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.

 

In An Instant August 7, 2013

It doesn’t sound real. It sounds a bit like one of those stories that show up next to the alien encounter reports in the tabloids. It’s just too terrible to be real.

Yet it seems it’s true (or at least allegedly true, per the legal jargon). A 45-year-old Washington man recently blew up his daughter’s dog because he believed it “had the devil in it.” The man, named Christopher Dillingham, is accused of strapping explosives to Cabela’s neck, which killed her immediately upon impact. As if that’s not bad enough, it took several days for animal cruelty charges to be added due to what I would argue is a technicality. Since the lab was killed instantly, state legislators claimed at first it technically couldn’t be considered cruelty.

Plenty of things happen instantly, but from what I can tell that never negates the severity. On the contrary, it is in these seemingly unimportant moments that lives change forever. Disaster rarely strikes when we’re expecting it, so I generally think preparing for the worst is a waste of emotional resources. Instead I hope for the best. In An Instant

But in this case I see no best. I am struggling to find a silver lining. Sure, the man is in jail on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, possession of explosives, and (a few days later) animal cruelty. And I don’t know a lot about people money but I do know $500,000 is a large amount for bail. But this man took a dog’s life. When a person takes another person’s life, it doesn’t matter how quickly it happens. Murder is murder. Cabela will bring joy to that little girl no more.

I have nothing positive to say about this. Truth be told, the whole thing breaks my little doggie heart. It doesn’t even sound like a real story. But it is real, to both the little girl left behind and Ty Freemantle, who gave Cabela to the family six months ago. To them, she was family.

To one who doesn’t cross over to this side of the thinking bridge very often, I’m finding this negativity thing exhausting. And I don’t plan to make a habit of it. Still I find some peace tonight in preparing for the worst. In embracing my family with all my heart. In counting my blessings and giving thanks for everyone I know. In breathing. Because at any instant it could all be gone.

 

Hide and Seek No More February 28, 2013

Everything around me was gray. I was standing on a platform that appeared to be floating and not connected in anyway to the walls around me. It was flying down and I was struggling to keep my balance. “Newbie,” I heard someone mumble nearby. I didn’t look around because that would have made me lose my focus. Instead I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and…

my first thought upon waking this morning was I was happy to be alive. Shortly after that, my senses returned and I realized I was really hungry and really had to go outside. But when I opened my eyes and saw I wasn’t on that platform surrounded in gray plunging to what seemed like inevitable death, I knew I’d made it. I was blessed with another day filled with naps, treats, playtime and love. How lucky I am.

I know it isn’t this way for everyone. I will admit, it isn’t even always that way for me. It is a conscious choice we make each day to see it as a fresh canvas ready and waiting for our uniquely personal brushstrokes. And some days are not masterpieces. Or they don’t seem like it at the time at least. Even the works of Pablo Picasso confused (and, in some cases, continue to confuse) its viewers at first. “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls,” Picasso said. That’s not so confusing.

So today I take a page from Picasso’s sketchbook and paint myself a portrait of gratitude. By doing so, I breathe life into gratitude, just as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests we take time to do in Simple Abundance. Two months ago, I reflected on Breathnach’s concept of a gratitude journal as a necessary part of the Simple Abundance experience in Hope in Gratitude.

“If you want to continue on this journey with me, the gratitude journal is not an option,” Breathnach scolds. “Why? Because you simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life.” One month ago, I challenged myself to write my own eulogy, forcing me to reflect on the value of life. Since then, I have taken Breathnach’s concept one tiny paw step further and made it a point not to separate my gratitude journal from my other musings, as a way to trick myself into being more grateful. And I would argue that my little trick with my mind is working. I’m not the same dog I was two months ago.Thankful to be Alive

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,” American president John F. Kennedy once said, “but to live by them.”

That is why I want to share my perspective with the world. It’s kind of like American comedian Jim Carrey said “I wake up some mornings…and I go, ‘remember how good this is because you can lose it.” I’m done playing hide and seek with life.

Instead when I wake I say here I am world, happy and alive.