Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

It Goes On October 15, 2013

I’ve heard it all before. If only I’d seen it coming. I should have planned for that. Hindsight is 20/20. Regrets. Somehow knowing everyone has them doesn’t make the ones we have any less real. I know the great and thoughtful “they” say misery loves company. In this case I’m not so sure.

Deep ThinkingTonight I stared up at the clear night sky dreaming about my future as a big brother. I’m going to love him or her as big as the sky, that much I know. And we’re going to be best friends forever (obviously). But I know my purpose in the life of this little purpose will be bigger than that. I’ve learned a lot in my five people years of life and I can’t wait to share everything. People can learn a lot from how us canines process things, after all.

Like regrets, for example. I have them. And I remember the day of my biggest one like it was yesterday. The day I was separated from my mom and brothers comes to mind instantly. There we were in the middle of oncoming traffic and I ran. I didn’t look back. I’ll never know what happened behind me that day. And it would haunt me to this day if I let it. If I let it. I think that’s the key to all of this regret business.

I doubt I’m the only one who’s biggest regret somehow involves the loss of a loved one. Be it a conversation that was cut off, misconstrued, or never even happened at all, many of us have experienced a sudden loss and wished there was something we could change about those last precious moments together. And we all know (all too well) there is nothing we can do. We can’t repeat the past, but we can live the present.

And in my present I chose to learn from my experience. I learned to hold loved ones close because you never know when that last embrace might be. But living life in constant fear of impending doom won’t get us anywhere either any more than regret will bring them back. Instead, seize the day regardless of the circumstances.

If you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded with loved ones, let them know what they mean to you. That’s something I want to teach my little person. But (perhaps more importantly), I want him or her to know that it’s not the end of the world if the worst does happen. You might not be able to hold that person close right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t hold them forever in your heart. In lessons like this, sometimes we learn that in life’s greatest regrets lie some of life’s greatest opportunities for personal growth.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life,” as great American poet Robert Frost put it, “it goes on.” More often than not, we don’t see it coming. We didn’t plan for that. And that darned hindsight thing taps us on the shoulder. But somehow, no matter how grim the regret may seem, life does go on.

Related posts:

To read the whole story of my biggest regret – The Day Forever Changed http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/09/01/the-day-forever-changed/

 

The F Word October 10, 2013

Brisk walks around the tree-lined streets of the neighborhood. Snuggling on mom’s lap while she and dad sip pumpkin spice lattes by the bonfire in the backyard. Snagging the occasional apple slice that makes its way onto the kitchen floor while mom bakes one of her apple pies on a lazy Sunday afternoon. These are the fall moments to embrace. Haunted houses, spooky corn mazes and scary movies filled with blood, guts and gore? Not so much.

I can’t personally understand why anyone would ever purposely subject themselves to any of these fear-inducing fall traditions. But then again, I have my reasons. As one who has lived on the receiving side of abuse (both physical and verbal), I am here to testify fear is truly its own four-letter word.

And that’s coming from a four-legged mind that generally doesn’t process swear words. Dogs don’t swear. Sure, we have our own unique ways to demonstrate choice words. But that’s one of the perks of silence – we never really have the opportunity to say something we will later regret.Forgiveness

It doesn’t happen often in my forever home, but it used to happen a lot in my life before my forever people rescued me. People swearing, saying hurtful things they didn’t mean, and ultimately filling their lives with nothing but regret. Well, I guess I’m not sure about the regret part. That’s not for me to judge.

What I do know is the fears I have each have a reason, mostly relating to the man with the leather belt. He swore a lot. Usually after he’d been drinking. And he is the reason I grew to fear leather belts, power tools and vacuum cleaners.

I remember the way his breath smelled on my face the time he thought he would vacuum me because he hated all my shedding. I can picture the glazed look in his eyes when he thought he’d cut my nails with his cordless drill. And the belt. That was the worst of it. The belt wasn’t usually meant for me, at least until I intervened when he would use it on my dearest little Jo (my little person at the time).

But there is this thing about fear. It has a way of controlling us if we let it. And it’s a huge roadblock to the one combination of things that can cure regret: forgive and forget. I have long since forgiven the man, but I can honestly say I will never forget the fear. It’s a part of me I can’t truly shut off, even with my forever people. I have absolutely no reason to believe my dad would ever use his belt on me yet I still cower at the sight of it. The same goes for the vacuum and the drill.

So I don’t know why people purposely subject themselves to fearful things this time of year. It’s one of those people things I have accepted I may never understand. Instead I focus my emotional energy on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” he said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

The Day Forever Changed September 1, 2013

My birth mother never cared much for cars. Or people for that matter. Put the two together into a moving vehicle? She usually kept her distance. Except for that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day we all got separated.

It started like any other day in my early puppyhood. We woke to mom going hunting for food, so my brothers and I wrestled until she returned. We feasted on a gourmet selection of leftovers she scavenged from behind a nearby diner. Discarded toast crusts were my favorite since my brothers usually stolGaining Perspectivee the ham and sausage scraps before I could get to them.

After breakfast, we would journey outside our cardboard shelter. I know mom’s intention was to keep an eye out for someplace better for us to move to even though I quite fancied our cozy hideaway. She always wanted the best for us though, and I will never forget that.

I don’t know what go into her that day, but she seemed edgy. Skiddish. Scattered. Her usual fear of cars and people was thrown to the wind as we paraded through the streets. My brothers and I followed (somewhat) blindly, trusting she knew what she was doing.

That’s when it happened. There we were in the middle of the road when not just one but two cars were coming at us full speed ahead. From both directions. My heart raced almost as fast as I did away from the imminent danger. I assume my mom and brothers did the same, though I will never know for sure. I ran as fast as my puppy legs would take me until I made it back to the cardboard box we called home. I waited there, knowing certainly that’s where we would all meet up. I waited a day. Every moment that ticked by felt like hours. I waited a week. Nothing.

I was devastated. The events of the day haunted my every thought as I wondered how I could somehow relive those moments. How I could make it right. I should have looked back, I thought. I should have waited for my brothers. I should have stopped running sooner so I could have seen where they went. All of these should haves, could haves, would haves still occasionally pop into my mind.

But how would life be different had I done “right” that day? Would I still be with my mom and brothers somewhere? Perhaps. But then I would never have met Tiger and his puppies. I wouldn’t have gotten to protect Jo from the man with the leather belt. I wouldn’t have learned optimism as a way of life from Rusty at the Oshkosh Humane Society. I wouldn’t have found my forever home.

All of this makes me wonder whether there really is a “right” way in life. Moreover, I wonder whether what we sometimes think is right actually is what’s best for us on our path. I may be an optimist, but I can’t say whether there really is a way to get life right. I know my mom’s way involved keeping her distance from cars and people. But that isn’t the right way for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me.

The day I was separated from my birth family was one I will always remember. That day I learned a very important life lesson that forever can change in a moment. Sometimes you can make it right. Sometimes you can’t. The thing is we also don’t always understand what’s best for us in these moments. We can’t always see the big picture through the cloudy lenses of now. But that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. In reality there is nothing I would change about that day because it led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for all of the dog treats in the world.

 

I Can’t Wait to See the View March 15, 2013

Today was like most Fridays. My parents woke up later than they wished, let me outside, filled my bowls with breakfast and water, rushed around to get ready and left for that place they call work. I slept until mom came home over her lunch break to let me outside and spend a little time with me, then she disappeared again. I slept some more. Then they got home at about the same time, made dinner together, filled my bowls with dinner and water…well you get the idea. I realized today that while I love a sense of adventure as much as the next dog, I do like our routines. They bring stability to my life story.Atop a Mountain

I will admit there are moments in my past I choose not to remember. I know I’ve mentioned it before. And I keep telling myself it’s for my own good. I keep telling myself to live my present with high hopes for the future that look nothing like the past I once knew. But maybe I’m going about things the wrong way. Maybe I’m not doing my life story justice with my emotional autobiographical edits.

A light turned on in one of those dark attics of my past tonight during something referred to in our family as a love fest. I know it as an especially long petting session for me, usually involving both mom and dad telling me they love me in their own unique ways (mom saying it directly, dad implying it with his silly behavior). I realized in that moment that if not for the valleys of my past I wouldn’t know how much to appreciate the view from the mountaintops. I know now from looking down from the mountains that the valleys are where the growth happens. That’s where the life is. I realized in that moment I am indeed doing myself an injustice by not being honest.

“People will tell you most of the story,” writes Nicholas Sparks in his recent novel Safe Haven, “and I’ve learned that the part they neglect to tell you is often the most important part. People hide the truth because they’re afraid.” I am done being afraid. The time has come to embrace the fear that Sarah Ban Breathnach refers to in Simple Abundance as “false evidence appearing real.”

Today was like most Fridays. And I do glory in routines. But I also love adventures: good or bad. Sure, there are moments in my past I would prefer not to remember. But I’m not doing my story justice with my emotional editing. I don’t want to live an emotionally edited life story. Because without spending some time in the valleys, we wouldn’t be able to move forward to the climbing the next mountain. I can’t wait to see the view.