Do You See the Glass as Half Full?

I place before you a glass. Slowly I pour water into it, stopping halfway to the top. I ask you, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”

Traditionally this analogy is used to compare optimism and pessimism. An optimist would see the glass as half full and a pessimist would interpret it as half empty. The position of the water in the glass doesn’t change but an optimist views only what is there while a pessimist sees only what is missing. We’re led to believe it is better to be an optimist, to see the glass half full.

You respond, “I’m a glass half full kind of person,” a degree of pride in your voice.

What if I told you it was even more important to be able to see that the glass is both half full and half empty at the same time?

Knowing that these two perspectives exist simultaneously gives you the power to choose how you view any situation. Rather than passing judgement, claiming it is better to focus on the positive, acknowledge that there are multiple points of view and that each are equally valid. There will be times when it is beneficial to decide the glass is half full, or half empty, or times when we truly need to appreciate that it is both.

Make the best of a situation:
Because my ex determines the schedule with the kids and decides who drops off on any particular day he has recently decided that I need to pick the girls up at the after school program and drive them to his house on the first night they are with him. Until this school year he would just pick them up but not anymore. I can choose to be angry that he continues to control such decisions, or I can enjoy the half an hour I get with the kids before they go to his house. When I choose to appreciate the extra time with my girls, I am deciding that the glass is half full.

Improve something that isn’t working well:
We write here on WordPress, hoping to reach an audience, build a following.  If we don’t get the results we hope for we have a choice.  We can “look on the bright side” and decide that it is better to reach 10 people than no one at all.  Or we can examine what is missing,try to understand what we could do better. In doing so we decide the glass is half empty but we start to find ways to fill the glass to the brim.

Know that people have different needs at different times:
I’m camping this weekend and I fervently hope it doesn’t rain.  But if you have a large garden in need of water then a storm would save you from going out with your hose and so you may be hoping for a shower to pass over. In this case we respond to the same situation differently. The glass is both half empty and half full at the same time.

Understand the point of view of someone else:
Driving across a long bridge with my niece one day she looked out her side of the car at dark clouds and crashing waves.   “It’s about to rain,” she observed.  Looking out the window on my side of the car the sky was blue and the water was calm, barely a cloud in sight.  “It’s beautiful out,” I countered.   This became a running joke between us that my kids fail to find funny, but shows that people can see two different things even standing in virtually the same place. Again, the glass is both half full and half empty but this time it is because we are looking in different directions.

So I ask you again, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”

Shhhh…Don’t Speak

The four of us sat in the counselor’s office, tension sizzling like electricity over a wire. It was the counselor’s idea to have their dad join us for this session. I had agreed because I had hoped it would help the girls cope with the divorce, which had been final for almost a year.

But I was terrified. The counselor was inexperienced, a referral from my company’s Employee Assistance Program. I didn’t have the resources at the time to find someone better. We needed help and this is what I could get. I hadn’t wanted my ex to come, I filled with panic at the idea, but I would try anything to help my girls.

My youngest daughter sat on my lap, as she will still sometimes do even today although she is now taller than I am. My oldest daughter stood alone by the window, not wanting to take sides.

Fifteen minutes into the hour long session she asked, “What do the girls do at home that needs to be addressed?” Her goal was to get us talking about what was going on at each house. I knew that was her plan, and perhaps I should have been prepared.

Their dad proceeded with a litany of complaints, every misdeed, every slight carefully documented and categorized in his meticulous mind. Forgiveness is not one of his strengths and he has a memory for detail. He was ready and held back nothing.

When he was finished they turned to me. I didn’t know what to say. The girls of course had their issues at my house but I couldn’t come up with one of them. We are fundamentally opposite on this point. When something bothers me with the girls I deal with it, then I forget about it. It’s done. My mind was completely blank.

He was convinced I was trying to make him look bad, as if my failure to come up with a similar list was solely to show that they only misbehaved at his house. That wasn’t the case. No child, no person is perfect all of the time. But I choose to focus on what they do well instead of where they come up short.

A heated argument ensued. This is something that never happened while we were married. The last several years of my marriage I never disagreed with him. I had disconnected and to me there was almost nothing worth fighting with him. It was only once I decided I was done with the marriage that I would contradict him at all.

My oldest daughter walked slowly across the room and placed her hand over my mouth. “If you stop talking you won’t fight anymore,” she told me.

It was in that moment that I realized what I’d been teaching them by staying quiet all those years. It was then I discovered that I had sent them the message that my opinion didn’t matter, that it was more important to keep the peace than to be heard.

I will never know what might have happened if I hadn’t somehow found the courage to tell him I was done. There are an infinite number of possible outcomes to any situation. Had we stayed together, in theory it’s possible we could have somehow learned to work with our differences. But it’s unlikely it would have turned out that way. Instead I was becoming more emotionally damaged each year and I felt helpless to change anything.

I have come a long way, but I am far from perfect. I still have some old wounds that have scabbed over but reopen from time to time. There are some scars that I will probably always live with. I am not saying this to be dramatic – there are people who have survived much worse. But our past shapes us. Even when we work to undo some of the damage that’s been done there are shadows that still linger years later, sometimes forever.

But with each decision I make I now pay attention to the message it sends to my girls. Is this a choice I would want for them? If they were in my situation (whatever it is) what would I want them to do? I want them to see me as a role model. I want to be proud of the example I am setting for them.

This was my motivation for changing, what continues to push me to become better even when it would be easier to not try so hard. It is challenging, but it is worth it.

Who Is to Blame?

“It’s not my fault you got a divorce!”

This statement by my 13 year old daughter last night struck me pretty hard. More than six years after our divorce – half her life – we are all still dealing with the consequences.

They all blame me for the divorce – my ex, his wife, both my kids. I was the one who wanted a divorce and so it is my fault. It will always be my fault. Even if he’s happier now (I don’t know that he is), I am still to blame.

Repeatedly since he received the divorce papers their dad has retaliated by telling them his view of what happened, blaming me. Maybe retaliated is too strong a word…no, I do believe that every time he talks to them about it his intention is to hurt me. What he does is hurt them and I am helpless to stop it.

They were 6 and 7 when this started, too young to understand the complexities of adult relationships. Even now that they’re 12 and 13 I don’t want to tell them. I don’t want to say bad things to them about their dad. I don’t want them to know the person either of us was back then. I just want us to all be happy now.

The girls remember happier days, times when we were all together in one house. They don’t know how over time his insults masked as “jokes” ate away at my self-esteem. They never heard his criticism if the house wasn’t clean when he returned from being away – even when the things not put away were his belongings that he didn’t pick up when he left. They don’t know how he blocked every attempt I made at doing something I was passionate about. They don’t understand that I wasn’t even allowed to read when he was home, because reading isn’t something he enjoys. They don’t know what it was like to have to ask permission to do the things I wanted to do, like a teenager who is afraid of being grounded.

I don’t know how our relationship got to that point. How did I become someone who was so intimidated that I completely stopped trying? I know I share the blame in the failure of our marriage but at this point does it matter who was at fault? This is where we ended up.

I know how difficult divorce is on children. I really do feel for them but I could not be the person I need to be in that relationship. As I learned, this isn’t just a selfish desire to be happy. I need to be a role model for my girls and I wasn’t. I would never want them to stay in a relationship like the one I was in. I want them to know they deserve better.

But I don’t want to tell them what they were too young to see. I don’t want them to know how things were, how I let them be.

Could we have fixed it? Maybe. If I had been stronger could I have stood up to him and told him life should be different? Could I have made him understand? Could he have changed?

These are questions we will never have answered. I wasn’t that person, and I couldn’t become that person in that relationship.

Our divorce is difficult on the girls; it will probably always be this way. It’s hard for them to live at two different houses. It’s worse because their schedule with him changes all the time. It would be better if they were consistently at one house on school nights. I understand the challenges they face but our situation isn’t easy. Their dad is a pilot and isn’t here all the time. If they stayed with me on school nights they would almost never see him because he’s typically only home during the week. And he’s not here for them to stay with him every school night.

This is just how it is.

Our divorce has been the most defining moment in all our lives, even more than our marriage. I am a better person, able to live life according to my values. He has a new family with someone who shares his values which are drastically different from mine. We should all be happy. It’s time to stop struggling.

Bravely Living an Amazing Life!