Monday, August 19, 2013

Inspiration Monday: Glass Half Full

I consider myself an optimist.

Some days test my limits to their last little optimistic droplets, but on the whole I can usually convince myself that in some small way or another, the glass is still half full.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't get horribly greedy with my half-full glass, hugging it tight to my chest and giving angry eyes to anyone who dares try to suck it dry.

Today was one of those days.

It was one of those, "I was put in traction and it was the best part of my day," days.

I'm not kidding, and the traction didn't even go right, so you know I mean it.

In case you didn't know (like I didn't before today), a traction setup is comprised of a weird table that reminds me of something a magician might use for easy disposal of person-chunks after the sawing-in-half trick, two thick belt thingies that look halfway between my dog's seatbelt harness and a medieval torture device, and a machine with a sole purpose to pull a person's lower portions away from their upper portions.

I'm generally fond of my lower portions being attached to my upper portions, so I was EXTREMELY NERVOUS when my physical therapist strapped me into the thing. She pulled and pulled on the straps with her whole body weight. "Can you breathe?" she asked. I said yes, and that gave her the cue to pull even tighter. "If you can breathe, it isn't tight enough!" she said with a perky smile and gave them another good tug. Then, just in case, she got Husband to give them a few more tugs for good measure.

Satisfied that even a superhero couldn't have pulled those straps any tighter, she turned on the machine.

Let's just say that I know what the pair of jeans in the Levi's logo felt.


Until I slipped out of the straps, that is.

It was my fault. I was breathing all along and I liked doing it so much, I didn't tell her.

Instead of squeezing the marrow out of my rib cage, the upper straps went slipping right on up and over my torso, catching on my arms and slipping up and up until I had to raise my arms over my head and the strap ended up over my mouth.

It was ridiculous. And hilarious. Despite how absolutely stupid I felt, it was still stretching my spine like it was supposed to, so I stayed the course. My PT, who is actually extremely competent and so nice I don't even threaten to kill her off in a novel when she pokes at all my hurt places, stood by the door to keep anyone from seeing how ridiculous I must have looked. She made sure everything was stretching me correctly (and safely) and asked me over and over if I was comfortable, which just made me laugh.

It is hard to laugh in traction, but it is possible, even with a strap covering half your face. "Yes, I'm fine," I tried to say, though it probably came out a little more like, "Yssmmffnnnn," roughly translated.

"I'm glad you have a good attitude," she said, finally allowing herself a laugh. It spread around the room until all the tension left was in my spine where it belonged.

Until she said that, I hadn't actually thought I did. Until then, I probably hadn't, truthfully. I realized then that a good attitude is a choice, and that I had chosen to laugh when I could have complained, chosen to be easy when I could have been hard. I still got my back stretched out (I'm probably taller now, and skinnier I hope), I can now write very accurately about characters tortured on the rack, and I learned something about purposeful optimism I can save in my pocket for later.

Optimism and pessimism are not polar opposites, they're points on a continuum called Reality. It doesn't matter who you are or where your set-point is on that continuum, it is your Reality. We are all "Realists" from where we sit. Sometimes all it takes to see the good in things is making up your mind that you can and you will. It will surprise you how readily good can appear if you just let go of the reasons not to see it.

If you're a writer, take this to the page, inside and outside. Give your characters a point of view and a purpose--if their glasses are half full, figure out why and test their limits. If their glasses are half empty, figure out why and test their limits. Then, take a look at yourself. See how your own glass is filled, then....figure out why and test your limits.

In the end, maybe it doesn't have to be about half-full and half-empty glasses anyway. Maybe we can withdraw from that debate and change the whole glass system. Take what's left in your glass, whether it be half full or half empty, and pour it into another, smaller glass. Then it is full and there are no two ways about it.


Ellen Prewitt said...

This is my favorite kind of essay - extremely funny with a very serious point. So enjoyed it, and I will never get out of my head the image of you stretched on the rack with the strap over your mouth. laughing.

Ashley said...

"Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't get horribly greedy with my half-full glass, hugging it tight to my chest and giving angry eyes to anyone who dares try to suck it dry."
I love this line!