The most often asked question to determine whether one is an optimist or a pessimist is: Do you see the glass as half full or half-empty?
I imagine that most of us would say either that we see the glass as half full or that we’d like to see the glass as half full.
But the quote I love most is this “People who wonder whether the glass is half full or half empty are missing the point. The glass is refillable.”
Wow. What a freeing concept, particularly for those of us who tend towards negativity. We can re-frame the inquiry and focus not on our conditioned ways of being, but on figuring out what we need, what we are capable of, and how we can move through whatever is in our way to get back to a place of strength. We are not limited by our optimistic or pessimistic nature.
But how do we refill our glass?
I will never forget when someone first said to me (not on a plane) that I needed to put on my own oxygen mask before putting on my kids’. I can still feel the discomfort in my body, the heat rising and my heart racing upon hearing those words. How could I take care of myself before taking care of others? I did not understand the concept nor did I have any idea how to accomplish such a strange task.
I also remember being told (in my pre-meditation days) that I needed to make sure my own cup was overflowing so that there would be something left to give others, a twist on the same theme.
For women, in particular, the concept of filling up our own cups sounds undoable and yet, dreamlike. Don’t we yearn for that sensation of being completely full of energy, love, compassion, and time for ourselves? After all, as Benjamin Franklin says “when the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”
Gift from the Sea, written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1955, is an exploration of these themes. On a vacation by the sea, the author contemplates how distracted she is in her everyday life and how desperately she needs to quiet her mind and fill up her cup with meditation and deep attention to the beauty around her.
“I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray on my hair. Into the waves and out like a sandpiper. And then home, drenched, drugged, reeling and full to the brim with my day alone; full like the moon before the night has taken a single nibble of it; full as a cup poured to the lip. There is a quality of fullness that the Psalmist expressed: “My cup runneth over”. Let no one come I pray in sudden panic- I may spill myself away!”
How frightened we are when gifted with fullness that we may lose that and become empty again.
Anne Morrow Lindberg continues, “Is this what happens to women? She wants perpetually to spill herself away. All her instinct as a woman- the eternal nourisher of children, men, society-demands that she gives. Her time, her energy, her creativeness drain out in these channels if there is any chance, any leak. Traditionally we are taught, and instinctively we long to give where it is needed- and immediately. Eternally women spill herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.”
This is why women are so often on the verge of burnout. This is why I coach women to re-connect with themselves and figure out how to experience fullness.
It is the filling or re-filling of our half-empty/half-full cup that is the only way to achieve any sort of balance in life.
My 93-year-old mother is facing some new challenges in her life. Our beloved son and brother died of cancer a few months ago, leaving a massive void in our lives. Shortly thereafter her husband/my dad was placed in a long-term care facility. Mom is navigating loss, pain, and uncertainty as well as her own aging process. The other day she was going through the stacks of very old New York Times and came across an article that piqued her interest. She called me almost gleefully, having found what she needed. “Honey”, she began, “did you know that self-care is freedom?” We had a moment of levity that we hadn’t had in months. “I love that, Mom”, I responded. “Now let’s talk about what that means for you and how you can focus on self-care, how you can fill your cup so that you can reconnect with those parts of yourself that need attention.
Mom is doing what she can, with her failing eyesight and mobility, to reconnect with friends, listen to her favorite music, spend time looking at family pictures and talk on the phone with loved ones. She has always been a glass-half-full person, always grateful for what she had in her life and always able to see the best in every situation. But even with a propensity for positivity, there are times when we need to take stock and intentionally fill or re-fill our cup.
As the poet Rupi Kaur says,
“you deserve to be
in your surroundings
Not lost within them”.
Filling, or re-filling our cup is how to get there, how we create our own comfort and our own experience of being found in our surroundings.
The next inquiry is of course what do we fill our cup with, what do we add to our lives?
I love watching my daughter put honey on almost everything, nourishing her soul with a bit of sweetness.
My younger daughter loves salt; it is her condiment of choice.
My husband has to have Tapatio sauce on everything, the hotter the better.
Their choices match their personalities. Comfort and sweetness, a little bit of saltiness, fiery and intense.
What flavor do you choose to add to your cup?
Find the things you love and add them to your life.
Pick the flavors that open you, inspire you, thrill you and comfort you.
Sprinkle them on everything.
When your seasoning is just right, you will feel at home with yourself, comfortable in your own skin, content with what is.
Everything seemed dull, so tasteless during Covid that I struggled to feel the flavors of life. I gave a lot of thought to what I needed day to day to feel alive, to feel myself. What I came up with is this- I need a little SPICE in my life.
S - something spiritual
P - something physical
I - something intellectual
C - something creative
E - something emotional
Realizing that I yearn for all of these and making sure to include them every day saved me.
I meditate, walk, read, write and connect with someone I love each and every day.
Give it a try. Add some SPICE to your life. And give some thought to what you need to do to fill your own cup. What makes you feel safe? Sane? Content? Refreshed? Sated? Inspired? As my mom says "Self care is Freedom." Free yourself.