Friday, December 26, 2014

Are YOU a Glass Half Full..?

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.

1 comment:

  1. I really relate to what I'm reading. I've struggled with perfectionism and at one time, thought I could achieve it. I've finally come to a journey toward wholeness/completeness and find the symbol of the Tao as really a nicer reminder. Light and dark - positive and negative perfectly intermingled.

    I often give my clients, and re-read for myself, a passage from a talk given by a leader at Wellsley (I've since lost her name) which is very eloquent I think. I'm going to share it with you even though it is rather long - maybe too much, but if you get bored, just quit reading - you will have heard enough! Georgia

    Here it is: Perfection is unattainable . . . But wholeness, wholeness is something worth seeking. While perfection demands that we be other than what we are, wholeness accepts us as we are. While perfection is defined by standards set by others in the world around us, wholeness is determined by the actualization of that which lies within. While perfection sends us in search for that which we can never be, wholeness asks only that we discover that which we already are.
    Wholeness is about completeness. It is about bringing the parts of our lives into a balanced relationship. It is about healing the wounds of our hearts and mending the brokenness of our spirits. It is about seeing the beauty in a collage of imperfections, for it is the imperfections that are the window that lets us look in the direction of wholeness.
    In stark contrast to the joy of discovering wholeness, our desire for perfection has led to the gradual separating of the external and the internal lives of human beings. As we have become increasingly dependent upon external stimulation and feedback for our sense of self and direction, we have become detached from the source of insight and energy that resides within each of us. Certainly our obsession with an externally defined desire for perfection is one example of this but there are others; the addictive and numbing effects of television, the increasing need for immediate gratification, the ever escalating power of economics in defining social policy. We are a people adrift on the sea of the external having broken away from our mooring in the solid grounding of the internal. This drifting is nowhere more apparent than in those whom we have identified as the leaders of our society.