Sunday, May 5, 2013

How Full is Your Cup?

While I make no apologies for no longer being religious...I continue to take instruction from many truths that are contained in the Bible and other writs of many different religions. It appears that in our pursuit of making  a "supreme being", we have stumbled upon some significant human truths that bear repeating.  As the old saying goes..."don't throw the baby out with the bathwater".

The Bible in various places uses the symbol of a "cup" to illustrate many points the authors were trying to make. Usually a cup represents the portion of life a person is given. Other passages talk about giving a cup of water to those in need while in other places it refers to the soul as in filling our cup of joy, grief, love, etc..  I have always liked the allegory of a cup to illustrate if our lives are full or not...or to measure happiness.

When we carry that symbol to our love lives...I think it takes on a whole other dimension. In this cause and effect world I believe in, I think the measure of our "cups" are directly proportionate to how we have been loved, nurtured or cared for. The nature of love itself calls on us to be sensitive to our own needs and the needs of others for positive reinforcement, encouragement and support of ones ego or identity. Unless you have enough self love to give from, you cannot love someone else effectively. Also, if your cup is so full of yourself that you have no room for others, you will not be able to receive from another person.

This also serves as the basis for "community" in my estimation. All normal humans in my experience respond positively to those who are affirming and uplifting of others while no one tends to be very comfortable around people that are negative, unhappy or bring us down. We tend to like genuinely cheerful people over morose or depressed ones, because they "fill our cup".  They make us feel good to be around them and even better about ourselves.

There is a Proverb that says "he will have friends who shows himself friendly".  Cause and effect. Another thing my grandfather used to say to me is "you will be known by the company you keep".  I extend that to the reality that we "become" like the people around us.  Therefore, we will tend to be happier and content if we are around people with positive outlooks and energy.  Likewise, if we are always around negative, critical and even evil people...we will tend to become like them or at least brought down by them in our life experience.

In general, I believe that people with "full cups" tend to be those who have come from nurturing families and traditions.  Some people are just lucky enough to be brought up in homes and families that filled them with hope and positive energy...while others have had to suffer or find a way to fill their cups from other external sources or by removing themselves from their original communities or families.  I don't know about you, but I can always sense when I walk into someone's house whether this space is basically happy or sad, positive or negative.  This to me is "spirit" that is hard to quantify, but is nonetheless a result of attitudes and personalities that fill that living space.  I don't believe in ghosts...but I do believe in "essence" or "aura".  This essence is determined by the character and personality of the people in that house or room. It is a powerful entity. You also sense it when strong, self assured people enter a room or you observe them in the street. There is power in having a full cup and a healthy ego.

I do believe that love and happiness is a choice.  I don't think anyone can MAKE anyone else be happy.  It has to be a choice of an individual to receive or experience love and happiness. It is about being content and happy with the basic things and not always aspiring to that which we don't have.  Is our cup half full or half empty? Do we contribute to other people's cups positively by filling them, or do we take from them without giving anything back in return?

The most balanced relationships I have observed in my lifetime are between couples of similar personalities, backgrounds and outlooks. There seem to be less and less of these couples anymore.  In many cases there is a strong person with a weaker one.  There is a giving partner and a taking partner. It's called "co-dependency". Sometimes these relationships work for a long time or forever...but you never quite feel comfortable being around these types of "couples".  You would rather be with one or the other...because no one wants to see someone else s cup, or your own for that matter, being drained for no good reason.

I think human relationships at whatever type of love we are discussing are a balancing act. There is a time to give and a time to take.  There is a time to confront, and there is a time to forgive.  Everyone seems to have  a different capacity level to give without getting in return...but eventually even the strongest among us needs some positive reinforcement or moral support.  I have seen "givers" who after a while lose their essence.  They burn out.  They may still be givers...but the joy of giving is gone when people just take advantage of their generosity without reciprocating.

There are many people who don't know how to "receive" gracefully.  I think many people way down deep feel unworthy of being loved or supported...whether it be emotionally, physically, financially or otherwise. The inability to receive often comes from PRIDE...too proud to need anything or anyone. Or...it can be indicative of FEAR...fearing to receive because they don't want to "owe" anything in return or risk being hurt if the sharing shuts off at some point.  Some of us fear getting too close to others because we think we have to always be self sufficient...and we have learned unfortunately not to trust or believe in anyone.  These person's cups are continually low or empty...and they have nothing to give even if they may have a cup of abundance they don't even realize they have.

Sometimes it is as simple as a hug or a firm handshake between friends. I come from a culture that was never  very warm and affectionate physically. Much of our western civilization as a whole has become frigid and distant physically.  We don't think twice about sportsmen hugging each other as strangers on the field of sport, yet many of us feel funny hugging or being hugged by friends or family. I don't believe this is natural...but is learned behavior from those we have "shared cups" with. You can almost always tell when someone is uncomfortable with physical affection or proximity.  They stiffen or pull back. BUT...I believe over time, with consistent "cup filling",  these false barriers or limits can be breached in positive ways.

My father was internally a very caring man, but physically he was always a bit distant and detached.  Most of that side of the family and generation were. In my early 20s I spent a lot more time with him than I had in my childhood through my parents divorce at a young age. He was actually a bit down and out at that time and was living with me while going through another divorce. I decided that I was going to start hugging my Dad instead of our occasional handshake...if only a feeble attempt to make him feel not so alone or detached in the world.   At first he always went stiff and could not embrace back...but after months of doing this...slowly but surely...my Dad started hugging back. He hardly ever initiated this his whole life...but he got to where he would reciprocate. This helped fill my cup back...knowing that he was responding to what I was trying to demonstrate or express to him. A couple years later when my grandmother died...I was late getting to the visitation because I lived far away.  I hadn't seen much of him lately due to moving away and I wondered how he was handling or responding to loosing Grandma who he was particularly close to.  When I arrived, I went directly to my father and he immediately hugged me and broke down crying.  One of the only times I saw him do that in his life. My stepmother told me he had not cried until that moment...and I felt honored that he chose to do that with me.  I think it was because we had learned to fill each others cups.  And that is what this is all about.

4 comments:

Bonnie said...

I was very touched by this, Ed. I'm so glad you taught your father to be more openly affectionate. That incident at his mother's funeral illustrates how deep his emotions did run. He absolutely loved you...and me. I always appreciated his hugs and his embraces when he did give them. And, for sure, I really appreciate the hugs I sometimes receive from my stepson. :)

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