In your head…

When facing barriers, we each may be told (or simply feel) that “it’s all in your head,” that things should be fine. I was at a meeting yesterday evening, and as I heard the words of a friend who is walking after spending eight years in a wheelchair, I listened to one of her biggest pieces of advice: outlook matters. If one gives up and gives in to the negative parts of a situation, there likely won’t be any improvement. What you think, what you say matters. I may not have specific documentation, but I know there are many examples of people who are legitimately healthier when they exhibit a positive attitude. And it’s rare that one hears of a real sourpuss whose health improves dramatically, though it’s not unheard of.

It’s not just health, but happiness is greatly dependent on one’s outlook – whether you lay in a bed of lemons or try to make a glass of lemonade. And it might not be half full or half empty – it can just be half a glass. But what’s “in your head” matters!

first published 7-20-07
A glass half full of lemonade

 When hot weather hits, I love to sip a nice cooling beverage, and for me, lemonade has always been a favorite. Not just the Countrytime or Koolaid type (though those can suffice if necessary), but the kind that actually tastes like lemon – not too tart, but not too sweet… you know what I mean. There is an oft-quoted analogy about this favored thirst-quencher: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” – bring in Mary Poppins to add your spoonful of sugar, and the lemons of life might just be bearable.

Consider the optimist/pessimist story, where they both see the same glass. The optimist calls it “half full,” but the pessimist “half empty.” According to my husband, it really doesn’t matter how much there is – the realist didn’t want any lemonade in the first place. I tend to see this a bit differently: the realist knows there is a glass, it contains something, and how he looks at it is his choice. The place from which you view can make a difference. When I was taking home ec in junior high, our teacher was quite clear about how we were to use a Pyrex glass measuring cup. We had to view it straight from the side, with it resting on a flat surface, or we couldn’t tell if there was 2/3 or 3/4 cup of liquid, for example. Just how does seventh grade home ec connect with glasses of lemonade? Well, along those same lines, we can’t discern if the glass of lemonade is half full or half empty unless we’re viewing from the correct angle.

It took us a bit to figure this out, (and we didn’t ask for anything in the glass to start with, thank you) but if we tried, it was possible to find something positive in the “disability” situation. Here are a few positive notes we discovered:
~If you have mobility impairments, you can get extra assistance and privilege at an airport.
~Mobility issues allow you to get good seats at sporting or theater events.
~Riding in a wheelchair at a museum or a zoo means that your legs won’t be so tired after a half hour that you need to leave.
~There is an acceptable reason to say “no” to things that require time and energy.
~You can usually get decent parking spots.
~You have reason to strive for simplicity.
~M.S. makes air conditioning a necessity, giving medical reasoning for needed cooling.
~You have the chance to grow in your patience.
~You have a clear way to connect with people who are hurting.
~Some people like to give, and your accepting their assistance helps you both.

I probably didn’t take advantage of some of the “lemonade” available to me when I first could have – ought have – as I was afraid that others needed it so much more. And I didn’t want to admit to disability, to show that it was a part of my life. (On top of this, I can be a bit stubborn… okay, a lot stubborn.) But using a cane for stability, parking so that I can actually safely and legitimately get to a doorway, traversing a place so that my energy isn’t spent in the first few minutes… like sipping lemonade on a hot day, these have all helped quite a bit. And I know that if I’ll keep peering from the proper angle, my glass can remain at least half full.