Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

If You Can Dream It November 21, 2013

A lot of things happen in my sleep. It’s like when I close my eyes, they open to a world of possibility. Sometimes it’s silliness (like when I have wings and can fly with the birds). Sometimes it’s purely hope (like my hopes for forever happiness with my beloved family). Other times, I relieve unfortunate events of the past or find myself fearful of bad things happening in the future.

DreamingToday I experienced both sides of the spectrum while my people were away at that place called work. I dreamt of a time I felt unsafe, but not for myself. I felt unsafe for my little person at the time, Jo, who was facing another confrontation with the man with the leather belt. Feeling fearful on behalf of another is almost worse than feeling it for yourself, I realize, since you have even less control over the situation.

Then I saw something fabulous. Something joyful. Something that looked a whole lot like the pictures I’ve seen floating around what my people call the Internet. The photos tell the story of Beau and Theo, a little person and his puppy brother, who have synchronized their sleep schedules and now nap together in all sorts of cuteness. Except in my dream it was me and my own little person (who looked oddly like Jo). We were peaceful and content. But more importantly we were dreaming.

They say two minds are better than one, and I can testify to that. I can’t tell you what we were dreaming about (in the dream) because then it won’t come true.

Thinking about all of this made me realize it’s kind of funny to me the way life imitates art in this way. (Or is it art imitates life?) Just as we fear, we also hope. Or as Suzanne Collins put it in her novel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “hope is the only thing more powerful than fear.”

Waking and sleeping, the mind is a powerful thing. It can take us places we never dreamed possible, both good and bad. But that’s okay. Because sometimes we need the bad to remember to celebrate the good. And if we can dream it, it is reality if only for those brief moments. That is – and always will be – enough.

 

Look No Further August 1, 2013

I enjoyed a paradise for the senses tonight. The birds were singing in beautiful harmonious surround sound, accompanied by the faint chiming of wind chimes. The sun warmed my soul just enough as I inhaled the smell of people food on nearby grills through the cool breeze. If summer could be captured in a moment, I had it in the palm of my paw today.Joy

It was the very antithesis of misery. That’s the word my mom uses when nothing seems to be cooperating. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it happens it throws both dad and I for a loop. I’m not sure whether to steer clear or offer my sincerest of condolences, and I can tell dad feels the same.

It happened just the other day, when mom woke up with a terrible headache (which I’ve never experienced but I gather is quite painful), and nothing went right from the moment she got out of bed. She cut herself in the shower (heaven knows how), burned herself with the hair iron, spilled lotion all over the place, and then ripped the shorts she intended to wear to a family gathering that afternoon. And that’s when the crying started. It lasted longer than usual, and dad didn’t know what to say. (He usually doesn’t, poor guy, so I often find myself wishing he would just follow my lead).

I stayed my distance at first, but cuddling my condolences seemed the preferred method of recovery for this particular instance of misery. It passed as it always does, and I didn’t think anything of it. Until tonight, that is. I found myself reflecting on this thing called misery in a moment of pure summer perfection, when everything seemed to align into a happy harmony.

I’ve seen it happen far too many times – simple things (like lotion on the floor, hair iron burns, and ripped shorts) can really bring the spirit down when they all happen at once. But one of life’s most precious gifts is that of balance. Fortunately for us that means the same can be said of the positive impact of simple things (like birds singing, wind chimes clinking and people food grilling). Joy. Sometimes we need to look no further than our own backyards to find it. Whoever said good things come in small packages sure nailed it on the head.

 

Here Comes The Sun June 30, 2013

I thought I had gone blind. One second my brothers were all curled up together in the warmth of my mom’s fur and the next we were out in the open squinting into blindness. Out in the open, away from mom’s protective warmth, and in contact with the brightest thing I’d ever seen.I see opportunity

This thing called the sun used to absolutely terrify me. It was too big…too bright…too much. Not to mention I felt a bit like that baby bird who had been nudged out of the nest and forced to fly. Granted, I wasn’t exactly plummeting toward the ground on a free fall to test my limits, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary.

I thought of this today as I reveled in my own little slice of paradise. Here I am five years later enjoying something that used to make me quiver in my paws. My backyard was a paradise for the senses today, complete with birds singing in perfect harmony with the gentle tinkle of the wind chimes. The rays of sun warmed my soul in a way I would have never thought possible so many moons ago. As I breathed in the delicious smell of various types of people food on the grill throughout the neighborhood, I found myself completely caught up in the nature around me.

Nature overwhelmed me with its simplicity today, and in doing so made me reflect on some things. “The sun is new each day,” as ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, and with it comes a whole host of exciting new opportunities. Maybe that mother bird has the right idea with her little nudge toward self-understanding. These changes are not always welcome, but they sure do have a profound impact on our lives. “When the sun is shining I can do anything,” Olympic champion Wilma Rudolph explained, “no mountain is too high, no trouble to difficult to overcome.”

In some ways I was indeed blind that day when my mom left me out to enjoy the sunshine. I was blind to the beauty of nature outside our comfort zones. Blind to the possibilities an open mind affords. Blind to the truth that sometimes the things we fear most may actually prove to be among life’s most promising gifts.

 

My Little Peace Ritual May 16, 2013

I have this nightly ritual I’m certain my forever parents must think of as complete madness. Every night, my ritual starts the same way at about the same time.

Some of the Comfort CrewI grab Mr. Prickles from my toy basket (I’ll never understand the purpose of this basket other than making fun inconvenient) and take him to my favorite place in the house. I’ll suck on him for a while, but not too long. Then I’ll grab Mrs. Prickles. Repeat. Then Mr. Flea. Repeat. Then Mr. Tiger. Repeat. Then Mr. Angry Bird. Repeat. Well, I think you get the idea. If I’m being honest, this routine would probably continue all night if I didn’t run out of toys and sleep wasn’t necessary.

I’ve previously referred to these (albeit stuffed) characters in my life as my Comfort Circle and for good reason. Ever since I was a pup, I have found comfort in nursing on the soft little bodies. Animal behaviorists have linked this behavior in doggie adulthood to early separation from one’s doggie momma and abuse in puppyhood. (I unfortunately experienced both of these things). Also, I’m not sure if all people know this, but us canines store up a lot of our pent up feelings in our jaw muscles. The shoulder tension of humans is the jaw tension of dogs. It physically relieves stress when I rhythmically nurse on the joys (er, I mean toys).

I understand science and psychology have their reasons but I have one more to add to the conversation. There is something pretty great about beingMe and My Gal transported to another place and time in your mind. That’s what these toys do for me, which I’m certain is why I find peace in my nightly ritual.

What transports you to another place and time in your mind? Do you find peace there?

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake,” said transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

Every night, my ritual ends the same way at about the same time. Before bedtime, dad puts my Comfort Circle collection back in the basket in the living room. And every night I hop off the bed, grab whichever one is closest to the top, and bring that special pal back to bed with me. (It’s usually Mr. or Mrs. Prickles, but I mix it up so the others don’t get jealous). I don’t care if my people think it’s crazy of me to repeat these behaviors night after night. And that’s not just because I know they love me unconditionally. It doesn’t bother me because I know my ritual is my way of making a pathway to peace in my mind that brings a smile to my heart.

And I prefer to sleep smiling.

 

Feeling Freebird Freedom May 3, 2013

Sometimes I wonder about this phrase I’ve heard people say that it isn’t too good to be true, it’s too good to be free. It seems a bit obvious to me as I understand that we generally get what we pay for both literally and figuratively speaking. But the more I thought about it, I can’t say I appreciate the negative connotation in either piece of commentary.

I will admit: even the optimist in me sometimes contemplates the impossible. The glass half empty, if you will. Then I remember the words scrawled on a banner above the band that played “Freebird” at the funeral of Mitch Baylor in Elizabethtown: If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.

I would bet the average person’s mind would flip toward the negative when they think about that phrase, as well as the earlier thoughts on the reality of the cost of things. But what if we challenged our brains to see even the negative implications of these words on through the lenses of a more positive outlook?

Freedom itself certainly isn’t cheap. I thank my lucky stars for living in a country where we are blessed by the heroes of our past who have fought to protect the freedom of all of the people in my life. A lot of animals know a thing or two about what life looks like without freedom and let me tell you: I’d take this life over that one any day. In respect to freedom, we sure have gotten what was paid for it, especially in our freedom to express our thoughts, beliefs and values.

It’s no secret that I am a lover of music and today as I have gratitude for all that isn’t free in life, I find myself turning to the classic rock anthem “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song makes a meaningful appearance in a favorite movie of mine “Elizabethtown,” as a ballroom of people celebrate the life of the recently deceased father figure Mitch Baylor.

“If I leave here tomorrow Would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on, now, ‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see. But, if I stayed here with you, girl, Things just couldn’t be the same,” the band roars. “I’m as free as a bird now, And this bird you can not change. Oh… oh… oh… oh… oh… And the bird you cannot change. And this bird you cannot change. Lord knows I can’t change.”

Holding true to the themes of the movie, the lyrics of the song radiate through the ballroom as the band plays under a banner reading “if it wasn’t this, it would be something else.” Again, it would be way too easy to view this thought through the lenses of negativity, and I refuse to do that today.

Instead, I hold up my freedom to express my beliefs, and (I’m not going to lie), doing so makes me feel free as a bird. Some might think me ignorant for shining some positive sunlight on thoughts others may view negatively, but what can I say? This bird you cannot change.