Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Kindness Too Soon November 22, 2014

Stop. Pause. Breathe. If people could learn tricks, that is what I wish I could tell them to do this time of year.

I’ve said before the holidays are a favorite time of mine, what with all the family time and music and snow and snuggling. There are few things about the holidays I don’t enjoy. But there is one thing in particular that gets to me. It happens every single year and seems to intensify as the countdown to Christmas continues.

I Am Listening!People get rude. Pushy. Rushed. And completely inconsiderate of those around them. I don’t witness much of it in person, but I hear plenty of stories exchanged between my forever people to know what’s up. It drives me crazy. Not just because it’s the season of giving. Gratitude. Unconditional love. But because of the impact this behavior has. Negativity has an awful way of spreading like a disease no one can control, and while I would hate to see that happen at any point in time, it bothers me most around the holidays.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late,” suggested one of my favorite transcendentalist thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson. If there is a reason to rush this holiday season, that’s the reason.

Because this is supposed to be a season of kindness. A season to share love with others who may otherwise not receive it. This is supposed to be a time of joy, and any ignorant person in a parking lot who steals a spot from an elderly lady or shoves their way in front of someone in line or loses patience with the overworked clerk who is only in the challenging position because the store is understaffed…well, they are doing nothing but stealing joy from other people. Not sharing it.

So I say stop. Pause. Breathe. Remember what the season is really about. It’s not about the gifts or the wrapping paper or the perfect Christmas tree. Its about joy. From the ground up, that is the real reason for the season.

 

 

Let It Go October 29, 2014

Apparently I live under a rock. At least that’s how I felt for a moment today as I heard a song I later learned has taken the world by storm. It’s not surprising to me at all that the song has become as popular as it has, with its positive message set to powerful chords. Throw that lyrical magic into a Disney movie for the kiddos, and you’re golden.

“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all,” sings Idina Menzel in Disney’s “Frozen.” The message certainly must have different meanings to different people, as any well-written song does, but to me the idea of letting it go is the standout life lesson. Moving on. From the ground up, it isn’t always easy to do. Grass is grass

It wasn’t easy for me to let go of my birth mom and brothers after I lost them that fateful day all those years ago. Loss. It wasn’t easy for me to get over being returned to the humane society (twice). Rejection. It wasn’t easy for me to trust the hands of people again after the man with the leather belt. Pain.

These could all be some pretty significant emotional eyesores if I let them be. That’s the thing about negativity. It’s pretty powerful stuff. I know I talk a lot about the contagion of joy, but I feel like negative energy somehow manages to multiply with even more ferocity than the positive. I think it might be because the roadblocks we encounter in our daily lives can make it easier to complain about not moving ahead than to focus on how to actually do it.

To do it, you need to make a whole other decision. And it’s not always easy. You need to put aside the negativity for a fresh look on life. You need to move on. You need to let it go. Just like the (ridiculously popular albeit new-to-me) song says to do. Take it from me, letting go is the best decision I’ve ever made.

 

Survival in the Real World December 14, 2013

It’s a pretty crazy world out there. Yesterday was Friday the 13th and (though neither of them believe in the meaning of such things), both my mom and dad came home regaling a series of unfortunate events involving unexpectedly odd amounts of crazy. Their stories were incredibly different, yet one thing bound them together. Negativity. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough heart to practice common courtesy around others.

Going Somewhere?Mom would never have expected that nicely dressed elderly woman to literally push another woman out of the way over a bar of luxury bath soap. But it happened. Dad didn’t believe his eyes when he witnessed a near hit-and-run accident in the parking lot over a spot that was literally five feet away from the next closest spot. Wherever that person was going sure must have been important.

Regardless of the source, this negativity thing is like it’s very own breed of pollution. Its own unique type of noise that keeps us from hearing the music. And it sneaks up on you in the oddest of ways to tear away at your resolve. To bring you down. And ultimately to make you weak. It’s all so frustrating to me. I would much rather be strong. And I can be, when I am armed with the most powerful weapon.

Optimism keeps me strong. As milk is to bones, optimism is to my soul. So when I think about what can be done to reverse the pollution in our society, I think it comes down to us. The fighters. The people who resolve to retain a positive outlook amidst life’s most challenging curve balls.

“Negativity is an addiction to the bleak shadow that lingers around every human form,” proposed Irish poet John O’Donohue. “You can transfigure negativity by turning it toward the light of your soul.”

It can be pretty crazy out there. It’s enough to make me second guess my occasional bitterness that I am not allowed to accompany my people to literally everywhere outside our forever home. But negativity has no place in my home, nor out there in the world. Because the real world is what we make it, not what it tells us it should be.

 

Bundle of Trouble November 7, 2013

It’s started. Just like Tramp said it would. Negativity is sneaking its way into my little doggie heart. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

My people have left me at home two nights this week to go to something called baby class. They come back a few hours (which feel to me like a few days) later with an odd concoction of emotions weighing on their hearts. Excitement. Fear. Exhaustion. Happiness. It’s a lot for a little guy like me to handle at 9 p.m. on a weeknight.Thinking in the Nursery

So after they got home last night, I did what any dog would do. I tried to get a game of pickle in the middle going. Or fetch. Or chase. Something – anything –that will bring some emotional focus to the situation. And, let’s face it, I wanted a little attention.

I didn’t get it. No matter how hard I tried, both nights I went without my usual amount of love and playtime with my forever people. And it broke my little doggie heart. A conversation Lady had with Jock and Trusty in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” came to mind. Lady asked “what’s a baby?”

Jock and Trusty said they resemble humans (except they’re smaller), they walk on all fours, they beller a lot, they’re very expensive – and breakable – but they’re sweet.

“Just a cute little bundle of trouble,” Tramp chimed into the conversation. “Yeah, they scratch, pinch, pull ears…aw, but shucks, any dog can take that. It’s what they do to your happy home. Move it over, will ya, friend? Home wreckers, that’s what they are!”

Tramp spends the majority of the story trying to convince Lady to leave her family for a life of freedom and bliss because she will otherwise be replaced in the hearts of her people by this little bundle of trouble.

“A human heart only has so much room for love and affection,” he tells Lady. “When a baby moves in, the dog moves out.”

It’s started. Just like Tramp said it would. Negativity is sneaking its way into my little doggie heart. And I don’t like it. Not one bit. But I realized something as I gave up my attempts to play with my people this week.

It’s all too easy for me to start to slip into that way of thinking. And I’ve never been one to take the easy way out, so I don’t intend to start now. Instead, I shall prepare myself to find joy in these moments of emotional confusion my people are having. To embrace them with my whole doggie heart. Tramp may have been right about babies being bundles of trouble, but I know differently of my little person. He or she will be a little bundle of joy for my people, and (in turn) for me.

 

Don’t Let Me Go October 7, 2013

Life. No one ever said it would be easy. Quite the opposite in fact. Life is tough. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t really lived. And big or small, it doesn’t matter. Some troubles can seem insurmountable regardless of their size.

The LightI remember one of mine like it was yesterday. It was the day my first adoptive parents took me back to the Oshkosh Humane Society. I was showered with love from all the shelter workers (especially Katie, my friend who always had a few extra treats in her pocket with my name on them). Even a few of the other dogs were clearly happy to see me. But I wouldn’t have it. I was at the lowest of the low with no optimistic neighbor pal like Rusty to dig me out of the darkness this time.

In these moments of darkness, the light can seem so far away. But in reality it’s not. Oftentimes it is just beyond our reach. We just need someone to reach out and pull us that last couple of steps. We need help. Because whatever the struggle may be, it has us in such a haze of negativity we just can’t see how close we are to relief. To safety. To life.

Sometimes the realization of this happens instantly. I wasn’t so lucky. Mine happened over time, with help from Katie and her treats. And her love. And her encouragement. “They will find you, Wiley,” she would say during our daily play time. “Your forever people are coming for you. I just know it.”

And they did. The found me and I felt whole again. I knew everything would be all right. But I don’t know what I would have done without Katie and her kind words every day.

It can be painful to remember the tough times, but they are part of who we are. And now that mine are behind me, I can appreciate their meaning in my life. I can appreciate the characters who kept shining the light at me, like Rusty and Katie. And I know the importance of not just looking back where I came from, but reaching back and bringing someone with me. Because as American author Helen Keller said “walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Life. No one ever said it would be easy. I don’t know how long I was in the darkness before I found the light again. I guess it was only a couple of weeks, but (take it from me) that can feel like a lifetime when your heart is in a dark place. I renewed my vow the day of my adoption never to go back to that dark place. To instead find joy from the ground up in all people, places and things. And (perhaps most importantly) to be that person for someone.

Today’s post was written in response to the daily prompt:

Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright.

I’m a believer in the growth that can come from recognizing these moments in our lives. Please share yours with me.

 

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/

 

On Neighborly Physics September 9, 2013

We all have at least one in our lives. One character we wish we had never met. One friend gone bad. One neighbor we can’t stand.

For me, it’s Demon Dog in the backyard behind mine. He scares me, irritates my people, and I fear for the threat he could be to the safety of my future little person.

For my newest dog park pal Tucker, it’s the neighbor man who lives next door to his forever home. He sounds like an angry person always carries a strong chemical smell I’ve come to recognize as alcohol on his breath. I didn’t say anything, but (at least from what I hear) he sounds like the man with the leather belt I once knew. I shudder to think of Tucker being exposed to such things. And Tucker shudders to think of the influence this man could have on the little people he oversees.

Since being at my forever home, I don’t think I’ve come across too many proverbial bad seeds. But I’m also not sure what the best course of action is when we cross paths with these sorts of characters on our journey through life. Every situation is different, but I think what brings each one together is a commonality of understanding. Ultimately we all have at least one of these people in our lives.Love thy neighbor

But how lucky we are to have this be the exception rather than the rule. I was reminded of this recently when I finally got to offer my condolences (in the form of some kisses and cuddles) to the next-door neighbor whose husband went to heaven a couple months ago. I can tell she is still very sad, but I think my love helped (at least a little) to bring a little sunshine into her day.

Mom talked to her too, about how she’s doing and life in general. Mom told Mary (that’s her name) about the baby and how she’s been struggling to stay active during pregnancy. What happened next surprised us both. Mary said my mom is welcome to use her pool as often as she’d like, at least until she drains and covers it for the winter.

It might sound like a small thing, but to my mom it was a pretty big deal. Ever since her knee surgery last November she’s wanted to get back into swimming. But something (I think it was fear) was holding her back. She used to swim competitively (a concept I’ll never understand – why would you intentionally spend all that time in the water?) and was afraid of how out of shape she’d be when she picked it up again. It turns out it wasn’t that bad at all, and she’s been going swimming a few times a week ever since.

We all have a few of them in our lives. A character we are so glad we met. A friend who will do anything for us. A neighbor who makes a difference. With all this good in our lives, what power is there in the bad? It reminds me of the scientific belief of English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he theorized.

I think there’s all kinds of ways we can choose to approach the negative people in our lives. I avoid Demon Dog at all costs. And I know Tucker will do whatever he can to protect his little people from the awful neighbor man. But all this thinking about neighbors served as a reminder that the negative influences are the exception not the rule. If anything, they make us appreciate the positive people in our lives that much more.

 

Things I Don’t Understand July 10, 2013

People talk. Human emotion. Interpersonal relationships. There are a lot of things I think people think dogs don’t understand. I’ve got a little secret for you. We do. Sure, some of us understand people talk better than others. Certain breeds are especially gifted with understanding human emotion. And our own variety of social skills reflects our understanding the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done to you.

So you can imagine my confusion when people, my forever people no less, question my understanding. Occasionally dad comments to mom that it’s like I understood what he was saying. Today it went the other way around with mom suggesting it to dad. This surprised me, since she is definitely a firm believer in my understanding of all things human. It must have been the topic of conversation that threw her off the communicative scent, as dad made me the most disturbing (yet loving) promise.

“If you ever get cancer, we will do everything we can to save you little man,” he said. “Surgeries, treatments, even doggie chemo.”

Thinking HardWhere did that come from? Somehow the conversation that had been about what they were going to have for dinner evolved into something completely incomprehensible to me. How on Earth that happened, I will never understand. And while I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, I found it incredibly unsettling to think about. I know life is messy and these things happen sometimes, but I see negativity as a cancer of its own that I make a point to stay away from as best I can.

Sure, there is some validity to the idea of expecting the best while preparing for the worst. I’m a walking advertisement for living each day as if it could be our last. “The one fact I would cry from every housetop is this: The Good Life is waiting for us—here and now,” suggested behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Indeed today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and that also means it could be our last. But let us embrace the positive rather than fearing the negative. It never ceases to amaze me the power negativity has to spread like wildfire. It’s almost more contagious than positivity and that breaks my little doggie heart.

It wasn’t the case in this particular conversation, which reverted back to a the discussion about dinner moments later. And I opted to see dad’s random promise akin to a people expression of love. But it all got me to thinking about the things people think we dogs can’t understand and how different the world would be if they knew we understand so much more than they think we do.

Doggie Halloween costumes. The cancer that is negativity. People grooming habits. That place called work. Why bad things happen to good people. All canines are different, but let’s be clear. These are the things I don’t understand.