Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Blessed Life September 19, 2014

It was the strangest thing. There I was, walking along a familiar street wearing my same collar with my tags that read Wiley C. Schmidt. I was wearing the same walking harness I’ve had since forever too. I had the same leash attached, and I was wandering around the same neighborhood I have come to know and love.

But when I looked up at my forever mom, she was brand new to me. Even though I obviously know everything a dog can know about his person, it was like I had never seen her before.

And that’s when I woke up.Listen to your heart

Sometimes my dreams scare me. I know that sometimes people perceive whimpering while sleeping as a doggie daydream of all kinds of goodness. For me, that is rarely the case. I think maybe it’s because of the grief I still bear in my heart over losing my mom and brothers at such a young age or the homeless loneliness that followed. Or the denial I have in my heart about being returned to the humane society or being abused by the man with the leather belt. These are the things that haunt me in my sleep. These are the things I whimper about.

That is, until today, when I had the oddest dream I’ve ever been able to recall. It was like everything was familiar but I was meeting my dear forever mom for the very first time. And I won’t lie. That isn’t the worst thing to dream about in comparison to the usual.

I remember the day often. It was hotter than normal in Wisconsin, but that didn’t stop my would-be forever family from visiting me that day. I also can’t believe that was more than four people years (or the equivalent of almost 30 doggie years) ago. But alas, it was, and it is a day for which I frequently feel blessed.

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another,” suggested English writer George Eliot.

It might have evolved out of the strangest thing, but Eliot’s words ring true for me. I’ve seen what joy looks like through the eyes of love. I’ve seen what it’s like to live my life. And I love every single moment. Because, in my humble doggie opinion, that is what it means to lead a blessed life.

 

Belong To Your Dreams August 30, 2014

I wouldn’t say I’m a wimp. I’m not a weakling or a coward either. But in the face of pain, I will admit it. I don’t like it. I don’t like it in any variety I have ever experienced from physical to mental to philosophical. Pain is not my favorite thing.

Waiting to get going

No pain, no gain

Yet there is this popular people belief of “no pain, no gain.” It’s one that I will admit to completely blowing off in sheer denial the first time I heard it. Which is strange coming from me, since I generally love to embrace the musings of man. Not in this case.

Maybe it’s the physical abuse I encountered in the so-called care of the man with the leather belt. Or I guess it could be the emotional and psychological damage that followed not only his abandonment, but that of my first adoptive family. Such a thing calls into question literally everything you think you know about yourself. What did I do wrong? What would I (should I?) have done differently?

In many cases the answer to these absurd questions lies in the very same emotional space as their origin. Chances are, you didn’t do anything wrong. Most likely there is nothing you could have (or should have) done differently to change the outcome of a given situation.

I realize this now that I have had some time and distance to process how my personal emotional past plays an active role in my psychological future. Regardless of what I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t call myself a wimp or a weakling or a coward. I have shown bravery and courage when it was necessary, even if I still have nightmares of certain events to this day.

But I also have dreams. Really really good ones. Dreams that come alive in various situations of my daily life. Dreams I live in my sleep. Asleep or awake, they don’t look much different. In each of them I am (in one way or another) surrounded by two-footed friends otherwise known as family. Dreams. From the ground up, they are a pretty special antidote to the painful way of thinking about things. I get that now.

I wonder if I’d get that as clearly if I hadn’t had my fair share of pain. Though I suppose it’s possible I would have, I do think sometimes you need to live through the storm to better  appreciate the rainbow that follows. My storms were tough, but my rainbow is better.

 

On Choosing Joy June 19, 2014

I don’t get out much. I mean no disrespect to my people in saying so either. It’s a simple truth that of the 365 days in a year, about half of those days are actually walkable by a dog who lives in Wisconsin. Especially when we have an epically cold winter like we did this year, followed by a freakishly chilly (almost non-existent spring) and now this. Tornadoes have taken over cities around here lately as thunderstorms make their presence known.

Happiness IsJust the other day I was napping peacefully when alarms sounded to let my people and I know danger was potentially headed our way. Thankfully we were safe, save for a few tree branches in my backyard paradise that didn’t make the cut. But I was more upset about the interruption of my dream. As is the norm during nap time, I was in a very happy place. Except this time it surprised me to find that place was someplace other than my forever home.

It was everywhere else. There I was, on my own again, exploring the world. Except in this dream I knew I had a home to return to when it was all over. I knew because I (of course) had Mrs. Prickles with me to remind me of my forever people. But, more importantly than that, I had my joy. From the ground up, it is always with me reminding me of all things past, present and future for which I can be thankful.

I was reminded of this as the most simple of things came into question the other day. The rain fell down and the thunder and lightning were so strong they woke mom, dad and I all up in the night. Carter somehow slept through all of that (don’t ask me how). But as the rain fell and the winds shook the walls of my forever home I was reminded of what is really important in my life. It’s not my toys. Its not my plush doggie bed. It’s not even the photos of my dear forever family that scatter throughout the house.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t get out much. Our weather around here is harsh and unpredictable. But that’s okay, because it’s the joy I choose every single day that brings me strength. I think this is what is missing from so many lives, more than the possessions people seek. Joy. From the ground up, it’s yours for the taking.

 

A Bird’s Eye View June 10, 2014

I find it’s more likely to happen when the skies are grey like a rain storm is coming. Then when it doesn’t I breathe a sigh of relief since I (like most dogs) don’t particularly care for the thunderstorms that occasionally accompany our summer days in my neck of the woods. They are loud and obnoxious and sometimes the thunder hurts my ears.

Dreaming a little dreamDays like today are interesting in their own kind of way because they remind me the slightest bit of the freezing cold doldrums of winter in the Midwest United States. Except in addition to the warmer temperatures, there is something present now that is not around in those times.

Birds. The more I observe them, the more I know it to be true. There is not much I envy about their lives other than this one thing. They can fly. I know that unless I ever travel a far enough distance with my forever people on an airplane, I will mostly likely never know what it’s like to fly. Sure, I hold my head out the window of a driving car with the best of them. And I’ve been known to clear three or four feet in a horizontal jump. But this is not the same as flying.

I thought of this today as my dear Aunt Morgan is on her way home from a far away place. As I type, she is waiting on a delayed flight out of Denver, Colorado, with no cell phone and no charger. At first I wondered what she would do with herself since she (like my dear forever mom) is terribly attached to that so-called Smartphone of hers. But that’s okay. I don’t need to talk to her to know what’s happening.

It’s a favorite past time of mine in fact. People watching. From the ground up, a lot can be learned from this tradition I’ve perfected over the years. I think I’ve learned more from observing people than people would even like to know.

One such lesson I’ve learned to take note of when the skies are grey and a rain storm is coming. Sure, when it comes to flight, it’s all relative. I say this both figuratively and literally, as I believe English humorist Douglas Adams may have said it himself.

“Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss,” he said. My perspective doesn’t need to be a bird’s eye view for me to know this as truth.

 

Sleeping on Clouds April 1, 2014

Today was strange. I slept the majority of the time, as I usually do. Baby Carter went about his day pretty much as usual too. Mom, on the other hand, was like the Energizer bunny.

She spent the entire day on the phone and in meetings with various people talking very seriously about things that sound important, like road improvements and tax-incremental financing districts (whatever that means) and fire stations. Apparently it was something called election day in the local communities she is now covering for her new job as a reporter.

From these conversations, I took three things.2012-12-29-15-51-47

1) Local government is legit. Sure, voter turnouts aren’t always the best and sometimes politics gets too political, but behind closed doors these are real people with visions for the future.

2) Mom’s job is important. As a reporter, she is a liaison of information from the people with the messages to the people who need to hear and understand the messages. I know from my experience learning from people that things can get lost in translation all to easily, and it is her job to make sure that never happens.

3) Passion is powerful. I heard it in the voices of the people on the phone. I heard it in mom’s voice. These people have some serious passion for what they are doing. They are from all different backgrounds and walks of life. They have different experiences to bring to the table. They are republican and democrat and everything in between. But, at least from what I can tell, they all have one thing in common. They want to make a difference.

Today was strange. It may have appeared fairly normal to an outsider, but something happened in my dreams today. As I slept I dreamed of sleeping on clouds, up where my dreams are. Because from there I can look down on the world and see such things. I can see these people and all of their counterparts across our democratic system doing what they do best. Making a difference.

 

The Silly Sleep Smile January 28, 2014

My heart stopped today. It was only for a second (or three), but it definitely happened. It seems an appropriate response to what I witnessed. Baby Carter stopped breathing. So my heart skipped a few beats.

The WatchdogThere we were – mom, Carter and I – settling in for our late afternoon nap (a custom to which I’ve come to very much enjoy) when it happened. Whoever coined the phrase sleeping like a baby clearly has never watched a baby sleep. There’s flailing and jumping and funny breathing patterns and grunting and the occasional random cries. But there are also smiles. Watching all of this unfold has become a favorite part of my days. I am watching over my little person and all is well in my world.The Sleep Smile

So today when he stopped breathing, my world turned on its axis. I wanted to do something – anything – to make him start breathing again. Fortunately I didn’t have to. It happened on its own a few moments later. And apparently it’s normal, at least from what I heard mom and dad discussing later. But it seriously and completely freaked me out.

That’s when I realized there’s something about newborn sleep that is kind of like life. It’s fun. There are moments that overwhelm you with joy and prompt a smile straight from the heart. It’s scary. There are moments that take your breath away – for good or for bad reasons. It’s not always easy. There are things along the way that make us sigh and grunt and flail (at least emotionally if not physically).

And dreams are real. Today was not the firs time I’ve longed to hop inside that little baby mind of his to see whatever he was dreaming about. Moreover, I wish I could have protected him from whatever made him scared in his dream and share with him whatever made him happy. But, just like life, there are some things that are uniquely our own. Dreams are one such thing.

My heart stopped today. It wasn’t for long, but it was long enough for me to realize in that small moment something pretty big. “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s question,” suggested American psychic Edgar Cayce. If that’s the case, my questions don’t really matter. Because if that silly sleep smile is any indication, my little person’s got it all figured out.

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Twilight Zone October 12, 2013

If dogs have a Twilight Zone, I visited mine today. My people were still my people. My forever home was still my forever home. All of my toys were put away in their basket in the living room (I checked). Everything looked the same. But the strangest little thing was different.News? What news?

And I didn’t even notice it at first. I just did what I usually do when the television features an animal. Live or animated. From whales to cows. It doesn’t matter. My normally silent self goes a bit berserk when there is an animal on the television. I have even come to recognize certain music that accompanies commercials with animals and react before I even see that group of dogs invading the screen in my living room.

So it was actually true to form for me to react somewhat aggressively to what I saw on the television. That is, until I realized it was me. There I was, wearing a shirt and tie, reporting the latest updates in the tragic story of the death of NFL star Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son.

I woke up the very moment I realize what was happening. I looked around to find I was still in my forever home, lounging peacefully in my doggie bed. I instinctively ran to check the television, but it was turned off. Relief washed over me in confirming it had all been a dream. An incredibly unusual dream.

And it got me to thinking. I hate bad news. I despise scandal. I prefer to avoid thinking about death and loss. I would make an awful news reporter. I’m not too proud to admit it. I seemed all right at it in my dream, but that is the Twilight Zone we’re talking about.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying being tuned in to what is happening in the world is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But, like anything else, I need balance. We need balance. My people don’t watch a lot of news, but when they do I hear a lot about death and shootings and sickness and the struggling economy. Stories of personal growth or success are few and far between. If you ask me, these news bytes are just as important for us to hear.

Fortunately we are not living in the Twilight Zone. But I think American novelist Charles Dickens would agree with my opinion on modern society. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote.

Indeed, there is good and bad in each and every day. I just prefer to focus my emotional energy on the good instead of the bad. “What is a weed?” transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson questioned. “(It is) a plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

 

Dreams Are Dreams September 13, 2013

Some things just aren’t meant to be. It would take a miracle (for example) for me to fly. Or ride a roller coaster. Or walk on the moon. Just because all of these things happen frequently in my daydreams doesn’t make them real.

But let’s say (just for a minute) things that happen in our dreams really do come true. I could finally catch those elusive squirrels that taunt me in the backyard. I could whine my doggie guts out on The Whizzer at Six Flags (yes, the starter coaster – don’t judge). And perhaps one day us dogs will walk on the moon. How amazing would all of this be? Snarky Sparky

I think there’s general misconception about these things in our society. We have our dreamers who think anything is possible, we have our realists who keep the dreamers grounded, and we have our pessimists who don’t bother thinking outside the box. I (obviously) fall into the first category, but I have characters in my life who I know have given up on their dreams. They may not say so, or even admit it to themselves, but they’ve stopped reaching for those goals. And it breaks my heart.

I’ve said it before, but it seems even more relevant now. The journey can be half as much (if not more) fun as the destination if we only let it be. It’s one thing to drive across America to get from A to B. It’s something totally different to stop and see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Kansas on your way to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. To take the scenic route through Minnesota instead of the highways. To hike through the mountains of Tennessee rather than drive. These are the moments that make a journey worth living.

There are two ways to look at things, and I think this dog Frankenstein is the perfect demonstration of both.

To our realists, it appears the prize is just out of reach. To our pessimists, the goal is simply unattainable. But to our optimists, our dreamers, it looks like he is (at the very least) having fun making his dreams come true no matter how stubborn and challenging they may be.

I think we can all take a lesson from Frankenstein. It’s one thing to respect that some things just aren’t meant to be. Let’s face it: the chances of me ever being able to fly, ride a roller coaster or walk on the moon are pretty slim. But dreams are dreams and I will still have fun trying.