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Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

[P.S. An update about the scheduled winding down of these e-newsletters and the Resilience 2.0 course is below.]

I got a very different perspective on the age-old paradox of viewing your life pessimistically (glass half empty) or optimistically (glass half full) from a podcast interview with Jennifer Cramer-Miller who was diagnosed with an untreatable autoimmune disorder that caused her kidneys to fail. And the next healthy kidney from a transplant to fail, too. And the next. And the next. 

30 years and 4 transplants later (the problem is not the kidneys; it’s the disorder that targets them and disables them, and that disorder is what can’t be “fixed”) Jennifer has written her memoir Incurable Optimist: Living with Illness and Chronic Hope (to be published August 2023). I heard her story on Betsy Fasbinder’s Morning Glory podcast. (Thank you, Gary Gross, friend of mine and friend of Betsy’s, for the link.)

Jennifer suggests that asking whether your glass is half empty or half full is not the right question. The practice is to remember that you have a glass. That you are alive. And that even though your life now depends on the organs transplanted only because other people have died (or found the generosity to voluntarily donate a kidney) you are alive and will continue to live, whether you perceive the glass of your life as half empty…or half full. 

Jennifer’s perspective reminded me of an “almost car crash” when I viscerally learned the same lesson – no matter what, I’m alive; I’m alive! 

My story: I was driving home after dark on a rainy December night, the freeway already wet and slick from the pelting rain.  Suddenly my left front tire caught the shoulder off the fast lane, causing my car to skid completely onto the shoulder at 60 miles per hour.  As I tried to brake, the car skidded back in the other direction across four lanes of thick freeway traffic onto the opposite shoulder.  I managed to bring the car to a stop in the mud.  I remembered seeing cars hurtling all around me as my car had skidded through them.  It was all over in less than 15 seconds.  Nothing had happened!   No one was hit, hurt, nothing. The next instant I realized – my god!  I’m alive!  I’m ALIVE!

For weeks and weeks afterwards, no matter what I was doing, no matter what I was coping with, I had an acute, vivid awareness that I was alive at all to cope with it. Nothing was more important than the sheer simple knowing – I was alive.

In Jennifer’s words, to know that I had a glass. Empty or full, I had a glass, and it was up to me to see it as half empty or half full. Something to ponder as you respond resiliently to your own life’s vicissitudes.

Update on these resources for recovering resilience. I will continue to post these e-newsletters to you through email and directly onto my website through July 13, 2023, closing out after teaching my last ever clinical training at the Cape Cod Institute, July 3-7. Then I will post a newsletter once a month directly to my website: www.lindagraham-mft.net. Every newsletter I’ve ever posted is archived there and always easily downloadable.

The Resilience 2.0 course will “retire” on August 1, 2023, so anyone wishing to access it must purchase it before June 15, 2023 and download it before August 1. 

The website, with all of its libraries of resources, will remain available and accessible.