Half full or half empty?…….
Last night we went out for dinner. Just behind my husband, at our table in the corner, hanging on display was this board. It drew me in because in all the places I’ve eaten around the world, I have not seen this as a feature before. Maybe I wasn’t searching. I was pleased to see it. Everyone has their own interpretation of what this actually means. Each entitled to make of it what they will. As a cancer survivor this is how I see it relating to my experience.
It’s an interesting concept. This popular phrase that we see and hear constantly. People say it in joke form, they use it for serious intellectual psychological conversation and debate, they use it in business, they may use it as a boost to highlight someone’s positive approach to life or may use it as a derogatory way trying to put someone down. They may use it on themselves ‘I’m a half full kind of person’. You’re either pessimistic or optimistic. But is it so black and white in life? I’ve been both. I call this realism. I call it going with the flow.
Over the past six years I know that I have fully embraced the metaphor ‘life is a rollercoaster’. I have entered both territories exploring ‘me’. In the course of five minutes I’ve gone from half empty to half full. Sometimes I would wake up half full and then half an hour later half empty has crept in. Some days were half full over and over and over. The most brilliant days filled with so much laughter and fun, successes, happiness and love. The glass was not just full. It was overflowing. But then Boom. That pessimistic half empty has crept in. Some days there was, what seemed like an endless flow of shit. Worrying about results, waiting for scans, hearing bad news, dealing with the repercussions of a diagnosis, having my dreams of having a baby taken away because of drugs, having my body be rearranged, the pain, the fear, the guilt, the crying, the anxiety. How can you make the glass ‘half full’ and not ‘half empty’? How can stop the glass from being empty?
For me it’s about acceptance. An acknowledgement that you have to adapt and be resilient. No situation needs to ever be forced to fit in with an idealism. Or pigeon holed to suit others. In accepting things for what they are, in that moment, is a powerful place to be in. To be realistic, knowing that, in that moment in time, you are here with your thoughts and that’s ok. Knowing that during life there will be times when your glass is simply empty. And that’s ok. Knowing other days your glass will be more than full and you relish and savour that very precious moment when life seems to be beyond magnificent.
However, the see-saw of my mind can muddy the waters somewhat. It flitters between half empty and half full in a matter of seconds. Up, down, up, down. But that’s ok. I am allowing myself to be realistic. I know I can control all of my emotions. I have the power to remain half full. I allow myself and take control in being half empty. I can accept an empty feeling or I can top up my glass to being full. Having a realistic approach definitely helps with recovery. During my recovery I fought so hard to always be the half full kind of person. And it was blimin hard work. But that focus, drive and relentless desire for survival kept me aiming for it.
It’s ok to feel bloody awful. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to sometimes be half empty. Because that is being true to yourself and not feeling this unbelievable pressure that in that moment, like hearing ‘I’m sorry you have cancer’ that you can’t always be half full. Even if you desperately do want to always be half full. It’s not always possible in life. Even when real heartbreak comes in hearing devastating news, going through trauma, dealing with grief, the most resilient positive person has to bow down to half empty or emptiness.
The trick is the glass can always be refilled. It’s a wonderful place to be in. To get to a strong positive place knowing that you can be half empty and be in control of that. But ultimately you strive for not just half full but full. That is where I am at. I have come out the other side of nearly six years of unbelievable emotions. I always aimed even in the darkest moments, for example being drawn on by the surgeons, for where the knife was going to cut me, that my ultimate aim was to always be half full. It takes a lot of strength to have a positive approach. It also takes a lot of guts to allow yourself to feel negative about something. Realism is a powerful commodity when thinking am I half empty or half full? For me, the most precious and powerful tool I have in my box is knowing that the glass can always be refilled.
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