At Least I Have A Glass

June 19, 2009 Leave a comment

You know what they say—the glass is either half full or half empty, depending on your perspective. Well, I say it’s both! And the empty part has a residue, splashed up from the full part of the glass, so it’s not completely empty after all. All of this comes to mind as I mark the 10th anniversary since I was in a car accident that left me with permanent, chronic pain. This is the first time I’ve thought about how to mark the occasion. On one hand, there’s cause for great celebration. I’m alive and so are the two of my three sons who were with me that day. My husband has not spent the last ten years raising our youngest son alone. Hallelujah! The accident paved the way for us to buy a home and move our kids from three school systems into one. That’s been good for us all! And, I’ve had to adjust my understanding of what I’m physically capable of doing. That’s where the half-empty part starts to matter.

Two seconds of someone else’s carelessness has changed my life and my body forever. Ever since, I’ve been trying to displace the vision of myself as workhorse, resisting the reality of more fragile and limited images. There’s some good news in the bad news—some residue on the sides of the empty part of my glass. I’ve had to reconsider how much I can do, how much I want to do, and how much of that activity really matters. Not that I’ve figured it out, but that I’ve payed more and more attention to asking the right questions. I’ve been trying to follow Rilke’s advice: “Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

I think it’s the same in organizational and community life. Our glasses are both half full and half empty. We can rejoice in the half fullness; struggle with the half emptiness; all the time striving to perceive the residue on the edges of the empty part. And we live into the questions of meaning. What should we do? What must we do? What must leave aside? Does the empty or the full part of the glass deserve more attention right now? I’m still living my way into my own answers. Meanwhile, I can say with certainty, I’m glad that at least I have a glass!

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  • Santiago says:

    Your post has given me new perspective on what the glass is and means. Thank you!!

  • Linda says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post Cynthia., and for raising this great notion of living into these questions, as we all either are or will be, in this wondrous and impermanent vessel within which we dwell.

  • Curtis says:

    We’re glad you have a glass too, Cynthia! So wonderful to have you as a colleague and fellow questioner.

    The other day while watching yet another nature video with my daughter (she is obsessed with animals and loves The Planet Earth series) we were watching a segment about a pack of lions that, in desperation, takes down a small elephant. The first time we watched it, Annabel asked me to switch to something else because she felt sad for the elephant. The next time (she asked me to put the segment on again) she was interested to hear more about why the lions were so hungry, and could really see the attack from their perspective. I guess what all of this brings me to is that at times one person’s (or animal’s) empty glass is another’s full (belly). It all depends on whose perspective you are considering. Now that doesn’t exactly promote a win-win perspective, nor does it really fit your personal situation because I don’t know whose glass would be full as a result of your accident (terrible to think about), but I am constantly taught by nature that it is vital to look at the bigger picture, or that mega/cosmic/systemic glass.

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    I hear you, Curtis. I’m not sure about the parallels either, but I love that Annabel is looking at the story from both sides. That reminds me of a Joni Mitchel song called “Both sides now.” It ends with “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.”

    Thanks, too, to Linda and Santi. Good to hear what this brings up for you.

    I may not know life, as Joni Mitchel says, but I’m getting acquainted with the questions and with the joys and pains of living into the answers. Peace!

  • Melinda says:

    Thanks Cynthia for sharing your story and meaning making journey aloud. I echo the thanks that you are hear to raise the glass, and I too, raise my glass to that glad fact. Love the Joni song and reference.

  • Mindy Fried says:

    Thank you for your blog, Cynthia. I appreciate your openness and your thoughtfulness. I too have struggled with physical limitations resulting from several accidents. No fun. But over time, as my body has healed, I am amazed at what I CAN do (the empty part of the glass is fuller), which allows me to be more fully in the world. At the same time, I have realized that there is tremendous learning in the experience of loss and suffering that we can bring to our work with others. Having had “less” of something I valued – even if it’s back…for now – helps me pay attention to and appreciate what IS, which then has the effect of expanding the what-IS-ness! I believe that having this awareness allows one to “hold” both what is challenging and what is good in one’s heart and soul (not to sound too corny here). This is not to say that if/when tragedy strikes, we are immune. We are, after all, human. Irv Zola, a remarkable disability rights activist and scholar, spoke eloquently about living life fully despite/with limitations, in his case, post-polio syndrome. Among all of his writings, he wrote a small book of short stories. This one is a tender piece in which he captures and accepts his limitations and the effect they have on his daughter:

  • Cynthia says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mindy and Irving Zola’s too. I have a huge bias toward trying to solve problems, fix things and generally make bad things go away-or at least make the best of a bad situation. What Zola says is true. Sometimes it is good to talk about things that are sad even when we can’t do anything about them. Sometimes that’s the only–and ultimately most human–thing we can do.

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