Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Between Here and There October 25, 2014

Here and there. Now and then. Before and after. Give and take. If dichotomy lives, it comes alive in the everyday opposites we come across in life.

A friend of mine, Christine, recently came face to face with one of the very hardest of these to encounter. Life and death. From the ground up, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. Her dear grandmother passed away a few days ago, and she said the time she spent with her leading up to her eventual passing was incredibly eye-opening.Eyes on the Prize

It was restorative. Invigorating. And incredibly sad. Loss of an important life is never easy, after all. But the silver lining is the lesson in this particular dichotomy. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu suggested that “life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”

Though it doesn’t happen in all cases, in this case there was time for people involved to contemplate the reality of that very thread and reexamine how they see it in their own lives. That was the case for dear Christine, who said she reevaluated how precious and fragile life is in those last few days with her beloved grandmother.

She found peace and joy in her prayers and meditation. She cried, but found renewal in her tears.

Because there is this thing about here and there. Now and then. Before and after. Give and take. And even life and death.

 

These are the things that make us feel more alive. Together, they restore our faith, not just in whatever religion we chose to follow, but in humanity itself. And faith is a might powerful thing. With faith, sometimes when you’re here and there you’re right where you need to be.

 

A Matter of Life and Death June 7, 2013

It’s remarkable to me how often life and death coincide. They seem cyclical, somehow thriving on each other through various moments that piece together the days of our lives. Life and death. Death and life. Forever entwined in their differences. I experienced this puzzle firstpaw today, when twice I saw my life flash before my eyes. Once in life and once in death.

Mom uses the word “sassy” to describe what happened when she let me outside this morning. Usually I wait outside the door while she hooks me to my lead, but there was no waiting period to be had this morning. Not with an entire family of bunnies within my reach! I chased after them, but their head start eluded me and I instead ended up exploring the back portion of the yard I so infrequently visit due to my lead.

And before I knew it, I was face to face with Crazy Dog. That’s right – the neighbor pit bull who has (unfortunately) never had any training (obedience or otherwise). The dog whose eyes terrify me to the bones. I didn’t have a moment to think before he came at me through the fence, panting and bearing his teeth. There he was, close enough I could feel his breath on my face, ready to attack me in my own backyard. An as I saw my life flash before my eyes, my instincts told me to ready for the fight. Yet in that same moment mom scooped me up and carried me inside before I could do anything about it.

Running FreeSuddenly I was thankful for that lead again, but even more so for my increasingly regular trips to the dog park. If I can’t explore my backyard, at least I can run freely there. So you can imagine my excitement today when mom and I discovered a new dog exercise area nearby. It’s more expansive than the other one I’ve been to with a lot more space to run and roam and explore. And run, roam and explore I did.

As I ran to mom when she called me across the field, it didn’t matter that I was a football field away from her. It didn’t matter that there were several humongous puddles of mud between me and her (which promptly soaked my recently groomed self to the bone with a mud bath). All that mattered in that moment was how alive I felt in it. It’s remarkable how moments in time can make us feel so alive. My life flashed before my eyes again, this time lit brilliantly with the glow of gratitude.

My experiences today reminded me a bit of the thoughts of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. “Life and death are one thread,” he said, “the same line viewed from different sides.” Today I saw the single line from both sides. Today I stared sudden (seemingly imminent) death in the eye and smiled. Today I felt alive in moments of life and death. It really is remarkable how often those two realities coincide.

 

A Love Uncommon April 23, 2013

It’s hard to explain. My heart rate picked up. I felt warm. I felt shaky in a way that made my paws feel like marshmallows beneath me. I didn’t understand it. I thought to myself, “self: could this be love?”

It was during my brief stint with the family in Port Washington, Wisconsin that adopted me for a few weeks. You know, the one with three cats and two other dogs? They deemed me to be too much a behavioral problem for them and returned me to the humane society, but not before I escaped on my own a few times. It began as what I would refer to as attention-seeking behavior, as I felt I didn’t receive as much emotional attention from the people trying to share it with so many other animals. But one warm summer day I found a new reason to make my way out the doggie door, jump the four-foot fence and explore the neighborhood.

Her name was Taffy, and she is the most beautiful Beagle I’ve ever seen. She lived a few blocks away with her forever dad Eric, who adopted her as a puppy. I’m not certain Eric ever knew what was happening between us since I only ever just saw her from a distance. But there was something in her eyes that made me wish we could run around her beautiful fenced in yard together for hours and hours.Love Makes Smiles

I know it might sound silly, since science tells very different stories about doggie love. Some scientists deny that dogs feel love for one another. Others believe the unconditional love we show our people is testimony to our passionate potential to love other dogs. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I am a believer in the latter theory that indeed dogs do love each other, perhaps not like humans but instead in ways that (at least the majority of) people wouldn’t understand.

Scientific theories aside, what I know for sure is I’d never felt like this before. I certainly loved my birth mom and brothers, Tiger and his puppies, and Rusty from the humane society. What I felt for Taffy was different in a way that stuck with me long after that family returned me to the humane society.

So you can imagine my surprise when one day, my parents brought me with them to that same northern suburb of Milwaukee. I’d come to recognize the scenery, as it is also where my dad grew up and where his parents still live. But this time we took a few different turns and ended up in my old neighborhood. In Taffy’s neighborhood. My dreams sometimes get the best of me, so I had to convince myself what was happening was real life rather than a dream. The memory I had of my dear Taffy was a love uncommon.

As were the moments that followed. I was reunited with Taffy that day. It turns out my forever dad and her forever dad go to that place called work together every day, and had become friends. I didn’t care. I was so happy to see her and finally have our time together running around like ninnies in her fenced-in backyard. It was a dream come true.

I’ve only seen her one more time after that, but I don’t have to spend more time with her to be sure. She is definitely one of the loves of my little doggie life. My mind still doesn’t believe it, but my heart knows it to be truth. I’m sure scientists wouldn’t be able to explain my rapid heart rate, above average body temperature and marshmallow paws either.

But time has offered me the chance to reflect on my feelings, which I now find brought to life through the words of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone gives you courage.” I needed both strength and courage at that point in my journey, so I will be forever grateful to Taffy for helping me find what I needed to get through to the next chapter of my life.

 

Love is Your Life to Live February 13, 2013

Most people know chocolate can kill dogs. Consequently I avoid the stuff like the plague. But that doesn’t mean I need to stay away from the adorable phrases on the aluminum foil packaging. My mom indulged in a chocolate tonight with packaging that read “Be your own valentine.”

This got me to pondering words like courage. Strength. Life.

Great thinkers throughout history have linked big ticket words like this to what is arguably one of the most fundamental words in the English language: love. There is great debate about whether this elementary English word should be classified in dictionaries as a noun, verb or adjective. Consider your source people. In the world of Wiley, love is most definitely a verb.

Like true and authentic joy, love is your life to live. But there is this thing about love that I could never quite put my paw on…and I know it is my own fault. Every day I make the conscious decision to see the best in people and things. And every day I overlook the best in myself.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,” said ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

It is not easy for most people to love their authentic selves deeply. It means accepting the unacceptable, letting go of grudges, and giving your soul a bear hug. It takes courage. It is something I should do, but don’t.

Melancholy

It is hard to love yourself when you get separated from your mom too young and no one will take you in. It is hard to love yourself when you sit at the shelter watching puppy after puppy get adopted while you pace hopelessly in your cage. It is hard to love yourself when you are returned to the shelter after being adopted by a family that didn’t have enough love to go around. I’ve always had an abundance of love to share with everyone but myself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into place,” actress Lucille Ball advised. “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So today I plead with you to join me in my newfound quest to literally take the words of Gandhi to heart.

“Where there is love there is life,” he said. My life has not always been easy to love, but that will no longer keep me from living an authentic life of love. As my own valentine, its my life to live.