Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

All That Worry March 1, 2015

I guess you could say I’m a sore loser. I’m not ashamed to admit it. The simple truth is I don’t particularly care to engage in things that I don’t think I can excel at. I prefer to quality over quantity anyway.

So you can imagine my dismay when certain things in my life that are completely beyond my control. If I had my way, there would be no worry or stress or anger in the lives of my loved ones. But alas, none of that falls within my realm of reason.The "stuff" and me

Instead I watch as people I care about, namely my forever mom, let things bother her to the point of sleeplessness and restless anxiety. The worry is real, and I don’t fault her for that. Yet things have a way of coming full circle emotionally in such a way that I wish we could just bypass the stress and get right to the relief.

Take the scare mom had with her pregnancy recently. She haunted herself by consulting Dr. Google for answers about something she should have just listened to her doctor about. As a result, she became so blinded by the worst case scenario that hope seemed like a distant memory.

Then this week, she got confirmation from her doctor that everything worked out. The concern is no longer a concern. Cautious optimism has been replaced by relief.

Which leads me to question what the point of worry is in the first place. Or really any negative emotional struggle people face. Hence my constant inner struggle.

Because I can’t control it. I can’t win every battle. And as much as I hate any lose-lose situation, I know we can’t win them all. Fortunately, I also know we don’t have to. So many times I find any battle worth fighting is most likely also a battle worth losing. Life has taught me things have a way of working out in spite of our best efforts to complicate things. So in reality, many of our short-term losses are actually long-term wins. It just takes a little time for us to realize it.

 

 

With or Without January 11, 2015

I’m usually pretty good with tension. When there is proverbial ice to be broken, I know just what to do. Any number of my repertoire of doggie antics tends to do the trick. But today my powers were useless in my very own living room. In The Right Direction

Nails were being bitten. Nervous eating had ensued. I could feel the tension rising with each passing minute. And nothing I could do seemed to mitigate the situation in any way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a Packer backer as those in my forever family. I just prefer to stay calm if at all possible.

It was not possible today. For me, or for anyone in the room. The final minutes of the Packer game against the Cowboys were intense and scary and exciting and devastatingly amazing all at the same time. I know, I know, it sounds impossible and yet it’s true. It all ended well, though I think at several points throughout the game, it didn’t seem it would.

When all was said and done, the stress and worry was for naught. Everything worked out. The Packers won the game. All was well.

It reminded me of why I’m usually pretty good with tension. I have an entire cabinet of tricks I break out to lighten up the emotions in the room, which us canines have a knack for picking up very easily. I jokingly call it our seventh sense. Cats have nine lives. Dogs have an innate understanding for human emotion.

That’s why I can say with some sense of authority that you can’t sweat the small stuff. The outcome of that game would be the same whether or not we worried and stressed like we did or not. I think there’s something to be taken from that.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” suggested American thinker William James. Any good journey will be filled with ups and downs and moments when we think it’s not going to work out. Yet sometimes it always does. With or without the stress.

 

Forgive and Forget January 5, 2015

It was worse than I thought. Way worse. True to form, it seems to me that negativity spread like wildfire today as it has a way of doing if we let it. I’m sure it didn’t help that we are experiencing record low temperatures around here (with wind chills in the -30 degree range, whatever that means). And I think that thing called work had a lot to do with it as well.

Regardless of the reason, it seems to me like today is a day where more than one person I care about just wants to put behind them. Individual circumstances vary, but I get the impression that tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

Dear aunt Morgan’s car wouldn’t start. My grandma slipped on some ice getting her mail and hurt her knee. My mom’s friend Mel had an abnormally challenging day. Work was generally impossible for everyone I encountered.

Around here, dad had a generally awful day. And mom spent a lot of time on the phone while trying to simultaneously tend to a very whiny dear baby Carter. I knew it was worse than usual when she lost her temper and shouted at him to shut up. It isn’t like her to yell at him like that, and the tone of her voice sent even me into a panic as I ran off into the nearest corner.

The breaking point. From the ground up, it looks different for everyone. I saw mom’s today and it wasn’t pretty. But something tells me she wasn’t alone. She isn’t alone. It happens to everyone from time to time for a variety of reasons.

And today I think I found the antidote. Because it was worse than I thought. Going back to reality wasn’t just tough for my dad as I feared it would be, but for a lot of people I care about. So when it happened later this afternoon, I felt my heart leap out of my chest with joy.

He forgave her. Even though the look in his eyes when mom hollered at him was one of surprised terror, when Carter woke up from his afternoon nap a couple hours later, all was forgiven and forgotten. I knew it for sure because when she went to get him out of his crib, he was even happier to see her than usual. He was standing there to greet her, and when she opened the door he literally giggled with glee to the point where his smile was making him shake with happiness. Mom hasn’t laughed so hard in days.

It reminded me it is possible to forgive and forget more than just people. Days are awful sometimes. And they happen to all of us. But there is always tomorrow, so why not forgive today?

 

The Excitement Of It All December 19, 2014

Table cloths. Holiday decorations. And food smells. Lots of food smells. I’ve been around long enough to know what’s coming. I don’t need to have a crystal ball to know there will be some kind of fabulous shindig at my forever home tomorrow. Mom spent the majority of today running around like the headless chicken she often does before such events. There is cleaning and cooking and baking and decorating to be done, after all!

The funny thing is so many people tell her to slow down. Take it easy. Don’t stress. Yet she follows none of these pieces of (very sound) advice. It’s puzzled me for some time why she feels the need to uphold this reputation of hers as a “super hostess.” She could as easily not go to the detail she does with things. She could skip an appetizer (or three). There don’t have to be dessert options. One is probably just fine. Flangipropping

I think I finally got my answer today. It happened somewhere in between ironing her third table cloth and setting up the dessert table. She sat down, for honestly the first time since she woke up with dear baby Carter around 7 a.m. and sighed. To a stranger, it sounded like fatigue. And maybe there was a bit of fatigue mixed in, but I know better. I know better because I could see her face when it happened. Joy. From the ground up, it resonated in her smile and the twinkle in her eye as she surveyed the work that had been done so far.

Table cloths and decorations and food smells were the way of the day around here today. It was a lot of work, most of which mom made for herself. But she loves it. Thrives on it even. Has she been breathing a bit heavy since this afternoon as she runs around dusting and cleaning bathrooms? Sure. Will she be sore tomorrow? Probably.

But there is something about the excitement of it all that brings joy to life. And I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.

 

Shoot the Moon December 7, 2014

It’s not something I think I’ve ever done. Even if I did, I’m not sure I would enjoy it. At least that’s what I thought before tonight. It’s that time of the month again around here. The moon is full and bright in the clear night sky, and something deep in my spirit tells me this is something to celebrate.

I don’t know much about my ancient canine heritage, as I choose to embrace the life I have with my forever family without too much other than respect for the past. But there is definitely something about days (and nights) with a full moon. From what I hear, people can get kind of silly for no good reason other than some strange impact of the lunar cycle. And dogs howl.

As a dog who doesn’t bark that often, the idea of howling is pretty foreign to me. Even if it was, what would I say?

Tonight I pondered this as I roamed about my brisShoot the Moonk but beautiful backyard paradise. If I were one to howl at the moon, what would I say?

It brought to mind something I have observed about human behavior. From the ground up, sometimes things just need to explode. I know everyone processes emotions differently. Some people work out to burn off steam. Others eat their feelings. Some people vocalize everything they’re thinking. Others store it inside until they reach a boiling point. I know there are happy mediums as far as all of this is concerned, but there is also a common thread that (albeit loosely) ties these people together.

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it,” suggested one of my favorite existential thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At some point or another, it’s going to happen. You’re going to need a good cry. A thunderous yell. A howl at the moon. It’s only natural. Beyond that, it’s okay. Because from what I can tell, it has a way of healing deep emotional wounds like few other remedies. If that’s what you need to do to feel better, then I say shoot down that moon. Maybe not every month. But every so often, I see it as an opportunity worth seizing.

 

 

On Thin Ice March 8, 2014

Stunned disbelief. That’s what’s going on in the Schmidt home tonight. And it’s not the good kind.

Mom slipped on some ice in the driveway of my forever home today. I watched in horror from my lead in the backyard as she fell down hard like she used to before she got her leg fixed. Except this was her other leg. This was the leg she has relied on the last two years to keep her strong and stable while the other knee went through the ringer. This was the leg that got her through the terrible surgery to reconstruct the ACL, MCL and meniscus of her other leg. Feeling Blue

And now it seems the worst may have happened. When she described the incident to dad, she said her leg bent the wrong way and she heard a funny popping sound before it buckled underneath her. I’ve never experienced such a thing, but I know what it was like for mom the last time she did, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Let alone on my beloved forever mom.

I don’t know what to do for her. She hasn’t stopped crying all night. She seems so afraid. Afraid to walk. Afraid to fall down. Afraid to walk or fall down while holding baby Carter. She couldn’t bathe him like always tonight, or put him to bed. She couldn’t sway with him in the hallway as he cried. And it is breaking my heart.

All I can do is hope. Hope that it’s not as bad as she thinks. Hope that when the pain goes away, the knee will somehow stabilize itself again. Because emotions are on thin ice around here right now and I feel helpless. At least I have hope. Sometimes that’s all you need.

 

So Many Choices February 19, 2014

It’s pretty obvious to me. Every morning I get the same thing for breakfast. Every night I get the same thing for dinner. And I’m not going to lie – it’s pretty tasty. Certainly not as delicious as the my favorite dog treats and raw hide bones. And maybe not quite as delectable as the occasional nibble of bacon, salami or peanut butter. But it’s definitely tasty.

So you can imagine my confusion at the frequency at which my forever people debate what to have to eat. In or out? Fancy or simple? Healthy or naughty? It’s all gibberish to me. And don’t get me started on what happens next when mom can’t decide what to wear. Though it is helped (a bit) by the previous questions, it’s never easy. Then there’s the shoes. And the jewelry. So many choices. So Many Choices

Indecisiveness has a hold on us around the Schmidt house and it drives me crazy sometimes. It’s more powerful than it sounds to be sure. It might not seem like a big deal, but (like anything) it always is a bigger deal than it seems. Not to mention the times when it stirs itself into a disagreement. All over something so silly as which pair of shoes looks better with a certain set of pants, which make up an outfit that may or may not be too dressy for the dinner destination of choice. It’s exhausting.

And I’m not even the one stressing out about these things. I’m just observing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get caught up in the business of making decisions. From the ground up, I would much rather save all that emotional energy and apply it toward something useful. Like figuring out a way to translate dog thoughts into people words so I could tell my people to make a decision already. And so I could be there to support them when it ends up being the wrong one.

Because it seems pretty obvious to me. Certainly it’s not always as simple as what to eat for dinner. But when there are so many choices, sometimes the most obvious one starts at the beginning. It starts with the choice to decide.

 

A Lesson In Sacrifice December 23, 2013

Disgruntled, disheveled and exhausted. Or in other words crabby. That’s how mom came home today from that place called work. Apparently her mood was reflective of the majority of the folks with whom she came into contact today. People who wanted things done. Now. Unless yesterday is possible, in which case they would prefer that.

The truth is, on a day like today, you are only one person who can really only do one thing: your best. I got the impression that’s what she did, but it sure took its toll on her emotions. She looked like she could cry the moment she walked in the door. And my keen attentiveness to such things informs me this would most definitely not have been tears of joy.

Watching and waitingThat’s when it happened. Just as she came through the door, dad stepped up to the plate. He took one for the team. I was ready with all my usual tactics for brining joy into a room and dad beat me to it. He swept her away to some place immediately upon her arrival home and when they returned they were laughing. No more almost tears. It was really something to see.

What mom doesn’t know is dad had a rough day too. He didn’t sleep much last night either. He’s overcome with worry of his own about all things pregnancy and labor and baby related. I’ve even been guilty of forgetting this in the last nine months. But none of that mattered in those crucial moments when mom got home. He pushed everything he was feeling aside to bring joy to mom.

I never really have to do such things. Sure, I worry and have my own things that evoke fear and stress. But for me, bringing joy to the lives of others rarely (if ever) involves sacrifice. The way I see it its ingrained in me as my work in my forever home. Except it’s not work because I love it so much. It’s part of what I’m meant to do.

Dad, on the other hand, definitely sacrificed his own thoughts and emotions to support mom tonight. And I’m proud of him. “If you want to be loved, be lovable,” suggested ancient Roman poet Ovid. Mom certainly wasn’t lovable upon returning home from that place called work today. Regardless of the reasons, she was an emotional wreck. But dad loves and cared for her anyway. And it worked. That’s the thing about selflessness – it tends to do the trick every time.

 

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.”