Friday, January 4, 2008

Half Empty or Half Full?

What do you say when someone asks, "How are you?" "Fine" is the usual answer, or at least the polite one. "Fine" is what I almost always say. When the Sufi acupuncturist asks me, though, I'm pretty sure he's looking for a more comprehensive response.

Usually my condition requires more than a one word answer. Being human, after all, is complicated. I'm almost always kind of fine, kind of not fine. Often I can't articulate my condition - it's like when you're getting your eyes checked for new glasses and they ask, "Which lens works better for you, number one or number two?" I can never tell which one is "better." Do I want the world to be clearly defined but very small, or larger, but slightly fuzzier? Should things look tall and skinny or flatter and shorter? I guess what the eye doctor is really asking is for my preference, rather than what's "better." What is my preferred vision? Who knows!

I read somewhere recently that optimists are more successful in life. Duh! The power of the mind is so fantastic (in the true sense of that word). Cultivating a half-full attitude is an interesting project. I'm developing this capacity later in life than I might have, but later is better than never, right? See, I'm better at it already, yes? Yes.

My glass is half full these days. Isn't that great?


IntangibleArts said...

I always got a kick out of kids' use of the word "fine" -- it's like a subconscious thing. A reflex action. It trains one to use the word without thinking.

"how was school today?"

In that sense, the word can mean FINE, as in thin or lightweight, or of very little substance, yeh?

So now I think a little too seriously about greetings like "How you doin'?" The answer must be precise! Accurate!

"Hey, how's it going?"
"eh, about 78% better than yesterday at this time, but the afternoon is still too close to call."

why not...?

Barbara said...

For some reason, our culture compels us to ask questions like "How are you?" and "How was school?" Every week when I come home on Monday nights my husband asks "How was yoga?" Every week I say "Fine." I think the brief one-word response is in recognition that the person asking may not really care a whole lot, but feels compelled to ask.

Maybe instead we should direct our conversation to questions that can't possibly have a one-word answer.

As for the eye tests, I usually have a preference, but sometimes I have to see the possibilities multiple times to say what it is. I guess I like the eye test because it seems such a logical way to reach a conclusion. Unfortunately there isn't the same litmus test for emotional issues.

Steve said...

It is weird how "fine" is such an automatic response. I could be dying and I would probably still say "fine." It's faux communication!

My glass is pretty much half-full too, thankfully.

Jane said...

I had a dear friend and teacher whose answer to the question was often "Fair, thank you." It wasn't an invitation to us to ask why, because we knew her, and knew why, but it was always refreshing to hear her speak the truth.

And I like to think of half-full as the best, because if my glass is too full, I'm more likely to spill it!

d. chedwick bryant said...

I'm fine.

Reya Mellicker said...

Jane you're so smart.

Barbara is right - "How are you?" really means "Hello." In DC there is a very specific protocol around this:

Person #1: How ya doin
Person #2: Alright

"Fine" plays no part in this DC greeting. Sometimes I mumble, "Hello" or "Hi" at a passerby who will respond "Alright" even though i didn't ask the question.

Very cool.

Still, though, the Sufi acupuncturist is looking for a real answer, like IntangibleArts.

Ched, you are SUPERfine!

Lynne said...

Yes, most people don't care what the response is to "How are you?" because they don't really want to know. They should have (could have) said instead just "hello."

Depending on my mood I always hesitate to respond back with ... "well, really not too great..." and then go on with a long explanation of why it's not a great day just to see what their reaction is, but then I realize that they don't really care to know.

Although I find that here in NJ people are more wiling to accept that your answer might be different than the norm, whereas in CO, they simply didn't care.

I love the East Coast.

In the past I have mostly been a half-empty kind of person, but this year I *choose* to have my glass half-full rather than half-empty.

Jane is a wise woman.

And you Reya, are just wonderful. I so enjoy what you bring to the blogging world.


Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks Lynne. I love the East Coast, too. Colorado, while beautiful, is - for one thing - so dry. But also it's true that everyone in Colorado is weird in some way or another. It's the state of my birth. I know what I'm talking about!

lettuce said...

I'm naturally a half-full kind of person (i get it from my mum) but i sometimes piss myself off with it.

but i was reading an interesting article recently about positive thinking and some research on the beneficial effects etc. etc. - the "test patients" who, everyday, wrote a list at bedtime of things to be grateful for seemed to do way better than those who had alternative, more negative lists. i'll see if i can find it and give you a link.

and yet i try not to answer "fine" these days.... i try to be honest, even if it means not really answering at all. But then, some people don't even noice if you don't.

lettuce said...

found it: here

Reya Mellicker said...

Lettuce, thank you. Great article!!

Squirrel said...

you were born in Colorado? That is so cool-- it seems like a good place to be born.

d. chedwick bryant said...

For a while when asked how I was, I replied "pretty good!" some people feel that they have to probe to find out why I am not fine--that is how ingrained the fine response is. Try it--acquaintances and bosses wan t to hear "fine" so they can move on-- so this is a two way street

Pretty good, not bad, can't complain

Gary said...

I have always found it easy to see the glass half full. It has been very natural for me to be optimistic and as challenges are thrown at me I see just how deeply this feeling is embedded in me. Life can throw us some rough hits but when the dust settles I believe that I will stand strong. Being human is complicated and messy and ugly and beautiful. I'd love to always be 'fine' at least but as you point out it is so full of shades.

I am catching up on your posts and they are all really speaking to me tonight. Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughts. Kiss, kiss!