Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Merry Little Christmas December 25, 2013

Tradition. It’s pretty important to especially my mom at this time of year. I’ve mentioned the traditions she’s put in place around wrapping Christmas presents and dancing like a ninny to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” There’s also certain movies we all cuddle up to watch together at given times throughout the season. (Tonight’s feature is “The Polar Express”). But amongst all of these, I think Christmas morning is my favorite.Let Your Heart Be Light

The best part is how simple it is. Mom and dad exchange their gifts to each other, I get a new toy, and we sit together listening to Christmas music. They snack on a special kind of chocolate they buy only for Christmas, and I feast on whatever treat shared a bag with the new toy. It’s a joyful moment in our home that I sincerely look forward to each year.

So you can imagine my surprise when tears made an appearance during the tradition this morning. I’ve become fairly attuned to these as my nine-month pregnant forever mom’s emotions have been a little unsteady lately. But these were truly challenging to decipher whether they were tears of joy or sadness. Bittersweet is the word I guess people use to describe what she was feeling.

This was confirmed as, about halfway through Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” she explained to dad that she was reveling in this last special Christmas morning with just the two of them while at the same time looking forward to the changes next year will bring with the little person around.

This has always been a favorite Christmas song of mine. I have my reasons, not the least of which is found in the soul of the lyrics of this beloved song. It celebrates everything I hold dear about the holidays, like time with loved ones and how we will always be together in spirit if not in person. But there is one line in particular that stood out to me within the context of this bittersweet moment with my mom this morning. “Let your hearts be light.”

Her heart seemed to be anything but light. And yet it was. Just as mine is and will continue to be regardless of the season. The light of joy burns in my heart and that glow is one that nothing can burn out. I’m not sure Mr. Sinatra meant it this way, but that’s my take.

Who knows what will happen with all of these beloved traditions next year when we are no longer two people and a dog. But that’s okay. Because things change. Families grow. And, if anything, that light burns even brighter than before.

 

To Keep Me Warm December 24, 2013

It was 2 a.m. when it occurred to me. This whole mom being nine months pregnant thing is disrupting my sleep schedule almost as much as it is for her and dad. I’m up every time she’s up (which is more and more frequent lately). Certainly she can’t go wherever she’s going alone. Someone has to watch over her to make sure she’s safe wandering the house in the dark.

Loving the Treats!So I follow her wherever she wanders off to, regardless of the time and frequency. Today during our 2 a.m. rendezvous I was overcome with two very impactful pieces of information. First, that it is Christmas Eve. Day one of two of mom’s most favorite days of year. And second, it is freezing outside. Literally. It was 2 degrees at 2 a.m. in our part of the world today. Even when you’re used to it as us Wisconsinites are, weather this brisk still has a way of taking your breath away.

Showing Some LoveBut then again, so does this emotion that seems to overwhelm all members of my forever family at this special time called Christmas. Love. From the ground up, it is all around this time of year. I know because I show it in my extra cuddles. And my doggie kisses. And my tail wags. I share it in every way I know how. And it inevitably comes back to me in droves. It seems to be another one of those emotions that comes alive in its contagiousness.

And it’s not really something we even think about. Real love does. It radiates from us in everything we do, and in doing so creates a distinctive warmth that is sure to spread to the next person ready to receive its glow. Real love is. It becomes us to the point where we aren’t sure which came first – the love of the giver or the receiver.

It was 2 p.m. when things came full circle in my heart. I welcomed mom’s side of the family into my forever home for an afternoon and evening of joy and love. Sure, there were presents. And pretty ribbons. And treats. But none of that mattered as much as the love I felt in the room. At 9 degrees, it was still incredibly brisk outside. But that was outside. Inside it was warm, not just from the heat we are blessed to have but through the love in the air. Tonight I rest easy because (as Frank Sinatra croons in the age-old Christmas carol) I’ve got my love to keep me warm.Love Is

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Quit Playing Games November 16, 2013

It’s one thing when its Mrs. Prickles being thrown around in a game of pickle in the middle. It’s something completely different when it’s a person’s heart. I’m a believer in seeing the best in the people, places and things that make up the chapters of my life. But people don’t always make it easy.

The way I see it, relationships are pretty cut and dry. You love someone, you spend time with them. They are your world in that moment. And in every moment, I suppose. We forgive. We move on. We are loyal, and nothing will stand in the way of that. I don’t why people let things get so complicated.Game Face

Take, for example, a pair of girlfriends who are interested in the same potential mate. That never seems to end well for anyone involved. Or the “mutual” breakup between a couple, in which someone decides its best to stay friends. That’s not fair to the person who wants (or perhaps needs) to make a clean break and start fresh.

Mom and dad don’t really partake in these sorts of games, but these are a mere sample of the myriad of relationship struggles that seem to plague the people they care about. Which makes them people I care about. Friends and family alike, these are some of the real relationship games being played in modern society. And I don’t like it.

Because my time as an observer of people has made me pretty savvy to the reality of these games. Many times what people don’t seem able to piece together is that they may think they’re only playing with the other person’s mind. Really they’re playing with the heart.

And it’s one thing when its Mrs. Prickles being thrown around in a game of pickle in the middle. It’s something completely different when it’s a person’s heart. Matters of the heart are not game friendly. “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” as my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

And what does it mean to be a friend? When you love someone, you spend time with them. They are your world in that moment. You forgive. You move on. You are loyal, and nothing will stand in the way of that. I don’t why people let things get so complicated.

 

The Mouse Will Play September 25, 2013

I guess it’s called denial. That sense of refusal to acknowledge something we wish wasn’t happening. That’s how I started my day today. The dreaded suitcase was out and I could sense this would be a people-only adventure. In spite of my best efforts and employment of “the look,” my fears were realized when we made our first stop at grandma’s house. I was being left behind.Doggie Love

I should have seen it coming. All right, all right, I did see it coming. I just convinced myself it wasn’t happening. I was in denial. And I’ve got to say – that is not a very happy place to be. It was a couple hours after my people left me with grandma and my cousin (grandma’s dog) Buddy that I realized what was happening. I was sulking by the sliding patio door when it happened.

Buddy bit my butt. That’s right. He came up behind me and nipped at me right by my tail. I was beside myself. I turned around, ready to make him regret it (why couldn’t he let me be sad?), and there he was – his tail was in the air wagging like crazy, begging me to chase him, and there was a playful sparkle in his eye. And so it began. We started what became an epic race in circles all around grandma’s house.

In those 15 minutes I forgot my people were gone. I was lost in the moment with my friend and our silliness. As my favorite transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson said “it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

And stupid we were. Buddy, my buddy, reminded me (amidst our ridiculous game of chase) to live in the moment. When we finally took a break, I paused to reflect on his life to this point. His struggles have been incredibly different than mine and yet we’ve ended up in the same position. We both bring joy from the ground up to the world in our own unique way.

Thanks to Buddy’s contagious joy, I’m not in denial anymore. I’m not sure how long my people will be gone, but I know they will come back. And until they do I’ve decided to live it up here at grandma’s house. What’s that they say about the cat being away? The mouse will play? Consider me the mouse for the next few days.

 

Write It On Your Heart September 20, 2013

It usually makes me kind of uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, I try to avoid it. But the more I thought about it today, the more I realized my avoidance and level of discomfort are nothing compared to the actual problem at hand. Complaining. I can’t stand it. I find myself getting upset when I hear complaints because (at least in my little doggie mind) I feel it is a useless waste of time. Why would you waste all that energy complaining when you could simply do something to rectify the problem?

Don't Worry, Be HappyI got my answer today when I looked out my front window to find my neighborhood feline friend Penny was back on my front doorstep. And she looked sad. I braced myself for the worst, thinking perhaps something had happened to her person Rose. Not quite.

Rose has been in poor health for some time, but she is all right. To Penny that’s part of the problem. She’s just all right. Instead of embracing that she’s still okay, I was surprised to find Penny complaining about how awful it is to see her loved one struggle. Dear Penny went on and on about how badly she wishes she could help somehow and the frustration she experiences because she can’t.

In that moment I realized why people waste all that time complaining. Life sucks sometimes. There, I said it. And when it does, the complaining develops a purpose all its own. It’s for good reason because sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do. And it isn’t fair. But there is always a silver lining.

In this case I think it comes from understanding the difference between optimism, realism and pessimism. In order to call myself an optimist, I must recognize within me the realist. The realism is reality in the making, but it is different from pessimism, which I avoid like the plague. The line between these things may be thin, but it’s made of steel to those who employ it.

I think that’s why complaining makes me so uncomfortable. It skirts around that line of negativity I prefer to stay away from. Instead I take the advice of my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson who encourages us to “write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” Meanwhile, my mind knows sometimes its not. And there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s the realist in me. It’s a good thing my mind listens to my heart.

Related posts:

Negativity – The Silver Lining http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/21/negativity-the-silver-lining/

Penny For Your Thoughts http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/08/31/penny-for-your-thoughts-2/

 

What Lies Inside July 23, 2013

A lot happened in my backyard today.

After a mysterious three-week hiatus, my neighbor demon dog has returned. It wasn’t a pretty reunion, as he “greeted” me with some pretty intense growling and panting from his usual hangout on his side of our mutual fence. I saw my neighbor Lady for the first time since her husband passed away recently. She looked sad. I wagged hello at her and I think she may have looked right through me. And after a startling separation from the rabbit family about a month ago, I think they’re back. (Though they are likely being much more careful about revealing themselves this time aroundFeeling Sad for Neighbor Lady).

So many days are quiet and uneventful around here (not that I’m complaining), but today was a feast for the emotional senses. It all happened so fast, and when it was over I found myself longing to piece the puzzle together into some sort of semblance of normalcy. Why would all of these things happen in the same 15 minutes?

I was absolutely terrified to see demon dog return. I forgot how big and scary and loud and threatening he is.

Figuring it all outI felt completely defeated with the sincerest compassion when I saw my neighbor Lady. I wanted so badly for mom to let me off my leash so I could go give her a big ole hug and some doggie kisses to cheer her up. It broke my heart to see her that way, kind of a shell of her normal bubbly self. But there was really nothing I could do about it.

And then I felt the most overtaking sense of excitement and relief when I smelled the rabbit family’s return. Though I couldn’t see them, I have faith they are all right and back together and that brings warmth and joy to my heart.

Life is that way sometimes. We can be happily following our routine when bam! Everything happens at once. It’s different than the valleys and hills that challenge us along our journey. We can plan ahead and be prepared for those. You can’t prepare for moments like these. “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you,” great transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested.

I didn’t see it coming, but I learned a lot in my backyard today. At any moment when we least expect it, our heart gets an unexpected workout that pulls us in 18 different directions simultaneously. But that doesn’t change the impact they can have on our lives. Highly concentrated emotional situations may even be more impactful in surprising ways. The difference is we are forced in these moments to think with our hearts rather than our minds. And, in these moments, it is what lies inside of us that matters.

 

Best Laid Plans July 19, 2013

I don’t care for flies. I don’t like when I can’t catch them buzzing around the walls of my forever home. I don’t like them when I do catch them and they buzz around in my tummy. The way I see it, they are useful in one (and only one) way. Metaphorically speaking, flies on the wall get all the great information before it hits the public presses. Granted, I see this as a gross exaggeration of their microscopic brain capacity, but the theory is sound.

Dog on the WallI would argue instead that dogs are the ultimate flies on the wall. We see and hear things. But more importantly we understand things. We’re man’s best friend, after all. So when it comes to understanding my people, I am your resident dog on the wall. As such, I have come to recognize certain patterns of conversation that lead nowhere fast. And I can say this because I love her more than she will ever know. My mom tends to put far too high a stake in things sometimes.

She looks forward to something, plans it all out in her head, and when it doesn’t work out — if it doesn’t go according to plan — it’s a complete disaster to her. It’s all very confusing to dad, who generally tries to make the best of a sticky situation. Unfortunately for the both of us, best laid plans don’t always come together and there is little we can do to fix it.

It turns out you were right. My mom absolutely missed me as much as I missed her while she was away at that place called the spa earlier this week. She missed me so much she came home the same day she left! Well, that’s not entirely true. Health issues brought her home early, and I was ecstatic (albeit sincerely concerned). But what made my day may as well been a weapon of mass destruction on hers. She clearly felt incredibly ill, but moreover there was simply no cheering her up. I tried all of my tricks. I jumped and licked and wagged and jumped some more. Nothing.

Fortunately I’ve been in the business of being the dog on the wall long enough to know this too shall pass. And it did. But it got me to thinking about the best laid plans that don’t work out. Because let’s face it – things do not always go exactly according to plan. And yes, it sucks. It’s disappointing. But these things happen and it is not the end of the world. “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment,” suggested one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau.

I don’t care for flies, but I sure do like their job of being on the wall. There’s lots to be learned from that perspective. I (for one) find my compensation in knowing even the best laid plans can go awry. It’s how we deal with the hurdles, how we find ways to be quiet and ready, that we grow.

 

On Morality and The Good Life June 24, 2013

I did the right thing today. It went against everything my terrier nature told me to do. And it wasn’t easy, which is why I know it was right.

Dad was using that scary loud contraption called a lawnmower in the backyard when it happened. He came across something on the ground that prompted him to turn off the machine and stare. Which prompted me to investigate what he was staring at. Sure enough, the rabbit I’ve been seeing a lot of in our yard lately suddenly appeared from beneath the ground and darted away. I chased her, but she was too fast for me and quickly ran beyond the length of my lead. I’m certain she was hoping to cause a diversion, as dad and I quickly discovered she left behind two little rabbit babies (each no larger than the majority of my chew toys) and they were both in my reach.

In that moment, I was faced with a decision. Do what came naturally to me as a terrier or do the right thing. I knew immediately what I was going to do so (in spite of my dad scolding me and pulling me away) I simply sniffed at the little guys and wished them well. Life's Big Questions

It goes back to my first moments after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers. I know what its like to be in their teeny little rabbit paws in that situation. They were me today, lost and afraid and uncertain of what the future holds for them. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy, let alone two helpless little rabbit babies who may or may not reunite with their mom. To make matters worse, I watched in horror as they each scurried off in their own separate way. I know it should have made me want to chase them, but watching everything unfold the way it did actually just made me sad.

Still I know in my heart that my birth mom would be proud of what I did today, wherever she is. She is the reason I believe no character comes into our life without a good reason, without a message or life lesson. Her brevity in my life made my moments with her that much more valuable, and I can say with honesty that I remember the majority of what she taught me. Some things made sense immediately: dream big, love bigger, never take no for an answer. Others didn’t make sense right away (as these things never do when we’re to young to understand) but these are the things that seem most important now. Love your neighbors as yourself. Strive to be a servant leader. Do the right thing even if it hurts.

“Aim above morality,” American author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau suggested. “Be not simply good, be good for something.”

I did the right thing today. I was good for something. And it was far from easy. But if there is anything experience has taught me its that usually doing the right thing is most important when it hurts. These are the moments when learning comes full circle and we truly understand morality and the good life.

 

A Midsummer’s Spell June 23, 2013

The weather cast a spell on me today.

I’ve always been one to appreciate lounging in the sun on a hot summer day (who isn’t?), but today I was obsessive about it. Forget the refreshing comfort of air conditioning and bring on the warming comfort of the heat, I thought. You can imagine  my disappointment when this became a point of contention with my mom and dad. I heard them talking about the heat and how I shouldn’t be in it very long…something about 100 degree heat indexes. Whatever that meant.

This is my beg face

So I begged and whined and pestered until I got my way, albeit in five-to-ten minute increments (for my alleged safety). Each time I was barely out the door before I found my comfy spot in the grass and instantly I was in heaven. Weather is one of those unbelievable constant sources of inspiration for me. I relish every falling snow diamond, find a sort of melancholy peace with the rains of spring, and now I celebrate the second official day of summer in style. All is well with the world in moments like these.

That is, until I was rudely interrupted and brought back inside. And again I began the begging game to get back into the beauty of the summer day. It was all I could think about. That’s when I remembered the date. Today isn’t just any summer day. Indeed it is Midsummer’s Eve, a special day set aside in Europe for wonder and merriment. Rich with historical culture, June 23 is celebrated with special food, dancing and plenty of time outside (weather permitting, of course).

Sarah Ban Breathnach writes of this special day in Simple Abundance, quoting the words of Canadian writer Lucy Maud Montgomery. “(Let this become) a never-to-be-forgotten summer,” Montgomery writes, “one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doings, come as near to perfection as anything can come in the world.”

The weather cast a spell on me today. All I could think about was being outside appreciating warmth in the sun’s promise of an unforgettable summer. Just as Breathnach wishes for her readers, I will share this wish with you. “May this potent Midsummer spell never be broken for you and those you love,” Breathnach writes. I know I probably should care about heat indexes. But I don’t. Instead I relish in the Midsummer’s Eve spell that was cast on me today, and breathe in all its contagious (albeit humid) joy.

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy June 18, 2013

It’s kind of like hitting your hind legs on the footboard jumping up on the bed. Or getting your leash wrapped around the tree in the backyard when the sky is crying. Or being left at home alone for the majority of a weekend day.

Each of these things can make me feel emotionally handicapped in the most bizarre way. I know everything will be all right – the shooting pain in my hind legs is sure to pass, my fur will dry from the rain, and my parents will return from their so-called errands – but there is something unsettling about when these bumps in the road happen.

As I soaked up some sun in my backyard this afternoon, I questioned why these occasional stumbles (physical or otherwise) have such a power to bring down my otherwise optimistic spirit. Stuff happens. Life moves on. Or does it? I remember thinking my life was over when I first was separated from my mom and brothers. And again when I lost Rusty to doggie heaven. And again when that family returned me to the humane society citing my alleged behavioral problems.

SimplifySuddenly it made sense to me. These stumbling blocks seem to have a way of bringing my past into my present. At the root of all my stumbles is the same useless emotion: worry. I know it’s not a four-letter word in people language but it is in my world. Worry is the handicap!

Yet I worry my parents got a higher bed so I wouldn’t jump on it anymore. (Don’t they like our cuddle time?) I worry maybe my forever parents will take a book from previous chapters of my life and forget about me outside, leaving me in the rain to shiver and fend for myself. (Don’t they love me anymore?) I worry that maybe they’ll never come back from wherever they go when they run errands. (Will anyone else ever love me like they do?)

Worry, worry, worry. It’s a nasty little habit for a practicing optimist to conquer. It’s one I don’t frequently even address out of sheer embarrassment that people won’t take me (and my joy) seriously if I admit to my weaknesses. But there is strength in admitting to our shortcomings, not only in the truth of the admission itself but in what it means for the future. It’s easy to push aside being a worrier. To hide it away in a place in my heart I don’t want anyone to know about.

But I’ve never been one to take the easy road, especially in matters of the heart. So worry be gone. I cast you away like the bad habit you are. Starting today, I will make an effort to see life’s stumbling blocks not as triggers for worry. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow,” Dutch Christian activist Corrie Ten Boom once said. “It empties today of its strength.” I’d much rather seek strength in knowing everything will be all right than add any unnecessary sorrow to my days.