CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (Type 1), is a change in the nervous system that's usually triggered by a very painful episode. The bad kinds affect the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, metabolism, circulation, and fight-or-flight response. Lucky me; that's what I've got. ... But life is still inherently good (or I don't know when to quit; either way) and, good or not, life still goes on.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Half-glassed -- a metaphor for flexibility

We all know the old trope: half full, or half empty?

I worked at Borland, which means, I worked with highly capable engineers who were accustomed to doing things right. I once got a very friendly, but very earnest, lecture about the half-glass phenomenon: the point is not whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.

The problem is, the glass was not designed for that amount of water. You either have to fill the glass,
... or use a vessel that's designed to hold that quantity.

The whole half-glass thing drives them crazy. It's not a matter of attitude, it's just bad design!

I love engineers. There's something adorable about the way they storm the gates of Accuracy, convinced it's the same as Truth.
At first glance, that attitude looks silly at times. On deeper thought, they're usually right.

I was thinking about the engineering approach to the half-glass issue, while my subconscious was still bathed in reflections on Rosalie.

I realized that the engineering approach is exactly what those of us with crippling disease have to do: our glasses, our outward lives, were designed to hold a lot more than we've got right now.

We either have to build up what we have to put into it, or we need to use a smaller glass. A significant disparity between what our lives can hold, and what they do hold, is depressing. They need to match up better.

Rosalie alternated, and I think all of us with chronic disease (and determination) do that as well. Sometimes we can build ourselves up, and expand what we can put into that glass; sometimes we adjust our expectations and commitments, making the glass smaller so that the contents fit.

I like this image, because it reminds me that I can do either thing. When pushing against my limits doesn't work, when I really can't get another drop of water into that glass, I can pull back my expectations and switch to a smaller glass.

By now, I have mental cupboards full of wildly mismatched drinkware – a glass for every occasion, for every level of function so far.
The one on the right is for when my hands don't work.
"My cup runneth over" takes on a new meaning now, doesn't it? When it does, I'll reach for a bigger glass.


  1. Brilliant ruminations, as usual! I remember a very experienced home care nurse telling me about a number of clients she'd cared for over the years who, as their mental and physical health deteriorated, closed off more and more of their houses until they were living in one large room (usually the farm house kitchen in the rural area she served, and how she'd admired their very sensible "decision" (though she conjectured that it seemed that it was an instinctive move for most) to scale down their environment to one they could manage as their level of functioning shrunk.I could think of many examples myself; the previous "party boy" great uncle who'd come back shell shocked from the war and moved into a little shack on the Gananoquai curtailing his interactions with other humans and their complex detritis, becoming known as "Art, the river rat" being one... But to do this dance each day, each moment, now there's the skill we need to live with this ever changing disease... Very thought provoking piece, Isy. Thank you.

  2. What an excellent piece. I'm never going to look at a glass in quite the same way again.

    There are several golden nuggets here. Storming the gates of Accuracy convinced that it's the same as truth -- that pretty much sums up much scientific thinking.

  3. What incredible writing, Isy. I believe my whole life I've always " mentally stuck with one glass" this whole time. It was either full or 1/2 full, not once trying to have my mind think " outside the box" <----or in the cupboard :) and simply use all the Stemware my little pantry has to offer. Thank you for this piece and allowing me to realize, especially with CRPS, I have many optons to choose from. Which is quite awesome in our cases, as we usually do not have a lot of options with many things allowed for us.


Hey, thanks for commenting!

Pushing a product? If so, be clear about how or why it works -- I'm a geek; I need the data.