Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Can You Hear Me Now? April 21, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:06 pm
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I think it’s kind of hard for a lot of people. Well, I’ll be honest – I know it’s really hard for a lot of people. Listening. From the ground up, it is a skill. A gift. Most definitely not a given trait of human personality.

And I say this with authority in the matter. There is a good reason we four-legged canines are known as man’s best friend. Well, there’s more than one, but for the sake of my experiences today I shall focus on one. I would argue that’s okay since it might just be one of the most important behaviors that distinguishes us from people. We listen. Whole-heartedly, sincerely and honestly. We listen.

Experience observing people has taught me that is not always the case from person to person. Too frequently I think person one is too caught up in his or her own story (or stories) to notice what person two is trying to say. I often mention my appreciation of the person behind the people. This is probably one of my very best examples of how that is not supposed to work.

No matter how a good a person may thing he or she is at hiding it, we dogs always know when something bigger is going on. Words may not even be involved, but we listen. I Am Listening!

The same cannot always be said for people unfortunately, and so begins the fundamental communication struggle. Everyone has something to say. That’s given. But not everyone is capable of listening. Therein lies the problem with interpersonal communication.

It happened in my forever home today. My mom and her mom were both having bad days for very different reasons that don’t necessarily matter to the story. They both needed to talk about it. And, as a result, neither of them made good listeners. They forgot the person behind the people because their person was encountering challenges of their own.

“Listening is a magnetic strange thing, a creative force,” suggested American psychiatrist Karl Menninger. “The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us fold and expand.”

It happens. I’m not saying it shouldn’t. But I am saying that some days when there is nothing else to listen too, it wouldn’t hurt to try a dog’s hand (er, I mean paw) at it. Listen. From the ground up, put aside everything going on in your own life and listen to something someone else has to say.

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Made More Beautiful April 19, 2014

I don’t get out much. Sure, I get to explore the neighborhood on walks. I have complete power over my backyard paradise. And I know the dog park like the back of my paw. But in the grand scheme of things I spend the majority of my time inside. This is in no way a complaint, as I am fortunate and thankful to have the roof of my forever home over my head.

I don’t have to worry about where my food comes from or finding clean water or having enough toys or feeling loved. I have all of these things in the comfort of home. But today I got to thinking how life would be different if that wasn’t the case. If I spent more time outside the safety and security of this house.It Wasn't Me

In every possibly way I see the same dog in that scenario. Probably slightly scruffier looking, but pretty darned close. Just as its what is inside a house that makes it a home, it is what is in our heart that makes us who we are. It’s what on the inside that matters.

As I daydreamed about this parallel reality I did find one not-so-tiny thing that made me wish it were true. If I was out and about more I could touch more lives. I would want to do the right thing and remember the person behind the people and keep in mind the power of the little things. I would want to paw it forward.

“True generosity is an offering,” suggests American author and motivational speaker Suze Orman, “(It is) given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possessions you can share.”

I don’t get out much. And that’s okay. Because if I did, I’m not sure how different life would look. I would still seek the good in people, places and things. I would live to spread joy from the ground up. I would find ways to make life more beautiful.

I think it would look something like this:

 

Playing Second Fiddle March 20, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:19 pm
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I’ll be honest. I know I talked a good game. I know I sounded pretty excited. But I honestly had no idea what was going to h20140301_172020appen when my people brought my new little person into m forever home.

Obviously that’s not the case anymore after almost three months and I need to tell you what I am most surprised about. I had no idea how much I didn’t matter. Please don’t misunderstand – I don’t mean to sound anything other than honest in that I am honestly and sincerely playing second fiddle these days.

And – if I let it – it would bother me. But – because I don’t – it doesn’t. And it’s quite honestly liberating because I don’t. I don’t believe in taking the easy road in life, and that would be the easy road. Instead, I enjoy when visitors come to spend time with baby Carter. To awe over him. To find joy in his smiles. Because I believe in the power of joy being shared.

That is why I am putting aside my grief for joy when it comes to the primetime debut of my dear forever family I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The photographers loved me when they were here. They filmed me jumping excitedly at the prospect of going for a walk or to the dog park. They enjoyed when I hopped on mom’s lap while she snuggled Carter. They even wanted to catch some film of me coming back from a jaunt outside.

But none of it made the cut. Mom stumbled upon the promo on television yesterday and I was nowhere to be found. Instead, there she was picking up dear baby Carter from the changing table and bringing him to breakfast with the family. At first I was petrified.

Then I realized it doesn’t matter what the outside world sees. I know where my heart was during those images. I was chilling out underneath the table where I might have been out of sight and out of mind. But I most certainly was not out of heart. Nor do I ever intend to be, even when live offers me the chance to play second fiddle.

Video to follow….

 

 

Remembering The Before February 28, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 10:47 pm
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It seems like a given. Like one of those things that is simply understood. No words required. But sometimes I don’t think that’s enough. For the last year or so, our threesome (dad, mom and I) has been evolving to include baby Carter. First while mom was pregnant, and especially now that he’s here, he comes first.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Nor do I feel jealous of the attention. But I have noticed something – a change in how mom and dad interact with and treat each other. They’ve gone from simply being husband and wife to being parents. And let’s face it – that involves a whole other job description.Family Love

Not to mention how easy it is to get lost in the eat, wake, sleep cycle of a newborn. It’s easy to forget the before. The before when it was just mom and dad and their love for each other (and me, of course). The before when all they had was each other, in sickness and in health, ’til death does them part. All that has changed (for the better now), but that doesn’t negate what they had before.

So I was overjoyed tonight when they went on a date – their first since Carter was born almost two months ago. They left Carter and I in the kind and loving hands of a friend to go to their favorite restaurant for dinner. It was hardly an extravagance, but it didn’t need to be. It reminded them of the before and how much that still means in the now.

It all got me to thinking of how important it is to not get too caught up in routines and life’s diaper changes. How much it means to remember the loved ones who make it all possible. Moreover, the special chosen circles of trust that make life a better place to live. Because it seems like a given. And when there is so much going on around us, it might be simply understood. No words required. But that doesn’t mean actions aren’t necessary every now and then to show we still care. And all things that seem like a given began as just that – a gift.

 

Another Piece of Pie February 27, 2014

I know it’s going to sound silly. Especially since I can’t actually have any of it. It’s apparently one of those “not for doggies” foods. And yet I can put my selfish longing for people food aside to enjoy the simplicity of joy. From the ground up, it took the form of pie tonight.

It took me by surprise too, since I heard somewhere that cravings like this were supposed to happen while mom was pregnant. Not now, when baby Carter is about to turn two people months old. She actually had very few cravings that I can recall while pregnant, now that I think about it. So today when she randomly proclaimed to the room (which included myself, Carter and dad) that she could really go for a good piece of pie, I didn’t really think anything of it. Pie? Did you eat Pie?

That is, until dad jumped on the bandwagon. I could have pie, he said. And so the joy train left the station. Literally. All four of us piled into the car and set out on an adventure to find the best pie in town. They eventually settled on a chocolate peanut butter pie that smelled so deliciously tempting it took every bone in my little doggie body to hold me back from trying to break into the box on the way home.

But it wasn’t long after we got back home that I realized I didn’t need a slice of pie to find my daily dose of joy today. I had it right there, in the completely random and spontaneous pie adventure that brought smiles to my people. Their smiles warmed my heart tonight, on yet another frigid negative degree evening, like my very own slice of pie.

That’s when I realized how powerful such a thing can be. A random piece of indulgence every now and then really does wonders. And even though I couldn’t sample the pie itself doesn’t mean I didn’t experience the joy firsthand. The adventure. The randomness. The love.

From the ground up, I think I’m going to make a point of finding another piece of pie in my day tomorrow. And maybe the day after tomorrow. Because when something that simple can bring joy into the hearts of those I love, it doesn’t matter that I can’t taste it. Instead I feel it. Sometimes that’s better anyway.

 

From Now On February 24, 2014

It’s the same thing every night. Eat, bathe, cuddle, sleep. I don’t know about baby Carter, but its a routine with which I could get pretty comfortable. My role in all of it is pretty minimal. I usually oversee the bathing process and lay patiently on the rug I know is just for me in Carter’s room while mom rocks the baby to sleep. Soothing sounds fill the room and I frequently drift off to dreamland myself, albeit temporarily.

Tonight was different. Tonight I put my paw down. I’ve had enough of this cuddling business not involving me so I quit laying idly by. Instead I hopped myself right onto the tiny portion of lap mom has to spare on the rocking chair and laid myself down. I stopped watching and started living (or, more accurately, cuddling) in that moment. And it was grand. Is it cuddle time yet?

Baby CarterI was quite comfortable drifting into dreamland there in our cuddle bubble. What happened next took me by surprise given the intense feelings of joy I felt just a few moments prior. It was Carter’s 12th birthday (in people years, not dog years) and he was blowing out the candles on the cake. I waited patiently to see myself, pestering my way into the mix to get a lick of frosting as I tend to do. But I never came. I wasn’t there to see Carter turn 12.

The image jolted me right out of dreamland and back to reality. And (for once) I’m so glad it did. Because there I was, cuddling with my forever mom and my little person. Joy. From the ground up, it overwhelmed my little doggie heart in those precious moments together.

Because my dream tonight contained within it a wake up call. There is a chance I will still be around to get that lick of frosting after all. But it’s more likely I won’t.

Eat, bathe, cuddle, sleep. It’s the same thing every night and promises to be that way for the foreseeable future. Some might see it as monotonous, but (as is typical to us canines) I find routines soothing. They bring order to a world that can seem chaotic at times. In those moments, those precious moments, the world is exactly as it should be. I think I will be sneaking my way into cuddle time more often from now on.

 

The Psychology of Science February 22, 2014

I can’t say I always agree with science. Chemistry is necessary, biology is interesting and physics completely confuses me. Given a choice of high school classes in which to enroll, I can’t say any science would be high on the priority list. Then there’s psychology. While some would argue its philosophical roots negate its scientific clout, I argue science is prevalent in its close examination of all things thoughtful.

Take this study done recently in Current Biology, for example. Scientists have uncovered the truth we canines know is so much more than science. Our brains contain within them sensory receptors for receiving and deciphering emotions in sounds. The study reports this is why we tend to respond to the unique emotional needs of our people in spite of our lack of English-speaking skills.Thinking

While I’m glad this is now scientifically confirmed, this is certainly not news to me. I know how my mind responds to unique emotional situations. I know because it happens all day every day in a dog’s life. Today I responded to love as my forever family cuddled together speaking in hushed tones (as not to wake baby Carter). I didn’t think. I cuddled. I paced nervously as baby Carter cried and cried when he accidentally scratched himself on the nose. I didn’t think. I cared. I sought immediate positive reinforcement when dad tripped and stepped on my paw in the process. I didn’t think. I loved.

“There are moments in life when the heart is so full of emotion that if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret, split on the ground like water, can never be gathered together,” penned American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

That’s the problem with science if you ask me. There’s not always enough room for emotion in things like chemistry or physics. And yet so much pressure is put on the “proof” that so many people need to see the science to believe. Let’s face it. While I am excited that science can now confirm what most dog owners already know, there is more to it than that. It’s more than a stimulus-response reaction. It’s more than a brain scan can show. Because really, it’s love.