Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Joy: From the Inside Out December 21, 2013

I don’t even know what to say. That’s right, all. Something has rendered me speechless. It’s shocking, I know. Almost as shocking as thinking about the meaning of today.

On December 21, 2012 I felt inspired. It was snowing, and mom and I were happy together, and I didn’t know which came first, her laughter or my joy. It fell from the sky that day. And I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was like a light bulb turned on in my heart and I knew what I had to do. I had to share this magic with whomever would take it. Joy. From the ground up, it became my 365-day mission to share it with the world.

Dog Blog with a CauseAnd that’s what I’ve done. Every day for a year, I have written about everything from existential philosophy to canine poop rituals. Because that’s life. It’s random and messy and beautiful and heart wrenching and hard and fabulous all at the same time. And I love every minute of it.

That doesn’t stop just because my one-year commitment has come to pass. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have grown, over the last year, to better understand myself, the world I live in, and how those two things interact and create the blessing that is life.

This knowledge has empowered me to take on a new mission that promises to be challenging in a whole new way. I want to continue sharing my unique perspective on joy. From the inside out, our understanding of joy in the Schmidt house is bound to change in the next year. Any day now, my little person is going to bring his or her joy into our world. If we thought we knew joy before, I think we have a whole other thing coming.

I know there will also be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and (gasp) a little less attention coming my way. And I may not be able to share these happenings quite as regularly as I have for the last year. But that’s life. From the ground up, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the course of my blogging journey it is that this thing called life is certainly worth living to the fullest.

“Nobody gets to live life backward,” advice columnist Ann Landers suggested. “Look ahead, that is where your future lies.” The past has become my future and my future will soon become my present. From the inside out, joy is most definitely upon us. So today I turn the page. I start a new chapter. And I’m not going to lie – it’s one I can’t wait to read either.

 

Shadow of Joy December 15, 2013

It startled me at first. There I was in my snowy backyard paradise when I saw the strangest yet most beautiful thing. It was so big it made me feel small, which was somewhat intimidating in a space I consider my own. But tonight the yard was not mine. It was the tree’s.

My favorite tree was casting the most dignified shadow across the majority of the yard. Once I got over my initial inner battle with something else ruling my space, I paused to appreciate the image before me. A clear sky shed it’s full moonlight on the yard, resulting in this statement of majesty that somehow remained mysterious.

It certainly put me in my place. And it got me to thinking about the shadows we cast in life. It starts with the light necessary to create such a thing. My light comes from the joy I find in people, places and things around me. It also comes from my heart. The combination of these internal and external stimuli create a unique balance of the light necessary for my shadow to appear.
My Shadow Self
Unfortunately that is where things can get complicated if we let them. By nature a shadow is larger than the object it reflects. While it is indeed magnificent, the tree in my backyard certainly isn’t actually as big as the entirety of the yard. But its shadow is.

And it can be startling at first. It can seem both strange and beautiful at the same time. But it makes a statement. I realized as I stood there basking in the glow of this shadow that I want to make a statement like this in my life.

“Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see,” as Martin Luther King Jr. suggested.

I think I figured it out. I’ve been going about things all wrong. I don’t need to be so concerned with finding joy in the people, places and things around me. That will take care of itself. Instead I should focus on the shadow that joy of mine casts on the world around me.

It doesn’t matter that I weigh 20 pounds. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to shadows. Because our shadows can be as big as we want them to be.

 

Life Worth Living August 3, 2013

I learned some unexpected lessons yesterday. I asked for help, and it wasn’t so bad. But the responses to my request, as well as my reaction to them, brought me to some interesting conclusions.

It wasn’t news to me that I have an incredible support system made up of larger than life hearts and creative minds. I’ve known that for a while. But my defensive emotional response when it was suggested that I take a break? I wasn’t expecting that. Let my mind rest until new stories come to me? Stories happen around me every day – I just need to pay attention. Alone With My Thoughts

Indeed it has crossed my mind to take a day or two off from my 365-day journey, but I realize (or perhaps just reaffirm) now that I am stubborn about finishing what I’ve started. Being stubborn is not a very attractive quality to be sure, but I’ve never been a quitter and I have no intention of becoming one now. How can I be when I have words like commitment, perseverance and passion on my mind?

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor,” suggested American football coaching legend Vince Lombardi. My chosen field of endeavor is bringing joy to the world, and I can’t exactly do that if I don’t challenge that little blinking cursor of doom I know as the occasional case of writer’s block. You will not defeat me writer’s block.

It’s no Armani neck tie. It doesn’t hold a cake to a Gucci handbag. It’s definitely not an Hermes scarf. Stubborn is one of those people accessories that just doesn’t look good on anyone. And yet I can’t give up. Instead I’ve decided to be stubborn about that in spite of how it looks on me.

So when I struggle I shall instead embrace excellence in simplicity by taking a page from American naturalist and essayist John Burroughs. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see,” said Burroughs. I know I have a lot more thoughts to think, places to go, things to learn and friends to make in this life. These are the things that make life worth living.

This post is dedicated to my pal Trev, who shared with me the John Burroughs quote in addition to his friendship. Thanks for being you, dear Trev.

 

My Little Peace Ritual May 16, 2013

I have this nightly ritual I’m certain my forever parents must think of as complete madness. Every night, my ritual starts the same way at about the same time.

Some of the Comfort CrewI grab Mr. Prickles from my toy basket (I’ll never understand the purpose of this basket other than making fun inconvenient) and take him to my favorite place in the house. I’ll suck on him for a while, but not too long. Then I’ll grab Mrs. Prickles. Repeat. Then Mr. Flea. Repeat. Then Mr. Tiger. Repeat. Then Mr. Angry Bird. Repeat. Well, I think you get the idea. If I’m being honest, this routine would probably continue all night if I didn’t run out of toys and sleep wasn’t necessary.

I’ve previously referred to these (albeit stuffed) characters in my life as my Comfort Circle and for good reason. Ever since I was a pup, I have found comfort in nursing on the soft little bodies. Animal behaviorists have linked this behavior in doggie adulthood to early separation from one’s doggie momma and abuse in puppyhood. (I unfortunately experienced both of these things). Also, I’m not sure if all people know this, but us canines store up a lot of our pent up feelings in our jaw muscles. The shoulder tension of humans is the jaw tension of dogs. It physically relieves stress when I rhythmically nurse on the joys (er, I mean toys).

I understand science and psychology have their reasons but I have one more to add to the conversation. There is something pretty great about beingMe and My Gal transported to another place and time in your mind. That’s what these toys do for me, which I’m certain is why I find peace in my nightly ritual.

What transports you to another place and time in your mind? Do you find peace there?

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake,” said transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

Every night, my ritual ends the same way at about the same time. Before bedtime, dad puts my Comfort Circle collection back in the basket in the living room. And every night I hop off the bed, grab whichever one is closest to the top, and bring that special pal back to bed with me. (It’s usually Mr. or Mrs. Prickles, but I mix it up so the others don’t get jealous). I don’t care if my people think it’s crazy of me to repeat these behaviors night after night. And that’s not just because I know they love me unconditionally. It doesn’t bother me because I know my ritual is my way of making a pathway to peace in my mind that brings a smile to my heart.

And I prefer to sleep smiling.

 

Through the Looking Glass May 5, 2013

Many great minds have commented on the relationship between theory and practice. Words like abstract, speculation and conjecture are among the definitions of theory, whereas practice is typically thought of as a conscious effort to get better at something. Today I join the conversation as I contemplate the powerful relationship between practice and theory.I'm a Half Full Doggie

It is not unusual for my optimistic doggie mind to agree with great transcendentalist philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and today is no exception to the rule. “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory,” Emerson once said. So which comes first, Mr. Emerson, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

To answer this puzzle I dip my toe into a casual chat about philosophy and end up in the deep end of psychology. I am a believer that we are what we think, in agreement with German philosopher Immanuel Kant. “Experience without theory is blind,” Kant suggested, “but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”

Kant’s commentary brings to mind my mom’s journey with her sight. When she was a small girl, she was deemed legally blind with very little hope of the adult normalcy that sight has to offer. Thanks to what she refers to as her little miracle, she can now see almost perfectly with the help of prescription glasses.

Everything she sees is through those lenses. Those lenses are her looking glass to the world. This is how I see theory. Our theories are the lenses through which we view the world, providing our looking glass to all things. Our theories are the lenses filtering our perception of our surroundings. And just as mom carefully selected the lenses she wears each day, I dare say we choose the theory through which we opt to see the world on a daily basis.

It’s no secret to the world that I have carefully selected rose-colored glasses through which to view my world. My looking glasses are half full, and I’m proud to say they are. But today I gave some thought to these debates about theory and practice and I can’t say my life experiences enable me to agree with the popular opinion.

Experience lends itself to theory, but (in my doggie heart) the relationship between the two is give and take. “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast,” said history’s most effective multi-tasker Leonardo da Vinci.

Indeed, it is not enough to see the world through a half-full pair of lenses. We need to practice what we preach. This is why I blog, why I share as much of my joy as I can with the world. “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with,” said great American author and humorist Mark Twain. So which comes first, Mr. Twain, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

Who knows. What I know for sure is my thoughts influence my behavior on a daily basis. I live to see and share joy, from the ground up. “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,” Emerson said, “This is to have succeeded.”

 

Life: One Breath At A Time April 29, 2013

The prolific and powerful American poet Emily Dickenson had a lot to say about life and death. It breaks my heart that most of her beautiful words didn’t reach the hearts and minds of readers until after she had left this world, but what a blessing they are nonetheless. So many of her poems continue to live by breathing life into the pages of historical literature.

“To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else,” she once said.

Indeed, life can take us by surprise in so many powerful ways if we let it. Sometimes I fear we are our own stopping points because we think don’t have time to stop and take notice about the life all around us. In 2001, a very nervous 15-year-old girl made her way onto a very large stage to take notice. She shared the following words with the crowd that day:Chronicles of Life

Savor the miracle of creation

Create a day with no regrets

Regret only the unforgiven

Forgive your loved ones for not being perfect

Perfect your ability to smile

Smile at everyone you love

Love even those who have become frail

Frailty is just another part of life

Live today as an unexpected journey

Journey through life with courage

Encourage someone who needs light

Lighten up the room with a laugh

Laugh through the tough times…

It keeps you from crying

Whatever you do in this life

Always remember that somewhere out there

Someone is loving you

I’m so blessed to have a forever mom who (at the tender age of 15-years-0ld) published these beautiful words she called “The Chronicles of Life.” She won an award that night on stage, and I it is one of my biggest wishes in life I could have been there to see her so happy. So full of life.

But as I am not in the habit of living with regrets (especially over things I can’t control), I instead share these words with the world on a day when Sarah Ban Breathnach encourages us in Simple Abundance to ponder life’s simplest of mysteries.

“And there is certainly enough mystery to ponder—such as the mystery of what will happen next,” Breathnach writes. “But instead of worrying or obsessing, you decide to just let go and see what occurs. You choose to take joy in your real life as it unfolds day by day, hour by hour, a heartbeat at a time.” Startling as it may be dear Emily, life is most definitely worth living one heartbeat at a time.