Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

A Midsummer’s Spell June 23, 2013

The weather cast a spell on me today.

I’ve always been one to appreciate lounging in the sun on a hot summer day (who isn’t?), but today I was obsessive about it. Forget the refreshing comfort of air conditioning and bring on the warming comfort of the heat, I thought. You can imagine  my disappointment when this became a point of contention with my mom and dad. I heard them talking about the heat and how I shouldn’t be in it very long…something about 100 degree heat indexes. Whatever that meant.

This is my beg face

So I begged and whined and pestered until I got my way, albeit in five-to-ten minute increments (for my alleged safety). Each time I was barely out the door before I found my comfy spot in the grass and instantly I was in heaven. Weather is one of those unbelievable constant sources of inspiration for me. I relish every falling snow diamond, find a sort of melancholy peace with the rains of spring, and now I celebrate the second official day of summer in style. All is well with the world in moments like these.

That is, until I was rudely interrupted and brought back inside. And again I began the begging game to get back into the beauty of the summer day. It was all I could think about. That’s when I remembered the date. Today isn’t just any summer day. Indeed it is Midsummer’s Eve, a special day set aside in Europe for wonder and merriment. Rich with historical culture, June 23 is celebrated with special food, dancing and plenty of time outside (weather permitting, of course).

Sarah Ban Breathnach writes of this special day in Simple Abundance, quoting the words of Canadian writer Lucy Maud Montgomery. “(Let this become) a never-to-be-forgotten summer,” Montgomery writes, “one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doings, come as near to perfection as anything can come in the world.”

The weather cast a spell on me today. All I could think about was being outside appreciating warmth in the sun’s promise of an unforgettable summer. Just as Breathnach wishes for her readers, I will share this wish with you. “May this potent Midsummer spell never be broken for you and those you love,” Breathnach writes. I know I probably should care about heat indexes. But I don’t. Instead I relish in the Midsummer’s Eve spell that was cast on me today, and breathe in all its contagious (albeit humid) joy.

 

Seeing is Believing April 26, 2013

I look around my house all the time, but today I found myself counting the blessings of the words all around me.

“Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away” hangs over my beloved bay window.

“Simplify” graces one of the end tables by my favorite spot on the couch.

“Live, laugh, love,” hangs above the kitchen sink where I frequently steal any and every scrumptious morsel that falls to the ground.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in perfect harmony” hangs in the hallway where dad throws my toys for me to fetch.

These messages are all such fantastic reminders of what it means to be alive, and yet I live most of my days without giving them a second glance.

Sight is funny that way. I’ve noted before how familiarity with our surroundings can make us lazy. Today I wondered how our perspective would change if we could no longer see. It reminds me of a story I heard once about a little girl who got her first pair of glasses when she was four-years-old.

Her kindergarten teacher thought she was over-exaggerating. Surely this little girl didn’t really suffer from chronic headaches, she thought, and she is too smart to be struggling with her alphabet. The teacher suggested to the little girl’s parents that she see a child psychologist for her apparent emotional issues.

This was puzzling to the parents, who knew their daughter to be happy and healthy other than those darned headaches she was having all the time. It all made sense at the optometrist office when the little girl couldn’t identify the big birthday cake on the screen they use in place of the big “E” for children in eye exams. While she had almost perfect 20/20 vision in her right eye, it turned out she had 20/400 vision in her left eye. At four-years-old, my forever mom was diagnosed as legally blind. The optometrist prepared her parents for the reality that the sight may not be fixable and as a result she may never be able to drive.

The parents were devastated, but from that moment on there was no stopping them on their mission to improve the eyesight of their baby girl. It was awfully hard on them to see her sitting inches from the television to watch her favorite movie “The Little Mermaid” (for the hundredth time). Instead of singing along to “Part of Their World” like usual, she cried and cried because she couldn’t see Ariel. The patching of her good eye was excruciating for all parties involved.

Sight is indeed one of life’s most simple of gifts, Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us in Simple Abundance, and it should not be taken for granted.

“Today really look around at your world…Smile at everyone you meet because you can see them,” Breathnach writs. “Never forget that the gift of vision was so important that when God created the world, the first command was for Light in order to see, and after the Great Creator finished with each day’s task, He glanced back on his handiwork and ‘saw that it was good.’ We need to see how good it is too.”

More than 20 years later, my forever mom now has 20/30 eyesight in her left eye. She calls it her “little miracle” in life. Because her parents believed when even her eye doctor lacked faith, she has the blessing of sight and all that comes along with it.

The senses are a funny thing, after all. We can hear but not really listen. We can touch but not really feel. We can eat but not really taste. All of these oddities came to mind today when I realized how powerful it is to look and really see.

Seeing Is Believing

 

Eagles Are Flying April 12, 2013

2013-04-04 17.53.53I’ve been struggling with a secret lately. It’s something I had preferred not to share with the world, but if there is something I’ve learned in life, it is usually the things we don’t want others to know that become the most important to share.

So here it is: I have been struggling to find inspiration lately. I know, I know, the optimist in me should find something to say about each and every day, but I will admit even the optimist has a slow day every now and then. Add to that the dreary days in our area, and you have yourself a recipe for optimistic disaster.

But I refuse to see it as anything other than an opportunity for growth, so I believe in Sarah Ban Breathnach’s words in Simple Abundance. “A generous heart, a spontaneous smile, and eyes that sparkle with delight can be part of a (person’s) signature look once she awakens to his or her authentic beauty.”

I wouldn’t disagree with the importance of authentic beauty, but I would break it down to include valuable and unparalleled sense of self-understanding.

I know self-understanding and authentic beauty aren’t easily obtained. Quite the contrary, in fact, to the point where I would argue society brings the very definition of authentic beauty into question. Regardless, I have found that authentic beauty (or beauty of the soul as I call it) is worth the journey of self-understanding that leads you there. And so I come full circle and in doing so agree that full disclosure is best practice in blogging.

I wouldn’t call it writer’s block because my head is constantly budding with words my heart is dying to say. My generous heart finds hope in the spontaneous moments of inspiration, but when there is no inspiration, there is room for improvement. Room for growth. How else do baby eagles learn to fly? They don’t soar beautifully out of the gate. It takes time and practice and patience. In the meantime, I’ll take these dreary days as a reminder to keep the eyes of my heart focused on the sky until I’m ready to fly again.

 

I’m No Angel April 10, 2013

I can’t say I’m that big a fan of people calling me a mutt. I know my mom was a purebred Norwich Terrier, and I never knew my father. But every now and then I hear my mom say it (on a walk or at the dog park or whatever) in response to someone asking what kind of dog I am, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a bit that she occasionally refers to me as a mutt.

By Bing’s definition, mutt is synonymous with a mongrel dog of a mixed or unknown breed (which I suppose I am), also known as an offensive term that insults someone’s intelligence. While I would argue the former makes me who I am, I also say the latter is a complete dissention on what it means to be man’s best friend.I'm No Angel

The way I see it, a lot of purebred dogs these days are encountering more and more problems because of careless (or in some cases intentional) breeding decisions that result in health problems that haunt the breeds for the rest of their lives. I know standards of the Westminster Kennel Club are at an all-time high for complete impossibility in terms of the expectations they place on certain breeds. Obviously, the breeders make changes to adhere to the ever-changing regulations, but I can’t say I believe the changes are for the best of the breeds, or their intelligence.

Meanwhile, genetic scientists who study dog breeds are more supportive of so-called imperfect mutts than ever before. Due, at least in part, to our genetic diversity, we tend to inherit the best of our parenting breeds. Furthermore, if our parenting breeds are mixed as well, we are even more likely to inherit the best of all the involved breeds.

All of that said and done, it may or may not come as a surprise to some of you that I am in complete support of genetic testing to determine one’s makeup as a breed. Please do not misunderstand: my qualifications for participation on a genetic test would not be to find out how high I might score in a dog show. Oh no. My intention would be to find out where I’ve come from, what makes me who I am, and what these so-called imperfections mean for my personality.

Many famous thinkers have commentated on the concept of imperfection, and its surprisingly positive impact on personality. One of my favorite empiricist thinkers Soren Kierkegaard once said “it belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.”

Imperfection indeed. Let us instead focus on opposites by exploring one’s “imperfections” and embracing them instead of focusing extra emotional energy on what comes unnaturally (or opposite) to them.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” said the late, great American actress Marilyn Monroe.

Imperfect, mad, and ridiculous as I may be, I don’t necessarily appreciate when my mom calls me a mutt. I’m no angel, but (as British singer Dido says) does that mean that I can’t fly? In fact, several human members of my family refers to imperfections in a surprisingly optimistic way. Rather than turn away from the attributes that make them who they are, they opt instead to embrace unique personality traits as those that make them who they are.

With that in mind, I honestly would rather be called these things (imperfect, mad, and ridiculous, for example) than any other adjectives because I know that with these words comes a certain sense of power and understanding of society that is unmatched by those who consider themselves to be perfect.

Perfection? No thank you. I would much rather embrace my inner mutt, regardless of the negative connotations of its definition. I would much rather be interesting. I would much rather be unique. I would much rather be imperfect in the best kind of way than be ordinary by anyone’s terms.

 

This Time Around April 9, 2013

I wonder sometimes if I can really call myself an optimist if I believe in second chances. Heck, what if I believe in third, fourth and fifth chances? Doesn’t that afford a certain negativity in the underlying reality that a second, third or fourth chance means admitting failure at some point? Today I realized it is (in fact) the opposite.

“Today, declare to the Universe that you are open to receiving all the abundance it’s patiently waiting to bestow,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.”

Like most things, opportunities are all about perspective. Just as the glass can look half empty to one person What Do You Say To Second Chances?and half full to another, a second chance on something can be a blessing instead of an admission of failure. April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, so what better opportunity to root for second chances for animals all over the world? Beaten, abused, and neglected animals deserve a second chance too, and believe me – they don’t see it as an admission of failure.

There is this thing about being a rescue dog. Like many, I was beaten, abused and neglected before I learned how to turn fear to purpose in my life.

I found rescue in the shelter of the humane society. I would call that my second chance. I was adopted and the family decided I wasn’t a good fit for their situation, so I found rescue in the shelter of the humane society. Again. I would call that my third and fourth chance. It wasn’t until my fifth chance with my forever family that I found my true purpose in life. Time with my forever parents has made me realize how much more powerful my joy is when shared with others, and to bring purpose to some of the things in life that used to frighten me.

But I wouldn’t say those first few chances were completely for naught. Indeed I would argue the opposite. I learned valuable lessons in each of the paths I’ve taken in life, and I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for all the dog treats in the world.

A second chance is a blessing, not a disappointment. As such, I think an optimist would believe in second chances, not because of the inherent understanding of failure in the first opportunity, but because the glass doesn’t get emptier with each try. That’s the point of optimism, isn’t it? To see the glass half full (of potential, happiness, and all other good things) regardless of how full it might actually be?

 

Where art thou Spring? April 8, 2013

Perspective is a funny thing when it comes to weather in Wisconsin. I’ve always thought it was funny that people grab for their winter jackets, mittens and scarves when temperatures first fall below 60 in the fall, but you’d better believe all things winter are put away the second temperatures are a smidge above 50 degrees in the spring. To be blunt, that hasn’t quite done the trick for us in Wisconsin this year, as the majority of our glimpses into the fabulous fifties of spring have been just that. A glimpse, a glimmer of hope, dashed the very next day with wind chills in the single digits.

Normally, I’m not one to complain, especially about something over which I literally have no control. But I have noticed a trend on the weather reports lately. It doesn’t matter which station my mom has on, or whether its a local or national channel. In general, weather people are trying harder than ever to spin a positive story for viewers.

Warming My PawsIn February, we had Punxsutawney Phil promise us an early spring. He lied. March brought with it more than its fair share of brisk days, snow, and the negative spirits that come along for the ride. The forecasters promised April would be better, “unseasonably warm” even. While there have been a couple warmer days, they are only warmer by comparison. And today, I could actually see the pain in the weather person’s eyes when she said the word that may as well be a four-letter curse word this time of year: snow is in our forecast again at the end of this week. Following the next few dreary days of cold rain, that is.

Of all the people jobs in the world, I think I would be most awful at being a weather person. Sure, I know there is science involved that I might be able to figure out. And I definitely do all right in front of a camera. There’s the tiny problem of not being able to speak human, but I could find a way around that. If there’s a will, there’s a way, as they say.

In fact, I think it might just be my will that would get in the way. I’m a simple dog. I don’t keep secrets and I make a terrible liar. I would want too badly to have good news to report, and would struggle doing anything other than feeding that glimmer of hope for good things to come. But today, as my mom and I watched the bleak outlook for this week, I realized something.

I used to wonder whether the weather people know how their viewers hang on to every word of their forecasts, desperately hoping for good news. Today I got my answer. While I know I wouldn’t make a good weather person, I give them a lot of credit for doing a very challenging job at this time of year. It’s not their fault spring is taking its time to get here.

It’s all about perspective, Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us in Simple Abundance. “Expect to have hope rekindled,” she writes. “Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.” If good things really do come to those who wait, well we sure have something pretty spectacular to look forward to, don’t we?

 

My Circle of Comfort April 2, 2013

My name is Wiley Schmidt and I am a nurser. Some say its because I was weaned from my mom too early. Others theorize that I was abused. Reasons and theories aside, it’s true. I nurse on toys to relieve stress and calm myself down. No other method of soothing has the same effect.

For me, the behavior dates back to the first night I was separated from my mom and brothers. I was scavenging for food outside a busy retail area when I found him – my first friend in my new chapter of life. The plush toy slightly resembled a squirrel, but it was hard to tell for sure since it was so beaten up. I saw a piece of my soul in that squirrel that day. It was cold on that first night by myself and I found myself turning to Mr. Squirrel for warmth. So I did what came naturally and started to suck on him like I would have sucked on my mom a mere 24 hours earlier. While the behavior in no way compared to being with my mom, it was soothing to me for reasons I didn’t fully understand at the time.

When I lived with Jo and the man with the leather belt, I had a small Tiger toy that Jo had given me from her already sparce toy collection. It meant the world to me since the man we lived with didn’t believe in spending money on toys for poor Jo, let alone for me. Just as it had when I was alone on the street, my nursing on Mr. Tiger brought me comfort like no other.

At the humane society, there was also a shortage of toys but the angel who took care of me the majority of the time brought me a special gift one day. It was a little squirrel, similar to my first Mr. Squirrel. There was no way for Katie to know it, but it was like a piece of home in a strange place and to this day is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.

My name is Wiley Schmidt and I am a nurser. Not only that, but all the theories are true. I was weaned from my mom too early and I was abused. There, I said it. But rather than turning my back to the past, I have decided to take a page from the little people in my life whose childlike minds and hearts are always open. My open mind has allowed me to accept the things I cannot change by finding solace in the familiar.

The Comfort CircleI’ve found that my inner puppy possesses a familiar verve that sometimes lacks in my adult mind. “Verve is passion,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “And how do we learn to develop a finely honed sense of verve? By paying attention to the details. By accepting each day’s attempt to teach us more about our authenticity. By being constantly on the lookout for the ecstatic experience: what excites us or moves us to tears, what makes the blood rush to our head, our hearts skip a beat, our knees shaky, our souls sigh.”

I would dare add that we find our verve by respecting the past and counting our blessings. I now have more toys than I know what to do with, and they each have their token indentation I’ve come to call my comfort cushions. Some experts question whether dogs who nurse are coping with stress in a healthy way, but I would argue that we are. One of the most important things I’ve learned from my inner puppy is he is just a much a part of me as anything else, and because of that some things never change.

Related Articles

Hands: Heads or Tails? https://wileyschmidt.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/hands-heads-or-tails/

Home is Where the Heart Is https://wileyschmidt.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/home-is-where-the-heart-is/

A Playful Trip to Paradise https://wileyschmidt.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/a-playful-trip-to-paradise/

Wise Beyond Their Years https://wileyschmidt.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/wise-beyond-their-years/

 

On Self-Esteem: A Book and its Cover March 27, 2013

I hate the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror. Or (worse yet) when she avoids looking at herself entirely because of the disdain for the body looking back at her. I know it’s a common issue among women to reflect negatively about their appearance, but I just don’t understand it. And I don’t care to understand it. It breaks my little doggie heart to see her look at herself that way.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” the fabulous George Eliot once said. Well, I refuse to be anything other than what I’m meant to be, which is a source of joy. Joy is not in my mom’s face when she looks in the mirror, which bothers me even more given that the past several days of my journey with Simple Abundance have taught me that my Daybook of Comfort and Joy indeed cannot be judged by their cover.

Simplicity is appropriately understated on the pink cover with the little picture of a tree on it, but I obviously would not have it any other way. Forget the cover. I would love this book even if it were bound with those little plastic binder clips the movers and shakers of the world occasionally use to make financial presentations, marketing pitches or performance summaries.Mirror, mirror

I’m not going to lie to you. (A dog’s tail never lies after all.) If I judged books by their covers, I may never have taken interest in the pretty pink simplicity of Simple Abundance. But this is yet another example of a reason I am happy I make a habit of seeing the best in all people and things. And the more I thought about it, I realized I have pieced together a powerful analogy for judging a book by its cover. In the most recent daily suggestions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, readers are challenged to see beauty in oneself regardless of preconceived notions and habitually negative thought processes I know are capable of crossing one’s mind frequently throughout a day.

So I tried a little experiment today. I left my copy of Simple Abundance open on the bed when I was done reading it this morning so my mom would see it. So she would be challenged to look past the cover to the soul inside both the book and herself. So she would be challenged to look at that reflection in the mirror with positive energy rather than negative. But just as one generally doesn’t start and finish a book in the same night (regardless of how good the cover might be), I know this isn’t a change I will see overnight.

In the meantime, I will continue to loathe the way my mom looks at herself in the mirror.  I know it takes time to change a way of thought, but as George Eliot said it’s never too late. If only the mirror would show her the reflection I see on a daily basis. You know the one. There is no negativity or disdain or heartbreaking disappointment. Instead there is complete and unconditional love for the beauty of book and its cover.

 

A Wiley By Any Other Name March 23, 2013

I was called Zorro once. The family that adopted me for a short time tried calling me that and it was honestly the strangest couple weeks of my life. The name simply didn’t fit. It was dark and mysterious whereas I am sunny and somewhat of an open book. Wiley fits my personality perfectly. Spontaneous, outgoing and a little bit crazy? Yep, that’s me.

But now that I am set in my ways as  Wiley, I sometimes wonder what I would look like in someone else’s paws. What if I were more pensive, agile or mysterious? Would life be different? Would life by any other name be as sweet? But my past has taught me I can’t live without embracing my personality. And one of the best ways I’ve found to embrace my personality is to explore my space. Most dogs would agree that defining one’s territory is obviously very important, so I find it necessary to do so today as I explore who I am in this life.

I have always and continue to live near the beauty that is Lake Michigan. While I would prefer not explore too much due to the busy nature of the surrounding downtown area, the area near the lake is beautiful. My mom has taken me there a couple of times over the summer months and we’ve gotten into disagreements about how to spend our time there. While she would prefer to find the perfect spot and stay there with a good book, I would prefer to explore every inch of beach.

I know my mom would occasionally prefer me to be more static. Especially when she’s trying to relax on the beach and she already has the company of the sunshine. She doesn’t need me being me in those moments, regardless of the many perks of my unique personality. It reminds me a bit of a song I heard the other night while mom was cooking dinner. “But I’ll see better when the smoke clears (when the smoke clears) inside my head,” Toby Lightman sings. “And I find myself in need of a pause, I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because  of this desire to be what others want me to be which is nothing close to me.”

I occasionally wonder what I would look like if I was nothing close to me. Would my life by another name be as sweet? Then I am overtaken by the obvious. I know it would be. “You see, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we’re constantly programmed by the world to be other (people) not ourselves,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. “(But) we should only strive to be first-rate versions of ourselves. And our best is always good enough.”

So I argue that a life by any other name would be as sweet because standing still is simply not part of my personality. While I do enjoy routine, I also embrace adventure. I always have and always will. No suburban life will take that away from me. While I wonder about it, I can honestly say that I don’t really care to be anyone else. I like being me. I would make a terrible Toto, but I sure do make a good Wiley Schmidt. A Wiley by any other name would still be Wiley. And my best is always good enough.

 

A Lesson In Storytelling February 6, 2013

I enjoy my life as an observer of people. Sometimes they do the silliest things. Like when mom and dad throw Mrs. Prickles around in the living room, and I’m the pickle in the middle. I’m not stupid – I know what they’re doing. But I play along and dart around trying to steal my precious toy back from them because it makes me so happy to see them giggling like ninnies. I revel in the moments when happiness is contagious.

One thing I have observed is how easy it seems to see the differences in people than the things they have in common. Here we are together on our journeys through life in this beautiful world, all of us asking questions like who am I? Where am I going in life? What are my hopes and dreams? How do I accomplish them?

It reminds me of a song in Paint Your Wagon. “Where am I going? I don’t know. When will I get there? I ain’t certain. All that I know is I am on my way.”

We are all on our way to somewhere. Granted, somewhere is different for everyone, but today I’m focusing on what we have in common: the journey. Moreover, the choices we make along the way. Different as the circumstances may be, we all make choices that ultimately shape our lives. (As a dog, I rely on my mom and dad to make the majority of choices for me, but you get the idea).

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words,” the great and elegant Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “it is expressed in the choices we make.”

In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach speaks of the power we have to remake our world by establishing rhythm to our lives. But rhythm, like most things, is not always easy for people to master. It takes time, practice and commitment to make the right choices. But we’re all in this together. There is support out there if we can put aside the differences and remember we are all on the journey together.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves,” Roosevelt said.

As an observer of people, I think its fascinating that all people have something so simple in common. They are their own storytellers. This inquiring mind wants to know – what does your story look like?