Running on Fumes

When I read this quote – I knew it was speaking to me!

I bet I am not alone in thinking that I could use a few more hours in my days and days in my weeks. Lately, although I thought I was being very intentional about what I was committing to in my day-timer, I was really scribbling additional “to-do” lists in the margins. I told myself, “Those things aren’t really on my schedule, but I’ll squeeze them in along the way when I can.”

Full stop.

What got my attention this week was that I found myself running on fumes – both literally and figuratively. Have you ever been there?

What is it like for you when you’re running on empty? What resources are you likely to run short of before you realize it is time to replenish the stores?

I discovered last Friday morning that the gas cap on my car would not open. Initially, I thought it was frozen in place and thinking I had enough fuel to get me to my destination I decided to let the warmth of the day solve the problem. I headed out with confidence that I could add gas on the other end of my commute. What I didn’t anticipate was a traffic snarl. (There is a reason my Dad tells me to keep my gas tank half full – when grid-lock traffic and sub-zero weather strands you on the freeway for hours you will burn through a significant amount of fuel very quickly!) The day did not warm up and as I eventually discovered, the cap was simply worn out and locked closed – there wasn’t a way to add fuel without some help. By the time I managed to safely navigate my way to the gas station and call for roadside assistance, I hunch my car was running on fumes.

The same thing happens to me emotionally when I let things slide. It’s like ignoring the call to put on my own oxygen mask before helping others – I just run out of energy. It happens slowly; the lack of presence simply erodes my ability to think clearly and act appropriately. I hurry. I dawdle. I procrastinate. Eventually, I just run out of “get-up-and-go”. I wear out and I close down. My pattern is two-fold: I dive head-first into a cookie jar and try and eat my way to energetic motion and/or I curl up and sleep to numb-out. Neither tactic truly serves me very well in the long-haul.

In all my imperfection, I am learning. I am reminded again that I need to incorporate “top-ups” along the way. When I am at my best I have stoked my own resilience by taking time for ME: creative time, meditative time, active time. Being mindful of what fills my own tank allows me the flexibility to give to others without depleting myself to exhaustion.

I’ve now replaced the gas-tank lid, re-visited my list of commitments and taken some time to knit, have a cup of tea and connect with some special people. I’m back on the road – things are looking much brighter.


What’s your pattern? Where and when do you over-extend yourself and what is it that puts fuel back in your tank?

Image credit: