Sometimes the hardest thing to do as life comes at you, is to keep the philosophy of looking at the cup half full instead of half empty. It’s a mind frame I’ve struggled with since stepping out of my carefree early twenties, a time when my cup seemed to be overflowing simply because I was invincible, or at least I believed that to be the case.
It seems the older we get, the more often life can change on a dime and something unexpected can happen to knock the wind out of our sails. Without question, life-defining moments of tragedy or circumstance stagger us, but I’m talking more about the little incidents that pile up and just become overwhelming. They create a kind of “can’t see the forest through the trees” effect.
How often do we seem to be going about a decent stretch of days and all of a sudden we hit the jackpot of annoyances piled into one day? The alarm doesn’t go off and we’re late, the computer at work crashes taking with it our report that was due at noon, an enormous bill you weren’t expecting arrives in the mail, and the significant other just doesn’t understand… Did you ever notice that one day like this can send the rest of your week into a tailspin? You begin to feel like you are in a never-ending game of dodgeball with the athletic mean kid who can’t seem to aim anywhere other than your face. (I use this analogy because I’m not athletic, hence dodgeball was a painful game for me…)
So after days of trying to dodge the ball, it seems that inches have been cut off of the fuse that had unintentionally been lit. You become short with family, friends, lovers and especially strangers who dare to cross your path. In truth, I think when we fall into this zone we actually seek out more negative things… we look for sad news stories, we overly vent at the state of the world and those who do not meet our standards, and we look to converse with those who have an equal amount of annoyances to complain about. I think its human nature, misery absolutely loves company. Happy people tend to become our nemeses.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think there’s something to be said for taking a day to be by yourself and nurse your misery. The key words here are by yourself. Take a time out from those around you, and boo-hoo it out with a nice big bag of Doritos or ice cream. (If you choose to boo-hoo it with alcohol, keep in mind that now is not the time for Facebook posts…) Really dig in and embrace the tears and anger and disappointment. In its own way its therapeutic to feel those emotions and breathe them out in a full-blown ‘woe is me’ moment. The problem becomes when we forget to exhale, and we keep them in and let them fester and build, until we bring those around us into the abyss that we’ve created.
I personally recognize when I begin to get to that point because I actually see it in the face of my daughters. One reacts with a not so subtle look in her eye that says “Mom’s off her rocker,” while the other one becomes more affected, as if she’s waiting for me to return to the positive person she knows and loves. I look to those faces, that I love, to snap me back into reality and to remind me that I am ridiculously blessed and its time to be grateful and move on.
In life, there is always an upside, and it serves me well to remember that and keep my cup half full. So many have so much less than I, that if deep thought is given to my circumstances, I’m actually embarrassed that I ever complain. Think about it:
- Alarm didn’t go off and I’m late? Um, hey I woke to see another day, enough said.
- Bad day at work? At least I have a job.
- Financial problems? I have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator, all else is luxury.
- Relationship problems? Any idea how many people in this world have never, and will never, even go on a date? Process that…
And so, the bottom line is our aura and disposition is strongly dictated by how we approach the world. What we choose to see and what we choose to project. How we react to set backs can set us on a course of negativity that sometimes serves to alienate the very people who can bring us joy if we allow them.
So in closing, I’m setting myself on a course to look at the glass half full and be thankful. Step one was writing this note, step two will be reading it again the next time I’m hit in the face with the ball…