Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

To Making it Count February 12, 2013

I’ve heard people say hindsight is 20/20. What is that about? I learn nothing from trying to chase my own tail around, so why would people? No. I prefer to dream bigger than my memories. I prefer to respect the past as part of my present on my journey to the future. And that’s coming from someone with animal instincts.

So why is it so tough for people to be themselves? To trust their instincts?

It’s not hard for Isabelle, Sam, Sophie and Abigail. They are the four little people in my life, and I learn a lot from them. Namely, they are fearless, they dream big, and they have absolutely no censorship clause on their thoughts. They are the embodiment of joy: from the ground up. And they have no idea how good they have it. “Youth is wasted on the young,” George Bernard Shaw said.Isabelle and I - Christmas 2012

Or is it? I’d rather think of youth as the building block of memories for one’s future. Good, bad, or indifferent, youth is a time of endless imagination and that is never a waste. But something changes between youth and adulthood that I think hardens the instincts. Up go the walls of cognitive censorship, and the next thing we know, we’re living life thinking hindsight is wiser than foresight. Where, in the midst of all this grown-up thinking, is gratitude? Imagination? Optimism?

This blog is called Wiley’s Wisdom: A Unique Perspective on Joy not because I think I’m particularly wise but because I make it my life’s mission to live a life of gratitude, which I know is better when shared. I give thanks for my life by giving back to the lives of others. “I figure life is a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it,” as the humble street rat Jack Dawson said to his millionaire dining partners aboard the Titanic disaster that would ultimately take his life. “To making it count.”

His past was a valued part of who he was, but it didn’t get in the way of his (albeit short-lived) future. Nor will it get in the way of the future of my loved ones if I have anything to say about it.

That is one of many reasons why I think something valuable can be learned from the children in my life who disregard the opinions of others in favor of their own. Let’s do as they do and forget that 20/20 business. Let’s instead think like American mover and shaker Oprah Winfrey.

“Follow your instincts,” she said. “That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”

 

Isn’t it ironic? A Pause Amidst Life’s Symphony January 17, 2013

Irony is one of those words that can often be considered most influential in the eye of the beholder. Definitions vary, but from what I can tell perspective weighs heavily upon one’s perception of what Merriam-Webster refers to as “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.” Sounds pretty confusing to me. My simplified perspective includes the people in my life through the lenses of my appreciation for literature, music and artistic expression.

From the ground up, I couldn’t help but see irony in life’s little messages of today. It was the kind of day one wishes could be lived in reverse. French poet Anatole France knew a thing or two about this. “Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom,” he said. Alas, hindsight is 20/20, so instead of dreaming the impossible, I will reflect on the messages.

It was a pretty normal day for me…mom and dad headed off to their respective workplaces, followed closely by my morning nap, mom’s lunchtime visit, my afternoon nap, and then mom and dad came home. Mom had another one of “those” days at work. Over dinner, I listened intently as she explained the stress of the day to dad. I don’t understand much of what she does at this work place, but whatever it is sounds fast-paced and challenging.

“Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right,” Alanis Morissette croons in her 90s hit “Ironic.” “And life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”

Thank you, Alanis, for putting my words to music all those years ago. Today’s Simple Abundance reading encourages us to pause to find harmony within our day, understanding that the integration of simplicity, order and gratitude in our lives will create a magical symphony of comfort and joy. “With harmony as your guide, trust that your every day moments will soon begin to resonate in a rhapsody of fulfillment,” Breathnach writes.

So I find a bit of irony in today’s daily prompt, which challenges me to “honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?” http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/daily-prompt-in-a-crisis/

Is anyone? Speaking for myself, it certainly isn’t easy for me to pause and soak in the warm rays of the sun instead of running after that squirrel in the backyard. When faced with too many stimuli, I have a tough time concentrating on life’s simplest blessings. Chaos is not my friend, and I don’t think it’s any good for my mom either. I know I can’t relive today, but I can at least take France’s advice and find some wisdom in the irony.

Isn’t it ironic that sometimes exactly what is best for us is sometimes the most challenging task of all?

 

A Day in “Our Town” January 10, 2013

I do a lot of thinking about my future. Where I want to go, who I want to meet, what I want to accomplish.

Among my most exciting destinations are the warm sandy beaches of North Carolina and the rocky river trails in Tennessee. I’d really love to pick the brains of doggie stars like the ones in the Ceasar dog food and Traveler’s life insurance commercials. And I aspire to have my words touch the hearts and minds of canines and people all over the world.

But today I was reminded that could all be taken away from me in the blink of an eye.

“Dogs’ lives are too short,” turn-of-the century American writer Agnes Sligh Turnbull said. “Their only fault, really.”

While I appreciate Turnbull’s sentiment, its a stark reminder that our time on Earth is limited. We should live each day as if it were our last and all that. Most importantly, we are to notice the little things about even the most seemingly unimportant of days and cherish every moment before its gone…a lesson learned from Thorton Wilder‘s character Emily in “Our Town.The Blink of An Eye

After dying in childbirth, Emily longs for even the most mundane parts of what was so boringly familiar to her in life. She has an epiphany when she finds joy in the moments she used to take for granted. I’ve always found the story a bit depressing, like a snapshot of something too painful to think about.

Thinking it over today made me realize its important to occasionally think about the painful things. Its not easy for me, so for inspiration I turn to a singer-songwriter starlet from whom I am not to embarrassed to say I have received a great deal of emotional education – the dearly beloved Bette Midler.

“I always try to balance the light with the heavy,” she said, “a few tears of human spirit in with the sequins and the fringes.” I know I can’t see color, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate sequins and fringes. Tears, on the other hand, I avoid at all costs. It’s Bette’s kind of balance I need.

All of my time spent in the future is keeping me from enjoying parts of the present and almost completely suppressing the past. As it turns out, that’s no way to get to the future after all.