Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

No Words November 14, 2013

I don’t have a choice. All I get is my eyes, my tail, and the occasional strategic placement of my head or paws. Any other methods of communication are hard to come by when you have four legs. So I have to admit, days like today take a toll on my emotions.

We canines may not be able to see the entirety of the color spectrum, but I know with certainty that I saw my fair share of blue today. Mom is feeling blue, which is apparently a people term used to explain her emotionally cloudy forecast. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that little person inside her is somehow bringing down her morale. No Words

Because she’s been talking a whole lot about worry. She’s worried about the baby’s health. And being a good parent. And labor. And the money. Especially the money. Last I checked, money is green so I don’t know how it could be making her feel so blue. I stand, sit or lay idly by, all-the-while wishing there would be something – anything – I could say to make it better.

Then I hear dad say exactly what I would be saying and suddenly I don’t mind being silent. He tells her to calm down. Relax. Everything will work out. These are the things I would be telling her, too, if I could. But this is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that there are no words. As I observed from dad’s attempt, it’s sometimes better not to say anything than to complicate the situation by throwing words in the mix. Sometimes a person just needs a hug.

I don’t have a choice. All I have is my eyes, my tail, and the strategic placement of my head or paws to communicate. And maybe that’s not so bad after all. Because as much words can help, they can also complicate things. Especially when it’s more a matter of faith than anything else. Faith takes no words. Faith is simply believing in the power that is contained in something so much more than words.

So tonight I keep quiet and instead silently pray for resolutions to come to some of mom’s worries. That peace come to her overwhelmed heart. But I can’t pray with my eyes, tail and paws any more than I can pray with words. Instead tonight I pray with my heart. “Prayer is not asking,” Mahatma Gandhi reflected, “It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of  one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

How Are You Really? July 30, 2013

I’m not proud to admit this but I sent Mrs. Prickles to the emergency room recently.

One minute I was nursing on her as usual, and the next minute I couldn’t keep myself from tearing the little white fluff balls out of her. Both are instinctual behaviors for me, yet I was surprised to find myself enjoying the task of removing fluff balls. Several of the other members who make up my comfort circle have similar holes in them that I leave alone. So why now did I find myself losing control?

Truth be told, I don’t know what happened. And I think that happens sometimes. We get so caught up in something it kind of takes over our motor functions until someone brings us back to reality. I didn’t want to hurt Mrs. Prickles. I didn’t mean to. But I did.

 

It makes me stop and think about how I see people interacting with one another. With everything going on in people’s lives it can be so easy to get caught up in things and not pay attention to what is happening around you. It brings to mind a commonplace people conversation I have overheard one too many times. Person one asks person two how they are. Person two responds with a generally generic answer like super, swell, good or (on occasion) terrible. Person two then turns the question back to person one. How are you? Sometimes the conversation continues, sometimes not.Thinking of You

What bothers me about this interaction is that it always seems to me to be on autopilot. Just like me and Mrs. Prickles. The people are (more often than not) just having the conversation to be polite and really neither person cares all that much about how the other person is doing. Not really. So why do we ask the question?

Why did I start uncontrollably taking fluff balls out of one of my favorite toys? It’s in our nature. Something in my nature (that I don’t particularly care to embrace or understand) encouraged me to rip Mrs. Prickles (who I happen to love) to pieces. Something in people nature makes them feel the need to start conversations in which their heart isn’t invested.

And I’m not saying these are bad things. Without our nature we wouldn’t be who we are, after all. But I am in the business of challenging what’s easy. Mrs. Prickles is all fixed now, no thanks to me. (I’m going to do what I can to keep it that way). I have, after all, also seen the polite “how are you” question develop into much deeper people conversations. So maybe its worth it to take life off autopilot every once in a while.

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy June 18, 2013

It’s kind of like hitting your hind legs on the footboard jumping up on the bed. Or getting your leash wrapped around the tree in the backyard when the sky is crying. Or being left at home alone for the majority of a weekend day.

Each of these things can make me feel emotionally handicapped in the most bizarre way. I know everything will be all right – the shooting pain in my hind legs is sure to pass, my fur will dry from the rain, and my parents will return from their so-called errands – but there is something unsettling about when these bumps in the road happen.

As I soaked up some sun in my backyard this afternoon, I questioned why these occasional stumbles (physical or otherwise) have such a power to bring down my otherwise optimistic spirit. Stuff happens. Life moves on. Or does it? I remember thinking my life was over when I first was separated from my mom and brothers. And again when I lost Rusty to doggie heaven. And again when that family returned me to the humane society citing my alleged behavioral problems.

SimplifySuddenly it made sense to me. These stumbling blocks seem to have a way of bringing my past into my present. At the root of all my stumbles is the same useless emotion: worry. I know it’s not a four-letter word in people language but it is in my world. Worry is the handicap!

Yet I worry my parents got a higher bed so I wouldn’t jump on it anymore. (Don’t they like our cuddle time?) I worry maybe my forever parents will take a book from previous chapters of my life and forget about me outside, leaving me in the rain to shiver and fend for myself. (Don’t they love me anymore?) I worry that maybe they’ll never come back from wherever they go when they run errands. (Will anyone else ever love me like they do?)

Worry, worry, worry. It’s a nasty little habit for a practicing optimist to conquer. It’s one I don’t frequently even address out of sheer embarrassment that people won’t take me (and my joy) seriously if I admit to my weaknesses. But there is strength in admitting to our shortcomings, not only in the truth of the admission itself but in what it means for the future. It’s easy to push aside being a worrier. To hide it away in a place in my heart I don’t want anyone to know about.

But I’ve never been one to take the easy road, especially in matters of the heart. So worry be gone. I cast you away like the bad habit you are. Starting today, I will make an effort to see life’s stumbling blocks not as triggers for worry. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow,” Dutch Christian activist Corrie Ten Boom once said. “It empties today of its strength.” I’d much rather seek strength in knowing everything will be all right than add any unnecessary sorrow to my days.

 

Say A Little Prayer June 14, 2013

My people were away from home for entirely too long today. Here I am waiting on the usual extra people time that kicks off on Friday nights and I got a whole lot of nothing. Mom didn’t get home to let me outside over her lunch break, which is bad enough. But when they both got home from that place called work they left again right away (to go on something they called a date) and didn’t return until dark.

From Up AboveWhile this is incredibly disappointing, I am with them as I work on the blog tonight and for me that is enough. And it wouldn’t be like me not to find the silver lining in a day of loneliness, now would it? Rather than dwell on my differing levels of happiness when I’m with my people (versus when I’m not) I choose instead to focus on the clarity of thought peace like that offers.

Somewhere between my mid-morning nap and my early afternoon nap, I began counting my blessings. (Some people count sheep, I count blessings). I thought of all of the people and animal characters in my life who have made me who I am. I gave thanks for each one of them and said a prayer that all is well in their lives. While it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to address my thoughts to God, I realize doing so is probably thought of as fairly unconventional in the dog world. But since when am I conventional? Why start with that silliness now?

I thought back today to the first time I prayed. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was all alone on the street right after I got separated from my mom and brothers. I was terrified, heartbroken and alone. So alone. I was so distracted by my thoughts I didn’t notice the car that was careening my way until the headlights practically blinded me. I saw nothing but light in that moment and begged God to let me live. I will never know how the car missed hitting me, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is regardless of how alone I felt in that moment, I saw the light: I’m never as alone as I think I am.

I can’t say I cared for being alone quite as long as I was today. But solitude allows us the great fortune to do some of our best thinking. It happened that day in the street and it happened again today. I didn’t realize it until it happened, but I wasn’t alone at all. I was talking to God and He was listening. Sometimes at the moments we feel most alone we are in the best company one could possibly have.

 

A Lesson In (Servant) Leadership May 8, 2013

I’ll be honest. I don’t really care for nights when my mom works late. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the one-on-one time with dad (especially the extra cuddles and hugs he sneaks in when no one else is around). But my heart is bursting with happiness when my family is all together. I mean it. I can literally feel my little doggie heart beating out of my chest those first few moments my family is together after they have been at that place called work all day.

So you can imagine my disappointment on days like today when I only get a few precious moments with my whole family together before bedtime. It’s heartbreaking for me to wait at home alone all day and only have this small amount of time when them. Not only that, but my mom’s face was lit up with excitement when she got home, and it had nothing to do with being happy to see me. Don’t they realize how long a day is in doggie time, my mind asked. I was surprised with the answer my heart gave to my selfish mind: it’s not all about you.Leadership Is...

Of course it isn’t. I don’t usually get so carried away like this. I don’t dig into the realm of negativity. No sir. I find and share joy from the ground up. Call it coincidence, karma, or whatever you believe, but it was a blessing to talk myself back from the negativity bridge tonight. Instead of dwelling on how small our time together was, I focused on making the moments count. I stopped thinking about myself, and I’m so glad I did.

With an open mind and heart I took in every detail about where my mom had spent that time away from me tonight. As it turned out, she truly was where she needed to be. While I don’t completely understand the kind of program she was at, I was able to gather that it was a commencement ceremony of some kind that recognized some of the leaders in our local community.

Leadership gets defined so many ways by so many different people, but mom said the theme that set this conversation apart was an emphasis on servant leadership. Leading by example, stepping up to the plate when no one else will, and (yes) sometimes not just taking the road less travelled, but paving it for others were among the highlights of the conversations about leadership. Above all, servant leadership is putting others before oneself and doing something because it’s the right thing to do regardless of potential financial, political or emotional gain.

Tonight I turned off my wishes to play fetch and steal all the attention in the room and let my mom share some pretty valuable information with my dad. She was happy and enthusiastic and I could tell she is passionate about everything she heard tonight.

Taking the moment to dwell on that instead of on my disappointment was the best decision I made today. After all, the program tonight was referred to as commencement. That sure is a powerful word. Rather than refer to it as a graduation (which is more synonymous with the end of an educational journey), mom made it very clear as she told her story the program was purposely referred to as a commencement. A beginning.

Leadership doesn’t stop when you walk across the stage – it begins. I suppose in my own little way I successfully was a servant leader in my home tonight, even though my people wouldn’t have noticed it. That is kind of the point sometimes, isn’t it? It wasn’t easy, as I do sincerely look forward to the nights when my whole family is together. But I’ll be honest. I have a new aspiration in life to be a better servant leader, and the first step on that journey is understanding it’s not all about me.

 

Singing in the Rainbows February 27, 2013

Singing in the RainbowsTwenty. That is the magic number of beliefs Darren Hayes of Savage Garden rattles off in “Affirmation.” I can’t say I agree with all twenty thoughts, but I know what is true to me. “I don’t believe. I know,” as analytical psychologist Carl Jung said.

Why is it then that some days it isn’t easy to know or believe? You know the ones. Those “one of those days” kind of days, when literally everything that can go wrong actually does. I remember one particularly awful day in the house I lived in before my forever family found me. It was spring, and there was a really big storm that clambered on all night. Sharing that home with three other dogs and two cats made me realize how well I do in thunderstorms compared to other dogs. Burt, the seven-year-old black lab mix, howled all night long.

The alarm didn’t go off the next morning because I’m convinced Burt broke the power with all his howling. Barbara and Jim woke up late, irritable and exhausted. Barbara got a run in her nylons, burned her forehead with her curling iron, and spilled coffee on her coat as she ran out the door. James forgot to feed us before he left for work. None of the animals got along that day. That was the day I realized negativity is unfortunately just as contagious as optimism.

But much like the storm that came before it, the day came to a close and we were all reminded that even “those days” will pass. And that’s when rainbows happen.

Regardless of what you choose to believe, I am finding the spiritual awakening in Simple Abundance to be as real as the rainbows that follow storms. “With each day of the journey, you have become more open to the mystery, the magic and the majesty of the Master Plan because you are committed to your spiritual awakening,” Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests. “You don’t have to just believe anymore because you know.”

Sure, it is sometimes easier to throw up my paws and believe the world has turned its back on me. Sometimes it is easier not to believe or know anything for certain. But I’ve never been one to do things the easy way.

 

Bring Me That Horizon February 25, 2013

There are a lot of things in a dog’s life that are uncertain. What we eat, when we eat it, when we go to the bathroom, and when we go for walks are circumstances mostly controlled by our people. We are at the mercy of our people for so many things that I’ve come to see my people as my constants in life. They are everything to me. And, as it is my life’s mission to bring optimism to life, I find there is wisdom in uncertainty.

I’m convinced this is a lesson lost on the birds in my backyard. I heard them talking incessantly to each other this morning in the tree outside my bedroom window. They were arguing about the weather, which is expected to fluctuate in extremes again from sunny and warm today to snowy and frigid tomorrow. In my experience the only way to silence them is to scare them away. Off they flew as soon as I got outside this morning, leaving me alone again to contemplate existence in peace.

As I watched them scatter into the morning horizon, it was almost as if an old medieval proverb came to life before my eyes. I’ve never cared to understand it before, so it took me by surprise to find myself reflecting on the meaning of “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” Though it is thought of as cliché to some people, the idea behind the phrase is that it is better to embrace certainty than take a chance and lose everything in the process.

I’m not certain of a lot of things, but I find an odd solace in that truth. Sarah Ban Breathnach recently reminded me in Simple Abundance to give thanks for truths like this. “You know what you need to do today, not tomorrow,” she writes. “Take another look at your life. Give thanks. Accept your circumstances. Give thanks. Count your blessings. Give thanks. Above all, have faith in yourself and Divine Change.”

That faith may not come easily, but I would rather take a chance on faith than embrace certainty.

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time,” French writer Andre Gide advised.Bring Me That Horizon

Well then, I say bring me that horizon.

There isn’t much in terms of physical risks to take in a dog’s life, so I chose to risk what I can control: my perspective. The fruits of my heart and mind are certain to me.

 

You’ve Gotta Have Faith February 8, 2013

I would say I have a pretty eclectic taste in movies. Among my personal favorites are Homeward Bound, Elizabethtown and All Dogs Go to Heaven (obviously).

A less obvious choice is a 1995 movie about a man, his regrets, and his attempts to make things right. In “Fluke,” it takes dying in a car crash for the workaholic main character to realize what he had been taking for granted. He comes back to life as a lovable (albeit clumsy) dog who finds a way to love the family he left behind, perhaps even more than he did when he was human. As one who has been (and in my opinion always will be) a dog all my life, I can’t say I’m a believer in reincarnation, but I most definitely have faith in second chances.Praying :)

I know God looks different to everyone, but faith looks the same. That’s one of the things I love most about it. Faith in its most basic essence is humility. Trust. Truth. “Faith is to believe what you do not see,” said Saint Augustine, “the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Belief takes faith to the next level. It is because I have faith enough to see light in the darkness that I want to share the light with others. Regardless of what you believe, take time to share your faith with someone who needs it today. Paw it forward, if you will.

“God enters by a private door into every individual,” said great transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. In my family, God is an omnipresent, omniscient loving being who sent his Son to die on the cross so people can go to heaven regardless of their sins.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pretty simple dog. I love my mom and dad and the home we have together. I find joy in unusual things and seek inspiration in the overlooked. I believe in the golden rule. But fundamentally, I am nothing without faith. I know this means a lot of different things to a lot of people, but regardless of its origin faith is no fluke.

 

Simplify – An Inner Journey January 2, 2013

There is great power in words. Once uttered, they can’t be taken back. That is one of many reasons I love the written word. I’ve heard from a couple of different people that mom used to keep a book of words. Not in any particular or logical order, just a collection of words she thought were unique, insightful or just plain neat.

Day three with Simple Abundance is a reflection on some of life’s most powerful vocabulary words. “At the heart of Simple Abundance is an authentic awakening, one that resonates with your soul,” Breathnach writes. “You already possess all you need to be genuinely happy.”

In a world that seeks psychological acceptance from exterior sources, Breathnach challenges that genuine and sincere happiness occurs through internal understanding and appreciation of a set of big picture words. When weaved together, these high octave words piece together a road sign toward internal happiness.

Gratitude – What am I most thankful for? This is an easy one. I am thankful to my parents for bringing me into a loving home.
Simplicity – I don’t need treats. I don’t need praise. What I need is to wake up each day and be thankful for what I already have.
Order – My best days are those with structure. I do enjoy the occasional detour, but without the home I’m thankful for and my parents who love me, I wouldn’t have structure or adventure.
Harmony – Herein lies the key. I have pledged to make an effort to live in harmony with all things, to recognize it, to embrace it.
Beauty – Its everywhere. In the snowflakes of winter, and the dog days of summer. I will live to find beauty in even the ugliest of days.
Joy – And so we come full circle. When I started this blog, I sought to share my unique perspective on joy with the world, because it is my belief that joy is meant to be shared.

My inner journey is simple in nature. It seeks to grasp on to these powerful words and how they work in my life and to share the resulting joy with the world.

 

Love the questions by living the answer January 1, 2013

I’ve got a bone to pick with George Eliot. While she is a beloved English novelist and journalist in the Victorian era, she got animals all wrong.

“Animals are such agreeable friends,” she once said, “they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” There is no question that dogs are man’s best friend. As such, we love unconditionally and without criticism. That much is true. But the mention of our perspective on questions is where she went wrong.

Big or small, my mind is full of questions…how does that squirrel keep outrunning me in the backyard? Are those animals on the moving picture window real? What is my purpose in life?

Wiley QuestionDay two with Simple Abundance challenges me to ponder the value of these questions. “The answer to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking,” Breathnach writes.

The insightfully witty French philosopher Voltaire takes it so far as to suggest one “judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Well, that is a might high order for day two of this, my very own existential journey. Especially since I have every intention of answering the challenge with what might be the most important questions of all – what are my most important questions in life? How can I narrow it down to the ones that matter most?

For inspiration I turn to Johnny Depp, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

“There are four questions of value in life…” he said. “What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.”

I seek my ultimate inquisition in that answer: only love. If it is having too many question that I fear, I shall embrace them rather than turn them away. I will love the questions because I live the answer.