Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

No Words November 14, 2013

I don’t have a choice. All I get is my eyes, my tail, and the occasional strategic placement of my head or paws. Any other methods of communication are hard to come by when you have four legs. So I have to admit, days like today take a toll on my emotions.

We canines may not be able to see the entirety of the color spectrum, but I know with certainty that I saw my fair share of blue today. Mom is feeling blue, which is apparently a people term used to explain her emotionally cloudy forecast. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that little person inside her is somehow bringing down her morale. No Words

Because she’s been talking a whole lot about worry. She’s worried about the baby’s health. And being a good parent. And labor. And the money. Especially the money. Last I checked, money is green so I don’t know how it could be making her feel so blue. I stand, sit or lay idly by, all-the-while wishing there would be something – anything – I could say to make it better.

Then I hear dad say exactly what I would be saying and suddenly I don’t mind being silent. He tells her to calm down. Relax. Everything will work out. These are the things I would be telling her, too, if I could. But this is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that there are no words. As I observed from dad’s attempt, it’s sometimes better not to say anything than to complicate the situation by throwing words in the mix. Sometimes a person just needs a hug.

I don’t have a choice. All I have is my eyes, my tail, and the strategic placement of my head or paws to communicate. And maybe that’s not so bad after all. Because as much words can help, they can also complicate things. Especially when it’s more a matter of faith than anything else. Faith takes no words. Faith is simply believing in the power that is contained in something so much more than words.

So tonight I keep quiet and instead silently pray for resolutions to come to some of mom’s worries. That peace come to her overwhelmed heart. But I can’t pray with my eyes, tail and paws any more than I can pray with words. Instead tonight I pray with my heart. “Prayer is not asking,” Mahatma Gandhi reflected, “It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of  one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

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.

 

Say A Little Prayer June 14, 2013

My people were away from home for entirely too long today. Here I am waiting on the usual extra people time that kicks off on Friday nights and I got a whole lot of nothing. Mom didn’t get home to let me outside over her lunch break, which is bad enough. But when they both got home from that place called work they left again right away (to go on something they called a date) and didn’t return until dark.

From Up AboveWhile this is incredibly disappointing, I am with them as I work on the blog tonight and for me that is enough. And it wouldn’t be like me not to find the silver lining in a day of loneliness, now would it? Rather than dwell on my differing levels of happiness when I’m with my people (versus when I’m not) I choose instead to focus on the clarity of thought peace like that offers.

Somewhere between my mid-morning nap and my early afternoon nap, I began counting my blessings. (Some people count sheep, I count blessings). I thought of all of the people and animal characters in my life who have made me who I am. I gave thanks for each one of them and said a prayer that all is well in their lives. While it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to address my thoughts to God, I realize doing so is probably thought of as fairly unconventional in the dog world. But since when am I conventional? Why start with that silliness now?

I thought back today to the first time I prayed. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was all alone on the street right after I got separated from my mom and brothers. I was terrified, heartbroken and alone. So alone. I was so distracted by my thoughts I didn’t notice the car that was careening my way until the headlights practically blinded me. I saw nothing but light in that moment and begged God to let me live. I will never know how the car missed hitting me, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is regardless of how alone I felt in that moment, I saw the light: I’m never as alone as I think I am.

I can’t say I cared for being alone quite as long as I was today. But solitude allows us the great fortune to do some of our best thinking. It happened that day in the street and it happened again today. I didn’t realize it until it happened, but I wasn’t alone at all. I was talking to God and He was listening. Sometimes at the moments we feel most alone we are in the best company one could possibly have.

 

Peace Be With You April 21, 2013

Yesterday I came across a vision in white. At first, I was blinded by it. Beauty that breathtaking can do that to a man (er, I mean a dog). She looked like a princess.

It happened after a longer-than-usual Saturday drive to what I thought was going to be my grandma’s house. Let’s just say I was excited to go see grandma and my cousin Buddy. When dad took a different turn on the freeway, I was a different kind of excited; I was curious about where we were going instead.

Behind the LenseWe ended up at the home of two of my favorite little people Sophie and Sam (and their parents, of course). From there, we caravanned to a church, where it is my understanding that Sophie had her first Eucharist. I didn’t get to go inside the church, as much as I wish I could have. Instead, I waited patiently in the car, and enjoyed a fabulous afternoon nap in the warmth of an incredibly bright strange and foreign object to our corner of the world lately (also known as the sun).

As bummed as I may have been not to get to attend the service, it turned out it the service came to me on our way back to the house for the party that followed. Mom and dad were talking about some of the messages, and I can see why. They were too good not to share.

The priest began the special message with an analogy about what it meant to him when he finally got promoted to being able to sit at the adult table instead of the kiddie table. He was in awe of the stunning china, beautiful flatware and crystal wine glasses, which were a far cry from the paper plates, plastic napkins and red Solo cups of his past. But if you don’t bring anything to the potluck, there’s nothing to get. (Except maybe some Brussels sprouts, which I don’t think anyone appreciates). I was thinking about the power behind that message and it applies in so many facets of life.Some of My Other Little People

If you don’t show up for the game, there’s no game to be played. If you don’t bring treats to dog training classes, you probably won’t get anywhere. And if you don’t bring an open heart and mind to church, you will be closed off to the impactful messages it has to offer. If we listen with open hearts and minds, it will come. It reminds me a bit of obedience school: we dogs become man’s best friend through obedience and mutual understanding of our roles in each other’s lives.

Near the end of the service comes my favorite part, when the (incredibly packed) church apparently all offered their words of peace and encouragement to each other. Peace be with you, they said, to surrounding loved ones and strangers alike. Hugs were given, smiles were shared, and peace was present amidst what has arguably been one of the more challenging weeks for us as a country.

Yesterday, I witnessed a vision in white that brought a special kind of glow to the Schmidt family. (It breathed spirit into three of my other favorite little people who I was blessed to see as well). Like beauty, wisdom can blind us with its honesty sometimes.

Even though I heard it all secondhand, the wise messages that came to them on Sophie’s special day lived up to their reputation. “It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it, ” the  well-known former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said. “And it isn’t enough to believe in it, one must work at it.” Let’s work together find peace in the simple things, joy in the blessings in life, and appreciation for what it means to sit at the big kid’s table. Peace be with you all.

 

On Three Strikes: Angels and Demons April 15, 2013

Angels And DemonsSome believe in the Holy Trinity. Others (who don’t) still see three as a sacred number. Little ole me? I believe the opposite of the baseball metaphor that you’re out after three strikes. Indeed, I would argue that three is a Holy number that enables the magic to happen. The third time was the charm in my life and I can’t say I’d change that.

The way I see it, I’ve had three real “homes” in my life.

The first was the home I had with my mom and brothers before we were separated. I was so happy there, amidst my true biological pack. I would wish we had never been separated if not for the happiness I have in life now.

The second was the home I had with Jo and the man with the leather belt. I know most dogs (and maybe even some people) would question how I could possibly see this stop in my heritage as a home in my life. But I also know I’ve said before that home is where the heart is, and (while I lived there), my heart was home with Jo. I loved her more than most canines I’d ever encountered, and I know she loved me. It wasn’t always the most pleasant experience for me when she squeezed me so hard I thought I’d surely lose an organ, but at least I knew in those precious moments I was loved. She was home to me, and that was enough.

Finally (after a couple of stints in the humane society), I found my forever home, and (let me tell you) that has been pretty darned special. My forever mom sometimes hugs me as hard as Jo did, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of Jo in those moments. I hope from the bottom of my doggie heart she is thriving in the world and has found something to do that brings purpose to all that love in her heart.

Thinking about Jo and my birth family make me realize the only demons I encounter in my present are from my past. But (as with anything) I do my very best to find joy in even the oddest of places. Demons don’t scare me anymore. Instead I see the less-than-favorable demons of my past in the light of the angels now, as I find joy in all experiences that lead to learning and the betterment of my general well-being.

I wouldn’t be the dog I am without being separated from the emotional steadiness of my birth mom and brothers. I wouldn’t have the heart I do without my time with Jo and the man with the leather belt. And I certainly wouldn’t know true unconditional love if not for my current situation in my forever home.

I’ve said before that I am a believer in second, third, fourth and fifth chances. Furthermore, that I believe the opposite of the baseball metaphor that you’re out of chances after three strikes. Instead, I would argue that three is a holy number when the magic happens. The third time was the charm in my life and I can’t say I’d change that.

For me, the third time has been the charm. I don’t care if my mom sometimes hugs me so hard it hurts my little doggie lungs, because I know that is my own personal sign of progression in life. I may not always have had it this good, and now I am loved enough to get my fair share of regular hugs. Forget you, demons of my past. I’m a much bigger fan of the angels.