Is the glass half full or half empty? Life has given me enough experiences that my general set-point is to be relieved that there is water in my glass at all, regardless of the level. In his book "The Happiness Advantage," researcher and Harvard instructor Shawn Achor takes a similar stance, that the level of water in the (your) glass is irrelevant.
Achor argues that while everyone has a default level of happiness, these levels are not immovable fixed points but can be adjusted with simple practices and consistency. He also theorizes that we can not only change our own levels but those of the people around us.
My general stance is one of stasis, but like most people I periodically find myself fluctuating between the realms of pessimism and optimism. If you would have asked me a few months ago, I would have answered that my glass was half empty. I was in a mind set of self-pity and the more I focused on things to be unhappy about ,the more life presented me with reasons to feel sorry for myself. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees.
Like a thick fog, disillusionment’s prowess lies in its cunning ability to disorient. The real danger is not in the presence of disillusionment but in getting lost within it. While incredibly clever, disillusionment is vapid and it takes only a little light to penetrate the fog and reveal that what only moments before seemed to be an unconquerable adversary is nothing more than wisps, the lingering remnants of yesterday’s clouds. And as Achor’s research suggests we don’t even need to shine the light ourselves.
My most recent lightkeeper came in the form of the boys’ bus aide, Becky. I had written a column piece in November (Monday, Nov. 18, edition), about Archie’s anxiety and our daily struggle in the morning for him to go to school. To say our mornings were a source of contention in both of our day’s is an understatement. After reading the column, Becky surprised Arch and I with PJ Masks superhero masks. She brought felt-masks of each of the characters for Arch (and Glenn) to wear on their long bus rides each morning.
Suddenly Arch was rousing from his bed excitedly chattering about which hero, or villain, he was going to portray that day. Our mornings went from harried pleas and feigned illnesses to the high-peeled laughter of a preschooler as he eagerly got dressed in the mornings. In fact, the power of the masks extended far past the school bus. Archie began coming home with stories about all of the fun things he did at school rather than appeals as to why he should stop attending.
Even as the allure of the masks wore off, Arch’s state of optimism remained–so much so, that he has taken to racing to the bus in an effort to be the first one up the steps, a blur of motion in a slightly too big dinosaur backpack. Yet, it was not only Archie who benefitted from the masks. Like a beacon, the masks penetrated through the denseness of my disillusionment, re-orienting me and enabling me to catch my bearings.
One of the more guileful tools in disillusionment’s arsenal is its ability to isolate. It envelopes you within its grasp, clouding your perceptions and shrouding everything and everyone from view. Becky’s gesture reminded me that I was in fact not alone but seen, at just the time I needed that reminder the most. And with just that small sliver of someone else’s light I could begin to perceive past my own misleading viewpoint, to navigate my way through the fog.