Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Living the Life (Of Dreams) July 5, 2014

It has been said that when a door closes, a window opens. As your resident doggie optimist, it’s one of those philosophies to which I bow my heart. But today I got a breath of fresh air. Today I got a real-life reminder of the truth that is finding the silver lining in even the saddest of situations.

Today I saw Penny, the neighborhood sweetheart otherwise known as a cat. I know what you’re thinking. It goes against every grain of normalcy for her and I to get along. Yet we do. Something in her resonates with me. And today I was reminded why.WIley Hammock

Today was the first time I’ve seen her since her forever owner Rose died a few months ago. It was a sad day in my life hearing the news, so I couldn’t imagine what it was like for dear fragile feline Penny. Well, it turns out I had things all wrong. Because poor Penny has not been so poor these days. Quite the contrary, in fact. Though she loved Rose with all of her being, she is happier now than I’ve ever seen her. She has basically become the pet of the neighborhood, the talk of the town if you will.

While no one has officially adopted her, she hasn’t needed adopting. The neighborhood has thrown their proverbial hearts around this dear little creature, by providing her home(s) if she needs as well as plenty of food and love. I know it’s different for her now than it was with Rose, but (at least from what I can tell) it’s just as fabulous.

It just goes to show how far you can go on what might look like nothing sometimes. When she lost Rose, I thought for sure she would be lost. Instead she is thriving and happier than ever. I know this for sure since I’ve seen a lot of it around my forever home recently too. It’s taken some time since we experienced loss around here. Mom lost her favorite job and her father within a couple of weeks ago five years ago already. But I see it every day now and it brings me the sincerest sense of joy.

From the ground up, it happens when a door closes even it if takes a while to find that opened window. I saw it today as mom and dad enjoyed some steamed mussels in chicken broth on the patio in my backyard paradise. They were relaxing after taking a swim in the neighbor’s pool. Their beach towels were drying nearby. And all was well in our world. All is well in our world. We are living the life of dreams.

 

 

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Homeless and Hungry April 2, 2014

“Homeless and hungry.” That’s what I read on a cardboard sign being held by a person on the side of the road not far from my beloved dog park the other day. As we drove by, I was instantly overcome with empathy for the man.

He looked not that unlike myself when I was in his paws. He was scraggly. Dirty. Generally unkempt. And skinny. Goodness gracious, was he skinny. During my time on the streets, all of these things could have been said of me too. I’m not proud of it. It’s nothing I prefer to broadcast. But I was kind of a mess.

I’ve said before that home is where the heart is. Well, when you don’t have a home neither does your heart. It’s an awful place to be. I’m not going to lie – it was pretty easy to push it out of my mind as I explored my beloved park. It’s one of my happy places, after all.

But when I got home I was reminded. Not just because I was home and warm and enjoying a feast of delicious doggie kibble. It’s because of what happened next. I was enjoying some beautiful rays of sunshine and warmth in my backyard paradise on one of the first warmer days of the year when it happened.

My cat friend Penny came over. She had news. And it wasn’t good. Her person, the person that is home to her, is gone. Dear Rose took a turn for the worse that day and went to heaven, she told me. It’s not my first time hearing about this place called heaven that I frequently dream about. It’s my opinion (mostly because it’s mom’s opinion) that if it’s called heaven it is heaven to whoever goes there. Meaning there is most definitely a place for pets in this place, since I know I would be in mom’s version of heaven.

That’s when I realized dear Penny didn’t seem nearly as lost as I thought she would at the reality of her news. Because that’s when she said something truly profound.

Life is like an airport terminal on our way back home to heaven, she said. Now I’ve never been to an airport terminal, but it is certainly a concept I can wrap my little doggie mind (and heart) around. In that moment, I was overcome with empathy for Penny and her loss, but also for the homeless man.

It might be hard to remember sometimes. Especially when things get rough. But in those moments it is most important that we remember something I was reminded of by Penny today. We may go through bouts where we are hungry, but we are never truly homeless. We all do have a home to return to someday.

 

Punch In The Stomach March 23, 2014

At first I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It was a stroke. My feline neighbor friend Penny finally reported the news to me this afternoon. The other day when I saw the flashing lights and heard the sirens, it was for her person Rose. Her person Rose had a stroke.

I don’t know much about these things. Except that when I don’t know much about things I am more likely to fear them. Not this time. I decided this time would be different. Just because I don’t understand what this stroke business is about will not keep me from finding the silver lining. Which, in this case, is pretty obvious.

All SmilesRelief. From the ground up, it swiftly overcame my fear. Rose is sick. She is in the hospital, and will be for some time. But she is there to get better. She is there to recover. And while she does, I find myself contemplating life’s most basic questions.

Because we never know. We never know when our last day might be. It certainly puts things into perspective when you think that way. If you knew it was your last day, what would you do differently? How would you spend the time? Who would you be with? To some it might seem morbid to contemplate these things. To me it seems sensible. Motivational even.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today,” suggested American actor James Dean. I don’t think its a coincidence this insight came from an actor fans agree died too young.

Unlike him, Rose has lived a long and full life. She has children and grandchildren and joy from all kinds of sources. Today she shared her joy with me.

Sure, at first I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It was devastating news that dear Rose had suffered from something serious enough to keep her away from Penny for so long. But she lived. And she will go on living. Sometimes we need a good punch in the stomach to remember just how precious a gift life really is.

 

Being First Responders March 21, 2014

It happens every year. In fall, Wisconsinites dust of hats, mittens, scarves and winter coats when the temperature first falls below 50 degrees. Then, half a year later comes spring and you’d better believe all of those things have been discarded as soon as the temperature reaches a balmy 40 degrees.

I witnessed the insanity first paw today as I watched many of the usual suspects walking through the neighborhood. Dog jackets have long since been discarded, but now almost no people were in coats. In 40 degree weather. I was especially surprised to see this was the case among the fire fighters and emergency response teams who visited down the street today.

They were running into a house a few homes down when I thought of it. Penny. My beloved cat friend (contrary to popular belief it is possible for dogs and cats to get along) from down the road. Though I’m happy she’s likely been keeping toasty warm inside the home she shares with her person Rose, I’ve missed her bushy little face around my front door step all winter. I was just wondering when I might see her again when the first responders came.

That’s when it hit me. Hard. They were going to Penny’s house. Where her person Rose lives. I remember one of the last times I saw Penny before winter went into full swing she mentioned her dear person was having some health problems. My view was limited since it is several houses down the road, but tonight my heart is heavy for Rose and Penny.

So rather than drive myself crazy thinking of possible negative scenarios, I’ve decided instead to flip the coin. To focus on the positive.

It’s an important job those first responders do (even if they aren’t sensible with their outerwear at this time of year). They are there when someone needs them most. They take care of those in need. They save lives. And as I watched them do their magic today I realized how important it is that we all be first responders from time to time. On the Clock

Certainly the majority of us lack the formal training in CPR and medicine that an emergency medical technician has worked hard to obtain. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for someone when they need it most. That doesn’t mean we can’t take care of those in need. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lives out there for saving.

I don’t know what happened down the road today. But I do know this. Today I took an oath to become a first responder in the lives of those around me. Because there is something worth saving in every negative situation.

 

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/

 

Penny For Your Thoughts August 31, 2013

I did the unthinkable today. I made friends with a feline. And I’ve got to be honest. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Her name is Penny and she frequents my front doorstep, so I assumed she was homeless. She doesn’t wear a collar, so I assumed she wasn’t loved by a person. She’s one of the skinnier felines I’ve come across, so I assumed she doesn’t eat very frequently.

On Friendship

I assumed wrong. I learned today she has a forever home down the street where she is very well-loved by an older lady named Rose. Much like us canines think of our people, Penny considers Rose her best friend. So it hasn’t been easy for Penny to see her person struggling with health issues more frequently lately. She apparently sleeps a lot during the day (which is saying something coming from a cat), so she encourages Penny to seek adventure outside the confines of the house. She trusts that Penny will come home for her specially prepared meals (Penny has digestion issues), and for the love they share.

Penny looked especially downtrodden on my doorstep today, so I successfully pestered mom enough to take me outside to talk to her. It was the first time we’d spoken and I can honestly say I hope it’s not the last. Everything about her surprised me, and she seemed surprised to feel the same way about me.

She said from her perspective I always looked aloof, guarded, and the slightest bit snooty from my perch in the window. Like you think your poop doesn’t stink, she said. We laughed together at that, since we both know poop does indeed stink.

Amidst our laughter, I realized how unfair we had been to each other all this time. We both had these inaccurate pictures of each other’s personality painted in our heads. She had bad experiences with dogs, and I had bad experiences with cats. But in this (albeit strange) situation, we were able to move past those preconceived notions and (gasp!) actually like each other. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that stereotypes are definitely overrated. Other people should not be allowed to determine who you can and cannot befriend. Moreover, others should not determine what should and should not bring you joy.

“Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it,” suggested my favorite transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. “You will find you dance with everything.”

Today I found joy in the most unusual place. I found it in Penny. She makes it her purpose in life to bring joy (from the ground up) to her dearest person named Rose. So I don’t particularly care if she’s a cat and the world says we can’t be friends. Penny is rich with joy, which makes her pretty priceless in my book.