Is your glass half full or half empty?

As I look out at the plum tree in our backyard, I notice tell tale signs of the coming spring. Green buds that will be flowers are filling out the branches and I see a smattering of blooms already venturing out. Though predictable, the suddenness of this burst of new life which was absent just one week ago is always astounding and sometimes a little unnerving. Another spring is springing, the clock keeps ticking, and time marches on.

 

As I get older I cannot help but wonder what this year holds in store. Will we see a rebound in the economy that we all hope and pray for? Will someone finally figure out how to help the long-term-unemployed and those victims of the mortgage debacle or will these folks be forced to continue somehow surviving on their own? How far out is the next bubble and what will fill it this time? How will we be physically or mentally different a year from now?

 

Wow, re-reading the last paragraph I notice a rather negative line of thinking. It has been a challenging few years but there are good things as well as bad. Optimism and pessimism are sides of the same coin.

 

So I thought what about taking a look at things from the perspective of that old glass of water, the one that we often refer to as either half empty or half full. If I was a negative person – aka glass half empty – what might I be concerned with as another year is added on? Will this be the year that:

1.    I become too old to beat my son at racket ball?

2.    My vision gets worse and I struggle just to see the TV at times

3.    I have to reduce the weights I lift by some amount while working out

4.    I decide that I will no longer bend down to pick up a dime but only stoop for a quarter or higher

5.    A hearing aid enters the picture

6.    I lose someone close to me

7.    I develop some long term ailment

 

Unfortunately this list can go on forever.

 

What if every one of these potential negative events occurs this year, how could I respond? Albeit that would be a nasty year by any standards, it is not impossible. How might a glass half full perspective help to survive and in fact continue with a desire to live more?

1.    My son is getting better and faster and stronger growing into a man and along the way his skill at racket ball has grown to exceed mine. I gladly hand over the crown.

2.    I can quickly be fitted with a stylish pair of spectacles and my vision will be as good as when I was a kid, maybe even better.

3.    I am still working out to maintain my strength, balance and stamina – never surrender! So I cannot lift as much now – who am I trying to impress anyway?

4.    With inflation over the years, a quarter is worth today about what a dime was not long ago so nothing has really changed here.  🙂

5.    With a hearing aid I can better follow conversations around me and minimize my “pardon me, can you repeat that?” requests. And people can hardly detect that I am wearing one.

6.    I learn to never take for granted the people who are important to me, I learn to treasure each moment today since tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I learn that pain is a part of life that no amount of optimism will ever erase 100 percent.

7.    Similar to #6, I live each day as best I can and appreciate each breath that I take.

 

Keep on blooming you plum trees! I will enjoy you today for all you are worth.

 

Bring it on life – no one said it would be easy.

 

I can think of no better way to end than to share a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson who had it figured out when he wrote the definition of a successful life. I believe that living such a life – a glass half full life – is within the reach of each of us. It’s all about our attitude and how we choose to view the world.

 

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

Why Boomers Need To Accept Impermanence

Nothing lasts forever. Given enough time, colors fade, buildings crumble, continents shift, even suns grow cold. People around us grow up and grow old. We grow up and grow old. It is the nature of things; it is the way of life. At a logical level, we realize this. After all, boomers are smart people! And yet, despite accepting reality and despite our logical thinking, it is not always easy to remain positive as we witness and participate in this gradual decline all around us. A loss realized is a loss felt.

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone. ~ C.S. Lewis

If boomers are not careful, it is possible to become obsessed with the impermanence of life and what is taken from us, fixating on the negatives. If in the end I am going to lose everything, what is the value of anything? I don’t want to become attached since I will ultimately lose it. Relationships and commitment scares me since 50% are destined to fail – why put in the effort?

On the flip side, boomers knowledge and acceptance of the impermanence of life can be a way for us to focus on today, appreciate what we have, not take for granted our loved ones, and generally live a more complete and satisfying life.

The Challenges and the Promises

If not for the impermanence of life, I would not be able to witness my daughter growing up and becoming the beautiful woman she is. Ever changing, ever progressing, we go through the process together. It is important to remain consciously aware of what is happening and appreciate each step along the way. Together we experience her first words spoken, her first unsure steps, the start of her school career at the wise age of five, school plays where she sings her solo and I in the audience with my heart pounding in rhythm to help her succeed, graduation from high school, and so quickly after that graduation from college. Each step along the way a distinct memory and one more piece of the final puzzle that will be her life. Without change and evolution and impermanence none of this could take place.

It is through impermanence that we start each spring observing life busting out as trees bud and bloom. Leaves grow and fill out the branches and life is abundant. Then as the months pass, we notice the greens fading to yellows and reds and oranges in vibrant displays of magnificent color. We know that this change in colors indicates the coming end of summer and the arrival of winter. And ultimately, leaves fall and trees are bare and life seems to stand still. But were it not for this cycle of life we would not have colorful autumns to populate our memories.

If I can learn to appreciate the impermanence of the world, hopefully I will stop taking for granted what happens to me each day. I will wake up next to my wife and truly appreciate her for the wonderful person she is and hug her close to me. When my uncle begins his rambling discourse on the topic du jour, I will pay attention and hear what he is saying. As I drive down the road with my wife in the passenger seat, I will be conscious of her presence and the blessing of our togetherness and I will not take it for granted.

Nothing is forever so we boomers need to appreciate now:

  • Enjoy every moment with those we love
  • Respect and value every experience and everything around us
  • Appreciate what we have now – good health, a roof over our heads, enough to eat, water to drink, warmth on a cold night, protection from the storm
  • Do not take friends and family for granted
  • If we have something nice to say, say it now
  • Don’t save all of the good wine for later
  • Live your life so at the end you have no regrets

Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

Because of impermanence and the ever-changing world in which we live, bad weather storms in and then moves on, anger rises and abates, tears well up and then dry, and hope springs up in the most unlikely of places. Boomers need to learn to appreciate the value of impermanence. If I am healthy now, I will do what I can to maintain that health. Knowing that life itself is impermanent, I will appreciate each experience that much more. For each moment, I will be thankful, engaged, appreciative, and above all I will live and love that moment.