Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

If At First You Don’t Succeed January 27, 2015

Persistence. Determination. Strength. From the ground up, these are some big-picture words in my world. They get you through the valleys and up to the mountains. They push you to the limit. I’ve always been a believer in the British writer W. E. Hickson’s words “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

It’s a simple thought. And I think it applies to a lot of challenging situations. We all encounter hurdles on our journey through life, and we all fall from time to time. In the short-term, it might be the best thing to do. Happiness.

But in the long-term, I wonder sometimes if it’s really always best to try, try again. Life happens in ways we can’t anticipate sometimes, and I think there can be hurdles that seem to multiply before our eyes.

That was the case for my dear forever mom today. In itself, there was nothing that out of the ordinary that happened. After an incredibly productive morning, her presentation for work this afternoon went off without a hitch. She managed to keep a group of more than 60 middle school students entertained for a half hour immediately following their lunch break. I’d say that is a feat in itself. Everything was great.

Then it happened. Somewhere between answering her work phone for the nineteenth time in a row while finishing up the story she was working on and keeping an eye on the mashed potatoes on the stovetop and trying not to overcook the pork roast in the oven and cleaning up after Carter as he decorated the kitchen floor with pots, pans, lids and tupperware containers and ultimately carrying Carter as she danced around the kitchen because he simply could not stand to be on the floor one more second, she lost it.

Not because of any one thing in particular. The snuggle time from Carter was actually kind of nice. But the sum of the parts got to her in a way I know it wouldn’t have if she weren’t 20 weeks pregnant. She’s firing full speed ahead as if nothing were different, but the truth is it’s starting to catch up with her.

And that’s okay.

It was okay to let that one last phone call go to voicemail. It was okay to save that story to finish for tomorrow. It was okay that dad ran to get takeout because the potatoes somehow got overcooked and the pork was undercooked. It was okay that (for once) the kitchen and rest of the house were a complete mess when dad got home from that place called work. It was okay.

Because persistence, determination and strength can only take us so far sometimes. Limits are real, and need to be respected for a reason. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s okay to try again tomorrow instead of today. In some cases it’s better.

Like today, when dad finally convinced mom to just stop. To take a breath. And sit down. And snuggle dear Carter. And tomorrow we will try, try again.

 

Get Back Up Again August 15, 2014

If it were me, I might have given up by now. Though I can’t say that’s entirely true because I do suppose I must have gone through something similar at some point in my puppyhood. But in light of the recent exodus of dear baby Carter and his mobility, this has been a sight to be seen. Backyard shenanigans

Just a few weeks ago, at the tender age of around six months, he started crawling. A few weeks before that, rolling was his preferred method of transportation. And now I can honestly say I think he is going to be walking soon. Mind you, he is seven months old, and from what I understand this is very early for such a thing to occur in terms of developmental milestones.

Nonetheless, it’s all happening very quickly around here. But, like any journey, there are bumps along the way. And, in this case, there are a lot of them. Just out of curiosity, I attempted today to count the number of times Carter pulled himself up on something, stepped toward it, stood there for a bit, and fell down. I lost count at 56, and that was at about 3 p.m. so I’m certain there was at least a dozen or so more attempts.

Some falls looked more painful than others, but he did not falter. He got back up again and again and again.

The more I thought about it, I realized that I of course must have gone through something similar as a puppy where I fell down figuring out my paws. But as I watched Carter pull himself up on his activity center for the dozenth time, I saw something in his eyes. Determination. Strength. Maybe even a slight hint of stubbornness. Most importantly, there was a sense of perseverance.

And as American Roman Catholic priest Walter Elliot suggested, “perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Dear baby Carter might fall down every single time he tries, but his journey doesn’t end there. He gets back up. Again and again, he doesn’t give up. And I’m fairly certain at this point he never will. I only hope I can find ways to teach him as much as he is already teaching me.

 

Days Like This July 10, 2014

It started last night. Dear baby Carter was upset. To be honest, I haven’t seen him this upset in a long while. In general, he naps about as much as I do throughout the day (which is a lot) and (as a result) is a generally happy baby. I’ve witnessed the effect his joy can have on people in public, and I think it’s all to do with his great napping schedule. But last night was not one of his good days. He was crying and nothing calmed him except when mom walked around the house holding him. So that’s what she did for as long as it took to put him to sleep.

Again today, I watched as more than one person attempted to calm him and nothing worked. I feel so helpless in these situations. The poor kid is teething (which I’ve heard is a nightmare), growing (which is apparently quite painful) and had shots yesterday (been there). And, as a result of all of this, he slept very little and ultimately gave his caregivers a run for their money today. Not to mention the effect his screaming had on my sleep. As one who naps pretty frequently himself, you’d think maybe he’d show some respect. But today involved no such thing. Today involved no such joy. Love

Instead, today was “one of those days,” as I’ve heard people call it. But I’ve also heard people say “there’d be days like this.” It’s a part of life. It helps us appreciate when times are good, which (at least in my humble doggie opinion) is much more frequent than days like today.

For me, the hard part was seeing that light that usually burns so brightly within dear baby Carter flicker today. His light brings such joy to so many people, it pains me to see him this unhappy. But, just as I know today is one of those days in the valley that reminds us to look toward the mountains, I was reminded of the importance of finding another source of light when the power goes out. Another source of joy is always within our reach.

Today it happened in the sun. Dear baby Carter was far more upset than I’ve seen him in a long while. When I thought for sure he would not stop crying, mom tried something that warmed my heart. She put us together on a blanket outside in the beautiful summer weather to play. At least for a few brief moments, Carter was happy, which means mom was happy, which means my heart was happy. It’s funny how that works.

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,” suggested my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, “for beauty is God’s handwriting.” Like any handwriting, I think His can be hard to understand sometimes, but the message itself is clear. There will be days like this, but it’s up to us to find the beauty that makes them worth living anyway.