Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Present of Presence February 7, 2014

I think I would want to meet Marley (of Marley & Me fame). Or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Or Lassie. Or maybe myself as a puppy. There are so many places I would want to go and things I would want to see. There would be lessons to learn, joy to share and life to live.

The same could be said if I opted to travel to the future, where dogs can safely drive cars and I can meet the dog who will replace me in the hearts of my people. I wondered today what I would do first if I invented a time machine. Would I go to the past, stay in the present or fast forward to the future? One may never know.Tick tock

What I do know is woulds coulds and shoulds are no way to live. I think I would be a pretty busy doggie if I could travel through time, but something about the idea catches my heart. Time is a constant. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows. It keeps moving even when we wish it would stop and slows down when we want it to speed up. I can’t change that.

Instead I can embrace words like will, can, and shall. These are the words of today, the present that is the present. As nice as it would be to have a time machine, it’s not (yet) one of life’s little luxuries. But joy is. You can find it wherever you look. You can see it in precious moments of a passing day. You can hear it in words from family and loved ones. From the ground up, it’s about the now much more than the future or the past.

“Time has been transformed, and we have changed,” suggested Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran. “It has advanced and set us in motion, it has its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.”

I do still think it would be fun to wrestle with Marley or pick the brains of Emerson and Lassie. And it would be even more exciting to share such things with the future version of myself. But I don’t need a time machine to learn lessons, share joy and live life. I have the present for that.

 

On Being Incorrigable November 4, 2013

We all have our reasons. I realized this today as mom called me incorrigible for the millionth time. There I was (minding my own business) conducting my usual after-dinner scavenge all over her clothes and bam. There’s that word again. Incorrigible.

I figured its about time I gain a better understanding of this word, as it differs from most words (like cute, lovable, and adorable) that I’m more accustomed to being called. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Bing defines incorrigible as “impossible or very difficult to correct or reform…unruly and unmanageable.”Who are you calling incorrigable?

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this word being on the aforementioned list of adjectives with which I prefer to associate myself. I wouldn’t consider myself unruly or unmanageable. And I have my reasons. I’m not ashamed when my people call me a multipurpose vacuum cleaner/broom combination. It’s true – I do indeed seize even the teeny tiniest little scraps the moment they hit the floor. I won’t deny that I scavenge and beg even though I get scolded for it. Because I have my reasons.

I can remember when I was living on the streets and we ate whatever we could find. I know what hunger (to the point of starvation) feels like. When I close my eyes, I can still remember the words of the doggie doctors at the humane society when I was first taken in there. “He looks like he hasn’t eaten in days.” And I hadn’t. These memories have developed into habits I do indeed struggle to break.

I’m convinced this is probably why my people call me needy from time to time as well. Lately I’ve perfected the skill of pawing at dad’s feet when I want something. I don’t think he always fancies it (out comes that incorrigible word again), but I don’t let that bother me. My people get their fair share of snuggles, and I am not shy with showing affection with visitors.

If I recall correctly, Marley (a personal idol of mine of John Grogan’s Marley & Me) also earned the incorrigible nickname a great deal. Mr. Obedience-School-Drop-Out himself. The way I see it, I’m in good company. And like Marley, I have my reasons.

My incorrigible nature runs deep. It’s an ode to my past as I live my present. And that is something I refuse to change. If that makes me incorrigible, then so be it. Because I aspire to be like Marley, who was incorrigible in good ways that outweighed the bad.

“A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his,” Grogan wrote. “(Marley) taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it. Where there is that, most other pieces fall into place.” What do you know? Some things are worth being incorrigible about.

 

An Interview with My Incouragable Mentor May 15, 2013

Once-in-a-lifetime is the only (albeit lengthy) adjective I can think of to describe the opportunity I had in my daydream today.

I was sporting a doggie suit and tie (yes, they actually make those) but that wasn’t the unbelievable part. Sitting across from me was the one and only Marley. Mr. Incorrigible, Mr. Obedience School Drop-Out himself. But that’s not all! When I finally gathered my thoughts and opened my mouth, out came words! People words! (My voice was much deeper than I’d expected, too, so that was an added bonus.) This was truly a dream come true.

Marley and MeThe conversation didn’t last long (this was, after all, a daydream), but it meant the world to me regardless of it not being real. I asked him all about his escapades chewing the floors, jumping out of moving car windows, chasing down a baseball at Dodgers stadium, and causing all-out chaos at Dog Beach.

“I never did any of that for the attention or out of spite like I’m sure some people think,” he explained. “I did it to live life to the fullest. Looking back, I can say I did everything I wanted to with my doggie life. I have no regrets.”

His live-each-day-as-if-it-were-his-last outlook on life had a softer side too, in moments of extreme emotion in the Grogan home.

“I always knew when something was wrong,” he said. “I sometimes sensed it before it even happened. It is agony not being able to say anything to make it better, so I loved with all my heart in those moments and I think that helped in its own way.”

Sad times aside, there were a good deal of happy times to which Marley contributed as well. I was pretty excited to talk with Marley about our shared interest in dancing with our forever moms around our respective kitchens.

“Oh that,” he said with a laugh, “It was terribly uncomfortable as I’m sure you know, but it was worth it to see her smile that big because of me.”

I confided in Marley that I’ve often wondered what will happen to that special time together with my forever mom after she has children of her own. Marley scoffed at the thought.

“I loved every new addition to the family like they were my own pups, and (in a way) they were,” he explained. “That’s what being a family dog is all about. Living each day to the fullest, loving with all your heart, and finding any opportunity to bring joy to others…no matter how small they might be.”

And, with that brilliant soliloquy, my daydream was interrupted by my mid-afternoon visitor also known as the mailman.

Regardless of the interruption, Marley’s words stuck with me throughout the remainder of the day, echoing in my soul like a constant reminder of who I am and what I am meant to be to the people in my life.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours,” said John Grogan, owner of Marley and author of Marley and Me. “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”

I can only hope to have impact like this in the lives of my people.