Reaction from reader:
Half full or half empty--it all depends on the angle of your view from which you look at the world. Whenyou see roses, you can ignore thorns on them and enjoy the roses. Another person may see thorns and neglect roses. Then there is a popular Chinese story about an old man who lost his horse. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however.
Reaction from 2nd reader:
Not only half empty or half full, I often look at half a glass of water and say it could also be "I need a bigger glass" ("freedom" in life) and sometimes "the glass is too big\" ("scarcity" in life).
Half empty or half full
Every Saturday morning, my running club gathers outside La Place restaurant in the Dutch village of Laren. Having missed many Saturdays, I have become the slow poke of the club. That in itself makes me self-conscious about participating for fear of slowing everyone else down or having to get special coaching.
I am always asking "Are we almost there?" rather than looking back to see the how far I've run. Yesterday, I focussed on my breathing and my arm movements instead of trying to get to the end. Lo and behold! I broke my own record -- 8 kilometres nonstop through woods, flatland, uphill, downhill, and varied terrain.
I felt jubilant until I asked my fellow runners about their distance. 17 they said. That's more than double what I covered. Suddenly I felt I wasn't good or fast enough.
My club is training to run a marathon. As one of the organisers of the Amsterdam and Rotterdam marathons, our coach had many interesting stories to tell. His vivid description of the September marathon in Bordeaux, through more than 50 vineyards and chateaux with champagne and oyster reception, motivated all of us to keep running.
"How many kilometres in a marathon?" I asked.
"Forty-two," the coach replied casually.
"Forty-two?" I gasped and gulped on my freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. "You mean, 42 kilometres????"
The coach said that the first 15 kilometres were the hardest. Considering I went from zero last September to eight continuous kilometres, I should be proud of myself. There are people less fit than I who manage to run a marathon in one year through persistence and training. The way to do it is not to see the glass as half empty but as half full. Let the distance you've covered encourage you to keep going.
When I got home, I used the energy from my morning run to wash the car, clean the windows, hoover the floor, clean the back patio, and wash the dishes. After a refreshing shower, I checked my e-mail. To my disappointment, I read that my friend in Amsterdam wasn't feeling well. There was no point going to the concert in Zeist alone.
Seeing the glass as half empty, I felt dejected and rejected. My plans for the day were thwarted by this simple e-mail. The only thing that was still "hopeful" was to compose a dark piano solo piece that captured my feelings of rejection.
After composing "Rejection" I started to see my glass as half full. I should be relieved that my friend cancelled. This saved me from having to trek to Amsterdam to have dinner and navigate our way to Utrecht, change trains to Zeist, and then hop on a bus to get to the church, a long-winded way to enjoy a Saturday evening. This change of plans not only freed up my day to compose and write but also enabled me to attend the same choir and guitar concert in Utrecht the next afternoon. And Utrecht is by far an easier city to get to.
Indeed, being able to see both sides of a situation is one way to prevent yourself from falling into an extreme. Sometimes you have to see the glass as half full and aim to complete the marathon. At other times, seeing the glass as half empty will make you want to do something about it. In this case, my dark mood led me to compose a new piece, albeit a melancholy one.
23 May 2004 Sunday
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This was a difficult entry to write. In the first draft, I began with a chronological listing of events as my day progressed. My initial title was "Hard habit to break" a song made popular by the group Chicago. I thought it was a bad habit to always see the glass as half empty.
After several attempts, I realised that it's not about breaking undesirable habits but about seeing both sides of the coin.