Running on Empty

Can I just say this little light is not what you want to see go on when you’re stuck on the highway.img_1366

Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, several miles from the exit, facing the quickly setting sun, the E-Light illumined my drive.  How could I be running on empty?  When I left, I had plenty of gas to get home.  Nearly 2/3’s a tank.  That’s more than enough.  After I stopped bargaining, I quickly shifted into Girl Scout mode.  I have my just-in-case tools in the trunk.  I have gloves, scarf, hat, and even an extra pair of clothes.  My cell phone was fully charged.  If needed, I could pull over as the car ran out of gas.  Now, I know that the E-Light means you actually have 1-2 gallons of gas left.  I knew I had approximately 7 miles to go until I could get to the easiest Turkey Hill.  I was pretty certain I could make it.

But still–how could this happen?  I am such a good planner….

In the moments of standstill, I mediated on the dashboard light.  Yes.  I am indeed a good planner.  I had everything I needed for this journey when I started.  And yet still, it was not enough.  Even with the best plans and best preparations, the E-Light goes on.  Even with the hardiest self-care and the most robust meditation practice, the E-Light goes on.  I was running on empty. That’s just how some (most) journeys are.

I’ve intellectually known this reality for a long time.  After all one of my mantras is the Louisa May Alcott quotation: I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.

And yet when I’m sailing through a storm or sitting in traffic and the E-Light appears, I feel fear.  Fear that usually gives my mind a multiple choice brain game:

a.  What did I do wrong? b.Why can’t I prevent these things from happening?  c.  What can I do differently next time to prevent this from happening?  d.  All of the above.

These questions do not help me sail my own ship.  These questions do not remind me that running on empty is part of the journey.  If it were a matter of developing a more strategic traveling plan, practicing more meditation, or a  committing to self-care more deeply, the E-Light would never go on.  Sure I get depleted.  But I’ve learned how not to run myself that low.  No–this little light of mine was not a lesson in try harder; do better; think harder.

As I continued to meditate on the dashboard lights, I breathed deeply.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  During an exhalation, I realized if worst came to worst, someone could bring me some spare gas.  All I needed to do was call.  Deep breath in.  Thank you God…today I have people to call.  A litany of names ran through my head.  That is why I do not need to fear the storms.  Not only can I sail my own ship, but I am not alone in my boat.  Sometimes it takes the E-Light to surrender and remember, we were never meant to have enough gas to make our journey totally on our own.

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