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.

 

The Middle December 30, 2013

It all started with a fairly routine trip to Petco. I was there for a quick nail trim (in between visits to my regular groomer) and one would think I would have been sidetracked by all of the 50% off holiday toys and treats. No such thing. Instead I spotted them right away and I could tell exactly how they had spent their day.

It was a family of four, complete with a mom and a dad and their two little girls. With them stood a patient and surprisingly well-behaved terrier mix who (with a little help from mom) I later learned to be named Cooper. And the cart. From puppy training pads to Petco’s very best all-natural treats and dog food, it was loaded to the brim with everything a family taking in a new dog could possibly need.

Reflecting on lifeBut Cooper wasn’t just any new dog. He was a one-year-old rescue dog, his mom explained, and they had just adopted him for Christmas. The older of the two little people (who I would guess to be about five-years-old) was gripping Cooper’s leash like the lifeline I know it to be. When I saw the way her little hands proudly held that leash, it was like she was holding something in my heart. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and happiness and the slightest bit of cautious anxiety for the journey on which this family was about to embark.

Under most circumstances, the anxiety is abnormal for me. At least in my world, a house is not a home without the special pet who (in his or her own unique way) somehow completes the picture. I think that’s why I felt a certain cautious emotion I recognized as anxiety.

Because I know one too many dogs who have recently left their forever homes for the Rainbow Bridge. Snuggledog was put down after he got so sick and the doggie doctors couldn’t figure out what to do to help him. He was three. A few days earlier Rusty took his 15 years of wisdom with him to doggie heaven. And then only a couple of nights ago, eight-year-old Raider got a little too interested in something in the road and was hit by a speeding car.

It starts and ends with my otherwise routine trip to Petco. Amidst so much loss, my encounter with Cooper and his new family struck such a tender chord in my heart. This week, as the family and friends of Snuggledog, Rusty and Raider pick up the broken pieces of their hearts, Cooper’s family becomes whole as he settles into his forever home. Life. From the ground up, each day is precious whether we are at the beginning or the end of our journey. Because ultimately it’s how we spend the middle that counts.

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Life’s Power Outages June 27, 2013

The sky cried so hard today the tears did some serious damage in my neighborhood. I usually do all right with storms, but I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced one like this alone before. My people were still at the place called work, which seemed unusual since it was incredibly dark outside. The lightning was blinding and the thunder deafening. The wind seemed to shake the house and I thought the rain was going to break into the house somehow. Then the power went out and all I could do was wait.

Everything quieted down outside, but pandemonium continued when dad got home and let me outside. Trees are down and power is out throughout the neighborhood, I heard a stranger tell my dad, and basements are flooding everywhere. We were fortunate that our basement was the exception to the rule, but our neighbors on either side weren’t so lucky. And that’s when I heard something I didn’t really want to believe. Our friendly neighbor man died suddenly on Sunday, the stranger told my dad. I remember hearing the sirens and seeing the lights on Sunday night and saying a prayer that everything was okay. It wasn’t.

I felt like I’d gotten kicked in the doggie gut. The man was fairly young in people years (in his 50s I would guess), and had been having some health problems, but I didn’t think it was that bad. They just had everyone in the family over to their house that day. I’d never seen it that busy before. And it was incredibly hot and humid on Sunday but everyone was together and happy. There was all kinds of giggling children running around and tents and food and a bouncy house. It was the perfect day. Until it wasn’t.

I’m no stranger to loss so I can say with confidence that the friendly neighbor lady the man left behind probably feels like she’s in her own kind of power outage right now. Everything seems dark around her except for perhaps the occasional unwelcomed burst of thunder and splash of lightning. Its so much easier to see darkness instead of light right now. But what matters are those flashlights and candles, those light bulbs and lanterns, who bring the light into the dark. People have been in and out of that house constantly since it happened, offering their own sources of light. Candle of Light

The sky cried hard today. It brought down some trees and power lines. We lost power for a few hours. But ultimately the power was restored. Life’s power outages can ironically be pretty powerful sometimes. Whether we are alone or surrounded by people, these storms can take away our senses and leave us in the darkness. The wind can shake us to our core. And the tears feel like they will never stop. But they will. Just as all power outages eventually come to an end, the good news is with the help of life’s flashlights, candles, light bulbs and lanterns, our power too is eventually restored.

 

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.