There’s an empty glass sitting on a table, and someone walks over with a jug of water. They start to pour the water, and we sit there, transfixed. We watch the clear liquid cascade out of the jug like a waterfall in miniature. Water hits the bottom of the glass. It splashes, almost violently, against the sides, and some of it spills over the lip.
The water level rises. We watch and wait. Licking our dry lips, and holding our breaths. How long has it been since we last had a drink? Hours? Days? It feels like an eternity is passing us by. Come on. Faster.
The jug tilts back, a single drop of water slides down the glass, and they pull it away. But wait, the glass isn’t full yet. There’s a lot of water left in that jug. Why did you stop? Why didn’t you go all the way? Keep going. Fill it up. Come on, what are you waiting for?
Are you waiting for me to ask if the glass is half full or half-empty? Would you be disappointed if I didn’t? Well, I’d hate to disappoint you.
Without hesitation, the cynic in me would say it’s half-empty. The realist in me would ask why it matters. The dreamer would stare at the glass, and imagine a tiny swimming pool for fruit flies. Teeny beach towels draped over the rim. A diving board perched precariously on the rim. If you listen carefully, you can hear squeals of joy as they splash down in the deep end.
Hey, we all need a vacation from the world. Even those bloody little menaces. The bane of my existence. Shoo, go away. Where did you come from? There’s no fruit! You shouldn’t be here if there’s no fruit. It’s in your name, for goodness sake. Were you incorrectly labelled?
I have another side which, I know, makes my personality a little crowded. You should hear the noise in my head. How many monkeys are jumping on my frontal lobe? I’ve lost count. What happens when they bang their heads on my skull? Do I call a doctor or a vet?
Well, there it is, the other quarter of my personality. I have the attention span of a toddler who’s spotted something shiny and forbidden. They know they shouldn’t go after it, and they’re going to get in trouble. They’ll have to sit in the naughty corner. Oh, the dreaded time out. But how can they resist? It’s right over there, and it sparkles. So shiny. So pretty. Oh, the allure! They have to check it out and, if they’re feeling extra precocious, put it in their mouths for a little nibble.
Yeah, I’m a grown-up toddler.
After all the drama of the pour and the tiresome philosophical questions, I feel a little restless. You’re waiting for an answer. You want to know how full that glass is, and I should probably give you something to chew on. I would, except I’m easily distracted. I focused too long on that glass and an absurd question. My brain feels zingy. I’m just going to wander off for a minute and nibble on something shiny.
Will I come back to the age-old question, or will the glass sit on that table until the water evaporates? Leaving you to wonder what the results of my litmus test would’ve been. Will you be able to handle the suspense? Do you like cliffhangers. Some people love them, and others despise them with a passion. Which one are you?
Hm, those are all excellent questions if I so so myself, and since I’m writing this, I’m going to give myself a compliment. But you want an answer, and all I’ve given you is a description of my quirks. Hold on, I’ll just spit this shiny thing out and… Oh, that’s better. It tasted funny. Kind of metallic, but a tad bit salty. Yuck.
No, come on woman, focus! The people are waiting, and they’re feeling parched.
Then have a sip of water. It’s right over there in that glass on the table. Go on, have a drink. You’ll feel better, and water is good for the health of the body parts. People and animals need hydration. Oh, but animals can’t read, so let’s focus on you. Hydration is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, or so I’m told.
Repeatedly. Okay, doctors, I get it. Drink more water and less sugary drinks. The sugar tastes better and momentarily makes me happy. But you’re right! Water is essential, and I’ll get right on it.
But, if you’re thirsty, why aren’t you drinking from the perfectly good glass? I know it’s just water, which is boring, but it’ll do the job. Drink up! What? You’re waiting for my answer? Do you really need to know if it’s half this or that? Can’t it just be good enough as is? Do we have to apply special meaning to everything we do?
Huh, looks like my inner realist has come out to play.
Before some smart fart comes at me, there’s no need to explain it to me. I understand the deeper meaning behind this proverbial query. There are two ways to view a situation or approach a problem. We can be optimistic and see that, despite the challenges, we’re halfway to a solution. Yay! Or, hold up there’s another way to look at things. There’s the pessimist who sees empty space that hasn’t, or couldn’t, be filled. Oh, boo!
I’m proposing another option that can be summarized in one word: Yes.
Every problem, or situation, is different so wouldn’t we approach them differently? One day the glass is half empty because we’re emotionally drained, or the problems we face seem insurmountable. We’re overwhelmed, so when we look at that glass, with our parched lips, we see the work left to be done.
With a sigh of resignation, we go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. When we wake up in the morning, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we look at the glass with a smile. All of a sudden the glass appears half full which means we’re halfway to a solution or a resolution.
Does that mean we’ve failed the litmus test? Or, can one person be both pessimistic and optimistic with a good night’s sleep and adequate hydration?
Then again, some of us are easily distracted by bedazzled squirrels. I’ll forget about the glass until someone poses the question, and then have a moment of confusion. Glass of water? Sure, I’d love one. Wait, what? What glass? What table? Oh, that one over there. Great, I’m so thirsty.
What do you mean I can’t drink it? Oh, it’s a visual aid for philosophical purposes. You know, that’s awfully wasteful, and many communities are experiencing water shortages. Why are you wasting such a valuable resource? Do you feel guilty now? Does that mean can I drink it?
Does it matter if the glass is half this or that? A half-filled glass still has an empty space that can be filled. What’s already in there? It’s useful, and it serves a purpose, but it can aspire to be more. Let’s go wild, and say it wants to be more than half a glass of water. Maybe it wants to sparkle or be a little sweet? Or, I don’t know, have some oomph.
If this is a personality test then all it shows is that we aren’t fully formed people. Sure, we’ve come this far, but we aren’t too far gone. We’ve all got room to grow, learn, and become sweet sugary beverages. Even those of us with pessimistic tendencies?
I don’t want to look at the glass and see it half empty. It might be my natural inclination in just about every situation unless I’m feeling silly, but it’s not something I enjoy. It doesn’t give me a buzz of excitement or a shot of delight. There isn’t a sense of superiority or smugness.
Actually, it creates a pit in my stomach, and I feel ill. I want to see what you see, so I squint, bite my lip, and stand on my head. Is that it? Over there? No, I don’t see it.
Hey, let’s follow the fruit flies carrying beach towels! That’s good for a giggle.
I don’t know if a pessimist can become an optimist by standing on their heads, but changing my view might do the trick. Looking at the glass as neither full nor empty. Instead, focusing on the empty space that’s just waiting to be filled. I can fill that space with whatever I choose, which poses an overwhelming dilemma.
How do I choose from a world of possibilities?
It comes down to what I want, or need, out of my life. Right now, I need more joy. I’ll settle for happiness with the hope that it builds on itself, and blossoms into something more fulfilling. How though? How do I fill that empty space with happiness? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time, and I’ve decided that a little experimentation is in order.
It won’t be very scientific. I’m not setting up a laboratory in a storage unit. Don’t worry, I won’t invest in beakers or bunsen burners. There won’t be any explosions. Wait! I can’t promise that. I mean, I probably should, but the experiment is still in its early days. Who knows what’ll come up!
Did I just get myself put on a watch list? I’ll do it with the aid of professionals who are legally licensed in the art of making things go boom. Cross my heart and everything. Yep, that should do the trick.
Okay, fine, I can’t promise anything right now because this experiment can go in too many directions. Even though I’ve given this a great deal of thought, I still don’t have a firm plan in mind, but I have a goal. Or a vague outline of a goal scribbled on a dirty napkin.
I want to fill my glass up with things that make me happy in hopes that I live a life filled with joy. So, you know, it’s not an abstract concept or anything. The real problem, or one of many, is that I don’t know what makes me happy. I used to know, but I’m very forgetful or distractible.
So, I’m going to have to try new things, revisit the old, and figure out what makes me happy. What is happy? Looks like I’ll have to answer that one too. I don’t have answers, but I want to find them. I’ve got some ideas, and I think I’ll start small. I have a very delicate startle response so let’s ease into this, okay.
I’m starting a new series called Finding Happy. I am going to discover what happiness is or, at least, what makes me happy. Hopefully? Oh boy, I’m putting myself in an uncomfortable spot. It’s kind of freaking me out, but maybe that’s a good sign? I think I need to be a little uncomfortable if I’m going to fill my glass. It’s not going to fill itself, sitting on that table.
If you’ve got something you think I should try, big or small, let me know in the comments. What fills your glass? What brings happiness or joy into your life? I’m taking suggestions and making a list.