Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

If At First You Don’t Succeed January 27, 2015

Persistence. Determination. Strength. From the ground up, these are some big-picture words in my world. They get you through the valleys and up to the mountains. They push you to the limit. I’ve always been a believer in the British writer W. E. Hickson’s words “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

It’s a simple thought. And I think it applies to a lot of challenging situations. We all encounter hurdles on our journey through life, and we all fall from time to time. In the short-term, it might be the best thing to do. Happiness.

But in the long-term, I wonder sometimes if it’s really always best to try, try again. Life happens in ways we can’t anticipate sometimes, and I think there can be hurdles that seem to multiply before our eyes.

That was the case for my dear forever mom today. In itself, there was nothing that out of the ordinary that happened. After an incredibly productive morning, her presentation for work this afternoon went off without a hitch. She managed to keep a group of more than 60 middle school students entertained for a half hour immediately following their lunch break. I’d say that is a feat in itself. Everything was great.

Then it happened. Somewhere between answering her work phone for the nineteenth time in a row while finishing up the story she was working on and keeping an eye on the mashed potatoes on the stovetop and trying not to overcook the pork roast in the oven and cleaning up after Carter as he decorated the kitchen floor with pots, pans, lids and tupperware containers and ultimately carrying Carter as she danced around the kitchen because he simply could not stand to be on the floor one more second, she lost it.

Not because of any one thing in particular. The snuggle time from Carter was actually kind of nice. But the sum of the parts got to her in a way I know it wouldn’t have if she weren’t 20 weeks pregnant. She’s firing full speed ahead as if nothing were different, but the truth is it’s starting to catch up with her.

And that’s okay.

It was okay to let that one last phone call go to voicemail. It was okay to save that story to finish for tomorrow. It was okay that dad ran to get takeout because the potatoes somehow got overcooked and the pork was undercooked. It was okay that (for once) the kitchen and rest of the house were a complete mess when dad got home from that place called work. It was okay.

Because persistence, determination and strength can only take us so far sometimes. Limits are real, and need to be respected for a reason. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s okay to try again tomorrow instead of today. In some cases it’s better.

Like today, when dad finally convinced mom to just stop. To take a breath. And sit down. And snuggle dear Carter. And tomorrow we will try, try again.

 

To Live Afresh February 11, 2014

I’m not showing off. When it comes to regrets, I just don’t have many. In fact, I think I can count them on one paw. And I can trace them back to one day. One day I wish I could relive. The day that changed my life forever.

It started like most other days of my young puppyhood – with my birth mom bringing my two brothers and I scraps from the garbage of a nearby restaurant. I remember snatching away the last bit of bread crust from my brothers. It was so petty of me – and though I wouldn’t know it until later, I regret it to this day.

Because that’s the last meal my little family would share before it happened. That was the day we got separated. The day we were on the road and the car just came at us so fast. When I saw it coming, I ran and didn’t look back. That was my single most painful regret. I never looked back.

CozyInstead, I ran back to what I considered home base and waited for my family that would never return. I dream of them often, my brothers and my birth mom, and what happened to them that day. I pray they ran away just like I did. I pray they stayed together and lived long and happy lives. But I will never know for sure. And it eats away at my little doggie heart every time I think of it.

Then, almost as soon as it is broken, it is whole again. Because if that hadn’t happened, if I had paused for even another second, I have no idea what would have happened. I don’t regret running. I regret not looking back.

“Make the most of your regrets,” suggested transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau, “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.”

I know my mom wouldn’t have wanted me to live afresh in my regret. Because she would have wanted me to embrace life in that moment. She would have wanted me to run. And I know she would be proud. Because every decision I’ve made since that one has led me to where I am today.

 

Joy: From the Inside Out December 21, 2013

I don’t even know what to say. That’s right, all. Something has rendered me speechless. It’s shocking, I know. Almost as shocking as thinking about the meaning of today.

On December 21, 2012 I felt inspired. It was snowing, and mom and I were happy together, and I didn’t know which came first, her laughter or my joy. It fell from the sky that day. And I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was like a light bulb turned on in my heart and I knew what I had to do. I had to share this magic with whomever would take it. Joy. From the ground up, it became my 365-day mission to share it with the world.

Dog Blog with a CauseAnd that’s what I’ve done. Every day for a year, I have written about everything from existential philosophy to canine poop rituals. Because that’s life. It’s random and messy and beautiful and heart wrenching and hard and fabulous all at the same time. And I love every minute of it.

That doesn’t stop just because my one-year commitment has come to pass. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have grown, over the last year, to better understand myself, the world I live in, and how those two things interact and create the blessing that is life.

This knowledge has empowered me to take on a new mission that promises to be challenging in a whole new way. I want to continue sharing my unique perspective on joy. From the inside out, our understanding of joy in the Schmidt house is bound to change in the next year. Any day now, my little person is going to bring his or her joy into our world. If we thought we knew joy before, I think we have a whole other thing coming.

I know there will also be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and (gasp) a little less attention coming my way. And I may not be able to share these happenings quite as regularly as I have for the last year. But that’s life. From the ground up, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the course of my blogging journey it is that this thing called life is certainly worth living to the fullest.

“Nobody gets to live life backward,” advice columnist Ann Landers suggested. “Look ahead, that is where your future lies.” The past has become my future and my future will soon become my present. From the inside out, joy is most definitely upon us. So today I turn the page. I start a new chapter. And I’m not going to lie – it’s one I can’t wait to read either.

 

A Wrinkle In Time September 14, 2013

To write is to be inspired by life. I find this happens in the most unusual of ways from the most unexpected sources. I’ve found it in everything from a stinky towel on the bathroom floor to the wind blowing delicious smells throughout my neighborhood. But sometimes its more simple than that. Sometimes it’s right there in front of our face. Sometimes we don’t even notice it because it’s something we see every day. Sometimes it’s in a word. Inspiration.Deep Thinking

I keep my most simple resources for inspiration close to my side while I write, and today they spoke to me. As I write, the following titles are within arms reach:

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach

Marley and Me, John Grogan

Poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

To write is to be inspired by life. To read is to be inspired to write. Each of these titles has a purpose. A reason for being by my side in my recent past, present, and future. Today’s daily writing prompt challenged us to open to the first page of the closest book, read the tenth word, and do a Google image search for that word. From there we will find our inspiration. Or not. I can honestly say this is the very first time any of these books has let me down. In the order referenced above, the words were as follows: of, years, I, at, and squeaky.

In a word, my choices left me feeling underwhelmed. Not even squeaky sparked my cerebral cortex into action. But as a picture is worth a thousand words, I found it both ironic and enlightening to find the picture below come up in response to my search for “years.”

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This image can inspire all kinds of different thoughts for different people. For me, it looks like a wrinkle in time that immediately inspires hope. Faith in the future. Knowledge that the past is behind us (but still part of the journey) the present is a gift, and the future is looking pretty spectacular.

Inspiration. Sometimes it happens in unusual ways. Other times it’s right there next to us in someone else’s words.

 

Dreams Are Dreams September 13, 2013

Some things just aren’t meant to be. It would take a miracle (for example) for me to fly. Or ride a roller coaster. Or walk on the moon. Just because all of these things happen frequently in my daydreams doesn’t make them real.

But let’s say (just for a minute) things that happen in our dreams really do come true. I could finally catch those elusive squirrels that taunt me in the backyard. I could whine my doggie guts out on The Whizzer at Six Flags (yes, the starter coaster – don’t judge). And perhaps one day us dogs will walk on the moon. How amazing would all of this be? Snarky Sparky

I think there’s general misconception about these things in our society. We have our dreamers who think anything is possible, we have our realists who keep the dreamers grounded, and we have our pessimists who don’t bother thinking outside the box. I (obviously) fall into the first category, but I have characters in my life who I know have given up on their dreams. They may not say so, or even admit it to themselves, but they’ve stopped reaching for those goals. And it breaks my heart.

I’ve said it before, but it seems even more relevant now. The journey can be half as much (if not more) fun as the destination if we only let it be. It’s one thing to drive across America to get from A to B. It’s something totally different to stop and see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Kansas on your way to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. To take the scenic route through Minnesota instead of the highways. To hike through the mountains of Tennessee rather than drive. These are the moments that make a journey worth living.

There are two ways to look at things, and I think this dog Frankenstein is the perfect demonstration of both.

To our realists, it appears the prize is just out of reach. To our pessimists, the goal is simply unattainable. But to our optimists, our dreamers, it looks like he is (at the very least) having fun making his dreams come true no matter how stubborn and challenging they may be.

I think we can all take a lesson from Frankenstein. It’s one thing to respect that some things just aren’t meant to be. Let’s face it: the chances of me ever being able to fly, ride a roller coaster or walk on the moon are pretty slim. But dreams are dreams and I will still have fun trying.

 

A Tail of Two Faces July 1, 2013

I’m not that big a fan of things that are two-faced in life.

Take my favorite red leash for example. When mom grabs it out I go absolutely crazy with excitement because I know it means I’m accompanying her somewhere. It doesn’t even matter where we’re going since I love our adventures so much. But there is a dark side to my precious red leash. Just as it signals the beginning of a journey, as it does also mark the journey’s end. It’s the worst when we’re leaving a family gathering or (worse yet) the dog park.

I think my mom is on to my evade-the-leash game, to the point where I don’t think she finds much humor in it anymore. Last week, she essentially chased me around the entirety of the park’s limits before I finally let her win. The same thing happened today, after I encountered another two-faced friend of mine.

Water. It’s refreshing, nourishing, and necessary to living. So you can’t blame me for finding my way back to the fabulous mud puddles I discovered recently and staging a wrestling match with Sage the lab mix. (Can you?) We chased and wrestled ourselves until we were both adequately exhausted. I don’t understand why Sage chose to leave the mud puddle, as I found it to be an incredibly cool and relaxing place to laze and appreciate the splendor of the park. I also don’t understand why my mom got so upset with me and scolded me until I left my own personal spa pool.

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The water I love stabbed me in the back (literally) about an hour later when I got not one, but two separate baths. One without soap (which apparently proved insufficient) and one with soap. I hate baths. There’s nothing worse than the humiliation of the chilly water shrinking me to a third of my usual size, being rubbed down with perfumed shampoo and emerging covered in a scent that is nothing like my own natural smell when it’s all over. And I have to stay off the comfy furniture for what seems like forever afterward!

While my favorable opinion of both my favorite red leash and water remain unchanged by the events of the day, I definitely learned something from my experience with two-faced things in life. I don’t care for them. Fake is not a favorite people word of mine. Representing something is not the same as living it. Breathing it. Being it. It’s not worth it to mask who you really are because (spoiler alert) the world sees the truth. Hiding it from yourself doesn’t hide it from the world. Be honest with the world. Be honest with yourself. Be you.

 

I Believe I Can Fly June 26, 2013

It’s a sight to be seen. Sometimes when I see other dogs doing it I laugh a little inside. But it doesn’t change the pure unadulterated truth. We canines sure do love sticking our heads out the windows of cars. It doesn’t what we look like, generally with our eyes all squinty, fur all slicked back, and ears out like wings. We are flying high and nothing can get us down.

And as we are (in my neck of the woods) in the heat of a time of year when it is best for dogs to avoid car rides altogether, I find myself reflective on some of my best car ride moments. I’ve had so many its hard to choose just one, but the heat of the day today reminded me of a day at about the same time of year two summers ago.

Laughter so incredibly gut-wrenching it brought my mom to tears. That, my friends, is what I most vividly remember about one of the most memorable car rides of my little doggie life. My aunt Morgan had just recently become the proud owner of a Volkswagen convertible, which she was committed to keeping clean and spotless inside and out. She wasn’t necessarily thrilled when my mom pleaded to bring me along on whatever summer adventure they were about to embark upon, but she ultimately agreed to let me tag along. (I gave her “the look” – you know the one – and she couldn’t say no). I Believe

I don’t remember too many details about the adventures that unfolded other than the car ride to get there. It was yet another instance of life’s journeys being more exciting than the destinations. There I was, on my first ride in a convertible with its top down, and my mom and her sister could not stop laughing. Not just giggling. This was full-fledged, gut-busting, face-turning-purple, almost-peeing-your-pants laughter. I had no idea what they were laughing so hard about, but it didn’t matter. I was in car ride heaven.

I had more wind in my fur than ever before, my eyes were certainly not even open because of the squinting, and my ears were slicked back against my head. In that moment, I could fly. In the soundtrack of a dog’s life, R. Kelly’s lyrics to “I Believe I Could Fly” were blaring in my head. In that moment felt more free than I ever had before. (Which is ironic as I know some of my former pals from the streets would consider my station in life as a family pet to be restrictive and undesirable. Not for me.) In that moment, I felt free because I felt safe and loved and no one could take that away from me. Not to mention all that laughter in the car made my heart smile.

All right, all right, I will admit it. (I may be cute but I’m not stupid). I’m 99.99% certain that they were laughing at me, because (let’s face it) I know I looked absolutely ridiculous. It is a sight to be seen, after all, when us dogs stick our heads out car windows. But to us it doesn’t what we look like, generally with our eyes all squinty, fur all slicked back, and ears out like wings. We are flying high and nothing can get us down.

 

Tick Tock (The Watch-Dog) June 25, 2013

My mom has a thing for clocks. Big ones. I realized it the moment I cautiously tiptoed into my forever home for the first time. Excitement abounded as I was greeted by all sorts of new smells, sights and sounds, but two things instantly stood out to me. Both hang above the stairway leading to the basement; one is a sign that reads “home is where your story begins” and the other is an enormous clock.

Time is on our sideIt’s not the only oversized clock in the house, and sometimes when I’m all alone waiting for my mom and dad to come home from that place called work it’s all I can hear. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The tiny rhythmic sound drowns out all others in those final moments before one of my beloved people arrive home.

I for one generally have mixed feelings about clocks. On the one paw, it is a constant signal of time passing that can in itself be a reminder to live in the present. On the other paw, it is a reflection of time passing. Period. In a dog’s life where one dog year is equal to seven people years, it’s not always a happy thought to think about another moment passing us by. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The Watchdog

All of this came to the forefront of my little doggie mind today thanks to a strange recurring dream I had again last night. I’ve been having this same dream since before I can remember that I am Tock (the watchdog). As in the Tock (the watchdog) made famous in Norton Juster’s famous children’s book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I’m wearing a watch and everything.  In each dream I befriend a little boy just like Milo in the book. It’s a different boy each time, but our journey is the same. I find the boy in the Duldrums where I rescue him from the dreariness and we begin our journey to exciting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Land of Wisdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of characters who share their stories (all rich with life lessons) with us.

Each time I wake I know I’ve just lived the plot of Juster’s book. I know for sure because each time the dream begins and ends the same way. It starts with an image of a boy who seems generally bored with life receiving a message “to (insert name here) who has plenty of time. It ends with the boy seeming much more excited about all that life has to offer receiving a message “to (insert name here) who knows the way.” Just like in the book.

All of this makes me wonder why my mom has a thing for clocks. I generally have mixed feelings primarily because of the dog-to-people ratio of time. But then I am reminded of what it’s like to be Tock (the watchdog) helping a lost little person find the way and suddenly my perspective on the matter changes drastically. Maybe that recurring dream I have is God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for every moment of time I’m granted in life.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Indeed we do not have plenty of time. Each moment is a blessing now, just as it is for the little people in my dream. While I can’t say I care much for clocks in real life, I don’t mind being Tock (the watchdog) in my dreams. Tick tock. Tick tock. The rhythmic sounds of time passing remind us to embrace the present. Time is on our side if we let it be, not because we’re bored with life but because we know the way.

 

Progress Is Perfection May 26, 2013

Like so many things, words are what we make them. And in my humble opinion, there are far too many nouns in this world. Too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today.

If a noun is lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Take the word journey, for example. Whether it was career-related, a physical trip somewhere, or purely emotion, we’ve all been on a number of journeys in life. How did the paths lead? What do you remember? What was the destination? Have you reached it yet?

Progress is PerfectionMerriam-Webster and Bing both cite “journey” first as a noun and then as a verb. To me, it should be the other way around. We ought journey onward rather than simply be on a journey. Sure, it might sound like semantics to some, but let me explain.

The progress along the way, the scenery if you will, is often the highlight of the journey itself. And in a world encompassed by the constant pressure-cooker of perfection, progress is a pretty important part of every journey. Yet commercials showcasing the next revolutionary skincare regime, magazines with their airbrushed models, and high standards at school, work, and even at play, I’d say perfection is at a premium in modern society.

Meanwhile, great transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged that “a man is what he thinks about all day long.” Well then, it’s no wonder to me why progress has become synonymous with failure to so many in today’s world of bigger, better, brighter and faster. Instead, we need to recognize progress rather than focusing so much on destination perfection. We may as well give up on perfection without first finding joy in progress.

“Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection,” Lebanese-American writer and poet Khalil Gabrin said. Rightly so, advancing is the verb and perfection is the noun synonymous with the destination at the end of a long journey.

Like I said, words are what we make them. And (at least to me) there are far too many words that mean something instead of do something. That changes today. If a noun in your life is being lazy, breathe life into it. Make it a verb. Don’t simply go on a journey. Journey through life with courage enough to do more than seek happiness, joy, and fulfillment. Don’t seek these things. Seek progress by instead being these things. By being happiness, joy, and fulfillment and you’ve already reached your destination.

 

A Lesson In Storytelling February 6, 2013

I enjoy my life as an observer of people. Sometimes they do the silliest things. Like when mom and dad throw Mrs. Prickles around in the living room, and I’m the pickle in the middle. I’m not stupid – I know what they’re doing. But I play along and dart around trying to steal my precious toy back from them because it makes me so happy to see them giggling like ninnies. I revel in the moments when happiness is contagious.

One thing I have observed is how easy it seems to see the differences in people than the things they have in common. Here we are together on our journeys through life in this beautiful world, all of us asking questions like who am I? Where am I going in life? What are my hopes and dreams? How do I accomplish them?

It reminds me of a song in Paint Your Wagon. “Where am I going? I don’t know. When will I get there? I ain’t certain. All that I know is I am on my way.”

We are all on our way to somewhere. Granted, somewhere is different for everyone, but today I’m focusing on what we have in common: the journey. Moreover, the choices we make along the way. Different as the circumstances may be, we all make choices that ultimately shape our lives. (As a dog, I rely on my mom and dad to make the majority of choices for me, but you get the idea).

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words,” the great and elegant Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “it is expressed in the choices we make.”

In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach speaks of the power we have to remake our world by establishing rhythm to our lives. But rhythm, like most things, is not always easy for people to master. It takes time, practice and commitment to make the right choices. But we’re all in this together. There is support out there if we can put aside the differences and remember we are all on the journey together.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves,” Roosevelt said.

As an observer of people, I think its fascinating that all people have something so simple in common. They are their own storytellers. This inquiring mind wants to know – what does your story look like?