Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

To Have Faith April 1, 2015

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s one of those things when you don’t even know what to say. All roads point to everything not good. There is nothing positive. No silver lining. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. Crisis. From the ground up, it’s not my strong suit. Think with the Heart

Tonight it’s happening to a close friend of the family. Someone close to my heart is struggling with a very emotionally challenging situation that is making her question everything. Which makes my heart ache. Because I wish I could intervene. I wish I could step in and make it all better somehow. Yet I know I can’t. In fact, if watching people as long as I have has taught me anything, usually you make it worse when you try.

So I do what I can do. I listen. I love. And I pray. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

“The world is a crazy, beautiful, ugly complicated place, and it keeps moving on from crisis to strangeness to beauty to weirdness to tragedy,” suggested American journalist David Remnick.

Most days I believe in the dichotomy of the world around us, though I simultaneously choose to embrace joy and cast aside negativity. Yet I also know and respect that is not always how life is. There are ups and downs and good times and bad times, but I think that’s where the grey area stops and black and white begins.

Because you can’t have one without the other. Life balances out, naturally, often without any thanks to what we do or don’t do. God works it out, just as He intended, and just as He planned.

I know this knowledge may not help in the moment. Not in the crazy awful grizzly moments when you don’t know what to say. It may seem like all roads point to everything not good and there is nothing positive and no silver lining. But it’s not up to us in those cases to find any of that. It will find us.

Because it’s in these moments, in the midst of crisis, when it’s most important to have faith.

So tonight I pray.

 

 

Stupid Is As Stupid Does February 25, 2014

I used to think it was pretty cool to be a know-it-all. Worse than that, I thought I did know it all. That is, until I realized I didn’t. The older I get, the more I realize how much there really is to learn. In reality, I know nothing in the greater context of everything.

This came to mind tonight as the story I was going to share shaped into something completely different. The evening started off better than most, with lots of laughter and love. Mom and dad enjoyed dinner together, after which dad showed an above average interest in spending time with baby Carter. He rocked him and talked to him and played with him. Meanwhile, Carter cooed and smiled and seemed to be having the time of his life while mom and I sat by and watched the scene unfold. It was like something from a movie.

Us Against The WorldUntil it wasn’t. None of us will ever know why it happened, but Carter started crying. Mom and dad ran through all the usual suspects – he’s not hungry because he just ate, he’s not wet because we just changed him, he doesn’t have a fever and all four limbs are still well attached. So what could possibly be wrong? It was kind of a devastating turn for the worse but I was still kind of surprised by what happened next. (Especially when you consider the truth – this is normal baby behavior. Every now and then they cry. It happens. We’ve been over this).

Tension built and they turned on each other. Mom and dad got upset. With each other. Even though I know (and they know) it was completely unnecessary for them to do so. In reality, they were simply sharing in frustration and confusion and exhaustion and it all just caught up with them. But I realized something. Dad said something he’s said more than once before about not being good with babies. About not knowing what he’s doing. To which mom responded that she doesn’t know what she’s doing either.

I’m hardly a know-it-all, but in this situation all I wanted to do was raise my little doggie paw to correct them both. They may not know everything about parenting a newborn. But they’re doing great. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing sometimes. It’s okay to learn as you go. And (perhaps most importantly) it’s a blessing that they have each other to learn with. They can work through challenges together and celebrate success together. They can learn together. And they have.

They did it again tonight when they brought the argument to a quick and (fairly) painless close. Because it’s not always about knowing it all.  Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is admit you don’t know everything.

 

So Many Choices February 19, 2014

It’s pretty obvious to me. Every morning I get the same thing for breakfast. Every night I get the same thing for dinner. And I’m not going to lie – it’s pretty tasty. Certainly not as delicious as the my favorite dog treats and raw hide bones. And maybe not quite as delectable as the occasional nibble of bacon, salami or peanut butter. But it’s definitely tasty.

So you can imagine my confusion at the frequency at which my forever people debate what to have to eat. In or out? Fancy or simple? Healthy or naughty? It’s all gibberish to me. And don’t get me started on what happens next when mom can’t decide what to wear. Though it is helped (a bit) by the previous questions, it’s never easy. Then there’s the shoes. And the jewelry. So many choices. So Many Choices

Indecisiveness has a hold on us around the Schmidt house and it drives me crazy sometimes. It’s more powerful than it sounds to be sure. It might not seem like a big deal, but (like anything) it always is a bigger deal than it seems. Not to mention the times when it stirs itself into a disagreement. All over something so silly as which pair of shoes looks better with a certain set of pants, which make up an outfit that may or may not be too dressy for the dinner destination of choice. It’s exhausting.

And I’m not even the one stressing out about these things. I’m just observing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get caught up in the business of making decisions. From the ground up, I would much rather save all that emotional energy and apply it toward something useful. Like figuring out a way to translate dog thoughts into people words so I could tell my people to make a decision already. And so I could be there to support them when it ends up being the wrong one.

Because it seems pretty obvious to me. Certainly it’s not always as simple as what to eat for dinner. But when there are so many choices, sometimes the most obvious one starts at the beginning. It starts with the choice to decide.

 

The Right Questions February 14, 2014

It could be any number of things. A cell phone ringing. An unrelated conversation with someone else. A to-do list that would take longer to complete than there are hours in the day. As a professional observer of people, I am here to confirm there are so many things that distract us from things that really matter on a daily basis.

It wasn’t anything extraordinary for my forever people today. Dad had an especially trying day at that place called work. Mom struggled to console baby Carter through one of his most fussy days yet. But today I watched with love as they pushed both of these things aside. Today they celebrated Valentine’s Day. And in doing so they celebrated each other.

Love. From the ground up, I watched it unfold before my little doggie eyes as dad put together a surf and turf dinner for mom. I saw it in their eyes when they read the cards they got for each other. Yet there was something else, something more, that set the day apart. Something I realized could do a lot of people good.

Questions. Thoughtful directive emotional questions beyond the more common “how was your day” pleasantries. What have I done this past year that you’re most happy with, mom asked. What can I do to be a better husband, dad asked. And conversation abounded, regardless of the happenings of the prior eight hours. Distractions stepped aside in those precious moments and it was just them.

It was just two people falling in love with each other all over again. And it was beautiful. This is not to say they don’t love each other every day of the year. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. But today was different and I think it’s because they put aside everything else and asked the right questions.

You know the ones. They challenge us and build us up and make us think. They are capable of breathing fresh perspective into our relationships. These are the questions we should be asking each other frequently. It might not be as easy as an empty “how are you,” but I think that’s the point. Love, like the love being celebrated around the country today, should never be empty. It should never be distracted. It should be full and overwhelming to the point where no distraction is powerful enough to take away its attention to detail.

“Love is a force more formidable than any other,” suggests American author Barbara de Angelis. “It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”

Love offers you more joy than any material possession ever could. But you have to reach out and take it. At least from what I can tell, one way to do this is to ask the right questions. Like what is love? It’s powerful. It can transform you. Love is joy. Love is life.

I Love You

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

A Lesson In Sacrifice December 23, 2013

Disgruntled, disheveled and exhausted. Or in other words crabby. That’s how mom came home today from that place called work. Apparently her mood was reflective of the majority of the folks with whom she came into contact today. People who wanted things done. Now. Unless yesterday is possible, in which case they would prefer that.

The truth is, on a day like today, you are only one person who can really only do one thing: your best. I got the impression that’s what she did, but it sure took its toll on her emotions. She looked like she could cry the moment she walked in the door. And my keen attentiveness to such things informs me this would most definitely not have been tears of joy.

Watching and waitingThat’s when it happened. Just as she came through the door, dad stepped up to the plate. He took one for the team. I was ready with all my usual tactics for brining joy into a room and dad beat me to it. He swept her away to some place immediately upon her arrival home and when they returned they were laughing. No more almost tears. It was really something to see.

What mom doesn’t know is dad had a rough day too. He didn’t sleep much last night either. He’s overcome with worry of his own about all things pregnancy and labor and baby related. I’ve even been guilty of forgetting this in the last nine months. But none of that mattered in those crucial moments when mom got home. He pushed everything he was feeling aside to bring joy to mom.

I never really have to do such things. Sure, I worry and have my own things that evoke fear and stress. But for me, bringing joy to the lives of others rarely (if ever) involves sacrifice. The way I see it its ingrained in me as my work in my forever home. Except it’s not work because I love it so much. It’s part of what I’m meant to do.

Dad, on the other hand, definitely sacrificed his own thoughts and emotions to support mom tonight. And I’m proud of him. “If you want to be loved, be lovable,” suggested ancient Roman poet Ovid. Mom certainly wasn’t lovable upon returning home from that place called work today. Regardless of the reasons, she was an emotional wreck. But dad loves and cared for her anyway. And it worked. That’s the thing about selflessness – it tends to do the trick every time.

 

Til Death Does Us Part September 21, 2013

It’s not my fault. I’m a terrier. I’m programmed to stay alert. Sure, that means I tend to be easily distracted, but I hardly classify myself as having attention-deficit disorder.

It happened again today while dad and mom made dinner. They fired up the grill and made some steaks and lobster tails and asparagus and potatoes. It was quite the feast. All the grilled goodness wafted through the neighborhood air and made my little dog nose drool in hopes that I might receive some scraps after dinner (which I did, of course).

While the food cooked, dad and I played fetch as we usually do when the grill is going in the backyard. The game lasted about the normal amount of time for me – about three retrievals – before I spotted a squirrel in the far corner of the yard. I lost all interest in the game at hand (what game?) to begin pursuit of the squirrel. That too, was short-lived due partially to the squirrels grand escape up a tree and partially to a piece of grilled potato that hit the ground.

I found myself reflecting on all this as my people enjoyed dinner. I can tell it was special because they ate with dim lights and kept saying the word anniversary to each other and telling stories. They also exchanged cards and gifts. Joy. From the ground up, I saw it happen in my forever home tonight.

What Game?Tomorrow they celebrate six years of marriage,Love which followed four years of dating. I might be a bit biased due to my doggie perspective the passage of time, but that is a significant amount of years to me. In that time, they have been true to each other. Loved each other. And they haven’t strayed from their path together. All of this, in spite of the loss of a job. And the sudden loss of a parent a mere two weeks later. It’s yet another kind of love to which I am honored to bear witness, knowing its one of the only love languages I may never fully understand.

Initially I felt a bit left out of this particular celebration of love. There was no gift for me. There was no card. All I got was a bit of playtime in the backyard and a couple scraps of potato (and steak and asparagus). Then it happened. I realized this is my own personal version of ADD rearing its ugly head.

Because they have ultimately given each other the greatest gift of all. They’ve given each other their hearts. They have vowed to stay together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in heath. It’s a concept I may not be able to wrap my doggie mind around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace it with my heart. They love each other until death does them part, and I love them unconditionally in the meantime. Maybe I’m not so distracted after all.

 

Penny For Your Thoughts April 13, 2013

I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those things I can’t help. I do it without thinking. I could probably even do it in my sleep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a towel, a messy pile of laundry being sorted or a tidy pile of clean laundry being put away. I instinctively (downright compulsively) rub myself all over anything and everything fabric that ends up on the floor. My adoptive parents are at a crossroads about this behavior: mom giggles and dad scowls. I don’t necessarily find joy in their disagreement, but (like I said) it isn’t something I can control.

Penny For Your ThoughtsExcept for today. Today, I overheard one of the most painfully sad conversations that made me pause. If I could speak human I would have audibly gasped. Dad asked mom what she was thinking about and that’s when she said it. “Do you ever regret marrying me?” My heart overpowered my head in that moment. I forgot all about all the clean clothes laying in their neat little piles all over the bed. I couldn’t believe my ears.

“What kind of a question is that?” Dad said.

“Well, do you or don’t you?” Mom said.

“I love you now as much as I did the day we were married,” dad said. “You are beautiful, inside and out.”

“Well said, dad!” I screamed at the top of my little doggie heart. They resumed folding laundry and I resumed my compulsive marking behavior with what I mistook for peace in my heart.

But after all the clothes were put away, I realized it wasn’t peace I felt at all. I can’t help but wonder what prompted mom to ask such a question in the first place. Certainly she doesn’t regret marrying my dad. I know they have experienced some extreme emotional ups and downs in their short five years of marriage, but I can see the purest of love in both of their eyes. And I generally don’t believe in having regrets. Everything happens for a reason, and no experience is without value if something is learned from it.

I’ll never know why mom’s head was in such a dark place today. Instead I will take a page from one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Henry David Thoreau and share with the world my opinion of the only way to view regret. “Make the most of your regrets,” Thoreau challenged, “never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those things I can’t help. I do it without thinking, just like my behavior with the clothes. Penny for my thoughts? I can’t stop myself from finding the silver lining. I suppose that’s a less embarrassing habit to have then my behavior with the clothes, but I digress.