Running On Empty

I’m the kind of girl who plays Russian roulette with her gas tank. You know what I’m talking about, right? The game where you try to see how far you can go before your gas actually runs out, versus what that silly pessimistic needle tries to make you believe? It drives my husband – a very Type A, methodical, former soldier – batty. I will admit that on more than one occasion, we’ve had a spirited “chat” when he’s gotten in the car to go somewhere (running late, of course, because kids) and the needle isn’t just AT Empty, it’s BELOW Empty. I will also concede that it’s more than a little inconsiderate on my part, too. Almost always, my deviant behavior stems from the overwhelming desire when I’m in my car to just get HOME ALREADY, be it from work, the grocery store, or soccer practice.  I despise adding one more stop on the way home.  It’s not that I don’t believe the needle; it’s more like I believe I am smarter than the needle.  I’m well aware of the fact that without fuel, my minivan ain’t getting’ anywhere, no matter how many Rosary bumper stickers are plastered on the backside. In all the years I’ve been driving, the needle has only outsmarted me once.

Until last week.

Houston, we have a problem.
Houston, we have a problem.

As my mom and left the house to run some errands, I noticed the fuel light was on and the needle rested JUST on the Empty line. “HA!” I thought. “We can totally get to the salon on that much gas.” So, off we went. We got haircuts, went to pickup contacts at the eye doctor, and ran to Trader Joe’s. All of these locations were in a two mile radius of each other, so I figured I still had time.  The needle was below Empty now, but I was in the ritzier part of town where gas prices are notoriously, blindingly high.  It’s the part of town where, if I REALLY need gas, I will pump just one gallon, to get me back to my po’ side of town and buy gas near my house with my fuel points I earn at the already-cheap grocery store gas pumps.  But I digress.  On this fateful day, I decided I wasn’t going to do that.  I’d gotten further on less gas before, so surely I’d make it to my regular station.  It was just a few more miles down the road.  Now usually, when I get this low, I pull out my Ultra Cool Trick: I turn off the A/C til I get to the gas station, and I ask my Guardian Angel to push the car on the fumes.  Always works.  Except, on this day which will now live in the infamy of family fodder, I kept chatting with my mom and completely forgot about my Ultra Cool Trick.

We were almost to my regular filling station, sitting at a light in 100 degree weather, mere BLOCKS from refueling. I was yapping so loud I almost missed the BLURP. BLURP. BLUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. sound my sweet ridin’ minivan made when it, well, gave up the ghost.


It was too dangerous to leave the car, since we were smack dab in the middle of the feeder road for I-10. To step out into traffic and walk to get gas would surely mean we would end up “flat like a pancake,” the rather colorful description I give my kids when explaining why walking into traffic is not a good idea. This meant there was only one reasonable solution – call my husband and ask him to bring gas.  SO NOT GONNA HAPPEN.  So I did what every girl who dreads her husband’s disapproving lecture would do – I called my dad instead.

While we waited for Daddy and Superman to arrive, a well-dressed gentleman stopped and asked if we needed help.  Given the fact that cars were coming hard and fast at the minivan, and not paying attention to my hazard lights wildly flashing or my feverish muttering of nonstop Hail Marys, I sheepishly admitted that we’d accept whatever help he could give.  He devised a brilliant plan to play “Leap Frog,” whereby he would block one lane of traffic at a time with his own vehicle, and then push my disabled van in front of his truck. Slow and steady, we succeeded in relocating my vehicle into the far right turn lane, which was a much safer option than where I’d originally been stuck. As the man walked back to his truck, Mom and I marveled at his willingness to help in million degree heat, and we promised to each other that we’d pray a Rosary for him in thanksgiving for his hard work.  As I sat to wait a bit longer for my Rescue Party, the man tapped on my window and invited mom and me to his church.  We smiled and told him thank you, and took his pamphlet.  As he drove away, I wondered at how this man willingly gave of his time and energy in the heat of the day during crazy rush hour traffic.  What a hero!

A short while later, my dad and my rather smug husband arrived with a gallon of gas to get me on my way. Amidst bitter tears and flushed, embarrassed cheeks, I humbly and gratefully offered them my thanks.  In the span of the 30 minutes we were stranded and rescued, God taught me a lot about humility, accepting the help of others, and recognizing that I am not always right about everything.

I drew another parallel, too. I thought back to the Edel gathering and about how we as women tend to give our all, pushing ourselves every day past the “Empty” point. We think that we are winning, that we somehow have defied the constraints of time and energy.  Continually running on empty, we try and try again to get one more thing crossed off the to-do list, one more errand run, one more chore finished.  But at what cost? In reality, we are just moments away from completely sputtering out. This Sunday’s gospel spoke of Jesus seeing His disciples’ need to rest and recharge. In response, Elizabeth skillfully explored this idea in the context of motherhood, and Heather posited that not only is it acceptable for us to take time to nourish ourselves, it is completely necessary. My takeaway is that moving forward, I will fill both my gas-tank and my self-care tank before the needle even reaches the 1/4 tank mark.  Then and only then will I be able to enjoy the peace that responsible maintenance affords, even if it means I have to go a bit out of my way to find it.

What areas of your life could use a little refueling before it’s too late?

5 thoughts on “Running On Empty

  1. Great reminder how we need to keep filling our self-care tank and not let it get empty or even too close to empty! I have a moms morning scheduled this Saturday and I’ll take this post as a reminder to make sure I go and stick with it. Thanks bunches!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great timing on this article – was just talking with some friends yesterday about how we’ve been just truly empty lately. The “lazy summer days” are now VBS/Camping/Vacations/Beach Days/Summer Camp/Play Dates/…the list goes on. Each day is packed with enough activities to fill a week, and the weekends turn into a time to try to play catch-up in between the birthday party at 10am and baptism at 3pm. All fun, yet all exhausting. We’ve made a pact to try to slow down…decrease our commitments…increase our prayer time…and try to run with a bit more fuel in our tank.


    • I so identify with this! I had grand plans to just soak up the summer, slowly and intentionally with my kids. I have been so distracted that it hasn’t happened! Slowing down, for their sake and mine! Prayers for you as you try to do the same.


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