Are you a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person?
Or, are you a “Neither, there is NO GLASS” pessimist?
Or, are you a “We’re all trapped in this giant glass” existentialist?
When you look, what do you see? Opportunities or obstacles?
Our viewpoint is dictated by our inner narrator. If yours tends to be a negative Nellie, there isn’t much that will keep your cup in abundance.
This fall I attended a writers’ retreat at a beautiful mountainside location. It was a rainy weekend and so the distant hills and shimmering lake were enshrouded in fog.
Surrounded by writers as I was, we used it as a metaphor. The clouds would clear as our creativity flourished.
They didn’t – it rained all weekend – but there were moments of beauty in the damp outdoors.
I stepped outside one afternoon for a breath of fresh air. On the great lawn in front of me was an extended family of geese. There had to be 24 at least, maybe more, big gander and lots of little goslings and whatever you call the mother geese (Mother Goose?).
I watched them meander and peck at the grass in their gaggles with an appreciation for their natural beauty.
And then, as I headed back inside, I saw it.
Of course. You can’t expect to find two dozen geese wandering the property without also expecting to also find goose poop.
Nothing beautiful about that.
I gingerly hopscotched my way back to the main house with an amused irritation (or irritable amusement, which I think roughly translates the same).
The glass-half-full moment of natural beauty became a pathway overflowing with crud that needed to be avoided.
It could have ruined my brief foray outside.
But because I’m a writer away for a weekend with fellow writers who tends to notice this small details and what they might mean, I took it as the story it symbolized:
When you step outside and look around, what do you see?
The adorable gosling gathered on the lawn? Or the excrement they leave behind?
Both exist. But when we’re so focused on identifying only the opportunities – or only the obstacles – we might miss otherwise important details.
For those who shine their attention flashlight on the negative or tend to scrutinize flaws, taking a broad view can help.
And regardless of what we find, we have to be willing to go out again to see what else we might discover.
The next day, I headed down to the lakefront. I found myself alone on the wet and slippery path. My jacket got soaked, my white running sneakers – a poor choice – got muddy. Along the route, I questioned just what I was doing? There was a reason others chose to stay inside!
But when I reached the lake, the fog had lifted enough to see across. It was silent, still, serene. A moment of beauty that filled my cup.
I made my way back to the main house, careful where I placed my feet.
The geese and their gosling were still in their giant gaggle.
They don’t consider whether they have a glass half-full or one half-empty. They simply exist, pecking away at that lawn, eager for what they will find.
Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning producer, an author, and a longtime storyteller. A humorist and keen observer of life, she’s working on her second book about how to find magic and meaning in everyday moments. Read more from her blog at The Storytelling Strategist.