Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joy Ride Insight #2

When your tank says it's on empty, pay attention. -- Most of us have been there ... you're barreling down the road when the red light starts to glow signaling that you're low on fuel. When it happened to Suzanne and me, we were in the middle of somewhere but we weren't quite sure where. How many miles to the nearest service station? How many miles left on our tank? Did we need to turn around or could we "make it?" After a flurry of maps and rapid calculations, we decided that we could wait for the next major service station but we still spent a rather anxious hour hoping our calculations were right.

We later decided that this was an important insight for life. Since we don't tend to have those convenient little red lights that tell us when our tanks are getting low, we have to pay more attention and create our own little warning signals.

What physical, emotional or spiritual signals tell us when we need refilling? We may recognize when we need food by the hunger we feel, but what signal tells us that we need solitude immediately or that we're running low on beauty? We need to know what it takes to keep our tanks full ... not only the basics of comfort (food, shelter, sleep and so on) but also the things that feed our spirit ... love, solitude, beauty, companionship, creative expression, faith, hope ... whatever it is that brings us joy and that vibrant, incredible feeling of being alive. And, once we know our fuel source, we need to know where to find it when we need it.

We also need to account for different life situations. Some stressful times are like driving through steep mountains, it takes more fuel, more energy, and our tanks are deplenished more rapidly than normal. A friend is dealing with her 94-year-old mother being in rehab after a bad fall resulted in a brain injury. She's running close to empty and doesn't see an easy way to stop and refill her tank as her days are filled with the immediate needs of her mom. Our bodies and our spirits are a little more flexible than the gas tank on a car, but they only stretch so far. Eventually, unless we pay close attention and know how to fill our tanks, we may find ourselves stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar somewhere but not having the energy to go forward or to even turn around and go back to safe ground.


  1. My online support group has discussed this topic on numerous occasions. What we always conclude is that it is not possible to be a caregiver/lifegiver to another without also being a caregiver/lifegiver to oneself. Thich Nhat Hanh says that we must "live our daily life in a way that you never lose yourself."

  2. Maureen ... thanks for wise and simple words ... which are often a challenge to implement.

  3. Excellent observations; so hard to notice when your tank is GETTING empty -- sometimes even hard to realize when it already IS empty!