Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Leaving a Legacy June 15, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:35 pm
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I’ll never know what it’s like. Not because I don’t want to, because I do. I just can’t. I know, it’s not the usual for me, your resident doggie optimDad and Iist to say I can’t do something. But this is one of those things I honestly can’t do regardless of my feelings on the matter.

Because at some point along the line, I had an operation that will forever keep me from ever knowing what it’s like to be a dad. I didn’t have a choice at the time, it was just one of those things that happened at the humane society. Given all of the other good things that happened to me there, I know it was probably for the best. But I do occasionally wonder what it would be like to be a dad.

Especially on a day like today when all of the people in my homeland celebrate dads. Today is Father’s Day in America, and it was a pretty special one around here since it was a first for my forever dad. Sure, mom and I have always conspired to do something to commemorate the day as he is my forever dad. But this is different because little baby Carter is in the picture now.

So it made sense to me that we packed up the car (my first car ride in the new ride, and it was great) and head to grandma’s house to meet up with other dads in the family. Seeing these men together, three generations of dads, really got me to thinking about what it means to me to have such a great dad to call my own. He loves me. He plays with me. He makes a special effort to pay extra attention to me since baby Carter was born. He’s my buddy. He’s my friend. He’s my forever dad. I am so blessed.

It does sometimes bother me that I will never know what it’s like to be a dad. But I do know how to be a son to a caring, loving, loyal man. That is his living legacy. And that will always be enough for me.

 

Game of Direwolves May 23, 2014

It’s kind of like those so-called “smart” phones. Or those newfangled fancy video gaming systems. Or any other kind of technology that discourages actual person-to-person contact. Otherwise known as one of those people things I kind of wish were never invented.

I feel this way about a lot of people technology, including the aforementioned devices. But every now and then I retract my opinion.

Like when there is a fun commercial of that includes a dog on the moving picture window in the living room (otherwise known a TV). Or when a message from one of moms gal pals on her smart phone makes her giggle. Or when dad defeats a level in a video game. All of these things seem to bring the people I love a sense of joy.

As does this show my people have been watching lately. I don’t get it. But, like so many people things in life, I suppose I don’t have to. Because they do. And it seems to bring them joy, or happiness, or at least theatrical enjoyment for the time being.
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Game of Thrones. Apparently it is some sort of phenomenon. Anyone who’s been with me for a while could probably guess what I take from it. It’s probably not what most people take from it, which is something about power and the scary things it can do to people.

Instead I side with the direwolves. I should probably mention my people are not all the way through the series, and therefore I don’t know whether this remains true. But at least from what I can tell in the middle of the second season I know this is my truth.

The direwolves are my heroes. They are strong and fearless and loyal. I think the loyalty might be what I most respect. Above all, they protect their people.

It doesn’t always bring me the sincerest of joy when my people chose to watch them (and the rest of the Game of Thrones cast) on a Friday night, but I was reminded when it happened tonight that it is not about me.

If I am to live as those I respect and idolize, like the direwolves, nothing is really about me. (Gasp, this is tough to digest in some ways). But that’s okay. Because I have so much in my life to be thankful for it’s ridiculous.

Like today when I was outside with my people as they cared for the lawn. Carter was asleep in his room and they were happy in a way they used to be before the little person was in the picture. Mom even took a few minutes of alone time in her hammock in my backyard paradise.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I am not that big a fan of technology. Because (at least in my humble opinion) it takes precious time away from personal interaction.

Like those so-called “smart” phones. Or those newfangled fancy video gaming systems. Or any other kind of technology that discourages actual person-to-person contact. But every now and then these things surprise me with their very own silver lining. Like tonight when all the work was done outside and my people came inside to watch an episode of this “Game of Thrones.”

It was bloody and gory and depressing to me. But those direwolves brought to life for me what I would like to think viewers get from the show. They live and breathe loyalty and life. I’m not sure what else you can ask for when it comes to confusing people television.

 

True or False? March 16, 2014

It happens pretty frequently if you ask me. Not so much to me personally, for which I am thankful. But it seems to happen a lot to the people I love. You see, I am a big supporter of the meaning of the little things in life. The simple things. That is why I can with absolute certainty that the unknown confuses me on a pretty regular basis.

Again, this is not of my own doing. I have a pretty simple life devoid of stress over the big or little questions. Most of my big questions are answered by others. What will I have for dinner? Where will I spend my day today? What is my purpose in life? It’s a fairly sure thing that every day will bring the same answers to these questions.  My regular kibble will be in my bowl in the forever home in which I will spend my day doing what I do best – bringing joy to whoever will take it.

Be What You BelieveThe same cannot be said for people. I frequently observe lengthy conversations about things as simple as what to have for dinner and as complex as one’s true purpose. And I’m not going to lie – it confuses me. Oftentimes I wish there would be a way for me to provide an answer as easy as the question seems.

I thought of this today as I watched baby Carter sleeping. I thought of all the questions – big and small – he has to encounter throughout his life. And so I wished I could tell him some of what I’ve learned from my observations – the first being that things that are true are often also false. It depends on how you flip the coin or how you view the glass. Since my glass is half full, so are three of my most important life lessons.

Believe what you think. It might not always be good, but follow your heart and you will find peace with your choices.

Believe what you feel. Good or bad, another person’s opinion is only as real as you let it be.

Be what you believe. What you feel in your heart is powerful. Embrace it and let it guide you.

I have so much I hope to teach baby Carter in the time we have together, but these simple truths are among the most important. Especially since it seems to happen pretty frequently among the two-legged population – this game of questions and answers. Most times I am thankful for not having the same questions to answer every day. But today I realized that it wouldn’t matter even if I did. Because in spite of it all, I am what I believe.

 

Keepers of the Light January 27, 2014

Leadership. It’s a big word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask 100 people to define a leader and you’ll get at least 60 different responses. Words like strength, courage, integrity, honesty, and loyalty all come to mind. Ask a dog, and the response is pretty simple. Leader of the Pack

For us, its almost instinctual. We have a pack mentality, therefore there will always be a pack leader. And there will always be a pack leader because of our pack mentality. It is that simple. We look to our leader for everything, and do not mind doing so because we prefer to know where we stand. And if no pack leader steps forward, we will assert ourselves as the leader. Whether or not that is the best option is left for interpretation.

I’m not saying one way of thinking is better than another, but I do think there is something to be learned from especially the similarities between the two. At least from what I can tell, there is something almost instinctual about a person’s definition of leadership as well. It is personal, usually aligned in some way with one’s subjective experiences. Good leaders have a way of asserting their leadership in a way that guides rather than forces followers. A way of making them feel at home with their place in life while at the same time in control of it.

Late great American basketball coach John Wooden had a few things to say about leadership, one of them being that leaders make decisions while followers make suggestions. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement about something bothersome. It’s something completely different to actually do something about it.

That’s the thing about leadership. It means different things to different people. But in a way that is also the glue that binds its meaning together. Whether you have two legs or four, one thing in particular seems to ring true. The best leaders are those whose followers become leaders themselves.

So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the canine and the people way of thought. The way I see it, leaders are keepers of the light. They shine brightly for those in the darkness. They guide gently with even the smallest flickering flame. They help people see the way. And (perhaps most importantly) they pass the torch along so there is never a moment of darkness.

 

Crazy Stupid Love November 20, 2013

Light of foot is not a phrase I would use to explain us canines. Between chasing and galloping and jumping and pawing at various stimuli, we aren’t that great at sneaking up on anything. Other than enabling us to do these things, our paws aren’t good for much. We can’t eat with them. We lack the opposable thumbs required to do things that hands are capable of.

And sometimes it drives me crazy. I’m not one to complain about things, but when there is an itch behind my ear that I can’t scratch I find myself longing for the hands I lack. I try with all my might sometimes to get at it, but I just can’t reach. Or my nails are to long. Or too short. All of these things are ultimately out of my control. And it’s exhausting.

But I realized something today. There I was, scratching away, and it happened. Mom interceded and the next thing you know, the itch was gone. She simply used her hands to scratch around the vicinity I was focusing on and everything was suddenly all was right with my world again. I felt overcome with crazy stupid love for my mom, not just because I wasn’t itchy anymore but because she loved me enough to help me in my time of need.Just a little closer

In that moment I was reminded that everyone feels this way sometimes. With that goal that’s just out of reach. With that deadline that’s impossible to meet. Or maybe in that relationship that doesn’t quite fit. It can drive a person crazy feeling simultaneously so close and so far away from something.

But that’s why we have people around us to help us in our times of need. To be our support system when that relationship doesn’t go as we wish it had. Or to help us finish that project on deadline. And (perhaps most importantly) to keep us motivated.

“Love is friendship that has caught fire,” suggested American newspaper columnist Ann Landers. “It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”

Let’s face it. Nobody’s perfect. And, in the case of us canines, one of our weaknesses is a set of four fairly useless paws. So it’s a good thing I’m blessed with people who help me through. I have loyalty and love and understanding. I have friendship caught on fire. That’s nothing I’d want to catch with my paws anyway. I’d much rather catch all of that with my heart.

 

From the Ground Up October 28, 2013

Scientists claim us canines can understand somewhere between 100 and 200 people words. I say that’s hogwash. What these calculations can’t account for is our keen awareness of human emotion, which so frequently is hard to encapsulate into a word.Gaining Perspective

Treat. Outside. Dog park. These are words a dog comes to know. Sit, lay down, roll over. These are tricks of the canine trade. But love, faith, forgiveness and loyalty? These are words to live by. In a constantly evolving language, these words remain steadfast.

I have never been a big supporter of the “less is more” philosophy, but perhaps there is some insight to be gained from it in the case of conversation. Sometimes less really is more, given the understanding is there to aid in translation. My favorite Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran challenged that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

I know mine certainly wouldn’t be treats, outside, dog park, sit, laydown and rollover. Mine would be the foundations from which all other language could be understood. Forgiveness. Compassion. Loyalty. Love. Laughter. Faith. Joy. From the ground up, these would be my seven words of choice because these are words us canines know inside and out.

We don’t hold grudges. We know when to be still and listen. We pause (in all our overwhelmed excitement) to welcome our loved ones home whether they’ve been gone five minutes or five days. We love unconditionally – and find creative ways to show it. We know how to bring fun to the party. We know who we are – and embrace it. We have faith in ourselves, which enables us to have faith in others. And, through it all, we know how to bring the light of joy into the darkest of situations.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life,” Gibran suggested, “not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Scientists have their theories. And maybe they’re right. But they didn’t account for the unique perspective we canines bring to human emotion. Literally and figuratively, there’s this thing about the attitude I chose to bring to life. When you see life from the ground up as I do, you are already on the ground. Regardless of how you got there, you are at ground zero. And there is no where to go but up.

 

A Loving Heart October 17, 2013

I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I hear there is a new invention that offers a countdown to the last moments of life. It’s called a Tikker. And those on either side of the fence that separates the scientific thinkers from the philosophers can find things to legitimize the idea.

Me? I don’t want to know. There is a certain (in my opinion) less morbid mystery in not knowing the details of our eventual demise. It challenges us to live each day like it could be our last. It keeps things in perspective. It teaches us to live better. And I like that.

But I got to thinking about how I would change my life if I bought into this Tikker idea. If I knew when life would end, what would I change? What exactly would I do differently? And (perhaps most importantly) how would I spend my final moments? I surprised myself today with an answer to all of these questions in a single word: love.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my life or how I live it. I make it my life’s work to find sources of joy from the ground up to share with whomever will take it. I would do the same if my Tikker told me I would die tomorrow. But it gets a lot deeper than that. It has roots running through my soul that have sprouted into this thing called love for my world. I love you world

I wrote of this love tree recently, and today it grew a bit larger in my heart as I contemplated the one thing I would want to tell the world if I knew my moments were numbered. I know what I would say. And in the spirit of living each day like it could be our last, I’m going to just come out and say it.

I love you. Yes, you. Each and every one of you who take the time to spend a few precious moments with me each day. My world is comprised of my forever people, my family and my friends. It includes two-legged friends and four-legged friends, who I know either in person or through the blogosphere. You bring me happiness, love, friendship and joy from the ground up.

A certain sustained level of humility keeps me from believing the Charles Dickens’ idea that “a loving heart is the truest wisdom,” but I know my character benefits greatly from all those I love. And I wouldn’t change a thing about that.

So it’s settled. I don’t want to know how I’m going to die. Or when. But I do want all those I love to know it. Because to me love is life. Why then think about death?

 

Your Teacher Heart September 16, 2013

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. (Want to go …anywhere…is not the question, in case you were wondering). How did you get so smart? They ask. Even if I could speak people, I’m not sure what my answer would be.

The thing is, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly smart. I’m not (that) special. Perhaps that’s why people think I’m smart. Because I’ve noticed a trend in modern society that people generally are not as smart as they think they are. A concept I think can go both ways.

Psychology aside, I do sometimes wonder where “smart” comes from. It’s not among the list of qualities American author John Grogan said seem to come so effortlessly to dogs: “loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love.” Grogan hypothesizes these emotions that are second nature to canines can be “elusive to humans.”

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but it does spark a curiosity in my heart. And I beg to differ with the popular thought that curiosity killed the cat. First, because I think it’s a terrible thing to say even if it is theoretical. Second, because I think curiosity of the heart is the ultimate spark for learning.Love. Unplugged.

This occurred to me today as I dreamed of meeting my little person and all he or she has to learn about the world. I found myself both excited and overwhelmed by the insight of my dog park friend Tucker, who shared with me all about his little person Mason. They are best buddies, and they are constantly learning from each other. But Mason is 13 people years old now. My little person will be brand new to the world the same time he or she is brand new to me. Talk about pressure.

Then I took a deep sighing breath (the kind that catches the attention of my forever mom and inevitably merits a scratch behind the ears) as I realized something that gave me the sincerest form of peace. I don’t know what I’m so worried about. My heart is my teacher. That’s why things like loyalty and selflessness come so easy to me. It’s all rooted in the unconditional love in my heart.

Every now and then someone will ask me a question that I truly don’t know how to answer. How did you get so smart? Beyond the people/dog language barrier lies their answer. I’m not. Not in the conventional sense at least. But I do know where smart comes from. It comes from a curiosity of the heart. It stems from a desire to be loyal, devoted, selfless and optimistic. It is love.

This post is dedicated to my dear blog friend Utesmile, whose encouragement inspired these words.