If, as they say, life is like a glass, and we are the way we see it, there are days when things can feel pretty darned empty – half-empty at best. And then, there are days when we revel in the glass’s hopeful half-fullness. Some days, if we are really lucky, the water seems to rise toward the edge of the glass, leaving the half-empty mark behind. And, on certain, special days, the glass feels full to overflowing.

Like anyone, I love days of “great-fullness” and all the moments which hover vividly at the brim. And I dearly love it when I feel like a “glass-half-full” kind of person; optimistic, celebratory, upbeat. But as I have grown to humbly understand, feelings of fullness are not consistent, predictable, or assured. I can always turn on the faucet, but as we all know, evaporation happens.

Being grateful for simply having a glass is key because without it, half of anything wouldn’t matter.

It seems to me that underneath all the inevitable risings and fallings, feeling deeply content or joyful is not actually about how full the glass is or seems…it is about being grateful for having a glass at all. Being grateful for simply having a glass is key because without it, half of anything wouldn’t matter. Without it, life would either be a puddle or thin air. The glass is a container for our experiences – all experience – and some people seem to know that noticing and being grateful for this container dwarfs everything, and can turn any and all contents in our favor.

What I know is that when the glass of life itself feels like enough to me, the dry times and overflowing times can come and go and my happiness remains more steady and unconditional; my wellbeing seeming to spring from a deeper source. In this state, I am able to access that balance point of equanimity and equilibrium, returning solidly to the mid-way point, the mark of both half-full and half-empty, with less concern. I feel “held” by a container, full even when the glass is empty.

Many of us spend our lives seeking, accumulating and counting good times and reasons for gratitude as one way to shift the equation from lack to sufficiency; from half-empty to half-full. But gratitude for individual moments and things that can come and go – that DO come and go – can keep us in a relentless pursuit of “more.” And, on some level, we know that “more” is just as subject to evaporation as less.

Knowing that our lives are incomprehensibly precious, fragile, and fleeting reminds us to stop in our tracks and take stock, every moment, of what matters, how much is enough, and where wisdom would direct our attention.

Perhaps this is why we long, and need, to listen to the innumerable voices of people who stare into the face of illness and the end of life with grace, grit, and gratitude. We know that they know what matters. And most of us are longing to know, and be filled up by, what really matters in our lives – in the midst of a million forces pulling us toward settling for just one more drop.

Knowing that our lives are incomprehensibly precious, fragile, and fleeting reminds us to stop in our tracks and take stock, every moment, of what matters, how much is enough, and where wisdom would direct our attention. Yet, facing and befriending our mortality seems to be the one thing that so many of us most heartily avoid. What a conundrum…

Grateful living can help – offering a path and practices that put living fully in this moment at the center of everything. Gratefulness is about being able to notice and appreciate the gift of the glass itself, amidst the ups and downs. It is about knowing in our molecules that life is a gift, no matter how empty we may feel.

I think “great fullness” is about understanding that in each and every moment that we notice we are alive, we are succeeding in creating a life that truly hovers vividly at the brim. Because, in the end, it is all about the glass, not what is in it.


woman speaking

Kristi Nelson is the Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living.  To read more about her visit this page.