Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Moment of Magic October 31, 2013

I don’t believe in magic. Not in the traditional sense at least. The whole now you see me, now you don’t idea? What fun is that anyway? But I will never forget the day I discovered a different kind of magic.

To the rest of the world it was Halloween. To me, it was Jo’s eighth birthday. That’s all that mattered. I had been living with her and the man with the leather belt for a few months, and had seen my fair share of things I still wish I hadn’t. But this was a day to remember for all the right reasons.My Kind of Magic

This was the one time I ever witnessed Jo and the man with the leather belt happy at the same time. I was surprised he remembered the day at all, since he was usually pretty forgetful about basic things like having anything besides frozen pizza and beer in the fridge. But alas, he surprised us both. After dinner (he actually cooked something), he got out a pink cupcake with a single candle on it and sang happy birthday to her. I sat by her side, proud and humbled to share in such a special moment. Then he gave her a present. It wasn’t wrapped (it was still in the Toys ‘R Us bag) but that was beside the point.

It was magic. Literally. He gave her a 100-peice magic set. “I had one when I was about your age, so I thought maybe you’d like it,” he told her. She loved it. They spent the next few hours experimenting and doing something I’d never seen them to before. They laughed together.

That was the real magic. Magic is in moments like these. Moments brought to life by a power within us to believe. “Magic flows through us,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, “mystery infuses every encounter of every day…You have no idea of the countless lives you touch in the course of a lifetime.”

My life was touched that day by something special. I may not believe in the hocus pocus kind of magic, but that day I became a believer in a whole other kind of magic entirely. I became a believer that the power is within us to live this magic in our daily lives. To find and embrace moments of pure joy is a magic all its own.

 

Try Try Again October 30, 2013

I had it out with the neighbor dog today. Twice. That’s right – Demon Dog and I had words. Well, I’m sure it sounded like barks to the outside observer. But I could no longer sit idly by and stare at him silently while he goes into his fits of rage from the other side of the fence. I had to do something.

Better to TrySo I walked myself (all right, okay, I ran myself) to the very end of the lead (about 30 feet from my backdoor, and about 20 feet from Demon Dog) and I said some things that needed to be said. I told him I don’t know why he’s so angry. I told him I wished we could be friends. That I would listen to whatever struggles he’d lived through and help him find some joy in new beginnings.

But it ended just like it started, with him pacing and panting and growling and snarling. He even digs around a bit at the hole he’s created underneath the fence that separates us. And his bark? Quite frankly it’s terrifying.

I tried again the next time I was outside, but it seemed to be in vain. Also, my people were very unhappy with my efforts as it is incredibly rare for me to bark at anything besides the animals that occasionally come into the living room via the television.

I don’t understand it. We canines don’t discriminate from one breed to another, but I guess people call his a bully breed. And my experiences have shown me why – not only with my neighbor, but also with the dog who attacked me at the dog park. I thought I was a goner that day when he had me by my collar dangling me around from his perch atop that picnic table.

Obviously I survived to tell the tale, but it bothers me that these dogs – these bullies – are out there making a bad name for others of their breed who are capable of love and compassion. Being known as a bully is not an excuse for bad behavior any more than it should be a label on others with a similar appearance.

So I won’t give up on Demon Dog. I had it out with him today and my message didn’t take. And I know I need to be honest with myself – it may never take. But as American actress Shay Mitchell put it “I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.”

He’s strong and confident (at least from what I can tell by his barking habits), but there must be something more there. A past. Some memories. A story that may explain where he came from and why he is the way he is. We all do. And in a world that frequently uses labels as excuses, I’m taking a stand for new beginnings. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.

 

Turn On The Light October 29, 2013

It’s like an on/off switch. It happens in a fraction of a second. The blink of an eye. And it fascinates me. Except when there’s crying involved. Then I’m not sure what to do with myself.

I spent some time with baby Alexis again tonight and I am stunned by the emotional roller coaster she wears on her adorable little face. First she’s smiling her contagious toothless grin then bam! The grin morphs into a grimace, but only for a millisecond. Then she’s happy again. It’s exhausting for me as an observer who invests a good deal in bringing joy from the ground up into the lives of others.

Happiness begets HappinessAs disturbing as it may be to observe, it made me wonder what happens along one’s life journey that keeps this from being something common in adults. Sure, I’ve seen adults go from happy to sad pretty instantaneously. (Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people all the time). But it’s the second part of the equation that interests me. That’s the part that seems to be blocked by some sort of adult-only emotional hurdle. How do you efficiently talk yourself back to the happy place?

It happens in an instant for Alexis. I think life too frequently gets in the way of that being possible for adults. But I did observe something else about this emotional dichotomy. When my mom smiled back at her, the switch to the dark side seemed to happen less frequently (if at all). Instead, there they were smiling at each other like a couple of ninnies. Like somehow the reciprocation of happiness inverted the cycle somehow.

There’s a thought. The concept is one that mirrors the idea of Greek philosopher Sophocles, who suggested “kindness begets kindness.” Smiles beget smiles. Joy begets joy. I know it’s probably something different for everyone. But I think that little person who once switch back and forth between sad and happy so frequently is still inside us all. We just have to reprogram our hearts to cooperate better with our minds to recognize the triggers. We’ve got to find our own switch.

Because life turns the lights out on us every now and then. It can happen in a fraction of a second. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. And change can be scary. That is, unless you find a way to turn that light back on.

 

From the Ground Up October 28, 2013

Scientists claim us canines can understand somewhere between 100 and 200 people words. I say that’s hogwash. What these calculations can’t account for is our keen awareness of human emotion, which so frequently is hard to encapsulate into a word.Gaining Perspective

Treat. Outside. Dog park. These are words a dog comes to know. Sit, lay down, roll over. These are tricks of the canine trade. But love, faith, forgiveness and loyalty? These are words to live by. In a constantly evolving language, these words remain steadfast.

I have never been a big supporter of the “less is more” philosophy, but perhaps there is some insight to be gained from it in the case of conversation. Sometimes less really is more, given the understanding is there to aid in translation. My favorite Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran challenged that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

I know mine certainly wouldn’t be treats, outside, dog park, sit, laydown and rollover. Mine would be the foundations from which all other language could be understood. Forgiveness. Compassion. Loyalty. Love. Laughter. Faith. Joy. From the ground up, these would be my seven words of choice because these are words us canines know inside and out.

We don’t hold grudges. We know when to be still and listen. We pause (in all our overwhelmed excitement) to welcome our loved ones home whether they’ve been gone five minutes or five days. We love unconditionally – and find creative ways to show it. We know how to bring fun to the party. We know who we are – and embrace it. We have faith in ourselves, which enables us to have faith in others. And, through it all, we know how to bring the light of joy into the darkest of situations.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life,” Gibran suggested, “not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Scientists have their theories. And maybe they’re right. But they didn’t account for the unique perspective we canines bring to human emotion. Literally and figuratively, there’s this thing about the attitude I chose to bring to life. When you see life from the ground up as I do, you are already on the ground. Regardless of how you got there, you are at ground zero. And there is no where to go but up.

 

The Time Wings October 27, 2013

I don’t think I’d call myself a morning doggie. Like many of my canine comrades, I like my sleep. Though I prefer to call my daytime naps daydreams, let’s be honest. I’m sleeping. I sleep a lot.

Not only that, but I have this whole sleepy morning routine. I snuggle my way into what I guess people call a spooning situation with either mom or dad until it’s time for them to wake up. Then I keep them company while they get ready to go to that place called work. I have a special spot in the bathroom (on the rug I’m certain they place on the tile especially for me) where I watch the chaos unfold.

JoyThen I usually sneak back on the bed and snuggle into the pillows until it’s time for them to leave. At that point, I move to my doggie bed in the kitchen where I get a treat. I think the treat is meant to neutralize my disappointment at their leaving, but obviously it’s just a treat. It’s not my people. So I daydream my mornings away where (in my mind at least) I’m running around the dog park or exploring new places with my people.

All of this takes a holiday on weekends. And while I am inexplicably motivated by routine, this is one routine I don’t mind veering away from. Because I wouldn’t say I’m a morning doggie, but there is one kind of morning I can’t get enough of. Weekend mornings are my favorite. Every weekend is different, and not all mornings are the same, but there is something that seems to happen regardless. Time stands still. For just a few moments, the outside world ceases to exist. We three (soon to be four) musketeers embrace the time together.

It doesn’t have to be in the morning. Or on the weekends. But I think it’s so important to take these moments every now and then to pause to embrace those you love. “Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs to slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings,” wrote French romanticist Victor Hugo.

I wouldn’t say I’m a morning doggie. But there is something about mornings I look forward to each day. Those precious moments, no matter how fleeting, are the wings with which we fly.

 

Trick or Treat October 26, 2013

There’s not a lot I would change about myself. I guess you could say love has made me confident. I stand proud, head held high, ears up, tail wagging. And no one is going to break me down. I am who I am.

I can’t say it’s always been that way. I, like anyone, have had my fair share of ups and downs with self esteem. (Being thought of as a clearance puppy comes to mind). But I’ve come to understand all of my past as an important part of my present. Challenge builds character, whether or not we like it (or realize it) at the time.

This is why I was initially a little confused by this thing called Halloween. People dress up as all kinds of things other than who they really are. Ghosts and goblins and vampires and witches. Why not instead celebrate who they are rather than focusing time, energy (and from what I understand sometimes a great deal of money) on the perfect costume?

I’ll tell you why. It’s fun. There is something kind of dangerous and exciting about putting yourself aside to become another character, if only for a day.

So today I became the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. It is a character with whom I identify closely, especially as I have begun to better understand the relationship between fear and purpose. Like me, the lion began his story blinded by a fear that had a negative hold on his self esteem. It took courage for him to understand that fear has no place in life. Given my own personal backstory, it was the perfect costume.

My trick or treat dates (otherwise known as a few of my favorite little people) were also dressed to impress. They included a ninja warrior, a flapper girl and Scarlett O’Hara. Together, we walked the streets of Grandma Schmidt’s neighborhood collecting a plethora of goodies that I can’t have.

I didn’t mind that (too much) though. Because it was fun. And underneath by lion getup I was still me. A little dog with a big heart. Even “in character” I want to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. I think that’s the secret to this whole Halloween thing.

Rather than seek to change everything about who you are, you ought to find a creative way to embrace it. Stand proud, with your head held high and your heart beating strong. Because at the end of the day we are ourselves again. And (whether we realize it or not) who we are is something pretty special.

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My Open Heart October 25, 2013

This just in – I’m being invaded. It started with diapers. Then the strange furniture (including the bed called a crib that I can’t jump into). But that could not have prepared me for this. Mom has entered something called the third trimester. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I do know the volume of baby-related buying seems to have increased exponentially in recent days and weeks.

I’m starting to wonder whether there will be any room for the little person amongst all of this stuff. Blankets and diapers and play gyms and diapers. (Did I mention diapers?) But I have noticed something amongst the village of boxes that have accumulated in what my people are calling the nursery recently I couldn’t help but share.

ContentmentMe. I’m all over the place. Or at least a dog that very closely resembles me is all over the place. On the bedding, on the changing table, on the blankets and sheets. There is a little bit of Wiley love scattered throughout the room. And I’m humbled as well as contented by this keen observation of mine.

Contentment. That is a big word in a society that seeks to consume. It’s different than gratitude and yet I know the two are dependent on each other. Contentment. That’s what I felt as I lounged on my rug in this room called the nursery. I’m drawn to it for some reason (and no, I don’t think it’s because of the dog on the bedding who looks like me). I’m not sure how to explain the special connection I have to this one little room in my forever home other than to say it really doesn’t have anything to do with the village of boxes it encompasses.

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance, “but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”

So I’m being invaded. By diapers and blankets and onesies (whatever those are). But none of it really matters as much as knowing the contentment that accompanies the overwhelming joy that fills our house in this exciting time. And for that my open heart is forever grateful.

 

Chasing Treasure October 24, 2013

Saving the best for last is not a concept that resonates with me. If treats get mixed into my regular dog food, I eat them up first. If I have a rawhide to chew on, I don’t devour it. And if there is love to be had, well, that one speaks for itself.

It has come to my attention this is not necessarily the norm amongst my four-legged brothers and sisters. I realized this when I overheard my mom talking to her friend Huntie about her greyhound named Elby (otherwise known as the perpetual pen stealer). It is not uncommon for pens to disappear into something of a black hole in Huntie’s house thanks to the crafty skills of Elby. I’ve heard of dogs burying rawhides away for later, so I thought maybe that’s what Elby is up to with the pens.Treasure Hunting

And the more I thought about it, I think he might be on to something. This is not to sy I’m going to start stealing away all of the pens in my forever home. But it’s not about the pens. It’s about what they represent. For Huntie, pens are instruments of joy she uses to piece together her writing. To Elby, pens are a source of joy from the ground up.

It all makes sense now. We all need some joy stored away somewhere for those rainy days when the clouds keep us from finding the sun. Be it pens, or rawhides, or anything else that one associates with joy and happiness. And it might not always make sense at the time, but it is ultimately an investment in future happiness.

This must be why mom keeps what she calls her adventure money stashed away in her jewelry box. I catch her counting it from time to time, and can see her dreaming of what’s to come, but back in the box it goes. It can’t be easy. Just like I know I would struggle trying to save my treats, savor my rawhide or (gasp) not burst with love 24/7.

But “the true treasure lies within,” suggests Indian author and spiritual leader Radhanath Swami. It’s like treasure hunting for the soul and those little items we’ve stored away are our treasure map. Joy is both around us and within us. Sometimes we just need a little help finding it.

 

Foutain of Youth October 23, 2013

You’re tired. You’re sick. Or you just plain don’t feel like doing something. It happens all the time. So how do you stay motivated? I know everyone has their own strategy, but they all have the same underlying foundation. Big girl panties.

From what I understand, the people phrase about putting on big girl panties can apply to both men and women. And it used to confuse me. Until today. Today I saw the value in finding that inner source of energy and embracing it in a time when you least feel like doing so.

It's Free!While I am happy to report my aunt Morgan has moved back to the area from the home of my favorite football team (the Green Bay Packers), exhaustion is the first word that comes to mind tonight. I felt it just being around my forever family and I didn’t lift a paw. Moving is a lot of work (at least from what I can tell). And it’s not usually fun. But it can be. And it was for my forever family (and dad’s friend Chris) tonight.

I watched it all unfold from my comfortable perch on the living room couch, all the while observing the most interesting dynamic. Everyone was tired – no one felt like unloading boxes, moving couches, or assembling bed frames – but the group collectively put on their big girl panties got the job done. And the best part? There they were, this group of adults, laughing like children while they worked.

I found this incredibly ironic since most adults I know fondly recall the time when nap time was a real thing, money grew on trees and there wasn’t a care in the world. At the time, they couldn’t grow up fast enough. Now they wish to reverse the clock and get some of these ultimate simplicities back.

Well, I’ve got a secret. They can. And so can you. Because I figured something out about joy today. Sure it’s free, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows where to shop. The fountain of youth is inside you in all things that bring you joy. You just need to know where to find it. And once you do, it will make the whole big girl panty routine a lot easier.

 

A Little Touch October 22, 2013

It doesn’t take much. A pat on the head. A scratch behind the ear by the collar. An extra treat (or three). I really am a fool for the little things in life. Especially where love is concerned.

But I can’t say it’s been an easy lesson for me to learn. When I was a puppy, I learned the “how high” way of life. I jumped higher, ran faster, and dreamed bigger than any other dog I knew. It was a point of pride even, that I always had a fire lit inside me to be better. And I’m not saying that is a bad thing.How High?

To this day I startle people with how high I can jump. I can launch myself straight up into the air three or four feet. I even have this trick I learned to do with my mom where she pats her thighs and says “up” and I jump securely into her arms. These things bring me great joy that I can’t help but share with others. But bigger isn’t always better. Not everyone likes to be welcomed into my forever home with me jumping into their arms. And I’m okay with that.

I realized this tonight in the midst of a special moment I shared with mom. It was nothing new for the two of us – she was scratching behind my ear by my collar (an especially itchy spot of mine) and I did it. I wrapped my paw around her hand while she scratched. I do it all the time, but tonight it seemed to strike an emotional chord with her I haven’t noticed before. She seemed touched by my touch. It seems like such a little insignificant way to show I appreciate her scratches, yet it meant a lot to her. Certainly it meant more to her than how high I can jump on the visitors to my forever home.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things,” suggested American thinker Robert Brault. It sounds so simple, but it doesn’t take much. To show someone you care. To make someone smile. To be an ambassador for joy. I don’t need to jump five feet in the air to show how enthusiastic I am to welcome a visitor to our home. That’s not what joy from the ground up is all about. It’s about the simple little things, like the moments I shared with mom today. And a couple extra treats every now and then don’t hurt either.