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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lives Lived Fully

Note from my husband on the kitchen counter:  "Today is D-Day. June 6, 1944."

Here's what I am contemplating today.  Is a "three quarters glass filled life" a more positive life than a" half glass filled life"?

We're talking perception and the perception of a “half-filled glass life"--as opposed to a “half empty glass life”--is, for me, an indication of choice.  Same circumstances. Same life. Different perception.  It indicates to me that I am just outright choosing to be positive; that "the stuff" my (your) life has in it is just that-"stuff".  Now, that is not to say that your" stuff" isn't more challenging than mine right now. It may be.  It may not be.

Right now most people looking at “the stuff” of my life would see it as good.  I sure think it is.  I've got a good family, good job, good health. Just my writing that may indicate that I live a half glass filled life.  Because, let me tell you, I could "yeah-but" all those good things; could "yeah-but" them into a half empty glass kind of life. 

"Yeah, but Lana doesn't like to study and her room is a MESS!  Yeah, but Larry is voting for the WRONG PERSON!  Yeah, but Ben is such a WILLFUL boy!" 

I choose not to "yeah-but" all that good stuff.  I choose to "yeah-and" my life; choose to "yeah-and" it until it brings a smile to my face.  "Yeah-and my children and my husband are fine people.  They care for and take care of others....so what if rooms are messes and children are exasperating, and husbands, too, are exasperating (can't he see how out of touch his candidate is!?)."

Living a “half-filled glass life” doesn't guarantee a life free of strife and challenges. It surely doesn't.   Both you and I will at some points in our lives be faced with stuff we just don't want to face.  We'll be faced with children making bad choices.  We'll be faced with illness.  We'll be faced with death. 

Some of us will be faced with high paying yet high stressing jobs. We may, for a time, like it that way.  Others of us will make a whole lot less money and have a whole lot less stress. 

We'll also be faced with arms stretched out for hugs.  We'll be faced with laughter shared with friends and family.  Good wine.  Good coffee.  We'll be moved to tears by fine acting and writing.  

We'll be faced with morning silence, filled only with birds' songs and wafts of cool air.  Cats, soft as babies' blankets, rubbing against us; contented eyes, those cat eyes, belonging to food filled bellied cats.

So what is all of that?  Half-filled or half empty?   As I sit listening to birds chirp; as I feel the cat's forthright rubbing against my arm as I type, what is it for me?  Am I impatient at my pet's interruption?  Do I notice, not the sweet silence of the morning, but my son's shoes left out in the yard--how irresponsible!--overnight?

Am I "oh- woe-is-me-ing"  in my head about what to have for dinner, ironing, and weeds in the yard?  My family will be hungry; I do need to be presentable in pressed clothing, and the weeds...well...the weeds.

Or am I "let's-get-on-with-it- then-Kim-ing" in my head? Getting on with grocery shopping; maybe listening to Juanes or Diego Torres in the car?; getting the iron plugged in as I do each Sunday; perhaps a little Lady Antebellum or Carrie Underwood and a country dance step at the ironing board? 

And the weeds...well...the weeds. 

I think now of a story I heard years ago.  It was about a father whose nine year old daughter had died.  This dad was competing in an Ironman competition in honor of his daughter.  He wore her smiling face on the front and back of his sweat-soaked t-shirt.  In an interview following the competition, he acknowledged his grief.  He also spoke of his great joy and gratitude for having had nine years with his beautiful girl. 

I was perplexed.  "How," I asked myself, "how can he be so grateful?  She died!  He should be miserable!" 

That dad's positive spirit-his glass most definitely being half full--was a piece of my becoming a half glass full living woman.

I remember too, once on an airplane to Caracas.  Mechanical delay.  Changing planes.  Challenging day for all.  A male passenger snapped at me.  He let fly all of his frustrations-not just about that particular flight-but probably about his life in general.  Maybe he'd fought with his wife.  Maybe he'd been demoted.  I didn't know.  I only knew that he'd treated me unfairly.  I only knew I did not like him; judged him to be a royal jerk...and I suffered for it.

I remember too this same man searching for me once we were finally airborne and on our way.  The meal service was over; one last pass through the cabin for left over cups, glasses, and newspapers.  I was alone in the galley.  Taking a well-deserved and full breath.  Anticipating the lay-over.  I remember seeing him walking towards me.  "Oh no," I thought, "here he comes." 

"I want to apologize to you.  I behaved badly.  I'm Jim.  I hope you'll accept my apology." Jim went back to his seat.

I was astonished.  I was also chagrined.  Snap your fingers, dear readers. That's the brief second it took for me to go from "what a jerk" thinking to "what a nice man" understanding.  Perception.

Once--and again on an airplane-- we had a wheelchair basketball team going to the United States from England.  The team was going to compete in Chicago against wheelchair teams from across the world. 

It was a sight to see the wheelchairs in the jet way as each team member boarded.  One by one the players entered. Not one man could use his legs.  Some had no legs at all. All found their way independently to their seats.  Used their strong arms.  Carried the weight of their bodies.  Lifted themselves into their seats.

I found the courage to ask some of the players how they'd lost the use of their legs.  They spoke of car crashes and wars.  Youthful mistakes leading to adult consequences.  

One man told me he would not have changed any of it.  He would not have changed his decision at 20 years old to get into a car with a drunken friend for he would not have been on that plane flying to Chicago.  He would not, then, be competing.  He would not have the friendships of his teammates.

He told me his life was full and rich.  He told me he was simply grateful. Perception. A most definite "half glass full" man living his life to the fullest.

"Three quarter filled glass living lives," however, confuse me. "Three quarter filled glass living lives" seem out of balance.  Don't seem to have much to do with perception. Seem to indicate an acknowledgement of at least a quarter empty for sure.

Three quarter glass full lives seem also to indicate there are lives lived three quarter empty.

A “half glass full life” is really, then, a “glass full life”; is a life fully lived. A "half glass full life” seems fuller in weird and ironic ways than a three quarter filled life--or a “five sixths life”, or a “seven eighths life” for that matter.

Take a look, dear readers, then, at your own life glasses.  Make sure, for example, as I did as a young girl that the liquids in them are exactly in the middle; that your cousins--Chris, Terri, and milkshakes in my case-- have exactly the same amount that you do.  Make certain that at least they get as much of the delicious milkshake as you do; make sure that that at least is fair.  For the perception could be that 45 years later, the rest is unfair; that brain tumors and strokes are just not fair.

Perception. My cousins Terri and Chris, rebounding from life threatening health events.  Fathers honoring their dead children.  Enthusiastic wheelchair bound men without legs anticipating a competition.  Me.  You.  Half glass full lives....lived fully.

6:33 am edt          Comments

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