Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Glass Half Empty / Glass Half Full

What's your choice of glass?


There are a wide variety of glasses out there, and depending on which ones we hold, look into, and drink out of, we may have a different sensory experience.  The same could also be said about the different people that cross our life path, depending on which we get to know, some will leave a lasting imprint in our hearts.  Certain people can even influence and uplift us to such an extent, that may cause us to start seeing things through a fresh pair of lenses.  This can sometimes inadvertently cause a bit of a spectacle.

My husband used to lovingly joke that I'm a glass half-empty type of gal.  I didn't especially appreciate hearing this expression at the time, but it made a lasting impression, and that lead me to think about how I tend to view things.  Do I really see the glass as half empty?  If I do, could I simply press a switch, and just like that, see the glass as half full?  I had to take a step back and ask myself what this really means.  Over time, I came to appreciate that he had shared this observation with me.  What I realized, is when I have an issue to sort through, I tend to internalize it and take some time to sort it out.  While processing it however, I ponder on the cons first, and only later get to think about what some of the pros may be.

  Here's a glass - there's a glass

Over the years, and through many parenting experiences, I have started processing issues much faster then before.  I have begun to spend more time on the positive aspects, because that is really where I want the focus of my energy to be.  Raising twins and a son that's living with autism pretty much drains me of most of my energy.  I therefore try to be in a sort of "zen" state of mind, where I don't get upset over all the little things that could easily be upsetting throughout the day.  I pace myself, so that I am able give the best of myself to my kids.  This doesn't mean suppressing things or blowing things off.  It means just selecting which things I prefer to spend my energy on, as far as being a mom, a wife, a support to friends, as well as to other families that cope with autism.  

I don't know that you could necessarily call me a glass half-full kinda person now, but I would definitely say, I am more complete than before our journey on the spectrum had begun.  With this in mind, I thought of the idea of various types of glass as metaphors for how differently we tend to perceive things.  How we see things, can depend on our environment and people that we are with.  It can be the influence of our parents that's left a lasting impression, that of a spouse, a role-model, a doctor's diagnosis, something that we have read, or words from a close friend.  They all can influence how we perceive and cope with autism.

How do you view your loved-one's autism?

The eye-glasses

Depending on how recent one's prescription is, a person could be seeing something that is not completely up to the maximum focus.  That person would then perceive something that may not make sense, or leave him guessing to some extent of what's really there. He would therefore have to fill in the blanks, in order to make up for that deficit.   In respect to autism, that lack of focus could mean a lack of experience, where a family hasn't been on the journey for very long yet.  They are in a new and scary place, and are feeling their way through a new diagnosis and all its implications.  

Not having  20/20 vision could cause a feeling of being overwhelmed.  It's hard to get life into focus, because there are so many moving elements.  It could also mean a lack of focus in applying therapy techniques at home consistently.  In any case, we all want our lives to be in focus, and we want to be focused on the things that matter most.  This prescription calls for both near and far sighted mindfulness, because we have to be focused on the immediate tasks, while keeping the long-term goals at hand.

The Hour Glass

The hour glass scenario, is really, the fear of our life being a race against the clock.  I often feel like we are in this race to try to get as much done as possible for our autistic child during his early childhood.  We want him to be as prepared as possible for life's later challenges.  We want to equip him with skills that will enable him to lead a fulfilling and independent life, where he can make it on his own without feeling lost.  We would always be there no matter what, but that is really the goal of any parent.  I know that many families with kids on the autism spectrum feel like they are in a race against the clock.  This is when we need to slow our minds down and not look too far into the future.  When things start to feel overwhelming, as they can so easily do, I often have to get on the mode of taking it one day at a time.  When I need to, I break it down to one hour at a time - and sometimes, also one task at a time.  This puts things into perspective, which allows me to slow down.  There has to be a balance in our lives as a family.  We can not rush teaching certain skills.  Everything takes time, and things will click into place when they are supposed to - no matter how we personally feel about it.  So we might as well chill out a little, catch our breath, because this is not a sprint.  This is a life-long marathon.  Even if it were a race, we'd have to have our hearts and minds in the correct gear, so that we don't burn rubber unnecessarily. 

The water glass

See-through clear, chilled and refreshing water fills your glass half way.  If you look at it from the bottom up, you'll instinctively think that it's half full, because from this direction you see the water first.  If you look at it from the top down, you'll instinctively think that it's half empty, because you see all the empty space first.  Thinking the cup is half empty would only leave us unsatisfied and thirsty for more water, because we know that the cup can hold a cup worth of water.  Why should we be cheated of the other half when we want it all?  Thinking the cup is half full however, would leave us feeling happy that not only is our cup not completely empty, but it is even filled half way.  All along though, we could have been given an empty cup with no water in sight.


How does this apply to autism? 

In my first post "Who Pressed the Fast Forward Button" I share about how nothing ever went the "plan A" route after we got married.  I refer to having a beautiful child with special needs.  Then, when expecting a second child, we had our darling twins.  We also endured a military deployment very early on in our marriage and military life.  More often then not, our path would lead us to "plan B," also known as the lesser known route.  

When we are given a special circumstance for which we didn't plan, we have a choice of how to view it.  We can look at it as an opportunity, or instead feel helpless and overwhelmed.  It's only natural of course, to feel overwhelmed with new and unexpected situations for which life did not prepare us.  However, to not take the situation into our own hands and turn it into an opportunity, would be a loss.

We could choose to see things through "Plan A," where the cup looks half full and make the best of that unique opportunity, or view things through "plan B," with our cup half empty.  If we look at the cup as half empty when dealing with autism, we really have no where to go but to be stuck in one place, and that is not a fun place to be.  If we intend to pace ourselves for that life-long marathon that autism is, we've got to change the way we look at the glass.  

In the end, looking at the glass as half full or half empty can feel like we are running round and round in circles, and it's not even that important.  After all, what's really important here, is what we do with the water content inside of our glass.  It's about how we become our child's best friend, advocate for him and love unconditionally, and then love him some more.  It's about how to make the most out of every drop inside.  Oh, and with the half empty part of the glass, let's use that as our deep breath of fresh air, that we so often need but forget to take.


And lastly - the kiddish cup, it's not a glass

This wine goblet is used for Jewish ceremonies and holidays.  It is made of an ornamented silver or ceramic, and is traditionally filled to the rim.  We all share in taking in the blessed wine to represent us sharing in the thankfulness of the fruit of the vine.  As in many of the blessings, it's symbolic of being thankful of the simple daily gifts that we are given.  Tradition calls to fill my kiddish cup to the rim.  So I raise my glass to all of life's trials and tribulations: the not knowing where we are headed in a few years, and all of the daily effort our family puts into making the most out of our busy and challenging day.  I find myself deeply fulfilled, more then I have ever imagined.  I am connected to every step of our journey.  My life's cup has runneth over, and is filled way past its rim.

To life - L'Chaim!

Closing thoughts

The way that we perceive things is so important, because it does influence our decision making abilities.  Once one door is closed and seems to be locked forever, are you able to then find an open window and take in a new unexpected and special opportunity?  When we first got Jake's autism diagnosis, just a few short weeks after our twins were born, we took a week or two to process it all, and let ourselves be upset and feel what we needed to feel.  Then we decided together.  We looked at each other, and said to the universe "bring it on!" And oh baby was it ever brought on!  Our mindset though, allowed us to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, and we set out on our very interesting and meaningful family journey.

Once you've pin-pointed your choice of glass, 
have you discovered if you fall under: 

A) The glass half full?
      or the 
B) Glass half empty?
     or maybe you are
C) In some things one or the other 
(with some things you have a "plan A" 
and other things you make a new plan, 
"plan B" when something unexpected happens 
that takes your first plan away)?

Whichever your preference may be, 
and whichever path leads you in your journey, 
I say to you: 
May the water glass you drink out of, 
the hour-glass you look into, and the eye-glasses that you look through 
be well worth reflecting on.....

Glass Half Empty / Glass half Full was featured on the New York Autism Speaks Facebook page on 5 December 2012: https://www.facebook.com/autismspeaks?fref=ts

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  1. Lily, that is a truly beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I often need the reminder to slow down and pace myself. ;)

  2. Thank you Jenifer for your lovely message.
    I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading it.
    Have a good week and a happy holiday
    for next week.

    Hugs to you,

  3. Truly beautiful. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving to you all!

  4. Thank you Catherine. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! My regards