I've been thinking a lot about mindset lately. The one I have hasn't been serving me and I wanted a new one. It is hard thinking about the mind. It's possible to have a great thought and then a doubting thought about that thought, and then another doubting thought about that thought, and so forth until the mind short-circuits. The mind is doing all the thinking and it's only capable of so much. And still, it usually out-smarts us. I've been reading Eckard Tolle, hoping to find my "true self". I've also been listening to Tara Brach's guided meditations, to calm my mind and connect to my Being. I've been driven to fix myself, fix myself, fix myself for so long, all the while a little confused by which "myself" needs fixing.
I'm going to pause right here and confess that I've become totally confused again while writing this. There are too many "minds", too many ideas of what "I" actually is, and can I know what that actually is while I'm inside my mind anyway? I'm going to back all the way up and say that what I know for certain, is that for one who claims to be an optimist, lately something feels half empty and I'm pissed about it.
"Do you see the world as a glass half empty, or half full?"
I hate this question. I'm hurt by it. It's usually asked by someone, who - lest we should ever doubt his proud prosturing - first confirms loudly that he is in fact a Glass Half Full Person, then leans in with his barrel-chested ego and asks, "What kind of a person are you?" It's manipulative, condescending, not to mention a little creepy. The question is engineered so that the asker leeches what small confidence is glowing in the other person to elevate himself. The implication of the question, "half full or half empty?", is that we're supposed to choose one perspective or the other. Already this is ridiculous! No person would choose to be a glass half empty, and if he did, wouldn't he be happy with the decision he choose and therefore be a glass half full person? (I feel like there's a mathematical method of explaining this impossible thought. Like the square root of -1 or something. Just call it out if you've got the answer.)
What sticks with me is the impossibility of maintaining one or the other perspective on life. I so badly want to be as positive a half full person as I know I can be. Positivity for me means ease, joy flowing, connecting, it means breathing deeply, it means feeling secure in my own abilities to survive whatever madness life decides to throw at me. But dammit if I can't stop myself from feeling half empty sometimes. You know, emptiness is one type of discomfort, and it's manageable enough. For a striving optimist, a passing pessimistic outlook is never as bad as the guilt that follows for having failed at optimism.
My dad says that all of our strengths have their equal and opposite shadow sides. A firefighter, for example, who is incredibly brave and will risk his life to save others' lives might have difficulty telling his wife he is hurting. A free-spirited woman who is in touch with her creativity may be easily hurt by her coworkers' teasing. And this is life. This is how it goes. We can't be perfect at everything. Believe me. I've tried. In fact, the harder we try, the harder we fall into a glass half empty mind set. Striving for only perfection - in this case, only optimism - denies ourselves the shadow side of our optimism, the vulnerability we feel when faced with a bit of madness.
I am going to try to let myself be a glass half full and a glass half empty. I don't want to be mad at myself any more. I'll move gently. What matters more than perfection is that I am sincerely living and striving for connection to those around me.