Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

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.

 

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/

 

Remembering Wiley September 17, 2013

He kind of annoyed me at first. The people at the shelter called him Wiley and my first impression of him resonated perfectly with his name. He was small, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the noise he was making. Whining and pacing and scratching and whimpering. It was all too much. Worse than that, I’d seen it all before. These young pups come in here all anxious and adorable. I don’t understand what all the fussing is about. I don’t understand why they let themselves get so worked up.

Meanwhile I’ve come to the conclusion I will not be adopted. The Oshkosh Humane Society will be my final forever home. No one wants a 15-year-old golden retriever when they can have the puppies, or the anxiety attack two-year-old terrier mixes like my new neighbor. But I have made peace with that. I’ve lived a long and fulfilled life. I had a forever home with people who loved me. I had a family who loved me, played with me, and brought joy to my heart. I know what it means to be man’s best friend. I also know I’m not quite finished. I have something left to offer the world, and I am going to do it through this new neighbor of mine.Rusty

Because there is something different about this one. I can see it in his eyes. They are wide open to his soul, just like mine were at his age. And in that moment, his little soul was desperate for connection. For love. For hope. I could see it in his eyes. He was about to give up, and I was not about to let that happen.

So I told him my story. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to hear it but I didn’t care. My purpose in life was to share joy from the ground up with whoever would take it. To see the best in all people, places and things. To walk the walk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, to respect that sometime we get pushed on our backs to force us to look up and see some sunshine.Remembering Rusty

I’ll never know what he did with the wisdom I shared with him that fateful night. And it was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to him before the people took me to that place in the shelter a few days later. (I’d come to recognize it as the “deliveries only” kind of room where the old, unwanted dogs go into never to return). But I know one thing for sure.

He kind of annoyed me at first. He had all that energy and he was wasting it all on pessimism. But I’d been through too much, seen to much, lived too much to let the opportunity slip through my paws. So I lived my purpose that night by sharing my wisdom with him. It was like the final chapter in a long life of joy from the ground up. And I wouldn’t have traded my time with him for all the Beggin’ Strips in the world. That annoying little Wiley will know better than to mourn my loss, I thought as I made my way to the Rainbow Bridge. No sir. He will paw it forward.

This post was written from the perspective of my dear friend and mentor Rusty from the Oshkosh Humane Society in response to today’s daily prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

Rusty was right. His optimism lit a flame in my heart that night no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. I will not forget.

Related Posts: Remembering Rusty, http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/02/17/remembering-rusty/

 

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.

 

 

Sadness: Life’s Most Slippery Slope June 15, 2013

I lost an argument with a fly today. It was an epic battle of the minds, lasting for what seemed like hours. I don’t know when exactly it was he found his way into my forever home, but I knew the moment I saw him he didn’t belong. So I did what any dog would do. I set out on a mission to take him down to Chinatown. Or at least down out of the sky.

It was not my first rodeo of this kind, and I began confident. I jumped, I twisted, I chased, I growled. I came so close to catching him I could taste victory…yet it evaded me. The darned fly flapped its teeny tiny little wings up to the farthest corner of the bedroom ceiling, a place not even a bed would help me reach. I can’t explain what happened next. I was completely overcome with frustration to the point I was almost fearful. It was an unusual turn of emotional events and it took me by surprise.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary for me to follow mom everywhere throughout the house, but in the moment I declared defeat I started snuggling up next to her regardless of where she stopped. I sat and snuggled up to her legs in six different places before she deduced something was awry. She (wrongfully) assumed I had won the victory with the fly when (in fact) I had lost. She told dad she thought I must of swallowed the fly (a theory which lasted about two minutes longer before dad caught and disposed of it).

All SmilesI indeed had not swallowed the fly, but my mind turned to a children’s story involving an old lady who did. In the 1960s author Nadine Bernard penned the story of the woman who swallowed a fly (in addition to all sorts of other things) and the aftermath that ensues.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly, but I don’t know why she swallowed a fly…perhaps she’ll die,” the story reads. So the woman does what any woman would do (oh I jest) and swallowed a horse to catch a pig to catch a goat to catch a dog to catch a cat to catch a bird to catch a spider (“that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her”) all to catch the teeny tiny fly that started it all.

While it is an admittedly silly story, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the slippery slope it contains. Often negative thoughts begin as tiny flies buzzing around in our minds. The buzzing isn’t so bad at first, but slowly it grows louder and more irritating and before you know it has the power to develop into full-fledged pessimism. This cycle of negativity happened to me relatively quickly today as I found myself waving the white flag of forfeit to the fly who one the battle.

I lost an argument with a fly today. So what? It’s like the great American comedian Lucille Ball once said. “One of the things I learned the hard way is that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” My daily commitment to seeing the best in all people, places and things will not be defeated by this intruder. No sir. That fly may have won the battle, but he cannot win the war. It astounds me how something so tiny somehow be so powerful.