Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Faith in the Future January 31, 2013

“Make the most of your regrets,” Henry David Thoreau once said. “Never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Yesterday, I wrote about five things I would attempt to save if my house was burning down. Reflecting on the contradictory definitions a “spark,” I focused more on the fire than its aftermath. Its so easy to do in the heat of the moment. Why is it that in so many cases we don’t appreciate what we have until its gone?

Today, I realized all of the precious things I left behind. Practical things came to mind like my warm doggie bed and my Packer jersey. But I know those are replaceable. They’re just things.

Far more devastating are the memories lost in the ashes. I’ll never forget the first day my parents brought me home and let me explore my new house. All those hours spent playing fetch with Mrs. Prickles in the hallway. The first day mom let me come up on the bed. Money can’t buy back these memories.

I take a two-fold lesson from this experiment in thought. (See, there is always a silver lining).

1) Savor the small things. There are so many ways to lose sight of the importance of special moments in our lives. But there is a reason money can’t buy memories. Moments are priceless. There are groundbreaking days when major milestones make things easy to remember, but as Sarah Ban Breathnach points out in Simple Abundance “there is a lot of drudgery in most days.” These are the days we need to seek out joy in the small things.

2) Respect the past as preparation for the future. It’s all too easy to take things for granted. If we surrender to life’s simplicities and appreciate what we have on a daily basis, the future will be that much brighter. “I never regret anything,” says actress Drew Barrymore, “because every little detail of your life has what made you into who you are in the end.”

It is with my past in a special place in my heart that I find faith in the future. With faith as my fuel, I know my dreams will always be more exciting than my memories.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mandy Atkielski.

Eighteen-year-old Mandy entered doggie heaven yesterday. She will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Mandy

 

Catching Fire: Seeing A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Flames January 30, 2013

Words never cease to amaze me. Understanding their meanings ignites a fire of passion within me I can’t explain. So today I examine one of many words in the English language that (in my humble opinion) has completely contradictory definitions.

Spark. “Fiery particle: a small piece of burning substance thrown off in combustion or produced in friction,” says Bing. Literally, a spark that catches fire can cause destruction, devastation and heartbreak. Yet in another breath, spark is defined as “something that activates: a device that sets off or acts as a stimulant, inspiration, or catalyst.” Figuratively, a spark catching fire can ignite positive change.

Can this one word really mean both things?

Hope Catching Fire

Literally, I find myself pondering what would happen in the case of a fire in my life. Say my beloved forever home burns to the ground tomorrow. What would I save? Assuming my mom and dad are safely outside, I can think of five things I would have time to rescue before it would be too late.

Peanut butter. I love the stuff. And if the house burned down, I would want to know I had some to get me through the emotional eating that would likely follow the devastating loss of what I thought would be my forever home. I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but “you’re only given one little spark of madness,” as comedian Robin Williams said. “You mustn’t lose it.”

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. This book has been an inspiration to me so far this year. It helps keep me focused, encourages me with creative thoughts for this blog, and reminds me daily how lucky I am to be alive. Similar fundamental values of life inspired French poet and novelist best known for the heart-wrenchingly beautiful Les Miserables, who once said “to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

Mrs. Prickles.  If I could take all my toys I would, but she is my favorite. From playtime with my mom and dad, to her comforting ability to help me regulate my stress level, I love her and all she embodies. “To cement a new friendship…a spark with which both were secretly charged must fly from person to person and cut across the accidents of place and time,” said American author and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner. A true friend, Mrs. Prickles is my constant reminder that without sorrow there would be no joy.

My blog. I was going to say I would save my laptop since losing everything in a fire would be devastating, and I’m sure I could cope if I knew I could still find joy in something. For me, this blog is joy and I don’t think I’d know what to do with myself if I couldn’t share it anymore. But let’s face it. My positive attitude cannot be burned in a fire, and the blog would go on without the laptop. “Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams,” as computer guru Louis Gerstner said, “but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love and understanding.”

And so we come to the last and most important source of my own personal spirit, compassion, love and understanding. My adoption papers. Clearance dog or otherwise, these papers are priceless to me. As Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance, they are my very own treasure map to happiness. My ticket to my forever home. My inspiration for living.

“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born,”  French sculptor Auguste Rodin once said. “The artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”

I see joy in the contradiction of a spark, and it consumes me because I see a glimmer of hope amidst the flames.Hope Catching Fire