Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

With the Lamp Lit February 25, 2015

I don’t understand any of it. But I’m a dog, so I think that’s okay. What I do know is all that worry weighing on mom’s heart a couple of weeks ago has been has been lifted slightly. At least for now.

When she left dear baby Carter and I with Aunt Morgan, I could tell her nerves were getting the best of her. I knew wherever she was going something important must be happening. So I wished and hoped and did all I could to send all things positive with her as she left a very upset (very teething) Carter behind to tackle whatever she was about to do. In the Deep End

When she returned home, she was a different person. Even her step looked lighter. (Well, as light as it can be at six months pregnant). I stood by listening anxiously as she filled Morgan in with all kinds of technical medical jargon that went in one ear and out the other. But I didn’t need to understand any of it except for a few precious words.

It’s better than it was, so that’s a good sign.

That’s all I needed to hear to breathe my own sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, I know the journey isn’t over. We are not out of the proverbial woods just yet. Mom gets more information from her doctor on Friday, and I’m hopeful there is more good news. Until then, I shall follow mom’s lead and proceed with caution until at least Friday (if not longer, depending on what the doctor says).

Because while I share in the enthusiasm and overall anticipation to meet this new little person, I do understand he or she shouldn’t be meeting us just yet for health and safety reasons. So we will wait, cautiously, but somehow I knew in my heart what I saw in mom’s eyes today.

Hope. From the ground up, it’s a pretty powerful thing. Christian author Tertullian certainly thought so when he said “hope is patience with the lamp lit.” I don’t need to understand anything about all things medical to know this as truth.

 

Second Nature April 8, 2014

Filed under: Man's Best Friend — Wiley Schmidt @ 9:46 pm
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That place called work. I’ve often wondered if the shoe were on the other paw, what my place called work would be like. Where would I go away to for all those hours at a time? What would I do? Today I think I (quite literally) stumbled upon the answer.Looking Happy

Maybe it’s because it happened with four different people in what felt like a very short period of time. I used my keen observational skills to deduce they were down about one thing or another in life, and (without thinking) I did something about it.

With my grandma, I greeted her with a love fest upon entering the threshold. With my aunt Morgan, I licked up her tears as she cried about changes in life. With my mom, I simply rolled on my side funny while she took a few minutes to pet me. And with Carter, when he smiled at me as I performed one of my many attention-seeking behaviors. Well, that was pretty magical even though he may not know it.

That’s when it occurred to me. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I didn’t even know I was brining joy until it happened. I saw it on their faces, heard it in their voices, and felt it in their embrace. Joy. From the ground up, it is a favorite habit of mine. It’s one with no deadline, no pressure, and no wasted days or nights.

So I think I know what I would do for “work” if the shoe were on the other paw. (That is, assuming my first attempt at a dog blogger turned book writer never comes to be). I would stay home. I would do exactly what I do naturally every single day. I would find ways to bring joy to the lives of my people. Now, I can admit the job is not a traditional one. But I don’t think it matters, and would argue that perhaps it should be. Because I read once if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that is certainly true for me.

 

Give and Take March 28, 2014

It’s been a long time coming. Yet it seemed to pass with the blink of an eye. Today was mom’s last day at that place called work. And I thought she’d be excited. Instead I was met with mixed emotions upon her return home. It wasn’t until later that I understood why.

Get what you giveIt had been a busy day around here, with my grandma and aunt Morgan spending time with baby Carter and I. There was an incident involving a teeny tiny cut that happened when Morgan was cutting Carter’s itsy bitsy nails. He cried. Grandma and Morgan cried. If I could, I would have cried. It was tough on everyone because we all know no one would intentionally hurt our dear little person. Yet he was hurt today.

I thought it was oddly poetic that mom seemed a little hurt too. She invested a tremendous amount of herself in that place, but even more so in the people it included. They became her work family. They came to her with troubles and she never once turned them away. As they took other opportunities in and outside the organization, she celebrated their success. She worked almost as hard to foster relationships as she did at her job itself.

So today, when she left the office for the last time with her box of office keepsakes, she did so with a heavy heart. Because she quite honestly didn’t feel very loved. Her work family let her go with very little fanfare. It was all too soon forgotten how she cared for them in time of need. And as she is taking an opportunity outside the organization, very few peopled celebrated her success.

But that’s the thing about give and take. It doesn’t always turn out like we plan. Just like no one would intentionally hurt dear baby Carter, I believe no one meant to hurt mom today. And I think deep down she knows that too. Or at least she does a pretty good job of pretending.

Because it has indeed been a long time coming. And it has passed in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t matter that mom didn’t take much fanfare home with her today. She gave 110%. That’s what really matters anyway.

 

True or False? March 16, 2014

It happens pretty frequently if you ask me. Not so much to me personally, for which I am thankful. But it seems to happen a lot to the people I love. You see, I am a big supporter of the meaning of the little things in life. The simple things. That is why I can with absolute certainty that the unknown confuses me on a pretty regular basis.

Again, this is not of my own doing. I have a pretty simple life devoid of stress over the big or little questions. Most of my big questions are answered by others. What will I have for dinner? Where will I spend my day today? What is my purpose in life? It’s a fairly sure thing that every day will bring the same answers to these questions.  My regular kibble will be in my bowl in the forever home in which I will spend my day doing what I do best – bringing joy to whoever will take it.

Be What You BelieveThe same cannot be said for people. I frequently observe lengthy conversations about things as simple as what to have for dinner and as complex as one’s true purpose. And I’m not going to lie – it confuses me. Oftentimes I wish there would be a way for me to provide an answer as easy as the question seems.

I thought of this today as I watched baby Carter sleeping. I thought of all the questions – big and small – he has to encounter throughout his life. And so I wished I could tell him some of what I’ve learned from my observations – the first being that things that are true are often also false. It depends on how you flip the coin or how you view the glass. Since my glass is half full, so are three of my most important life lessons.

Believe what you think. It might not always be good, but follow your heart and you will find peace with your choices.

Believe what you feel. Good or bad, another person’s opinion is only as real as you let it be.

Be what you believe. What you feel in your heart is powerful. Embrace it and let it guide you.

I have so much I hope to teach baby Carter in the time we have together, but these simple truths are among the most important. Especially since it seems to happen pretty frequently among the two-legged population – this game of questions and answers. Most times I am thankful for not having the same questions to answer every day. But today I realized that it wouldn’t matter even if I did. Because in spite of it all, I am what I believe.

 

Try Try Again October 30, 2013

I had it out with the neighbor dog today. Twice. That’s right – Demon Dog and I had words. Well, I’m sure it sounded like barks to the outside observer. But I could no longer sit idly by and stare at him silently while he goes into his fits of rage from the other side of the fence. I had to do something.

Better to TrySo I walked myself (all right, okay, I ran myself) to the very end of the lead (about 30 feet from my backdoor, and about 20 feet from Demon Dog) and I said some things that needed to be said. I told him I don’t know why he’s so angry. I told him I wished we could be friends. That I would listen to whatever struggles he’d lived through and help him find some joy in new beginnings.

But it ended just like it started, with him pacing and panting and growling and snarling. He even digs around a bit at the hole he’s created underneath the fence that separates us. And his bark? Quite frankly it’s terrifying.

I tried again the next time I was outside, but it seemed to be in vain. Also, my people were very unhappy with my efforts as it is incredibly rare for me to bark at anything besides the animals that occasionally come into the living room via the television.

I don’t understand it. We canines don’t discriminate from one breed to another, but I guess people call his a bully breed. And my experiences have shown me why – not only with my neighbor, but also with the dog who attacked me at the dog park. I thought I was a goner that day when he had me by my collar dangling me around from his perch atop that picnic table.

Obviously I survived to tell the tale, but it bothers me that these dogs – these bullies – are out there making a bad name for others of their breed who are capable of love and compassion. Being known as a bully is not an excuse for bad behavior any more than it should be a label on others with a similar appearance.

So I won’t give up on Demon Dog. I had it out with him today and my message didn’t take. And I know I need to be honest with myself – it may never take. But as American actress Shay Mitchell put it “I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.”

He’s strong and confident (at least from what I can tell by his barking habits), but there must be something more there. A past. Some memories. A story that may explain where he came from and why he is the way he is. We all do. And in a world that frequently uses labels as excuses, I’m taking a stand for new beginnings. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.

 

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.

 

More or Less August 12, 2013

I don’t think dogs are wired to understand the people concept that less is more. I’m sure I don’t speak for all of us, but I certainly don’t leave spare kibbles in my bowl. Not a single scrap of people food hits the floor that I don’t scoop up. One toy is just never enough. But I suppose this all makes sense because we live with our whole honest selves. We wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves. And we love with all our hearts.

2013-06-28 21.17.47I was reminded of this today when I heard a familiar phrase on television. “Amateurs built the ark; experts built the Titanic.” I’m not certain of the origin of this philosophical commentary, but I’m drawn to it for obvious reasons. Not only does it challenge us to try something new, to challenge conventional wisdom, but it aligns with another truth I hold dear about judging a book by its cover.

Don’t do it. Easy as that.

It is in contradictions such as these that I find myself pondering things on a more philosophical level. In general more is more to me, yet I believe in extracting joy from the simple things in life. I believe in giving that book with a seemingly boring cover a read simply out of principal. I believe in second chances. These are not declarations of someone who doesn’t understand how less can possibly be more.

Maybe that’s the amateur in me. It’s the same part of me that can’t leave any food and prefers the company of all my entire comfort circle of toys rather than a simple representation. But just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean I push an idea aside. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the point that I want to learn something from everything. I would much rather build something on faith and understanding than on vanity and luxury anyway.

So perhaps I’ve been going about this whole less is more concept the wrong way. It’s not one way or the highway. When we love with our whole selves, down to our core, whether we have more or less of something doesn’t matter.

 

Things I Don’t Understand July 10, 2013

People talk. Human emotion. Interpersonal relationships. There are a lot of things I think people think dogs don’t understand. I’ve got a little secret for you. We do. Sure, some of us understand people talk better than others. Certain breeds are especially gifted with understanding human emotion. And our own variety of social skills reflects our understanding the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done to you.

So you can imagine my confusion when people, my forever people no less, question my understanding. Occasionally dad comments to mom that it’s like I understood what he was saying. Today it went the other way around with mom suggesting it to dad. This surprised me, since she is definitely a firm believer in my understanding of all things human. It must have been the topic of conversation that threw her off the communicative scent, as dad made me the most disturbing (yet loving) promise.

“If you ever get cancer, we will do everything we can to save you little man,” he said. “Surgeries, treatments, even doggie chemo.”

Thinking HardWhere did that come from? Somehow the conversation that had been about what they were going to have for dinner evolved into something completely incomprehensible to me. How on Earth that happened, I will never understand. And while I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, I found it incredibly unsettling to think about. I know life is messy and these things happen sometimes, but I see negativity as a cancer of its own that I make a point to stay away from as best I can.

Sure, there is some validity to the idea of expecting the best while preparing for the worst. I’m a walking advertisement for living each day as if it could be our last. “The one fact I would cry from every housetop is this: The Good Life is waiting for us—here and now,” suggested behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Indeed today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and that also means it could be our last. But let us embrace the positive rather than fearing the negative. It never ceases to amaze me the power negativity has to spread like wildfire. It’s almost more contagious than positivity and that breaks my little doggie heart.

It wasn’t the case in this particular conversation, which reverted back to a the discussion about dinner moments later. And I opted to see dad’s random promise akin to a people expression of love. But it all got me to thinking about the things people think we dogs can’t understand and how different the world would be if they knew we understand so much more than they think we do.

Doggie Halloween costumes. The cancer that is negativity. People grooming habits. That place called work. Why bad things happen to good people. All canines are different, but let’s be clear. These are the things I don’t understand.

 

 

Tick Tock (The Watch-Dog) June 25, 2013

My mom has a thing for clocks. Big ones. I realized it the moment I cautiously tiptoed into my forever home for the first time. Excitement abounded as I was greeted by all sorts of new smells, sights and sounds, but two things instantly stood out to me. Both hang above the stairway leading to the basement; one is a sign that reads “home is where your story begins” and the other is an enormous clock.

Time is on our sideIt’s not the only oversized clock in the house, and sometimes when I’m all alone waiting for my mom and dad to come home from that place called work it’s all I can hear. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The tiny rhythmic sound drowns out all others in those final moments before one of my beloved people arrive home.

I for one generally have mixed feelings about clocks. On the one paw, it is a constant signal of time passing that can in itself be a reminder to live in the present. On the other paw, it is a reflection of time passing. Period. In a dog’s life where one dog year is equal to seven people years, it’s not always a happy thought to think about another moment passing us by. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The Watchdog

All of this came to the forefront of my little doggie mind today thanks to a strange recurring dream I had again last night. I’ve been having this same dream since before I can remember that I am Tock (the watchdog). As in the Tock (the watchdog) made famous in Norton Juster’s famous children’s book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I’m wearing a watch and everything.  In each dream I befriend a little boy just like Milo in the book. It’s a different boy each time, but our journey is the same. I find the boy in the Duldrums where I rescue him from the dreariness and we begin our journey to exciting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Land of Wisdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of characters who share their stories (all rich with life lessons) with us.

Each time I wake I know I’ve just lived the plot of Juster’s book. I know for sure because each time the dream begins and ends the same way. It starts with an image of a boy who seems generally bored with life receiving a message “to (insert name here) who has plenty of time. It ends with the boy seeming much more excited about all that life has to offer receiving a message “to (insert name here) who knows the way.” Just like in the book.

All of this makes me wonder why my mom has a thing for clocks. I generally have mixed feelings primarily because of the dog-to-people ratio of time. But then I am reminded of what it’s like to be Tock (the watchdog) helping a lost little person find the way and suddenly my perspective on the matter changes drastically. Maybe that recurring dream I have is God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for every moment of time I’m granted in life.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Indeed we do not have plenty of time. Each moment is a blessing now, just as it is for the little people in my dream. While I can’t say I care much for clocks in real life, I don’t mind being Tock (the watchdog) in my dreams. Tick tock. Tick tock. The rhythmic sounds of time passing remind us to embrace the present. Time is on our side if we let it be, not because we’re bored with life but because we know the way.

 

Over the Moon May 24, 2013

I’m back in my world. My parents have returned from their journey, and my subsequent stay at grandma’s house has drawn to a close. While I had a fabulous time away, there really is no place like home.

I was reminded of that tonight as I sat in my beloved backyard staring at the brilliant white light shining down on me. I’m no astronomer, but I’d say the moon is fairly close to being full tonight and it is a sight to be seen. You can blame the canine in me, but I much prefer the full moon to any smaller portion of it. In fact, we four-legged people tend to run with the go-big-or-go-home mindset in most things. (That birthday ice cream cone I got this week? Consider it gone in 60 seconds!)

Ice Cream FaceSo you can imagine my confusion at Sarah Ban Breathnach’s suggestion today to find fullness in emptiness.

“It’s difficult for many of us to accept that emptiness – in life or in the living room – can have a positive influence,” she writes in Simple Abundance. “We need either to become more comfortable with waiting to fill what’s empty with what’s authentic or become just willing to accept the exquisite fullness of nothing.”

I thought of this as I stared at that big bright object in the sky, realizing that regardless of its fullness, it is empty. Devoid of life. And yet the sunshine of the night sky is a thing of beauty, even in its emptiness. Like most things in life, it took a change in perspective for me to see what the light of the moon was trying to tell me tonight. It’s natural for me to see things through to completion, but sometimes its doing (or in my case tonight, seeing) what we fear that brings us powerful truth.

“Life’s landscape becomes a lot more interesting when there an entire dimension we’ve never considered before simply because we couldn’t see it,” Breathnach writes. Being a closer of things also has its way of inspiring me not to want to miss out on anything in life, especially an entire dimension of thoughtful opportunities. So tonight I have opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibility, illuminated by the full emptiness of the moon. It’s good to be home.