won’t You Be A Neighbor? May 31, 2013

Sometimes the cattiness of people throws me off my game. Here I am, going about my life seeing the best in the people, places and things around me, and reality pulls the rug out from under me. Kind of like that day in the dog park when the pit bull attacked me. All I wanted to do was play chase around the park, and he (obviously) wanted nothing to do with that.

This story involves a different pit bull who lives in the home behind my backyard. He’s a terror of a dog, barking madly at nothing at all, jumping and panting by the fence close enough that I am often the slightest bit thankful my lead doesn’t allow me too close. Will You Be My Neighbor?

About a month ago, he was engaged in his usual crazed routine when his person came outside and spoke a bit to my forever mom and dad while they did yard work. Crazy Dog is her son’s dog, she explained, and she has a very difficult time containing or controlling him (she is an older woman who lives alone). The conversation unfolded to reveal that her son is in jail for an undisclosed amount of time, which explains why the yard he was responsible to tend has been left to grow into it’s own sort of weedy forest. (There are also big hunks of tree laying throughout the yard, in addition to random other things like a plastic dog bowl and a shoe.) Finally, the woman was able to wrangle the dog into the house, leaving mom and dad to finish their yard work in stunned disbelief.

A few minutes later, the woman’s neighbor (our neighbor to the back left kitty corner), came over because she saw us talking. We’d been neighbors for years but this was the first contact she made with my parents. She appealed to their apparent sense of generosity, suggesting we all chip in and offer to clean up this woman’s yard. It seemed fishy to me, since she also mentioned that Crazy Dog had recently caused permanent damage to the adorable face of their Boston Terrier Boondock and the woman didn’t offer to so much as help pay the vet bill. (A crime which wouldn’t be easily forgiven in my home, to be sure). Mom jumped at the opportunity to help, while dad seemed more cautious about it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help out, he told mom later that day, but something seemed weird about it.

Much to the she-grin of my mom, they opted to stay out of it, and made other plans the day they tentatively agreed to help. Sure enough, the neighbor man mowed the lawn and cut down weed city in the yard, leaving it looking the slightest bit better than before.

Fast-forward to today. As my parents and I enjoyed a game of catch in the backyard, dad noticed a moving truck in the driveway of the allegedly good-Samaritan neighbors. A quick Internet search confirmed the truth: the couple was moving, and likely wanted to enlist my parents to help clean our mutual neighbor’s yard simply to improve the appearance of their own home.

It had nothing to do with wanting to help a woman in need. That was just the story they used to manipulate my mom (successfully) and my dad (not-so-successfully) into helping for their own selfish reasons. None of this would have bothered me if they would have just told the truth. Neighbor to neighbor, they could have explained their real reasons for needing help. But nothing about this story is very neighborly if you ask me. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Is there no decency left in the world? What happened to the basic proverb to love thy neighbor as thyself?

Sure, some define neighbor as just a person who lives within close proximity, but I’ve always thought more of the word. Most of us are offered countless opportunities throughout our days to be a good neighbor to others. And I was admittedly thrown off my game to see such a contradiction of that today. Here I am, going about my life seeing the best in the people, places and things around me, and my own neighbor pulls the rug out from under me. But it’s no use dwelling on it. Today I instead choose take what happened with a grain (or three) of delicious proverbial salt. I turn the other cheek. I forget and forgive. Because that’s what neighbors do.

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The Happiness Trinity May 30, 2013

Charlie. Milkbones. Home. A list of randomness to some, a daily happiness trinity to me.

It reminds me a bit of a bit I saw on “Sesame Street” many moons ago. I think I caught a couple episodes during my stint at my first adoptive home. The part I remember most is a song “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” I took the song at face value given my puppyhood at the time, but now I better understand the greater psychological implications of a the concept. One of these things doesn’t belong.Think Happy!

That was the story of me at the time. I know I didn’t belong on the streets. I didn’t belong at the humane society. I didn’t belong at my first adoptive home (with the people who adopted me and took me back to the humane society two weeks later). I’ve known it all along, but that didn’t necessarily make things easier. What did was changing my thought process to find a way to make myself belong, regardless of my surroundings. By using the tools I’d been blessed with at puppy birth, I was able to find my way to happiness even when the road was long and tough.

The secret equation that led me to where I am today? Finding three blessings to be thankful for on a daily basis, no matter how small. I find joy in all sorts of unusual places, and in doing so, I’m not like the others but at least I belong.

Today I met a dog named Charlie at the dog park. He is a five-month-old golden retriever, who reminded me a bit of my pals named Rusty. He was so full of life, and his playfulness was contagious. He had a personality that made you happy just because he was so happy. When I got home from the dog park, mom gave me two Milkbones (the joy involved is probably pretty self-explanatory on this one).

Then there’s that place called home. After all those places I didn’t belong, I now have a place called home. My happiness trinity is complete.

 

Courage Under Fire May 29, 2013

A dog’s responsibilities in life are pretty simple. Most of us don’t cook, clean, or pay the bills. (Instead we eat, leave furballs in hallways, and make a hobby of collecting toys). But this is not to say we dogs aren’t responsible. To me, our biggest responsibility in life is no small matter – to love with all our little doggie hearts as big and full as possible.

Hard at Work

I found myself reflecting on this after I saw a commercial on the television tonight. It’s not unusual for me to favor Allstate Insurance commercials, but a comment in this one struck me: bad things can’t stop us from making our lives good.

This concept illustrates one of life’s most unfortunate truths: bad things that happen to good people on a daily basis. It’s just not fair. Trying to bring sense to it is a fool’s errand. But (like most things) it’s usually not the bad news that changes us, it’s how we deal with it.

Everyone has their own ways of digesting negative situations. Some people lock up and close down. Others open up and share all. This is not to say there is one way or another that’s better for working through various situation, but (like anything) all good things come in moderation. Heightened emotions can lead to overreactions (yes, it happens to all of us) which (more often than not) end in regret.

If you have to ask, it’s generally gone too far. But there is something about freedom of expression I occasionally confuse with common sense. With freedom comes great responsibility. It doesn’t take courage or integrity to play the blame game. It takes courage to do the right thing even when it hurts. It takes courage to soldier through the tough times and make people wonder why you’re still smiling.

Just because dogs don’t have a lot of responsibility doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible. In fact, I smile because I am responsible. Not for cooking, cleaning or paying the bills, but for something much more important. My biggest responsibility in life is also my greatest blessing.

 

Flying The Freak Flag May 28, 2013

I’ve never understood why women wear high heels. Don’t get me wrong, I would consider myself fairly up-to-date with the fashion world thanks to various television shows and my mom’s slight obsession with a place called TJ Maxx. But (in general) I simply don’t understand why women would want to make the simple task of walking more difficult.

Heck, from what I understand about doggie booties, they do miracles in protecting our sensitive paw pads from the elements, but I’m still not sure that justifies their level of discomfort. Strap four inches of height to that? Forget about it.Fly our Flags

I know (based on the ridiculous amount of shoes of various heights and colors my mom owns) four inches is not the norm. So you can imagine my surprise today when I saw the strangest thing on my walk around my pal Diesel’s neighborhood. We saw her at the same time, Diesel and I, and I could tell he was thinking what I was thinking. The woman was walking a collie and a small terrier of some sort down a major road in our community in four-inch wedge heels. I felt a bit like one of those cartoon characters whose eyes bulge out of their heads looking at this woman.

Why not enjoy your walk with your best four-legged pals from ground level? Why be so uncomfortable?

As these questions swirled around in my doggie mind, it hit me. I sure can talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, I had definitely tripped up. Here I am, always talking about accepting (and even accentuating) the things that make us unique, and I am being judgmental of someone’s fashion choice? Shame on me.

Her reasons for wearing those (albeit incredibly uncomfortable looking) shoes are her reasons, and I have no right to question them. The scenery along the journey to self-understanding looks different for everyone, but the destination is the same. We are all at different points in our quests to get to first get to know who we are and then try not to be afraid of it.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” suggested great transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. To be yourself is to be a leader – in your life and the lives of others. My mental commentary on the woman and her four-inch heels was not reflective of my appreciation for the spices in my melting pot of life. It flew in the face of my positive outlook on all people, places and things. It wasn’t me.

After all, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand about this world I live in, but that doesn’t give me the right to analyze and critique simply because I don’t understand. That stranger woman’s shoe preference doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of life. In fact, good for her for being comfortable enough in her own skin to make a statement like that. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting we all go out and buy a ridiculous pair of shoes to stand out in our various parts of the world. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’m encouraging us all to look deep within, dust off our own personal freak flags, and fly them with pride.

 

No Place Like Home May 27, 2013

Wiley’s daydreams was on the short list of other possible names for this blog. I spend the majority of my time either daydreaming or dreaming in my sleep, so I thought it would be a clever way to illustrate all those thoughts in my little doggie mind.

Blogging Away

Then the day happened that brought inspiration in the most unexpected of ways. Snow had been falling from the sky laying a beautiful blanket of sparkly diamonds on my backyard, and it came to me. My mom was so excited to get outside and play with me, she threw away caution with wild abandon, and she laughed. Oh dog, did she laugh to the point I wasn’t sure which came first – her joy or mine.

In that moment, it didn’t matter which came first. I felt such an overwhelming burst of joy I couldn’t help but want to find a way to share it with the world. Just as joy fell from the sky that day, I wanted to bring my perspective of joy to the world from the ground up.

That is among the reasons I know now with complete certainty I wouldn’t change the name, nor the path that brought me to where I am today. But that doesn’t stop my curious mind from occasionally wondering what it would be like to switch places with another blogger for a few days. Would my switcheroo be with a person or a four-legged friend? Where would this person be at in their life? Would it be a little person or an adult? A puppy or a dog? Would it be with someone in the United States or in a country far away? Oh, the possibilities! There would be so much to learn from a new perspective on things, and I’m never one to turn down a learning experience.

But I’m also not one to covet. I love everything about the people, places and things in my life, and I wouldn’t want to leave all that behind if only for a few days. There is a unique perspective to be offered by so many bloggers out there, and I can’t find it in my heart (let alone in my ability) to communicate that perspective as well as they do.

We all have our different reasons for blogging. It’s what makes us unique. While switching places might be a fun learning experiment, I fear the result wouldn’t be as pleasurable as many might have hoped. Instead I opt to continue reading the perspectives of my pals in the blogosphere, and learning life lessons through their stories.

After all, I’m really good at daydreaming.

Related Articles:

http://angloswiss-chronicles.com/2013/05/27/daily-prompt-switcheroo/

http://tarotalchemist.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/daily-prompt-switcheroo/

http://themotherofnine9.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/switcheroo-you-want-me-to-pretend/

 

Progress Is Perfection May 26, 2013

Like so many things, words are what we make them. And in my humble opinion, there are far too many nouns in this world. Too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today.

If a noun is lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Take the word journey, for example. Whether it was career-related, a physical trip somewhere, or purely emotion, we’ve all been on a number of journeys in life. How did the paths lead? What do you remember? What was the destination? Have you reached it yet?

Progress is PerfectionMerriam-Webster and Bing both cite “journey” first as a noun and then as a verb. To me, it should be the other way around. We ought journey onward rather than simply be on a journey. Sure, it might sound like semantics to some, but let me explain.

The progress along the way, the scenery if you will, is often the highlight of the journey itself. And in a world encompassed by the constant pressure-cooker of perfection, progress is a pretty important part of every journey. Yet commercials showcasing the next revolutionary skincare regime, magazines with their airbrushed models, and high standards at school, work, and even at play, I’d say perfection is at a premium in modern society.

Meanwhile, great transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged that “a man is what he thinks about all day long.” Well then, it’s no wonder to me why progress has become synonymous with failure to so many in today’s world of bigger, better, brighter and faster. Instead, we need to recognize progress rather than focusing so much on destination perfection. We may as well give up on perfection without first finding joy in progress.

“Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection,” Lebanese-American writer and poet Khalil Gabrin said. Rightly so, advancing is the verb and perfection is the noun synonymous with the destination at the end of a long journey.

Like I said, words are what we make them. And (at least to me) there are far too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today. If a noun in your life is being lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Don’t simply go on a journey. Journey through life with courage enough to do more than seek happiness, joy, and fulfillment. Don’t seek these things. Seek progress by instead being these things. By being happiness, joy, and fulfillment and you’ve already reached your destination.

 

Bursts of Love May 25, 2013

A day in the life of a dog is pretty simple. Generally we wake, eat, go outside, sleep, go for a weather-permitting walk or run, eat, sleep, play, sleep. Such is life. But every once in a while, the routine is uprooted into utter madness that results in nothing but pure joy. That was today for me.

Happy to Be AliveIt started like a normal Saturday, with a little extra sleep with my forever mom and dad in the morning, followed by my usual breakfast of health food (it’s supposedly “better for me” than the really yummy stuff) and my morning date with my backyard. The chill in the air kept my parents from doing the planting and yard work they slated for the day, so they got ready to go somewhere and I assumed I was staying behind like I usually do when they run “errands” (which is all right with me since it sounds exhausting).

But mom surprised dad and I both when she grabbed my walking harness and beloved leash and declared I was accompanying them to the farmer’s market. I’d only been a few times prior and oh dog, was I excited! When we got there, I instantly made friends with a couple of little people named Jillian and Max. They reached down to pet me and Jillian hugged me goodbye when her mom said it was time to go.

It was all downhill from there. I know this isn’t my first farmer’s market rodeo, but it sure felt like it. I was overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds and smells of everything. So many little people and adults and dogs and birds and booths filled with yummy-smelling things! My senses were on overload, and I can’t say I particularly enjoyed myself. It didn’t make sense to me. I love everything I encountered at the market – why couldn’t I enjoy it?

I encountered a similar sense of self-doubt when we made a subsequent surprise stop at the local dog park on the way home. Mom said she wanted me to “wear off some steam.” (Yet another instance I wish I could invent the next technological revolution: a dog-to-human translation device). I didn’t need to let off steam, I wanted to tell her, I just needed to think. The dog park, a place where I usually find bliss in running free with my fellow four-legged friends, was lost on me today. It was teaming with triple the dogs as usual, and again I felt overwhelmed by it all. It didn’t make sense to me. I love running around like a ninny at the dog park – why couldn’t I enjoy it today?The Good Life

I finally got my answer when I was back at home and my parents were doing some of the yard work they vowed earlier in the day not to do “in the cold.” They took a break to snack on peanuts and watermelon and they shared some with me (a rare occasion in the Schmidt house). And there the three of us sat, soaking in the albeit chilly fresh air. That’s when it hit me.

Today was a day filled with so much joy, but I had to stop and acknowledge the small pieces of the puzzle in order to make sense of the chaos around me. What’s that the great and infamous “they” say about eating an elephant one bite at a time? Well, today was an elephant of joy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Next time I just need to take it all in, one small piece at a time, and I will be better enabled to feel the joy the big ole world has to offer me.

A day in the life of a dog is pretty simple. Generally we wake, eat, go outside, sleep, go for a weather-permitting walk or run, eat, sleep, play, sleep. Such is life. But every once in a while, the routine is uprooted into utter madness that results in nothing but pure joy. We need these days every now and then, where we are so overwhelmed with emotion that we feel like we’re going to burst. Mom calls these moments “bursts of love,” and I suppose that’s what today was for me. A big ole overwhelming burst of love for all the people, places and things in my life.