Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Write It On Your Heart September 20, 2013

It usually makes me kind of uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, I try to avoid it. But the more I thought about it today, the more I realized my avoidance and level of discomfort are nothing compared to the actual problem at hand. Complaining. I can’t stand it. I find myself getting upset when I hear complaints because (at least in my little doggie mind) I feel it is a useless waste of time. Why would you waste all that energy complaining when you could simply do something to rectify the problem?

Don't Worry, Be HappyI got my answer today when I looked out my front window to find my neighborhood feline friend Penny was back on my front doorstep. And she looked sad. I braced myself for the worst, thinking perhaps something had happened to her person Rose. Not quite.

Rose has been in poor health for some time, but she is all right. To Penny that’s part of the problem. She’s just all right. Instead of embracing that she’s still okay, I was surprised to find Penny complaining about how awful it is to see her loved one struggle. Dear Penny went on and on about how badly she wishes she could help somehow and the frustration she experiences because she can’t.

In that moment I realized why people waste all that time complaining. Life sucks sometimes. There, I said it. And when it does, the complaining develops a purpose all its own. It’s for good reason because sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do. And it isn’t fair. But there is always a silver lining.

In this case I think it comes from understanding the difference between optimism, realism and pessimism. In order to call myself an optimist, I must recognize within me the realist. The realism is reality in the making, but it is different from pessimism, which I avoid like the plague. The line between these things may be thin, but it’s made of steel to those who employ it.

I think that’s why complaining makes me so uncomfortable. It skirts around that line of negativity I prefer to stay away from. Instead I take the advice of my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson who encourages us to “write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” Meanwhile, my mind knows sometimes its not. And there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s the realist in me. It’s a good thing my mind listens to my heart.

Related posts:

Negativity – The Silver Lining http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/21/negativity-the-silver-lining/

Penny For Your Thoughts http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/08/31/penny-for-your-thoughts-2/

 

Little Big Things September 19, 2013

The sky is crying tonight. And it’s not whimpering in a corner. It is throwing an all-out temper tantrum complete with bright flashes of light and loud bangs that echo through the walls of my forever home. I don’t particularly care for thunderstorms, but I’m grateful I they don’t frighten me as I know they do some dogs.

Little Big ThingsInstead, I find myself cuddling a little closer to my people and bearing down until the tantrum is over. It sounds like a little thing, but it’s pretty big to me. That’s the funny thing about perspective. What might seem small to you can make or break another person’s day, week or month. Just as I am a believer in the importance of remembering the person behind the people, I appreciate when people place value on the little things.

Like when my groomer Mary stops to pet me and tell me she thinks I’m handsome while she’s got me in that terrible bath. Or I get an extra treat from Bonnie at the Starbucks drive through. Or (best yet) when anyone I come across smiles from the heart. None of these take much effort from the giver, but they the capability of having a profound impact on the receiver.

“For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed,” suggested my favorite Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran. That’s why I call them little big things; they are incredibly valuable no matter what your perspective in life may be. Because let’s face it. Life gets stormy sometimes.

We can’t control when it happens, but sometimes the world seems to roar and shake around our feet. It is these moments, amidst these bright flashes of light and loud bangs that echo in our hearts, that the little things matter most. Like snuggling close to my forever people when its raining cats and dogs outside. Or offering a helping hand to someone who needs it. Or paying someone a hard-earned compliment. They might seem like little things to you, but sometimes the littlest things have the power to calm the biggest storms.

 

Dive Right In September 18, 2013

Water. I know it’s necessary for living. And for staying clean. But I just can’t understand why anyone (human or canine) would choose to spend any given amount of time immersed in water. My mom likes swimming in it, and I know there are certain breeds of dogs who love retrieving things from it, but the concept is one that just doesn’t make any sense to me.   In the Deep End

I can’t say I have a good reason for my opinion. It’s not like I ever had a bad experience that now haunts me or anything like that. I just don’t like it. But I do think there is something to be learned from the practice of swimming so maybe it’s not all bad. I got to thinking about this tonight after mom got home very much later than usual from that place called work. Apparently she spent the day at meetings listening to various people talk about all things interesting that relate to her job. Some speakers were more poignant than others, she told dad, which made for a long day. (She’s telling me! I hate when she gets home so late…talk about a long day!)

From what I’ve heard, public speaking is one of those things more people dislike than like. Kind of like dogs and water. As I thought about it, something unites these two seemingly unrelated opinions: fear. One of my very least favorite emotions. It’s right up on my list of disliked emotions with timid, anxious and shy. No one I know would use these words to describe me, but that wasn’t always the case.

Fear is debilitating. It commands our attention and directs our actions. And I say this as one who used to live in fear of a variety of things. I feared no one would ever love me. I feared the man with the leather belt. I feared and it consumed me. But I can say with confidence it consumes me no longer. My optimism has brought me to a place in life where I make it a goal to bring fears to purpose. And sometimes the only way to do this is to dive right in. Head first, or heart first, depending on how you look at it.

“Courage is a peculiar kind of fear,” suggests British politician Charles Kennedy. Water may not be my favorite thing in the world. And I think public speaking is one of the most common fears people have. But something can be learned from the concept of diving in as a means of facing our fears. It takes courage to bring our fears to purpose in life. Dive on in – the water is warm.

 

 

 

Remembering Wiley September 17, 2013

He kind of annoyed me at first. The people at the shelter called him Wiley and my first impression of him resonated perfectly with his name. He was small, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the noise he was making. Whining and pacing and scratching and whimpering. It was all too much. Worse than that, I’d seen it all before. These young pups come in here all anxious and adorable. I don’t understand what all the fussing is about. I don’t understand why they let themselves get so worked up.

Meanwhile I’ve come to the conclusion I will not be adopted. The Oshkosh Humane Society will be my final forever home. No one wants a 15-year-old golden retriever when they can have the puppies, or the anxiety attack two-year-old terrier mixes like my new neighbor. But I have made peace with that. I’ve lived a long and fulfilled life. I had a forever home with people who loved me. I had a family who loved me, played with me, and brought joy to my heart. I know what it means to be man’s best friend. I also know I’m not quite finished. I have something left to offer the world, and I am going to do it through this new neighbor of mine.Rusty

Because there is something different about this one. I can see it in his eyes. They are wide open to his soul, just like mine were at his age. And in that moment, his little soul was desperate for connection. For love. For hope. I could see it in his eyes. He was about to give up, and I was not about to let that happen.

So I told him my story. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to hear it but I didn’t care. My purpose in life was to share joy from the ground up with whoever would take it. To see the best in all people, places and things. To walk the walk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, to respect that sometime we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine.Remembering Rusty

I’ll never know what he did with the wisdom I shared with him that fateful night. And it was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to him before the people took me to that place in the shelter a few days later. (I’d come to recognize it as the “deliveries only” kind of room where the old, unwanted dogs go into never to return). But I know one thing for sure.

He kind of annoyed me at first. He had all that energy and he was wasting it all on pessimism. But I’d been through too much, seen to much, lived too much to let the opportunity slip through my paws. So I lived my purpose that night by sharing my wisdom with him. It was like the final chapter in a long life of joy from the ground up. And I wouldn’t have traded my time with him for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. That annoying little Wiley will know better than to mourn my loss, I thought as I made my way to the Rainbow Bridge. No sir. He will paw it forward.

This post was written from the perspective of my dear friend and mentor Rusty from the Oshkosh Humane Society in response to today’s daily prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

Rusty was right. His optimism lit a flame in my heart that night no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

Related Posts: Remembering Rusty, http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/17/remembering-rusty/

 

Your Teacher Heart September 16, 2013

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. (Want to go …anywhere…is not the question, in case you were wondering). How did you get so smart? They ask. Even if I could speak people, I’m not sure what my answer would be.

The thing is, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly smart. I’m not (that) special. Perhaps that’s why people think I’m smart. Because I’ve noticed a trend in modern society that people generally are not as smart as they think they are. A concept I think can go both ways.

Psychology aside, I do sometimes wonder where “smart” comes from. It’s not among the list of qualities American author John Grogan said seem to come so effortlessly to dogs: “loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love.” Grogan hypothesizes these emotions that are second nature to canines can be “elusive to humans.”

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but it does spark a curiosity in my heart. And I beg to differ with the popular thought that curiosity killed the cat. First, because I think it’s a terrible thing to say even if it is theoretical. Second, because I think curiosity of the heart is the ultimate spark for learning.Love. Unplugged.

This occurred to me today as I dreamed of meeting my little person and all he or she has to learn about the world. I found myself both excited and overwhelmed by the insight of my dog park friend Tucker, who shared with me all about his little person Mason. They are best buddies, and they are constantly learning from each other. But Mason is 13 people years old now. My little person will be brand new to the world the same time he or she is brand new to me. Talk about pressure.

Then I took a deep sighing breath (the kind that catches the attention of my forever mom and inevitably merits a scratch behind the ears) as I realized something that gave me the sincerest form of peace. I don’t know what I’m so worried about. My heart is my teacher. That’s why things like loyalty and selflessness come so easy to me. It’s all rooted in the unconditional love in my heart.

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. How did you get so smart? Beyond the people/dog language barrier lies their answer. I’m not. Not in the conventional sense at least. But I do know where smart comes from. It comes from a curiosity of the heart. It stems from a desire to be loyal, devoted, selfless and optimistic. It is love.

This post is dedicated to my dear blog friend Utesmile, whose encouragement inspired these words.

 

I Made My Bed September 15, 2013

I dont have many regrets in life. I generally make an effort not to regret even the most regrettable of things by finding a silver lining in any situation. But (as hard as it may be to admit) nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes.

Feeling ReflectiveI was reminded of one of mine today when my forever parents came home with a gift for me. I’ve come to expect that there is at least something for me in those goody-filled plastic bags they bring home after running errands. From treats to toys, I’m usually right. Today’s present didn’t come in a bag. It was a brand new fluffy blue cloud of a dog bed. This will be my third since being in my forever home, which I frankly find unnecessary.

If it were up to me I would still have my first one. I had just worn it in enough so that it had all the right smells and a nice layer of my fur atop the entirety of the plush surface. Something tells me the same factors that made it feel homey to me made it fall under the category of “nasty” to my people. The second was headed in the same direction as the first and (in mine and mom’s opinion) it could have been saved before it took its trip to the scary green garbage bin. Dad did not agree.

So alas I now have my third dog bed. All to myself. I wish I could have found a way to convince dad to donate those other beds to a local shelter instead of throwing them away. Like in some karmic way that would repay the wrong I did once. Because in reality this is actually my fourth dog bed. The New Digs

Shelter (let alone comfort) was not always so easy to come by while I lived on the streets so you can imagine my overwhelming sense of excitement when I found it. A discarded dog bed on the side of the road. It smelled like spoiled fish, rotten eggs and felines. I didn’t care. It may as well been the doggie Hilton compared to the cardboard box I’d been living in for the last few weeks. So of course I didn’t want to share it with the family of kittens that came my way that night. There were four of them and they were shivering. They were all alone. They kept trying to snuggle and I shooed them away. The bed was mine after all. Not theirs.

They eventually wandered off, but I will never forget the look of desperation in the eyes of the last kitten to leave. I’m reminded of that look today as I snuggle up in my cozy new bed. It’s a crisp one as fall is approaching and I feel so blessed to have such a comfortable place to keep warm. Thinking of those kittens reminds me of how lucky I am. I generally don’t need a reminder to count my blessings, but I got one today.

I don’t have many regrets in life. But nobody’s perfect. I made my bed and now I have to sleep in it. Fortunately for me, I do a lot of good thinking in my sleep. This is why I know for sure we all make mistakes. It’s what we learn from them that matters.

 

A Wrinkle In Time September 14, 2013

To write is to be inspired by life. I find this happens in the most unusual of ways from the most unexpected sources. I’ve found it in everything from a stinky towel on the bathroom floor to the wind blowing delicious smells throughout my neighborhood. But sometimes its more simple than that. Sometimes it’s right there in front of our face. Sometimes we don’t even notice it because it’s something we see every day. Sometimes it’s in a word. Inspiration.Deep Thinking

I keep my most simple resources for inspiration close to my side while I write, and today they spoke to me. As I write, the following titles are within arms reach:

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach

Marley and Me, John Grogan

Poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

To write is to be inspired by life. To read is to be inspired to write. Each of these titles has a purpose. A reason for being by my side in my recent past, present, and future. Today’s daily writing prompt challenged us to open to the first page of the closest book, read the tenth word, and do a Google image search for that word. From there we will find our inspiration. Or not. I can honestly say this is the very first time any of these books has let me down. In the order referenced above, the words were as follows: of, years, I, at, and squeaky.

In a word, my choices left me feeling underwhelmed. Not even squeaky sparked my cerebral cortex into action. But as a picture is worth a thousand words, I found it both ironic and enlightening to find the picture below come up in response to my search for “years.”

600-029042

This image can inspire all kinds of different thoughts for different people. For me, it looks like a wrinkle in time that immediately inspires hope. Faith in the future. Knowledge that the past is behind us (but still part of the journey) the present is a gift, and the future is looking pretty spectacular.

Inspiration. Sometimes it happens in unusual ways. Other times it’s right there next to us in someone else’s words.

 

Dreams Are Dreams September 13, 2013

Some things just aren’t meant to be. It would take a miracle (for example) for me to fly. Or ride a roller coaster. Or walk on the moon. Just because all of these things happen frequently in my daydreams doesn’t make them real.

But let’s say (just for a minute) things that happen in our dreams really do come true. I could finally catch those elusive squirrels that taunt me in the backyard. I could whine my doggie guts out on The Whizzer at Six Flags (yes, the starter coaster – don’t judge). And perhaps one day us dogs will walk on the moon. How amazing would all of this be? Snarky Sparky

I think there’s general misconception about these things in our society. We have our dreamers who think anything is possible, we have our realists who keep the dreamers grounded, and we have our pessimists who don’t bother thinking outside the box. I (obviously) fall into the first category, but I have characters in my life who I know have given up on their dreams. They may not say so, or even admit it to themselves, but they’ve stopped reaching for those goals. And it breaks my heart.

I’ve said it before, but it seems even more relevant now. The journey can be half as much (if not more) fun as the destination if we only let it be. It’s one thing to drive across America to get from A to B. It’s something totally different to stop and see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Kansas on your way to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. To take the scenic route through Minnesota instead of the highways. To hike through the mountains of Tennessee rather than drive. These are the moments that make a journey worth living.

There are two ways to look at things, and I think this dog Frankenstein is the perfect demonstration of both.

To our realists, it appears the prize is just out of reach. To our pessimists, the goal is simply unattainable. But to our optimists, our dreamers, it looks like he is (at the very least) having fun making his dreams come true no matter how stubborn and challenging they may be.

I think we can all take a lesson from Frankenstein. It’s one thing to respect that some things just aren’t meant to be. Let’s face it: the chances of me ever being able to fly, ride a roller coaster or walk on the moon are pretty slim. But dreams are dreams and I will still have fun trying.

 

Not For Doggies September 12, 2013

I love you. You complete me. Eat pray love. When it comes to three-word phrases, less is more. And (uncharacteristically) I love that. Unless the sentence is “not for doggies,” in which case please keep your thoughts to yourself.

I hear it all the time in my house, and it breaks my little doggie heart every time. Grapes? Not for doggies. That delicious smelling melty stuff called chocolate? Not for doggies. Onions and garlic? Not for doggies.Yummy

Why (oh why?) must all of these things that (I think) would bring me happiness be off limits? Moreover, don’t people realize that they are even more attractive when I am told they aren’t for me? It’s not fair.

Perhaps that’s part of the problem. I am making up my mind about what is and is not fair without all the information. Sure, I think these things would bring me happiness, but would they really? My people generally provide me with all things joyful, so there must be another reason I can’t sneak a grape, lick up the chocolate frosting off the floor or swoop up one of those delicious-smelling garlic cloves when it occasionally flies off the cutting board.

Mmmm...Ice CreamThis occurred to me as I’ve noticed that for some time now there have been many things that are also not for mommies. That baked brie mom loves to serve at parties with apple wedges? Not for mommies. The glass of wine (or two) with dinner? Not for mommies. Those foul-smelling little seafood rollups (I think they’re called sushi)? Not for mommies.

At first I felt smug about it. Like she’s getting a taste of her own medicine. Not for pregnant ladies is her version of food-related torture. But that didn’t last long as it is not akin to my normally loving and optimistic way of thinking.

So I’ve come full circle to the only conclusion that makes sense. Not for mommies is a way of life right now because she’s putting the baby first. Who cares how much she loves brie, wine, and sushi if these things could harm the baby?

Finally I think I understand. Not for doggies is for my own good. There must be something about grapes, chocolate, garlic and onions that is bad for me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to gobble it up any chance I get, but at least now I know the reason for the madness. Maybe “not for doggies” is more akin to “I love you” than I thought. Because we don’t always know what’s good for us, so it’s a good thing someone does.

 

Paying it Backward September 11, 2013

Dear Diary,

Today started like any other day. Mom took my little people to that place called school after they ate a healthy breakfast of watermelon and peanut butter and jelly crackers. (I got samples of both as usual).

Today the schedule was no different. Except it was. Something was very (very) wrong with my forever mom when she got back from dropping off my little people at school. I could hear her heart racing and I recognized the emotion all over her face. Fear. She ran frantically throughout the house turning on every television and radio. And she looked like she could cry at any second.

That’s when I saw it. Something terrible happened in our world today. Something about planes and terrorism and the Twin Towers and New York and death. Lots of death.

These words echoed throughout the house all morning. It wasn’t long before mom went back to school to pick up the girls very (very) early. She wanted them to be home safe in case catastrophe hit again any closer to home. And shortly thereafter there we were. My forever people and I watching tragedy unfold right before our eyes. Watching history in the making (and not the good kind). All on live television. Which I find especially ironically sad since there is simply so much death.

Today started like any other day. But it ended up being anything but that. Something tells me this is only the beginning of many changes to come.

Yours always,

Pheobe

Proud to be an AmericanIt turns out I’m not the only aspiring writer in my immediate doggie family. Twelve years ago today, my forever mom’s childhood dog Pheobe chronicled the events of that fateful day that forever changed our country, New York City and the world. I wasn’t around to experience it, but I know it’s one of those days you don’t forget.

But (at least in my humble doggie opinion) not forgetting is not quite as meaningful as always Always Rememberremembering. This was illustrated for me today in the words of author and NYU professor Jim Joseph, who suggests we pay it backward to show our respects. Joseph lives in New York, and in today’s blog entry on The Huffington Post he fondly recalls his experiences in New York on September 11, 2012.

What began in his heart as a day that should become a National Day of Remembrance evolved into an idea for a National Day of Kindness. It started with the person in front of him in line at Starbucks who paid for his coffee in recognition of the day. Later Joseph seized his opportunity to pay it backward. I’d like to think kindness made its way through New York that day.

What a beautiful way to pay our respects to an event of the past. And what beautiful symmetry there is in knowing we are commemorating a day of violence with the arch nemesis that is kindness. Today started like any other day, but it hasn’t ended that way. Through Pheobe’s words that day lives on in my heart. And from this day forward it is no longer a day to simply not forget. It’s a day to remember. It’s a day to pay it backward.