Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Dreaming to Wake April 19, 2013

I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel like myself. I felt taller. I felt stronger. Best of all, one of my most insane dreams in life came to life. I could speak human. I looked in the mirror and it all came together. I was my forever dad. Maybe I dreamed too much last night about my forever parents switching places. Maybe this too is a dream. Or is it?

While I would usually sleep my way through the majority of the morning, today the alarm woke me up. I got in the shower (the shower!) and washed myself, which is something I’ve only ever done with my tongue. Not to mention my dislike for the shower, in addition to being awake so early. I got dressed in something other than my doggie Packer jersey and drove the car to that place they call work. What an experience that was! While I’m not that big a fan of being dressed (or wearing shoes!), I do love car rides and somehow the driving came pretty naturally.

At this point in the day I was pretty darned hyped up to be living this new life. I was finally able to tell my forever mom how much I loved her before I left, drive a car (which is one of my biggest doggie wishes) and now I was discovering what this place called work was like! It must be exciting for my dad to be gone at this place for five days a week. I met all the people I’ve heard him talk about, and only my dad’s friend Kyle mentioned that I’d forgotten to zip up my pants. (Can you blame me, if I’ve never worn pants before?)

That’s when things took a turn for the worst. I went to my dad’s desk where there were two computer screens looking at me. I kind of remember mom saying something about him being some sort of engineer and wondering what that meant. Well, not only do I know absolutely nothing about engineering, I had no idea what to say to the computers. I’ve obviously done my fair share of blogging, but this was definitely new to me. The minutes ticked by, turning into hours, and I couldn’t believe how long the day felt. And here I’d thought my days of naps were so long because I wasn’t with my people? This was far worse. I found myself wondering how long this bizarre situation would last. Would I ever be me again? Fast AsleepFeeling Sleepy

Indeed, I would be me again. In fact, I was me all along. The rustling of the mailman coming by with the mail this afternoon woke me from what might have been one of the deepest sleeps I’ve had recently. it seems I was somehow dreaming within a dream.

Today made me realize there’s this thing about dreams. Regardless of when they happen (awake or asleep), they teach us something about what we’re really thinking. Best known for his thoughts on personality theories and psychological archetypes, psychologist Carl Jung laid foundations for what would become analytical psychology. I may not be that big a fan of this particular facet of thinking, but I do agree with his thought that he “who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

I can’t say for sure whether I was looking outside or inside in my dream. What I do know is that I have a newfound respect for my dad and his place called work. I now know it’s nothing I could do every day, but I respect him that much more for what he does. Somehow for me, my dreams have woke me up to a whole new world of perspective and appreciation for my blessings in life.

 

Where Dreams Come True March 21, 2013

It’s triggered by the oddest things. A birthday. A walk around the neighborhood. Playing catch in my forever home. Regardless of what triggers it, I sometimes get upset when I think about my birth parents. I don’t understand it when it comes to my dad. I have no memories of him and the ones I do have are of the impact he left on my mom when he left.

Somewhere Out ThereShe hated him, then she missed him, then sometimes she would get so angry that my brothers and I would know to stay away because she needed time to cool down. With every emotional turn, I found myself loving her more and hating my dad more in the same breadth. It makes perfect sense why I get upset when I think about my mom. I loved her. She showed my brothers and I how to love unconditionally. She brought home to us just by breathing, and that wasn’t always easy since we moved around so much. Sleep should come easily to puppies, but we struggled a bit as a family to get comfortable in whatever cardboard box or garbage can we found shelter in on a given night.

There was one night in particular when we just couldn’t get comfortable. It was so cold that even all the snuggling in the world wasn’t keeping us warm. Mom decided to take matters into her own paws that night. She marched our shivering little family up to a window of a nearby homeless shelter and there we sat. I remember being so irritated because it was colder sitting there than it was when we were all cuddled together. We sat and waited until finally a little girl tugged at someone’s shirt to get their attention. They welcomed us into the shelter that night, even though it’s not normally allowed.

Together with the little girl we watched the first thing I’d ever seen on the moving picture window I later learned was called a television. “An American Tail” tells the story of Fievel the Mouse that is not unlike my own. Like me, Fievel had a family that seemed destined for better times before they were separated. Like me, Fievel befriended his fair share of unique characters on his journey to self-reliance. And like me, Fievel never stopped thinking about his family.

“Somewhere out there someone’s saying a prayer that we’ll find one another in that big somewhere out there,” he sings. “And even though I know how very far apart we are it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star. And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby it helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t that long after our night in the shelter that my family would get separated just like Fievel’s did. That night might have been one in a million, but that bedtime story stays with me always. And we went from shivering outside to sleeping in the company of a beautiful little girl who agreed to share her bed with my family that night. We all slept better than we had in weeks.

Regardless of what triggers my thoughts of my birth mom, I know I only get upset because I miss her so. Ever since my fateful first night without her, I have found solace in Fievel’s song and whenever I miss her I find myself thinking to myself “somewhere out there if love can see us through, then we’ll be together somewhere out there, out where dreams come true.”

 

Life in Slow Motion February 18, 2013

I’m a pretty simple dog. I have a fairly regular daily schedule that involves sleep, food, love, playtime, food, and more sleep. I can’t complain. But sometimes I do wonder what Rusty and other pals from my past would think of my life if they could somehow live it with me.Life in Slow Motion

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life, and all of my fur friends, yet sometimes I long for perspective from those I can no longer reach. This curious loneliness often takes me by surprise. I know what Rusty would say about this, which is oddly similar to what Sarah Ban Breathnach advises in Simple Abundance. So today I take in my life in slow motion as one of these distant loved ones might do from doggie heaven.

“Mary Kingsley was a hunter of a dream: the knowledge of who she really was and her place in the world. So are you,” Breathnach writes. “Yet even without encountering the daily dangers she faced…you have embarked on an adventure as exciting as that of any explorer. Uncovering the source of the Nile or charting the course of the Amazon are outward parallels to the inner journey you are on today – a safari of the self and spirit.”

On my safari, I have learned everyone we meet becomes as big a part of ourselves as we let them. Sometimes the more we take in though our interactions with others, the more we get to know our authentic selves. And we are more likely to let them in if we let our guard down and take a risk. That is where our journey to self discovery can take a challenging yet necessary turn toward the unexpected dangers of life’s adventures. But it is ultimately up to us to find the purpose behind our fears and make something of ourselves.

Every now and then, I’ll be caught in the middle while my people parents throw around one of my toys and I find myself wondering if Rusty is looking down on me from doggie heaven. Would he be proud of me? I know he would be very happy with my efforts to see the good in all people and things. And he would be absolutely ecstatic to find out I’m sharing my joy with whoever I meet in the world and in cyberspace. But would I make him proud?

Of that, I’m not so sure. I’m a pretty simple dog living a fairly scheduled life. So I stay the course on my safari of self and spirit and hope my life in slow motion does as much for others as it does for me.

 

Exploring Ever After February 16, 2013

Tick tockI hear the car door slam and immediately look at the clock. It always happens anywhere between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., and it is most definitely my favorite time of every day. My parents come home from wherever it is they go for all those hours at a time. Dad usually gets home first and we play in a goofy way unique only to us (that he would of course prefer no one know about). He is followed shortly thereafter by my mom, who I shower with love and kisses immediately upon her walking in the door. Joy is encompassed in moments like this.

I have plenty of time to prepare for our weeknights together on the weekdays, when I spend the majority of my time in a dead-to-the-world napping state. That is when I do my best thinking. I know I’m not alone in this, as my pal Putney in the United Kingdom recently demonstrated the skilled occupation of a mid-day nap. I can’t speak for Putney, but (in addition to being incredibly relaxing) my mid-day musings offer me a host of exciting adventures to reflect upon in my waking hours.

In my dreams, I am a fearless explorer destined for life of happiness I share with my loved ones. My joy is contagious with everyone I meet, and all is well in the world.

In my nightmares, I encounter dragons and demons who breath fires of negativity at me. I see images of my past that find clever ways to get in the way of my future. I am reminded of why I cower away from leather belts….it makes me shudder to even think about.

And somewhere in between the dreams and nightmares real life happens.

“Today, if you feel frightened or unsure about the future, pick up the double-edged sword of Light and Love,” Sarah Ban Breathnach advises in Simple Abundance. “Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons. But as in the best old tales, at the end of your exploring, you will live happily ever after.”

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the presence of my adoptive parents brings my dreams to life or puts my nightmares to rest. It is almost like my day of napping never even happened. That is, until we wake up and do it all over again the next day.

 

Faith in the Future January 31, 2013

“Make the most of your regrets,” Henry David Thoreau once said. “Never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Yesterday, I wrote about five things I would attempt to save if my house was burning down. Reflecting on the contradictory definitions a “spark,” I focused more on the fire than its aftermath. Its so easy to do in the heat of the moment. Why is it that in so many cases we don’t appreciate what we have until its gone?

Today, I realized all of the precious things I left behind. Practical things came to mind like my warm doggie bed and my Packer jersey. But I know those are replaceable. They’re just things.

Far more devastating are the memories lost in the ashes. I’ll never forget the first day my parents brought me home and let me explore my new house. All those hours spent playing fetch with Mrs. Prickles in the hallway. The first day mom let me come up on the bed. Money can’t buy back these memories.

I take a two-fold lesson from this experiment in thought. (See, there is always a silver lining).

1) Savor the small things. There are so many ways to lose sight of the importance of special moments in our lives. But there is a reason money can’t buy memories. Moments are priceless. There are groundbreaking days when major milestones make things easy to remember, but as Sarah Ban Breathnach points out in Simple Abundance “there is a lot of drudgery in most days.” These are the days we need to seek out joy in the small things.

2) Respect the past as preparation for the future. It’s all too easy to take things for granted. If we surrender to life’s simplicities and appreciate what we have on a daily basis, the future will be that much brighter. “I never regret anything,” says actress Drew Barrymore, “because every little detail of your life has what made you into who you are in the end.”

It is with my past in a special place in my heart that I find faith in the future. With faith as my fuel, I know my dreams will always be more exciting than my memories.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mandy Atkielski.

Eighteen-year-old Mandy entered doggie heaven yesterday. She will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Mandy

 

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching January 26, 2013

I may not know the waltz, the fox trot or the samba, but I sure can dance. My mom and I have this (semi-secret) routine that (almost never) involves anyone but us.

“Up, Wiley,” is my signal the dance is about to start. And the next thing I know, I’m up in my mom’s arms and we are swaying together to anything from Norah Jones to Bob Dylan. We truly are dancing like no one’s watching. And I love it. For those three or four minutes, all is well in the world. My mom is happy, I’m happy, and (as a believer in the contagion that is happiness) I could not ask for anything better than that.

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Up, down, or sideways, music moves me. Lyrics lull me into happier places, mourn with me in darker places, and inspire me to be better, write better, and live better. From Bette Midler to Phillip Phillips, words find their prophetically poetic home amidst the strum of guitar chords and harmonious tinkling of piano keys.

I find moments of solace in these things. My journey within begins here.

“I fall into a sacred rage to escape
the hells of the world made of puppets and fake
death wont be too far now the seeds in my heart start to awake
so all I can do is be the man that the Lord brought me to today
hold on to your life by love…”

Thank you Phillip Phillips for again bringing to lyrical life the ideas of Sarah Ban Breathnach, who speaks of the basic tools of holding on to life’s authenticity in Simple Abundance: “You need enough breathing space to allow your heart to ponder what is precious,” she writes. “Or perhaps you can let your imagination soar into the twilight where dreams first dwell.”

That is what music does for me, literally and figuratively. It offers me those precious moments with my mom dancing like a ninny with me all over the kitchen. And it offers me hope in harmony best illustrated in LeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Reconsider
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance.”

She took the words right out of my little doggie mouth.

 

Life in the Driver’s Seat January 22, 2013

Dreaming While DrivingIf you ask me, making the impossible possible seems a lot more attainable than it used to. Entire libraries have taken to tiny personal devices, televisions keep getting bigger, and computers keep getting smaller. Creative innovation never goes out of style, but its darned trendy right now. Heck, I’m starting to think people may find a way to make pigs fly in my lifetime.

So why not dream big? “Like pioneers on the trail, we will learn to live by our own lights and the stars of heaven, for that is all we need,” Breathnach write. My stars point north toward a whole host of possibilities. The world is my dog park, full of fun and opportunity.

That’s why I think I go into opportunity overload when I stop and think about what skill I would choose to master above all others. Sure, there’s obvious things like winning awards for agility or being the best at catch. Then, there is the other side of the possibility spectrum where I wish like no one’s business I could talk. But recently, I discovered it. My own personal pigs fly kind of dream all the way from my ground-level perspective. I want to become a master driver.

I know how it sounds, but a dedicated group of dog trainers in New Zealand have successfully trained some of my (very lucky) canine comrades to captain cars as a means to strum up adoption rates. Street smarts aren’t just about common sense, you know.

In all seriousness, there is a deeper thought behind my slightly zany (yet attainable) mastery mission. Among many variations of the definition of the word, Merriam-Webster defines drive as the operation and control of a mechanism. To drive is “to operate the mechanism and controls and direct the course,” the definition reads. While I am fascinated by the logical implications of the word, the philosophical meaning behind it has me feeling the most inspired. Most people can live life going through the motions behind the wheel, reacting to the world around them as they encounter it. Not me. I want to actively live life in the driver’s seat so I can direct the course to happiness.

 

Learning from Larceny January 20, 2013

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?

I have this theory about time. It goes by, as certain as the sunrise and sunset each day. But every now and then, life affords us unique moments to treasure. I say this because was a clearance puppy. And two years after being a clearance puppy, I became a clearance dog. At a little more than two years old, my fate at the humane society seemed sealed tightly in negativity. Then I had my special day…I had my moment to treasure. I met my forever people.

They were my unexpected field of diamonds, as Breathnach describes in Simple Abundance. “We all have an acre of diamonds waiting to be discovered, cherished, and mined,” she writes. I had a lot of time in my first two years without a home to dream about what life could be, aspiring to discover by own personal acre of diamonds to be cherished. As time went on, I found myself questioning who I was, and wondering why no one wanted me.

So when that first family with three other dogs and two cats adopted me, I found myself wanting to make an impression. I wanted to stand out, to make them love me best so I could make up for all that lost time of feeling neglected. Looking back, I suppose I took it too far, but I rationalized it at the time because I wanted so badly to be loved. I knew which pet was their favorite, and it wasn’t me.

It was Tessa, their three-year-old cat. I could tell immediately upon meeting her that she was as black and white by personality as she was by color. To the people, she was the sweetest, most loving cat they could ask for. But she lorded that over the other animals and I, treating the rest of us like the unwanted skin of the salmon filet she had for dinner. We were the scraps as she saw us. And I hated her. She was the embodiment of larceny, taking from me the love I so desperately craved from my new people. I know now that does not justify what I did next, but I didn’t care at the time.

One night, after we had all finished dinner, I cornered her in the kitchen for everyone to see, grabbed her by the neck and gave her a good shake. Nothing that would have killed her, but just a little something to let her know how I loathed her. And with that, back to the humane society I went. I was the clearance dog again.

But no experience, no blip in time, is meaningless if something is learned. My time with that family (albeit brief) taught me something incredibly valuable. While I might be horrible at breaking rules (and I know don’t do harm to others is a pretty fundamental one), I never stopped dreaming that I would be someone’s Tessa someday.

To me, time as it is meant to be is twofold. First, we dream of things that could be. “For each of us there is a deeply personal dream waiting to be discovered and fulfilled,” Breathnach writes. “When we cherish our dream and then invest love, creative energy, perseverance, and passion in ourselves, we will achieve authentic success.” Then we will have those moments in time of pure happiness.

Only Time