Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

If You Can Dream It November 21, 2013

A lot of things happen in my sleep. It’s like when I close my eyes, they open to a world of possibility. Sometimes it’s silliness (like when I have wings and can fly with the birds). Sometimes it’s purely hope (like my hopes for forever happiness with my beloved family). Other times, I relieve unfortunate events of the past or find myself fearful of bad things happening in the future.

DreamingToday I experienced both sides of the spectrum while my people were away at that place called work. I dreamt of a time I felt unsafe, but not for myself. I felt unsafe for my little person at the time, Jo, who was facing another confrontation with the man with the leather belt. Feeling fearful on behalf of another is almost worse than feeling it for yourself, I realize, since you have even less control over the situation.

Then I saw something fabulous. Something joyful. Something that looked a whole lot like the pictures I’ve seen floating around what my people call the Internet. The photos tell the story of Beau and Theo, a little person and his puppy brother, who have synchronized their sleep schedules and now nap together in all sorts of cuteness. Except in my dream it was me and my own little person (who looked oddly like Jo). We were peaceful and content. But more importantly we were dreaming.

They say two minds are better than one, and I can testify to that. I can’t tell you what we were dreaming about (in the dream) because then it won’t come true.

Thinking about all of this made me realize it’s kind of funny to me the way life imitates art in this way. (Or is it art imitates life?) Just as we fear, we also hope. Or as Suzanne Collins put it in her novel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “hope is the only thing more powerful than fear.”

Waking and sleeping, the mind is a powerful thing. It can take us places we never dreamed possible, both good and bad. But that’s okay. Because sometimes we need the bad to remember to celebrate the good. And if we can dream it, it is reality if only for those brief moments. That is – and always will be – enough.

 

Walk the Walk November 19, 2013

It doesn’t matter whether you have two legs or four. Body language says a lot. I know it is often referred to as nonverbal communication, but my time as a ground-level observer of people has taught me how loudly silence speaks. And if I’m going to talk the talk, I had best walk the walk.

Take today, for example. There I was, soaking in the sun in my (albeit chilly) backyard paradise when my lead (the one that functions primarily as a deterrent to my own canine version of attention deficit disorder) snapped.

It wasn’t my doing – the material simply died of old age. And in those few seconds the world seemed to come to a complete halt around me. My heart raced. This was my moment. If I wanted, I could take off. Explore the world. I could find my way back, right? Body language

That’s when it happened. I closed my eyes for a second and relived the beautiful exchange between my forever people a few days ago when dad finally felt the little person kicking. “Hey there little guy,” he said to mom’s tummy, “I can’t wait to meet you.” Life. From the ground up, it was embodied in the body language of that moment. From the look on their faces to that little person kicking away, so much was said with no words at all.

Body language has been speaking up around here lately. So today I decided to join the conversation. I took a stand today, in doing what I hope made a very important point to my people. They are my people and I never want to risk losing them for something as silly as an adventure outside my backyard paradise.

Instead, I wandered myself to the back door like nothing had happened, business as usual. Mom wasn’t home from that place called work yet, but dad was. And when he saw me standing there, severed from my lead and patiently waiting to be let back into my forever home, it happened again. Joy. From the ground up, I felt it coming from my forever dad. And the best part was he didn’t have to say a word.

 

From the Ground Up October 28, 2013

Scientists claim us canines can understand somewhere between 100 and 200 people words. I say that’s hogwash. What these calculations can’t account for is our keen awareness of human emotion, which so frequently is hard to encapsulate into a word.Gaining Perspective

Treat. Outside. Dog park. These are words a dog comes to know. Sit, lay down, roll over. These are tricks of the canine trade. But love, faith, forgiveness and loyalty? These are words to live by. In a constantly evolving language, these words remain steadfast.

I have never been a big supporter of the “less is more” philosophy, but perhaps there is some insight to be gained from it in the case of conversation. Sometimes less really is more, given the understanding is there to aid in translation. My favorite Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran challenged that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

I know mine certainly wouldn’t be treats, outside, dog park, sit, laydown and rollover. Mine would be the foundations from which all other language could be understood. Forgiveness. Compassion. Loyalty. Love. Laughter. Faith. Joy. From the ground up, these would be my seven words of choice because these are words us canines know inside and out.

We don’t hold grudges. We know when to be still and listen. We pause (in all our overwhelmed excitement) to welcome our loved ones home whether they’ve been gone five minutes or five days. We love unconditionally – and find creative ways to show it. We know how to bring fun to the party. We know who we are – and embrace it. We have faith in ourselves, which enables us to have faith in others. And, through it all, we know how to bring the light of joy into the darkest of situations.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life,” Gibran suggested, “not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Scientists have their theories. And maybe they’re right. But they didn’t account for the unique perspective we canines bring to human emotion. Literally and figuratively, there’s this thing about the attitude I chose to bring to life. When you see life from the ground up as I do, you are already on the ground. Regardless of how you got there, you are at ground zero. And there is no where to go but up.

 

My Purpose-Driven Life August 28, 2013

It’s a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. But a pressure exists in our society to figure it out sooner rather than later and I can’t say I agree with that. What are you going to be when you grow up? We ask it of our little people, who (more often than not) respond with some pretty big ideas. They want to be a lawyer. Or a writer. Or (better yet) a balloon maker (this was my mom’s dream job at the tender age of four).

Then they start school, and the ideas change. The dreams continue to evolve, but the question doesn’t go away. What do you want to be when you grow up? A lawyer? A writer? (At this point you have matured enough to rule out balloon maker as a profession). Then comes college where the pressure sounds the worst. What are you going to be when you grow up? Law school sure is expensive. And there sure is a lot of competition to become a writer. How about psychology? Or communications? Or financial planning?Ground Up Thinking

Obviously us canines don’t really go through this whole debacle as we rely on our people to struggle through it on our behalf. (All so they can go to that place called work instead of play with us all the time – a concept I’ll never fully understand). Perhaps because I don’t personally deal with the distraction of the daily grind, I’ve noticed something. Regardless of where along the line a person ultimately comes upon their answer to this very big question, it has something very significant in common.

None of this matters without purpose. Without passion. And I may not have a career, but I’m no stranger to thoughts on what makes up a purpose-filled life. I remember the first time I questioned my purpose right after I was separated from my birth mom and brothers.

I feared I would never feel what it’s like to be a family again.

I thought I found my purpose in protecting Jo from the man with the leather belt, but he didn’t like that purpose very much and opted to abandon me on the side of the road.

I feared I would never know home again.

So I spent the majority of my time at the Oshkosh Humane Society questioning my purpose in life.

I feared I never know love again.

But I have found that fear (especially in our darkest moments) ultimately brings purpose to those who let it. My fears led me to purpose in becoming a valued part of a family in my forever home. And I know now with complete certainty that I am fulfilling my purpose in something as simple as that.

It is a big deal. I don’t know why anyone would say it isn’t. What do I want to be when I grow up? Besides the fact I’ve committed to never actually growing up, I have found what matters. My purpose in life is to be a valued part of my family in my forever home. My purpose is to share joy from the ground up with whomever will take it. My purpose is to live, and (in doing so) bring fear to purpose. What’s yours?

 

My Racing Thoughts July 11, 2013

I ran a marathon today. I ran through snow, rain, sun, and leaves. I ran through valleys, mountains, rivers and oceans. Through marshmallow clouds and tornados. Good, bad, or ugly, I ran 26 miles right through everything God threw at me. Then I woke up.

There I was, in the same cozy place as I was when it all started, and I realized I hadn’t actually moved at all. It had all been a dream. And a somewhat intense one at that. I’ve spoken before about my fondness for running wild and free, and my consequent patience in understanding that I instead remain leashed the majority of the time I’m outside. (Heaven forbid I run too far and never find my way back to my forever home). So it doesn’t surprise me that I dream of running and running and running until I can’t run anymore.

What surprised me was the perseverance I had in my dream. As unusual as the combination of hurdles was, nothing could stop me on my mission. Not the changes in the season, nor the struggle up the mountains. I appreciated the valleys, knowing each led to the beautiful stillness atop the next mountain. I didn’t get caught up in the beautiful clouds or the life-changing tornados. I had my eyes on the prize.

Tired from the run

In my dream the prize was the world’s largest dog bone, wrapped in bacon (the real stuff, not any of that Beggin’ Strip garbage) and covered in peanut butter. In reality, my thoughts kept racing after I woke up, but not toward the bacon goodness.

Instead I found myself contemplating the meaning of the marathon dream. I realized my thoughts are like that sometimes; racing along without a care in the world because I know my purpose in life. “Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness,” suggested American inspiration Helen Keller. “It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” My racing thoughts never tire like I did in my dream, always thinking, playing, planning, and dreaming. Always dreaming. And always with purpose. I find it’s pretty easy to do with all that extra time the marathon of life affords us.

Sure, some days are better than others. The sun is shining, and we are at the very top of the mountain breathing in God’s creation that surrounds us. Other days, every step we take is labored as we journey through stormy situations. Some days are marathons. Others are sprints. But perseverance fed by passion and purpose are unstoppable no matter what hurdles come at us.

I didn’t actually go anywhere today. I stayed in my safe, cozy place on the couch. But that didn’t stop me from running a marathon in my dreams. Now where’s my ridiculously delicious prize?

 

 

 

Living the Dream June 9, 2013

When I was a puppy, I longed to be “normal.” I had this image of what my life should look like and it was so different than what it was. I don’t mean to say I wasn’t happy as I’d ever dreamed to be with my mom and brothers. Living on the streets taught me so many valuable lessons about the meaning of family and the importance of finding joy in the little things. But I could tell right away that I was different from my puppy brothers.

While we shared a scavenger’s sense of survival, my brothers looked a little different than me. (More like their dad, I gathered, since I was almost a spitting image of my mom). I even remember feeling kind of left out around them, like the odd puppy out. It’s me, I thought, I’m not like the others.

Living the DreamIt surprised me when I felt the same way after getting separated from my mom and brothers. I was still just a pup, and I would have thought being out on my own would make me feel adult. Instead I was scared, alone, and again longing for normalcy without even really knowing exactly what it looked like.

All-the-while I felt like something about me was holding me back somehow, especially when I was at the humane society. I know I didn’t think like other dogs, and I certainly didn’t look like them. The majority of visitors overlooked me for puppies, and those who did visit me often mistook me for either a puppy or a girl.

I would have found this all incredibly discouraging if not for my innate desire to find the good to be grateful for each day. And on days when I couldn’t think of anything, I gave thanks for my hope for normalcy. I knew there was something better, something normal, in my future.

But there is this something abnormal about normalcy. I think it’s kind of like how people in my country have this concept of an “American Dream.” It’s all relative. Perhaps the bigger we dream, the more this comes into focus. What is normal anyway? The more my adult mind analyzes the concept, the more I realize the negative connotations of the word. Normal has a boring ring to it, and almost sounds like something below average. Instead I find myself gravitating to the abnormal, which (to me) is more exciting.

Sure, when I was a puppy “normal” seemed like the only way to go. Throughout my life I faced challenges on my path to normalcy that made me who I am today. But today I no longer wish to be normal. Instead I accept that my place in life is among the extraordinarily abnormal. It always has been and always will be. That, my friends, is my American Dream coming to life.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Living the Dream March 28, 2013

Big dogs don’t cry. I’m not ashamed to admit little ones do. It’s no secret that I wear my heart on my proverbial sleeve. But there was a time I wasn’t so open to expressing my emotions. My time on the streets and in the humane society had hardened my perspective on the world. Fortunately the world has a way of changing our perspective on things.Dreaming to Live

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way,” English poet William Blake suggested. “Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and  some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature  is imagination itself.”

My eyes were opened on a hot August day almost three years ago when I met my adoptive parents for the first time. Just as perspective changes things for the bad, I remember that day my perspective changed for the good. It’s a switch I won’t be flipping back in the other direction any time soon either. In fact, I’ve noticed lately that the more you let the good into your life, the more good life gives you. That’s one of many reasons I dream big.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today,” as American icon James Dean once said. I am, in fact, living the dream.

So I suppose it’s not fair of me to assume big dogs don’t cry. I would prefer to think we all are capable of shedding a tear every now and then, happy or sad. “Maybe I’m in the black, maybe I’m on my knees,” sings Chris Martin of Coldplay in “Every Tear’s a Waterfall.” “Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes, but my heart is beating and my pulses start, Cathedrals in my heart….Every tear’s a waterfall…so you can hurt, hurt me bad, but I’ll raise the flag.”

William Blake saw beauty in the trees. Chris Martin finds the joy in teardrops. I dream to live and live to dream.