You can’t pour from an empty cup is a saying that’s resonated with me, so much so, that I’ve written about my own need to fill up my cup in a prior blog post here.
There are things that replenish our cups and others that deplete them.
Often it’s the small things that fill up our cup. A smiling baby. Surprise flowers. Free food from Costco. Hitting every green light in a row.
Other things are more unique to us, things that personally fill up our cup. For me, it’s charcuterie boards, fish tacos, and Guinness at restaurants. For others, like my husband, its pride in lawn care. See his eyes light up when someone talks lawnmowers and grass height with him.
Back in 2015, through my office window, I watched my neighbour across the street mow perfect lines and then sit in a lawn chair with a garden hose and water his lawn until it glistened green. It made me wonder what I would do in my retirement. Nothing immediately came to mind. So I made a list of things that make me happy.
These are the things that when you do them, you say to yourself, “Why don’t I do this more often?” I have this thought after every yoga class. Why don’t I practice yoga everyday? Would it lose it’s magic if it wasn’t novel? But it makes me feel so good.
I love reading a book where you find yourself completely absorbed, to the point of losing track of time, staying up too late, and regretting it in the morning because you’re tired. But still, you can’t wait to pick up the book where you left off to find out what happens next.
My list also included crafting because you can create something beautiful (or alternatively a pinterest fail), being outside for fresh air and stealing warmth from the sun, volunteering, ultimate frisbee, travelling, and spending time with loved ones (again the ones you say to, “We should hang out more often!”).
The more I wrote, it occurred to me, that I need to do these things daily because they recharge me. They make me happy. They fill up my cup, so to speak.
Tea, craft beer, and good wine also made the list, so at least, those things can literally fill up my cup. My goal at the time was to do several things on my list every day to fill up my cup.
The thing about cups is that what fills up my cup, might do nothing for yours, or might even take away from your cup. For example, I am that chatty person on the bus, or train, or airplane, or waiting room, or during my massage when I’m supposed to be relaxing. For some, they take pleasure in these short conversations. It’s a welcomed break in their commute. For others, it’s an obnoxious distraction that impairs their ability to get work done or sometimes more importantly, sleep.
When something really fills up our cup, we often share it with others, which is such a loving thing to do.
But some people go too far and push what fills their cup on others, like the dietary choices that exclude certain foods and the shame that’s place on others who don’t follow, extreme views on politics (who doesn’t like a heated debate?), even religion by telling people their is a right way to live your life and it happens to be their way.
These things fill up their cup. It may fill up yours too. But it may take away from your cup.
There is a discovery process in life where you realize what replenishes you and what doesn’t. For me, when it comes to exercise, I like being told what to do. That way, it’s hard to cheat and do only my favourite exercises. Group classes work best for me. Activities like guided mediation also works wonders for me. If I were to meditate on my own, I’d probably focus on my breath at first and then make my to-do list, wonder how long it’s been, open my eyes, and see it’s only been three minutes.
The point is: What are the things that fill up your cup. The things that give you pleasure. Why aren’t you doing them more?
Time? Money? Stress? Work? Kids? Life of course?
All of these things can create barriers, but by filling up your cup, you can also fill up the cups of others. It could be as simple as a smile and eye contact when you say thank you for the beer (remember craft beer was on my list).
It could be telling the yoga instructor after class that you absolutely loved a certain pose or that tonight the class really helped you unwind.
Maybe she is your favourite instructor who you go to every week. But does she know that? We don’t often realize the impact we have on others, how we fill up their cups. But what I’ve learned is that we do have an impact on others, hopefully it’s good one, but sometimes it can be bad. We just don’t always get to see the effect we have on them on them. Or hear the feedback that our actions made a difference. Actually, we hardly get to see our impact on others.
Nurses wonder what happened to patients. Teachers wonder how kids faired as adults. I wonder if the person on the plane ended up making their connection after I let them go in front of me.
But even if we rarely get to see the impact of our actions on others, the effects on them are real. What you do might just be a blip in their day, soon forgotten, or it could be something they carry with them for the rest of their life.