Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Little Hug February 9, 2015

People give us dogs a lot of credit. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t completely deserved, at least the majority of the time. We have a way of picking up on emotions of our forever people and reacting accordingly. Whether its the small nudge of our nose into the hands of someone who is crying, or a flying leap into the arms of someone who is contagiously happy, we have our ways of relating to our people.

So I suppose I shouldn’t necessarily have been surprised to see what I did today. We have an innate sense for these things, so I guess it makes sense little people would too. But that still couldn’t have prepared me for what I witnessed this afternoon. Love. Unplugged.

Something I don’t fully understand was wrong with my dear forever mom. She got a phone call from her baby doctor and she wasn’t the same afterward. She seemed sad. And scared. Devastated might be an even better word for it.

So I did what any dog would do in reaction to the situation. I wagged and nudged and snuggled my way into that crevice much too small on the chair next to her so she knew it would all be okay. I know in my heart it will be and wished so badly she could know it in her heart too. But all of my efforts were for naught. The tears kept coming.

That is, until my dear little baby Carter intervened. Otherwise known as the toddler tornado, he rarely takes a break to sit still for more than a couple minutes at a time. He’s always on the move. Not today. Not in this moment.

He toddled himself over to the chair we were on and did the thing he does when he wants mom to hold him where he yanks at her scarf and essentially tries to climb her using her clothes. The second she obliged, it was like magic. He put his little head in that special spot by her heart and kept it there for what felt like a really long time to all of us (though I think it may have only actually been about 20 minutes). Time paused and I knew in that moment mom believed it would be okay.

I may be able to read people really well, but I may never understand what was bothering mom today. In that precious bubble in time, I realized that’s beside the point. Because I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that my dear 13-month-old Carter knew mom needed a hug today. Not just any hug either. She needed a little hug only he could give. So he gave it with all his heart, at least until one of the toys in the corner caught his attention and he was off to the races again.

Today he gets the credit. And I’m okay with that.

 

The Truth About Neediness January 6, 2015

I think it’s supposed to be an insult. Or maybe something akin to a bad thing. But I refuse to see it that way. Not today. Not ever.

To me me there is never a bad time for snuggles, cuddles and pets. All things hug-related are more than welcome in my world any time. But there are certain times when it’s not just welcome. It’s almost like a need. Hence the nickname I (proudly) earned today.

Needy. From the ground up, it’s no insult to me. I heard it a bunch today, because I wouldn’t leave mom alone. I pushed and shoved and strategically placed myself in all kinds of compromising positions to be near her today. I climbed up onto her lap. I snuggled into her legs. I needed her, because I think she needed me. Feeling Blue

Call it doggie instinct, but something is definitely up with her recently. She seems distracted and nervous about something I can’t quite put my paw on. So to me I am simply fulfilling my doggie duty to her by being this so-called “needy.” For me it’s one of the only ways I can show how much I care.

And in truth, I think we all need to be a little needy from time to time. Whatever the reason, life happens and it’s not always pretty. Like yesterday when everyone I know seemed to be having a bad day. Or today, when lives are turned upside down by car accidents and car troubles due to the extremely frigid weather. Bad days happen.

And when they do, it’s okay to be needy. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to find a shoulder to cry on. It’s okay not to be perfect. And if you are blessed enough to have people to rely on, now is the time. Not tomorrow or the next day.

So they call me needy. That’s okay. Because I am a firm believer in the words of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who suggested “life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” If my experience is a needy one, so be it. It simply means I’m doing my part in life.

 

 

 

 

A Season for Giving November 17, 2014

Some stories are meant to be told. I stumbled across one today in a conversation I overheard between mom and dad over dinner. Mom spoke with a woman today who volunteers at a local toy shop that is sourced by a toy drive around the holiday season.

The drive benefits struggling local families who may not be able to afford toys for their children for Christmas. The woman mom spoke with didn’t know what to expect when she volunteered last year, so what happened changed her heart forever.

There was a woman who was getting a couple of books for her children. When she brought them to the volunteer to check out (so to speak), she was crying. Upon initiation of conversation with this woman, the volunteer asked about her children and reassured her they would love the gifts she picked out for them. That’s when the tears really started rolling. Whether her children would like the books was not her concern.The New Look

“No, no, it’s not you,” the woman said. “I’m just so excited to have something to read to my children.”

I’m just so excited to have something to read to my children. Please understand, this is coming from your resident rescued doggie optimist. I’ve lived life as a have and a have not. I know not to take things for granted. But reading is implied. It seems obvious to me. That is until I heard this story.

What a fabulous reminder not only what the season is about, but what sincere giving is about. What living with purpose is about. What paying it forward is about.

Some stories are meant to be shared. What is yours?

 

Let It Go October 29, 2014

Apparently I live under a rock. At least that’s how I felt for a moment today as I heard a song I later learned has taken the world by storm. It’s not surprising to me at all that the song has become as popular as it has, with its positive message set to powerful chords. Throw that lyrical magic into a Disney movie for the kiddos, and you’re golden.

“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all,” sings Idina Menzel in Disney’s “Frozen.” The message certainly must have different meanings to different people, as any well-written song does, but to me the idea of letting it go is the standout life lesson. Moving on. From the ground up, it isn’t always easy to do. Grass is grass

It wasn’t easy for me to let go of my birth mom and brothers after I lost them that fateful day all those years ago. Loss. It wasn’t easy for me to get over being returned to the humane society (twice). Rejection. It wasn’t easy for me to trust the hands of people again after the man with the leather belt. Pain.

These could all be some pretty significant emotional eyesores if I let them be. That’s the thing about negativity. It’s pretty powerful stuff. I know I talk a lot about the contagion of joy, but I feel like negative energy somehow manages to multiply with even more ferocity than the positive. I think it might be because the roadblocks we encounter in our daily lives can make it easier to complain about not moving ahead than to focus on how to actually do it.

To do it, you need to make a whole other decision. And it’s not always easy. You need to put aside the negativity for a fresh look on life. You need to move on. You need to let it go. Just like the (ridiculously popular albeit new-to-me) song says to do. Take it from me, letting go is the best decision I’ve ever made.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Hope in Gratitude January 14, 2013

Hope in GratitudeWriting can be a bit like life. Some days are like poetry, weaving experiences together in the most beautiful (albeit sometimes ironically morbid) of prose. Those days can be easier than others to write things worth reading. Other days are like the worst case of writer’s block. Nothing among the list of one’s ordinary function comes easy. Even waking up (or picking up a pen and paper) sounds absolutely impossible on “one of those days.”

Either way, I’m starting to notice how easy it is to find something to bring a ray of sunshine into even the cloudiest case of writer’s block. I say this because if its possible for a dog to have what humans refer to as “one of those days,” that was my life today. Instead of shattering a glass on the hardwood or breaking a nail (which I’ve heard can be quite painful for womenfolk), I struggled to find any inspiration in today.

Mom journeyed back to this place she calls work today. I missed her terribly. After all the time off for her leg surgery, I realize I’d gotten spoiled with people time during the day. But to make matters worse, I could tell things didn’t go well by her emotional state when she came home over her lunch break. And again when she came home from work well after the sun went down. And I will be the first to admit it: a tough day on her takes a toll on me. I can easily slip into a darker way of thinking, wishing more than anything I can somehow be that lantern of love I’ve pledged to be while at the same time not having any idea of how to light the match.

Then something hits me. A ray of sunshine makes its way through the cloudy darkness that is the blank screen or notepad mocking me with its silence. Today it was two things combining in perfect harmony, just like poetry coming together on the page: music and good writing. Two obvious things that inspire me (and lots of other thoughtful writers, poets and songwriters), but as I am embracing simplicity this year I find solace in (even) these most obvious of things. Miracles happen in simple moments like this.

I was reading today’s thoughts on Simple Abundance, which focus on finding specific things to be thankful for in even the cloudy days while listening to “Tell Me a Story” on Phillip Phillips’ album.

“Hope is just a ray of what everyone should see
alone is the street where you found me
scared of what’s behind you
and scared of what’s in front
live with what you have now
and make the best of what’s to come.”

Phillips sings to me his guitar-stringed thoughts on the world, and I find myself so grateful for his words that I want to share them with anyone who reads. Quite the paradox, since today’s Simple Abundance entry cites the thoughts of author Melody Beattie.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow,” she said.

Tantalizing little cursor on a blank screen? You’re no match for me. Trouble lighting the match for my lantern of love? Forget about it. There is hope in gratitude, even on a day like today.