How Full is Your Tank?

A few weeks ago, as I left the office, I received a phone call from one of those friends that you (under no circumstances) let go to voicemail (unless you are physically unable to answer the phone). Only, this phone call resulted in a comedy of errors that provided for much entertainment and, surprisingly, self-awareness.

Apparently her gas tank was empty, and she was stranded on the side of a busy intersection. And you know what? I love that she called ME.

Having danced on the edge of this one too many times myself (“ZERO is just a suggestion!” I always say.), I said “I’ll be right there. But how do you get gas? To a car? If it’s not at a gas station?” (We can discuss my lack of automotive knowledge at a later date.)

After walking me through how to buy an empty gas can, fill it with gas, and then (duh) drive to her to fill the tank, I thought we were all set.

Until, that is, we couldn’t figure out how to get the gas out of the gas can and into the tank. Fast forward 15-20 minutes (maybe 30, if we are totally honest), and we realized that perhaps the illustrated directions – on the sticker, on the gas can – would probably give us the coveted information we so desperately needed. (Calling spouses and admitting defeat and/or asking what to do was not an option.)

All of this didn’t happen without multiple passers-by stopping to take photos of what probably looked like a stand-up comedy routine. No, nobody offered to help. Not one person. Yes, one of us was head-to-toe in Lilly Pulitzer and the other was wearing the standard leopard print stilettos, a flowy top, and oversized sunglasses. And yes, there came a point where we were so desperate to fill the tank that we tried to splash the gas into the tank. Which only resulted in the ole 80-20 rule – 80% wound up on us and our clothing and 20% wound up on the street.

However, once we actually followed directions which were presumably illustrated and designed by those who knew what they were doing, we got the tank reasonably full and were able to get moving again. Granted we smelled like gasoline for two weeks, but that’s beside the point.

The whole experience got me thinking. How often do we run on empty? How often do we, as those who work both within the home or outside of it (or both) think “I can make it just one more mile. . . even though the indicator is flashing bright red and says ZERO”? How many times do we actually ONLY fill up our tanks when we are prompted to by the light? When is the last time we thought “Hey, let’s put some gas in the tank. . . Just because I know I’ll need it one day.” (Usually such forethought, at least in my case, only happens when preparing for a long drive.)

So I concluded that (at least for me) many wait until we are empty to fill ourselves up. . . And the only time we find to proactively fill ourselves comes when on the front-end of a long journey where we know we will need it.

And that’s not really any way to live.

So I don’t know about you, but I’ve started to make it a priority to not wait until my tank says ZERO or I’m stranded before I do things to nourish myself mentally, physically and emotionally. A small break here, doing something nice for myself (no matter how seemingly insignificant) there, saying “No” without citing a reason and little things that internally validate who I am and what I believe in. . . All of those come together to fill my tank so that I won’t find myself at ZERO or stranded in any way, shape or form.

Here’s to filling up your tanks. And also to those friends who are there to help you refill it when you were too busy being everything for everyone, and you didn’t notice you were running low.

Now about that piece of chocolate cake and a side glass of champagne. I’ll take one of each, thank you very much!