Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Getting Back Up March 3, 2015

I honestly couldn’t handle it. I saw it happen. I heard the sound when it happened. And I knew crying would come next. So I did the cowardly thing and ran away to hide in the bedroom, because I just couldn’t stand to even find out what the aftermath of all that action was.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. My dear baby Carter was all over the place today, climbing things not meant to be climbed, ripping any form of paper he could get his hands on and running. So much running. Before

All of that came to a screeching halt when he was attempting to dismount one of his toys and take off in a full run in one fell swoop. He failed, whacking his head on the hardwood floor pretty good in the process. In the realm of his cries (I’ve come to know them all), it surprised me that this one seemed fairly well under control. And it honestly didn’t last nearly as long as I had thought it would.

I found out later he was also gushing blood from his mouth, where his fairly new set of teeth tore into his top and bottom lip. So you can imagine my surprise when the crying stopped a few minutes after it started. The terrible sound was replaced with the happy toddler babble that preceded the fall. That was a relief enough that I returned to the scene of the crime to check it out. All was well.

But in those moments after it happened, I ran. Mom couldn’t run. I know she was scared, and seeing the blood must have been terrible. I heard her and dad recapping what happened over dinner, and in that moment I felt a gush of pride over the parents they have become.

They both hated that it happened at all. And it was scary (especially for mom). Yet ultimately, they both realized it was probably way worse for them than it was for him. They don’t want anything bad to ever happen to their little boy. Obviously. In spite of all their best efforts, they were reminded today that it’s going to happen. He is going to fall down. And he’s going to get hurt. But it’s okay.

Because it’s getting back up that matters.

 

When Bad Turns Good February 23, 2015

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:11 pm
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It was dark and it was cold. And I was worried. I had a bad feeling tonight I couldn’t shake. The action that caused it was nothing out of the ordinary in itself.

Most things about the night were the same as always. Dear baby Carter and I celebrated as we always do when dad got home from that place called work. A delicious smelling dinner was enjoyed together as a family, followed by family time and ultimately Carter’s bedtime routine. What do you think?

My dear forever mom then went to that place called work, as she does on Monday nights, to something called a school board meeting. (I have no idea what a school board meeting is, or why she needs to go to them, but that’s no matter.) Dad took a bit longer than usual to say goodbye to her, telling her to be safe and be warm more than usual almost like he felt what I was feeling too.

An hour went by. And another hour. And another hour. I paced the kitchen. Then the basement. Then the kitchen again. I usually take my later evening nap during the time that passed. Instead, I found my restless heart wouldn’t let me rest.

It was dark and it was cold and my heart hurt thinking about what life could look like without mom. Without the new little person. That is until I realized how terrible that was to even think about so I forced myself back to the pacing.

Then it happened. I heard the car and the door and the key in the door. She was home safely and unharmed. In that moment, I felt joy. And relief. And a little more joy. From the ground up, I realized how silly I’d been to worry the night away.

That is, until I realized even this thing called worry has a silver lining, especially if it is completely unnecessary as mine was tonight. Even a bad feeling turns into a good one when you realize you were wrong to worry. I don’t usually like being wrong, being wrong felt so right.

 

Whatever the Reason January 14, 2015

It starts with the mind. Trepidation. Anxiety. And ultimately, fatigue. This is a vicious cycle I witness unfolding all too frequently in the life of my forever mom. I’m usually the first to know when there is something bothering her, mostly because she walks around with her heart on her sleeve.

Sometimes it’s something as ridiculous as what to make (or where to go) for dinner. Other times it is a major life decision or event that she builds up in her head as something way more terrifying than it could possibly ever be. Whatever the reason, the cycle remains the same.

Trepidation. Otherwise known as fear of the unknown. Love. Unplugged.

Anxiety. The culmination of worry, fear and stress.

Fatigue. The feeling of weariness that follows a stressful or worrisome situation.

But there is something else I notice about this cycle. Something I’ve said before I don’t particularly support. Regret. From the ground up, this thing drenched in disappointment is not a favorite thing of mine. Yet in this case, I hold it up as the reason for essentially debunking this terrible cycle that causes my mom (and surely others) such emotional discomfort.

I say this because I watch as the fear and anxiety and fatigue all happen, and I know what comes next. Inevitably, the cycle awakens the part of a person to the realization that, in reality, it was all for naught. Life goes on. Today becomes tomorrow. And with it, we get a fresh start. Not to start the whole terrible cycle all over again, but to live anew.

It ends with the mind. Trepidation. Anxiety. Fatigue. Regret. None of it has to happen if we catch it early enough.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,” as ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested. Worry is going to happen. People are going to psyche themselves out over nothing. But life is going to go on, with or without them. If you ask me, there is strength to persevere within these basic truths.

 

Forgive and Forget January 5, 2015

It was worse than I thought. Way worse. True to form, it seems to me that negativity spread like wildfire today as it has a way of doing if we let it. I’m sure it didn’t help that we are experiencing record low temperatures around here (with wind chills in the -30 degree range, whatever that means). And I think that thing called work had a lot to do with it as well.

Regardless of the reason, it seems to me like today is a day where more than one person I care about just wants to put behind them. Individual circumstances vary, but I get the impression that tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

Dear aunt Morgan’s car wouldn’t start. My grandma slipped on some ice getting her mail and hurt her knee. My mom’s friend Mel had an abnormally challenging day. Work was generally impossible for everyone I encountered.

Around here, dad had a generally awful day. And mom spent a lot of time on the phone while trying to simultaneously tend to a very whiny dear baby Carter. I knew it was worse than usual when she lost her temper and shouted at him to shut up. It isn’t like her to yell at him like that, and the tone of her voice sent even me into a panic as I ran off into the nearest corner.

The breaking point. From the ground up, it looks different for everyone. I saw mom’s today and it wasn’t pretty. But something tells me she wasn’t alone. She isn’t alone. It happens to everyone from time to time for a variety of reasons.

And today I think I found the antidote. Because it was worse than I thought. Going back to reality wasn’t just tough for my dad as I feared it would be, but for a lot of people I care about. So when it happened later this afternoon, I felt my heart leap out of my chest with joy.

He forgave her. Even though the look in his eyes when mom hollered at him was one of surprised terror, when Carter woke up from his afternoon nap a couple hours later, all was forgiven and forgotten. I knew it for sure because when she went to get him out of his crib, he was even happier to see her than usual. He was standing there to greet her, and when she opened the door he literally giggled with glee to the point where his smile was making him shake with happiness. Mom hasn’t laughed so hard in days.

It reminded me it is possible to forgive and forget more than just people. Days are awful sometimes. And they happen to all of us. But there is always tomorrow, so why not forgive today?

 

Seeing Through the Fog December 4, 2013

I can’t see a thing. This has been among my first thoughts of the day for three days in a row now. The days have begun like any other, except for when mom lets me outside in the morning. It’s been so unbelievably foggy, I feel completely blind. It’s a good thing I know my way around my backyard paradise so well.Seeing Through the Fog

Being encompassed by a dense fog like this reminds me of what it feels like to be overwhelmed. The fog can seem to close in from every direction. And you can’t see. You’re blinded by the realm of possibility. It doesn’t happen to me often as I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty simple life. From (albeit dreaded) regular visits to the veterinarian to the food in my bowl every day, my parents take really good care of me. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Thank goodness for that because I don’t think I’m much of a fighter. I’ve always thought of myself as more a peacekeeper than anything else. But when I think of the fighters I’ve known in my life, one face comes to mind every time. Tiger. Now he was a fighter. I remember watching in disgust as he violently fought with other dogs for anything from a bone to a loaf of bread. He was always one step ahead of me when it came to finding the best food scraps in the neighborhood and I hated him for it.

That was, until I found out what he was really fighting for. He was providing for a small litter of puppies after the family lost their birth mom. Just like I had lost mine, only my deadbeat dad had left long before I was born. Tiger wasn’t like that. He stood by his family and fought for them in every sense of the word.

He was away hunting for food one day when the fog closed in on me. He’d left me to watch over the little ones before, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was. That was the day one of the dogs Tiger had made an enemy decided to seek revenge. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my life. I was blinded by all the devastating ways I knew the story could end. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I needed to see through the fog. I needed to persevere.

So I used the only weapons I knew I had in my arsenal capable of defeating this strange dog with the crazy eyes. My brain and my heart. And (with a little help of a feline friend of mine), I won that particular battle. The puppies were safe. I was safe. Looking back I know it is because I decided to see through the fog to the heart of the matter. Maybe I’m more of a fighter than I thought I was.

 

Get Rich Quick November 29, 2013

Shopping isn’t for me. I’ve tried it a few times when mom was kind enough to let me accompany her to dog-friendly stores and farmer’s markets and pet fairs. While I very much enjoyed the company (and the attention I inevitably draw at these sorts of places), the actual concept of shopping doesn’t trip my proverbial trigger.

I enjoy new toys and treats and fresh bags of dog food as much as the next canine. But the actual process of hunting for it? Not so much. I get far too distracted by the people. So it sounds like I would have been very distracted today, on what my people call Black Friday. I’ve never cared much for black (also known as the color of darkness, sadness and death) and I can’t say I care much for this day either.

Talking MoneyYesterday people all over the country celebrated. They counted their blessings. They cherished time with their loved ones. Then as early as last night, all of that was abandoned for shopping. It doesn’t make any sense to me that people go out and spend so much money on things (that really are just things) so soon after celebrating what they already have. Especially when those little green bills known as money have the power to make people so blue.

This is why I chose to invest differently. Not in things, but in people. My biggest fears were realized in a doggie nightmare I had last night when suddenly, for no rational reason, my people were gone. It was just me, back in a cage, somewhere I didn’t recognize. No other cages surrounded me. I was completely alone. Thank heavens mom woke me up from that particular nightmare. Reality never looked so beautiful.

I know I have it pretty good. I am blessed, as my mom would say. But I know why I’m so rich with blessings – my fortune is not in those little green bills or in the Christmas presents that (at the very least) do seem to bring as much joy to the giver as the receiver. No sir. My fortune is in the people who make my life special. You can go shopping for a lot of things, but you can’t shop for those people. For friends. Or family. These are the true riches in my little doggie life.

 

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.

 

Recipe for an Unforgettable Day November 12, 2013

Some days are imprinted on our minds as if they were yesterday. Others blur and fade. And, every now and then, life hands us a combination of both. I’ve noticed that heightened emotions and extreme situations in the same day create a recipe for the kind of day that you’ll never forget with moments that you struggle to remember.

Like what happened to my mom one year ago today. I knew something was awry that morning when she and dad interrupted our usual sleep routine to go to the hospital well before most people wake for the day. It was still dark outside, and (unfortunately) there was a sense of darkness in both of them. Fear. It haunted us that day.

I worried the entire time they were gone, and my worry met its match when they returned. It was about eight hours later, but may as well have been eight months the way I saw it. Nothing could have prepared me for the days that followed.Hope Floats

There is a sound us canines make when we’re in pain. Mom hates it. It’s akin to a screech or a squeal, and it communicates that we are in intensely extreme discomfort. I don’t make it often, but when I do it’s usually because someone stepped on my paw or my tail. And I immediately seek some sort of acknowledgment from the person since I know they couldn’t have meant to hurt me.

Mom was the embodiment of the people version of that sound those few days after surgery. She had something called knee reconstruction surgery, where the doctor apparently grafted her a new ACL, repaired an incredibly shredded MCL and did a repair on a horizontal tear on her meniscus he only does in 5% of cases. Whatever all that means didn’t matter to me.

What did matter was the immediate aftermath, and the painful recovery that followed. I hated every minute of it. Worse yet, I hated to see dad struggle to take care of her and somehow (at the same time) shield her from how afraid he really was. Fear. I know that’s part of the reason mom kept crying out in the night. She was afraid. And so was I. It was disarming for me to see my people, my rocks, seem to be crumbling around me.

Those days, those fearful days, are imprinted on our minds and hearts forever. Yet, with time, they blur and fade. But what I remember most from the heightened emotions is what I am most thankful for today. We got through it. We persevered. And now look at us. Here we are a year later with a little person on the way. Mom’s knee (almost never) bothers her anymore. All of this stands to show – fear is no match for hope.

 

Back to Life November 11, 2013

I thought I was dead. I was sure that the bright light I was seeing was the pathway to the Rainbow Bridge that takes you to doggie heaven. I saw my life flash before my eyes in that moment. And it was beautiful.

All-the-while I cried. I cried that piercing awful doggie squeal that mom has said tears at her heart. And that’s when I felt the urge to fight back. I wasn’t done with my mom and dad yet. I loved them too much to give up this beautiful life they’ve brought me into. So I wiggled and squiggled and then bam. I fell to the ground.Second Chances

It all happened so fast, I didn’t even know what was happening until it was over. It was surreal listening to mom (somewhat hysterically) relaying the information to the veterinary clinic when we were on a car ride a few moments later.

It was just the dog and his people at the park that day. The dog was on a picnic table, which never stopped me before and certainly wouldn’t have stopped me that day. I hopped up to greet him but he didn’t want to greet me. Instead, he grabbed me by my neck and dangled me there, swinging me around from his teeth from his perch atop the table. And it hurt. It still did, I realized then, on my neck and by my left eye. It hurt a lot.

But I wasn’t afraid. I listened to mom finish recounting the story when we got to the veterinary clinic about how the people ran off with their dog immediately upon him releasing me and said nothing but “don’t worry, he has his shots.” She was a wreck. And yet I knew everything would be okay.

The doctor lady looked me over, paying special attention to my eye as she told mom that I was very lucky. “(That particular breed) has curved teeth that could have very easily taken out his eye today,” she told mom. Then she looked at me and said “you’re very lucky, little Wiley.”

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly lucky, but I suppose I was that day. But it wasn’t all luck. I realized that today, one year later, as mom and I spent some quality time together at that same park. It was because I am blessed. With a loving family and a beautiful life filled with second chances. I certainly got another chance at life that day, for which I will be forever grateful.

 

Trick or Treat October 26, 2013

There’s not a lot I would change about myself. I guess you could say love has made me confident. I stand proud, head held high, ears up, tail wagging. And no one is going to break me down. I am who I am.

I can’t say it’s always been that way. I, like anyone, have had my fair share of ups and downs with self esteem. (Being thought of as a clearance puppy comes to mind). But I’ve come to understand all of my past as an important part of my present. Challenge builds character, whether or not we like it (or realize it) at the time.

This is why I was initially a little confused by this thing called Halloween. People dress up as all kinds of things other than who they really are. Ghosts and goblins and vampires and witches. Why not instead celebrate who they are rather than focusing time, energy (and from what I understand sometimes a great deal of money) on the perfect costume?

I’ll tell you why. It’s fun. There is something kind of dangerous and exciting about putting yourself aside to become another character, if only for a day.

So today I became the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. It is a character with whom I identify closely, especially as I have begun to better understand the relationship between fear and purpose. Like me, the lion began his story blinded by a fear that had a negative hold on his self esteem. It took courage for him to understand that fear has no place in life. Given my own personal backstory, it was the perfect costume.

My trick or treat dates (otherwise known as a few of my favorite little people) were also dressed to impress. They included a ninja warrior, a flapper girl and Scarlett O’Hara. Together, we walked the streets of Grandma Schmidt’s neighborhood collecting a plethora of goodies that I can’t have.

I didn’t mind that (too much) though. Because it was fun. And underneath by lion getup I was still me. A little dog with a big heart. Even “in character” I want to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. I think that’s the secret to this whole Halloween thing.

Rather than seek to change everything about who you are, you ought to find a creative way to embrace it. Stand proud, with your head held high and your heart beating strong. Because at the end of the day we are ourselves again. And (whether we realize it or not) who we are is something pretty special.

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