Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

All That Worry March 1, 2015

I guess you could say I’m a sore loser. I’m not ashamed to admit it. The simple truth is I don’t particularly care to engage in things that I don’t think I can excel at. I prefer to quality over quantity anyway.

So you can imagine my dismay when certain things in my life that are completely beyond my control. If I had my way, there would be no worry or stress or anger in the lives of my loved ones. But alas, none of that falls within my realm of reason.The "stuff" and me

Instead I watch as people I care about, namely my forever mom, let things bother her to the point of sleeplessness and restless anxiety. The worry is real, and I don’t fault her for that. Yet things have a way of coming full circle emotionally in such a way that I wish we could just bypass the stress and get right to the relief.

Take the scare mom had with her pregnancy recently. She haunted herself by consulting Dr. Google for answers about something she should have just listened to her doctor about. As a result, she became so blinded by the worst case scenario that hope seemed like a distant memory.

Then this week, she got confirmation from her doctor that everything worked out. The concern is no longer a concern. Cautious optimism has been replaced by relief.

Which leads me to question what the point of worry is in the first place. Or really any negative emotional struggle people face. Hence my constant inner struggle.

Because I can’t control it. I can’t win every battle. And as much as I hate any lose-lose situation, I know we can’t win them all. Fortunately, I also know we don’t have to. So many times I find any battle worth fighting is most likely also a battle worth losing. Life has taught me things have a way of working out in spite of our best efforts to complicate things. So in reality, many of our short-term losses are actually long-term wins. It just takes a little time for us to realize it.



Whatever the Reason January 14, 2015

It starts with the mind. Trepidation. Anxiety. And ultimately, fatigue. This is a vicious cycle I witness unfolding all too frequently in the life of my forever mom. I’m usually the first to know when there is something bothering her, mostly because she walks around with her heart on her sleeve.

Sometimes it’s something as ridiculous as what to make (or where to go) for dinner. Other times it is a major life decision or event that she builds up in her head as something way more terrifying than it could possibly ever be. Whatever the reason, the cycle remains the same.

Trepidation. Otherwise known as fear of the unknown. Love. Unplugged.

Anxiety. The culmination of worry, fear and stress.

Fatigue. The feeling of weariness that follows a stressful or worrisome situation.

But there is something else I notice about this cycle. Something I’ve said before I don’t particularly support. Regret. From the ground up, this thing drenched in disappointment is not a favorite thing of mine. Yet in this case, I hold it up as the reason for essentially debunking this terrible cycle that causes my mom (and surely others) such emotional discomfort.

I say this because I watch as the fear and anxiety and fatigue all happen, and I know what comes next. Inevitably, the cycle awakens the part of a person to the realization that, in reality, it was all for naught. Life goes on. Today becomes tomorrow. And with it, we get a fresh start. Not to start the whole terrible cycle all over again, but to live anew.

It ends with the mind. Trepidation. Anxiety. Fatigue. Regret. None of it has to happen if we catch it early enough.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,” as ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested. Worry is going to happen. People are going to psyche themselves out over nothing. But life is going to go on, with or without them. If you ask me, there is strength to persevere within these basic truths.


The Truth About Neediness January 6, 2015

I think it’s supposed to be an insult. Or maybe something akin to a bad thing. But I refuse to see it that way. Not today. Not ever.

To me me there is never a bad time for snuggles, cuddles and pets. All things hug-related are more than welcome in my world any time. But there are certain times when it’s not just welcome. It’s almost like a need. Hence the nickname I (proudly) earned today.

Needy. From the ground up, it’s no insult to me. I heard it a bunch today, because I wouldn’t leave mom alone. I pushed and shoved and strategically placed myself in all kinds of compromising positions to be near her today. I climbed up onto her lap. I snuggled into her legs. I needed her, because I think she needed me. Feeling Blue

Call it doggie instinct, but something is definitely up with her recently. She seems distracted and nervous about something I can’t quite put my paw on. So to me I am simply fulfilling my doggie duty to her by being this so-called “needy.” For me it’s one of the only ways I can show how much I care.

And in truth, I think we all need to be a little needy from time to time. Whatever the reason, life happens and it’s not always pretty. Like yesterday when everyone I know seemed to be having a bad day. Or today, when lives are turned upside down by car accidents and car troubles due to the extremely frigid weather. Bad days happen.

And when they do, it’s okay to be needy. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to find a shoulder to cry on. It’s okay not to be perfect. And if you are blessed enough to have people to rely on, now is the time. Not tomorrow or the next day.

So they call me needy. That’s okay. Because I am a firm believer in the words of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who suggested “life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” If my experience is a needy one, so be it. It simply means I’m doing my part in life.





The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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The Color Blue December 2, 2013

There is usually crying. And some yelling. And some choice words. It’s not a pleasant thing to witness, and yet I am at the mercy of those engaged it the middle of it all. I have no choice but to stand by and observe. Arguments.

They doesn’t happen often in the Schmidt home, but when they do they definitely fall into a category of conversations I would prefer to never have heard. Yet I remain by both mom and dad (a tricky place to be in such situations), steadfast and true. I love them both with equal halves of my heart and never take sides.Listen Here

Except for once. I remember because it was a dreary early winter day like today a few years ago. The grey mood of the sky was directly reflective of the emotional context of my forever family. Mom had been blue for a while. And not blue like the color. She was sad. I think I knew it before dad because us canines have a way of sensing these things. She was tired a lot. She wasn’t as responsive to my attempts to engage in chase or pickle in the middle. It seems that place called work was among the things that had worn her down into a shell-like version of herself.

So I sided with dad the day he confronted her about it. I hated seeing her that way, and she needed to hear everything he had to say. It wasn’t comfortable for any of us, yet I know that was a day we will not soon forget. It will stick with us for all of the right reasons and none of the wrong. And it wasn’t fun.

Crying, yelling and choice words were among the key players. I remember wishing I could be somewhere (anywhere) else but in that room. But then I remember the color blue mom was then and see how happy she is now and I realize how important those conversations can be.

“The character of a man is known from his conversations,” suggested Ancient Greek dramatist Menander. In that case, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sometimes the toughest conversations are the most important ones to have. They show love, not hate. They show concern, not contempt. And ultimately they lead to joy, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment.


The Underpants Trick July 24, 2013

It’s absurd really. But I’ve heard there’s this trick to help people feel less scared of public speaking. Apparently the secret to quelling the fear is for the speaker to picture the audience in their underpants. Or (worse yet) naked. As a thinker of the canine variety, you can imagine my confusion at this alleged psychological strategy. In general, us dogs do wander around naked after all. And I know public speaking is among the most common of people fears, but that too is a head scratcher to me.

All things tangible are among a dog’s greatest fears.Standing Strong Sure, we have our obvious emotional fears – the greatest of which is losing our beloved people. Beyond that, it’s physical things we can touch and feel we fear most. I used to fear people hands and the damage they can do. And leather belts. And going hungry.

I know it’s different for people. It’s my understanding that public speaking is among the most common people fears, right along with fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and fear of change. Fear. In itself its a scary thing. And powerful in all the wrong ways. It can be debilitating, and (worst of all) it is incredibly contagious. So it’s safe to say I fear fear. I live and breathe the words of American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who challenged “the only thing to fear is fear itself.”

I know its easier said than done, but I think there is something to be said for taking on this philosophy. With heavy hitter fears like fear of the unknown knocking at our psyches, it’s no wonder times are scary. But even in the most uncertain of times, one thing is certain. Change is imminent. The future will come. And it will bring with it the unknown.

Sadly, even picturing the people around you in their underpants (or naked) won’t change these truths. One hundred years can pass and these same basic fears will remain. But its not hopeless. I no longer fear people hands, leather belts, or going hungry because I’ve made the conscious decision not to fear fear. Fear will not be the master of me. Instead, I find comfort in knowing that some things will never change. Sure, the future is scary. The unknown can feel like a rickety bridge over the grand canyon when all you can see is fog. Change isn’t anyone’s favorite thing. But faith is the antidote to fear.

As Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran suggested, “doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” I know it looks different to everyone, but faith in its simplest form is even more powerful than the negativity of fear. It is unchanging, steady, and offers a light powerful enough to clear the fog away from the bridge. Forget the underpants trick. I’d rather have faith.


Don’t Worry, Be Happy June 18, 2013

It’s kind of like hitting your hind legs on the footboard jumping up on the bed. Or getting your leash wrapped around the tree in the backyard when the sky is crying. Or being left at home alone for the majority of a weekend day.

Each of these things can make me feel emotionally handicapped in the most bizarre way. I know everything will be all right – the shooting pain in my hind legs is sure to pass, my fur will dry from the rain, and my parents will return from their so-called errands – but there is something unsettling about when these bumps in the road happen.

As I soaked up some sun in my backyard this afternoon, I questioned why these occasional stumbles (physical or otherwise) have such a power to bring down my otherwise optimistic spirit. Stuff happens. Life moves on. Or does it? I remember thinking my life was over when I first was separated from my mom and brothers. And again when I lost Rusty to doggie heaven. And again when that family returned me to the humane society citing my alleged behavioral problems.

SimplifySuddenly it made sense to me. These stumbling blocks seem to have a way of bringing my past into my present. At the root of all my stumbles is the same useless emotion: worry. I know it’s not a four-letter word in people language but it is in my world. Worry is the handicap!

Yet I worry my parents got a higher bed so I wouldn’t jump on it anymore. (Don’t they like our cuddle time?) I worry maybe my forever parents will take a book from previous chapters of my life and forget about me outside, leaving me in the rain to shiver and fend for myself. (Don’t they love me anymore?) I worry that maybe they’ll never come back from wherever they go when they run errands. (Will anyone else ever love me like they do?)

Worry, worry, worry. It’s a nasty little habit for a practicing optimist to conquer. It’s one I don’t frequently even address out of sheer embarrassment that people won’t take me (and my joy) seriously if I admit to my weaknesses. But there is strength in admitting to our shortcomings, not only in the truth of the admission itself but in what it means for the future. It’s easy to push aside being a worrier. To hide it away in a place in my heart I don’t want anyone to know about.

But I’ve never been one to take the easy road, especially in matters of the heart. So worry be gone. I cast you away like the bad habit you are. Starting today, I will make an effort to see life’s stumbling blocks not as triggers for worry. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow,” Dutch Christian activist Corrie Ten Boom once said. “It empties today of its strength.” I’d much rather seek strength in knowing everything will be all right than add any unnecessary sorrow to my days.