Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Maybe You Can May 4, 2014

It happened almost four month ago. It was terrible. It was one of those things I couldn’t even talk about because it was so emotional. For everyone involved, it was one of those days of which we do not speak. You know the kind. The day you hate. Or regret. Or wish you could completely erase from the memory of anyone and everyone involved. For me, that day was January 9, 2014.What's that you say?

That was one of the only days in my life I honestly wish I could take back. The day I wish would have gone differently. The day I met Charlie.

It was innocent enough on the part of my dear aunt Morgan, who brought her new addition into my forever home. To be fair to her, she had absolutely no idea how I was doing or adjusting to the concept of having my new little person around 24/7. She had been an absolute God-send for my people those first few days, but as it pertains to the presence of another dog in our home…well, that was something completely it’s own.

Enter Charlie. A dachshund with something to prove. He loved my dear aunt so very much, but he did not love me. Or Carter for that matter. He came into our house with something to prove and I didn’t like it one bit. I don’t often feel myself overcome with any sort of overly protective nature, but it happened that day. Charlie and I, well, we did not get along. And, as a result, dear Charlie went back to the humane society from whence he came that day. And to this day I feel awful about it, while at the same time I know it was right how I reacted to him that day of days.

Proof came today when I heard some heart-stoppingly amazing good news. My dear Morgan finally found her forever doggie friend today. His name is Joey and he is a Pomeranian and I cannot wait to meet him. It is different than it was with Charlie in every possible way. Carter is older now. He can handle meeting a new four-legged friend. He basically told me so when I stared into my eyes yesterday.

Because one thing is for sure: Carter will be a forever dog person. This is something I hold dear to my heart, forever and always, even though it (probably) has more to do with how my people feel about animals. Rather than question any of it, I can’t wait to meet dear Joey because I know he will erase the memories of four months ago. Tomorrow I will meet dear Joey, and somehow I know life will never be the same. Because that dreadful day in February was one of those things you can’t take back. Unless, under the right circumstances, maybe you can.

 

A Sea of Gray March 13, 2014

Apparently it’s normal. But I’m not going to lie, it is kind of freaking me out. I haven’t seen mom cry this much (this randomly) since the last time we watched Marley and Me. Which, coincidentally was today. (Probably not the best idea, given her tender emotional state).

I’m just glad it doesn’t seem to involve me. Or at least it didn’t, until I involved myself. She was crying tonight (for what seems like the millionth time in the last 48 hours) as she rocked baby Carter to sleep because it’s the last time she will do so on a weeknight before she’s working again. It seems a silly reason to me, since it will clearly not be the last time she rocks my dear little person to sleep. But its all going to be different now, she told dad. This Too Shall Pass

It has definitely become one of those lose-lose situations for dad and I, since neither of us can seem to say or do anything to help. So he did what he does best and gave her a hug and a kiss on the forehead and told her we have a lifetime of nights like this ahead of us. Which made her cry more. So I did what I do best and shoved my way into the love fest. Which made her cry more. You see? Lose-lose situation.

But as I thought more about it, it’s not so much the situation itself that seems to be causing these emotions. It’s the thought of transition. The fear of the unknown. I know it all too well. As a family we have been in flux for some time now waiting for the baby to arrive and living through the first precious months, and now moving on with life involves a different kind of change. Transition. From the ground up, it can be a pretty scary thing.

It reminds me a bit of the situation in our backyard right now. As much as I love snow, I cannot stand what it looks like in transition. It’s sloppy and goopy and (worst of all) an awful dreary mixture of gray and brown. A sea of gray. Not to mention the stuff underneath that apparently used to be grass. Now it just looks like mushy brown death.

Just as this is a normal occurrence, apparently this emotional struggle mom is encountering is also fairly common. But here’s the important thing. Eventually all of the gray snow melts away. The grass doesn’t stay brown and sloppy forever. In just a few weeks time, it will be vibrant and beautiful again. My backyard paradise will be restored. The same can be said for this time we are in right now – it’s messy and emotional and that’s okay. Because I know in my heart these fears will be brought to purpose and the sun will shine again.

 

 

Just Say Hello February 20, 2014

It really breaks my heart to say it. It goes against everything my optimistic little doggie heart believes in. But sadly it’s true. Some things really can’t be fixed.

There are some medical conditions that can’t be cured. Cars that get totaled in accidents. And hearts that break beyond repair. Considering each of these, I think its the broken hearts I most desperately long to mend. So you can imagine how my ears perked up today as something other than an animal caught my attention on the television.

Just say hello. It sounds so simple and yet Oprah Winfrey has launched an entire campaign behind these three little words. Because let’s face it. They aren’t nearly as little as they seem. In a world where many of us so frequently replace interpersonal contact with a quick text, email or phone call, the power of human interaction has certainly lost some of its emotional traction.Hello.

That stops now. Because, as O Magazine editor Gayle King puts it, you never know.

“You never know the difference it could make in someone’s life,” she says in the campaign video. “You never know what people are going through, you never know how appreciated it is, and it’s easy to do.” She’s right. So many people are more lonely than they admit to anyone. And therein lies the fundamental problem.

I may not be able to actually say hello, but I know I can at the very least share joy with whomever will take it. That will be my contribution. That, and spreading the word about this fabulous cause. Because I believe in the power of words almost as much as I believe in the power of people to make a difference in each other’s lives.

As much as it pains me to say it, there are so many things in this world that are broken beyond repair. The human heart doesn’t have to be one of these things. Loneliness doesn’t have to be one of these things. It might not seem like much, but in a world where every little bit counts no step is too small toward saving a heart.

 

A Lesson In Sacrifice December 23, 2013

Disgruntled, disheveled and exhausted. Or in other words crabby. That’s how mom came home today from that place called work. Apparently her mood was reflective of the majority of the folks with whom she came into contact today. People who wanted things done. Now. Unless yesterday is possible, in which case they would prefer that.

The truth is, on a day like today, you are only one person who can really only do one thing: your best. I got the impression that’s what she did, but it sure took its toll on her emotions. She looked like she could cry the moment she walked in the door. And my keen attentiveness to such things informs me this would most definitely not have been tears of joy.

Watching and waitingThat’s when it happened. Just as she came through the door, dad stepped up to the plate. He took one for the team. I was ready with all my usual tactics for brining joy into a room and dad beat me to it. He swept her away to some place immediately upon her arrival home and when they returned they were laughing. No more almost tears. It was really something to see.

What mom doesn’t know is dad had a rough day too. He didn’t sleep much last night either. He’s overcome with worry of his own about all things pregnancy and labor and baby related. I’ve even been guilty of forgetting this in the last nine months. But none of that mattered in those crucial moments when mom got home. He pushed everything he was feeling aside to bring joy to mom.

I never really have to do such things. Sure, I worry and have my own things that evoke fear and stress. But for me, bringing joy to the lives of others rarely (if ever) involves sacrifice. The way I see it its ingrained in me as my work in my forever home. Except it’s not work because I love it so much. It’s part of what I’m meant to do.

Dad, on the other hand, definitely sacrificed his own thoughts and emotions to support mom tonight. And I’m proud of him. “If you want to be loved, be lovable,” suggested ancient Roman poet Ovid. Mom certainly wasn’t lovable upon returning home from that place called work today. Regardless of the reasons, she was an emotional wreck. But dad loves and cared for her anyway. And it worked. That’s the thing about selflessness – it tends to do the trick every time.

 

Turn On The Light October 29, 2013

It’s like an on/off switch. It happens in a fraction of a second. The blink of an eye. And it fascinates me. Except when there’s crying involved. Then I’m not sure what to do with myself.

I spent some time with baby Alexis again tonight and I am stunned by the emotional roller coaster she wears on her adorable little face. First she’s smiling her contagious toothless grin then bam! The grin morphs into a grimace, but only for a millisecond. Then she’s happy again. It’s exhausting for me as an observer who invests a good deal in bringing joy from the ground up into the lives of others.

Happiness begets HappinessAs disturbing as it may be to observe, it made me wonder what happens along one’s life journey that keeps this from being something common in adults. Sure, I’ve seen adults go from happy to sad pretty instantaneously. (Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people all the time). But it’s the second part of the equation that interests me. That’s the part that seems to be blocked by some sort of adult-only emotional hurdle. How do you efficiently talk yourself back to the happy place?

It happens in an instant for Alexis. I think life too frequently gets in the way of that being possible for adults. But I did observe something else about this emotional dichotomy. When my mom smiled back at her, the switch to the dark side seemed to happen less frequently (if at all). Instead, there they were smiling at each other like a couple of ninnies. Like somehow the reciprocation of happiness inverted the cycle somehow.

There’s a thought. The concept is one that mirrors the idea of Greek philosopher Sophocles, who suggested “kindness begets kindness.” Smiles beget smiles. Joy begets joy. I know it’s probably something different for everyone. But I think that little person who once switch back and forth between sad and happy so frequently is still inside us all. We just have to reprogram our hearts to cooperate better with our minds to recognize the triggers. We’ve got to find our own switch.

Because life turns the lights out on us every now and then. It can happen in a fraction of a second. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. And change can be scary. That is, unless you find a way to turn that light back on.

 

Life Worth Living August 3, 2013

I learned some unexpected lessons yesterday. I asked for help, and it wasn’t so bad. But the responses to my request, as well as my reaction to them, brought me to some interesting conclusions.

It wasn’t news to me that I have an incredible support system made up of larger than life hearts and creative minds. I’ve known that for a while. But my defensive emotional response when it was suggested that I take a break? I wasn’t expecting that. Let my mind rest until new stories come to me? Stories happen around me every day – I just need to pay attention. Alone With My Thoughts

Indeed it has crossed my mind to take a day or two off from my 365-day journey, but I realize (or perhaps just reaffirm) now that I am stubborn about finishing what I’ve started. Being stubborn is not a very attractive quality to be sure, but I’ve never been a quitter and I have no intention of becoming one now. How can I be when I have words like commitment, perseverance and passion on my mind?

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor,” suggested American football coaching legend Vince Lombardi. My chosen field of endeavor is bringing joy to the world, and I can’t exactly do that if I don’t challenge that little blinking cursor of doom I know as the occasional case of writer’s block. You will not defeat me writer’s block.

It’s no Armani neck tie. It doesn’t hold a cake to a Gucci handbag. It’s definitely not an Hermes scarf. Stubborn is one of those people accessories that just doesn’t look good on anyone. And yet I can’t give up. Instead I’ve decided to be stubborn about that in spite of how it looks on me.

So when I struggle I shall instead embrace excellence in simplicity by taking a page from American naturalist and essayist John Burroughs. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see,” said Burroughs. I know I have a lot more thoughts to think, places to go, things to learn and friends to make in this life. These are the things that make life worth living.

This post is dedicated to my pal Trev, who shared with me the John Burroughs quote in addition to his friendship. Thanks for being you, dear Trev.

 

Things I Don’t Understand July 10, 2013

People talk. Human emotion. Interpersonal relationships. There are a lot of things I think people think dogs don’t understand. I’ve got a little secret for you. We do. Sure, some of us understand people talk better than others. Certain breeds are especially gifted with understanding human emotion. And our own variety of social skills reflects our understanding the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done to you.

So you can imagine my confusion when people, my forever people no less, question my understanding. Occasionally dad comments to mom that it’s like I understood what he was saying. Today it went the other way around with mom suggesting it to dad. This surprised me, since she is definitely a firm believer in my understanding of all things human. It must have been the topic of conversation that threw her off the communicative scent, as dad made me the most disturbing (yet loving) promise.

“If you ever get cancer, we will do everything we can to save you little man,” he said. “Surgeries, treatments, even doggie chemo.”

Thinking HardWhere did that come from? Somehow the conversation that had been about what they were going to have for dinner evolved into something completely incomprehensible to me. How on Earth that happened, I will never understand. And while I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, I found it incredibly unsettling to think about. I know life is messy and these things happen sometimes, but I see negativity as a cancer of its own that I make a point to stay away from as best I can.

Sure, there is some validity to the idea of expecting the best while preparing for the worst. I’m a walking advertisement for living each day as if it could be our last. “The one fact I would cry from every housetop is this: The Good Life is waiting for us—here and now,” suggested behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Indeed today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and that also means it could be our last. But let us embrace the positive rather than fearing the negative. It never ceases to amaze me the power negativity has to spread like wildfire. It’s almost more contagious than positivity and that breaks my little doggie heart.

It wasn’t the case in this particular conversation, which reverted back to a the discussion about dinner moments later. And I opted to see dad’s random promise akin to a people expression of love. But it all got me to thinking about the things people think we dogs can’t understand and how different the world would be if they knew we understand so much more than they think we do.

Doggie Halloween costumes. The cancer that is negativity. People grooming habits. That place called work. Why bad things happen to good people. All canines are different, but let’s be clear. These are the things I don’t understand.

 

 

I’ll Be There July 9, 2013

I’m there to help them wake up in the morning. I’m there to keep them company in the bathroom while they ready for the day. I’m there to (albeit grudgingly) see them off to that place called work. And so it begins. The daily routine many of us canines with working parents adjust to over time. It may seem mundane to those without dogs, but I would argue our job as canine housekeeper is incredibly important.

It reminds me a bit of one of those people conversations that I occasionally overhear. My sensitive senses are finely tuned to human emotion, so I can usually tell something is going on with person one before person two knows to ask what’s wrong. And when person two does ask, I can’t say I condone the way the conversation unfolds. “I’m here for you,” person two says to person one, who is generally comforted by the statement.

Now and AlwaysMy issue is not with the statement itself, but in its aftermath. What does it mean to “be there” for someone anyway? As observers of people, we all know not all of our best intentions come to fruition. We also know that being with a person physically doesn’t always mean you’re with them mentally, emotionally, spiritually or in whatever way they need you in that particular moment. Being “there” sounds to me like a mighty tall emotional promise that shouldn’t really be made if it isn’t sincere.

But I also know being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is also one of the most priceless gifts we can give a person. And sometimes it is actually as easy as sitting with a person in complete silence. Or offering them a hug. Or, in a dog’s life, giving them a big sloppy slobbery (albeit unwelcome) kiss. Or nudging into the tiniest little space on the couch for a cuddle session.

“True friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient,” suggested Dutch-born Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, “it’s about being there when it it’s not.” Being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is arguably one of the best things I can think of about being a dog. It’s amongst our reasons for living, and helps define our purpose in life.

And so the days draw to an end. I’m there to greet my people when they return from the place called work. I’m there to make sure we get our playtime after dinner. I’m there to cuddle them to sleep at night. And as I drift to sleep I give thanks for the peace in my heart that tells me now — and always — I’ll be there.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend HuntMode, who shared with me a gem of a video today I’d like to share with you.

 

The Grief Tunnel June 3, 2013

Four years ago today, my mom’s life changed forever. It was mid-afternoon, and she was feeling incredibly accomplished after having submitted several job applications. (She had been laid off from a gig at the local newspaper two weeks prior). She confidently clicked the “submit” button, smiling because she knew someone that knew someone there who would certainly give her a positive recommendation. Then it happened.

The phone rang, she answered it, and so began the blur of sudden death and it’s aftermath. It is one of those days that everyone involved remembers to the moment where they were and what they were doing at various times throughout the day. Passing through their lives as death waited with baited breath to knock so unkindly at their door.

But all have emerged, and as a general observer of people I’d have to say they have all become stronger because of it. I may only be a dog, but my heart tells me there is no timeframe for grief. Everyone takes different paths along their own emotional journey to recovery, and it is not a race. There is no right way to grieve either. It’s one of those situations you never wish to be in, but once it happens you somehow work through it blindly until you see the light of hope at the end of the tunnel.

I am proud to report my observation of that light shining surprisingly brightly today. Mom surprised me by getting home a little earlier than usual, and with her was my grandma. They didn’t look sad or pensive. Quite the opposite, in fact. They were laughing about something or another. The real kind of laugh where you could see right through their tearing eyes to the joy in their hearts. It was a sight that made my heart smile.

I didn’t know my mom four years ago, but I can picture that day vividly in my mind. I can see her enthusiasm working away on the computer. I can feel the shock that followed that phone call. I didn’t know her then, but I know her now and I would say that she (and grandma for that matter) are on a healthy path to recovery. It hasn’t been perfect and I don’t expect perfection to start now, but there is something to say for reaching the end of those stages of grief everyone talks about. Shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining and depression round out the first parts of the process. Then follows the upward turn, reconstruction, and acceptance. Hope. Like grief, experience has led me to believe hope is a living, breathing thing that is fueled by our thoughts and emotions.

Today I turn all my extra emotional energy, all of my positive thoughts, toward hope. For my mom and dad. For my grandma and my aunt. And for the bright light at the end of the grief tunnel.Eyes on the Prize

Related article: Let Me Be A Lantern of Love – http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/01/05/let-me-be-a-lantern-of-love/

 

If Dogs Could Talk April 7, 2013

I overheard this conversation between my mom and dad the other day that brought a smile to my face. There was something outside the bay window in our living room and I overreacted as I usually do.

“Calm down, it’s just a squirrel,” dad said. Well, you should have seen his face when I actually calmed down as opposed to freaking out like I usually do when animals outside threaten my territory.

“It’s like he understood me,” he said.

“I think it’s probably because he did,” mom said.

Thinking...“Well, of course I did,” I thought at the top of my doggie mind, “I understand everything you say!” It’s a pity I don’t speak human, because this was about the zillionth time I wished they could hear me and know that I know what they say.

What they don’t realize is that I understand a lot more than they think I do. Dogs didn’t earn the highly sought after title of man’s best friend by understanding nothing. We canines can read people. We have a paw on the pulse of human emotion that is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. It’s part of our undeniable and unmistakable charm. I wonder sometimes what would happen if dogs could talk. I wonder what would happen if we could speak from the hearts that love unconditionally to the people who need to hear and understand unconditional love.

I wonder sometimes what  I would say to them, my forever parents, if I were afforded the chance to cross that line between doggie and human communication. I can’t imagine it would last long, so I would want every word to count. Today I realized it matters less the words I would say than the emotions behind them.

“I love you. You are beautiful. Self-doubt has no home here. Believe in your instincts, love bigger than the sky, and please remember how special you are,” I would tell them. “You are everything to me. Please know that and know you can be that to another dog after I’m gone. You won’t be betraying me. You will be honoring me by finding another dog to rescue and shower with love.”

My emotions frequently overwhelm my little doggie heart. So you can only imagine what happens when I hear my parents talking about little ole me. They don’t even need to say it. I know they love me. Isn’t that the most powerful kind of communication?