Never run on empty… the gas tank theory

So I had a mind-blowing realization while pumping gas the other day. Perhaps this is obvious to you, and if it is I wish you had told me! =)

I was filling my gas tank all the way up and telling my friend who was with me that I was going to do something new. I planned to fill the tank all the way up and then fill it up again whenever it got around half a tank. Instead of the other way around, filling it half full once it was empty. I was thinking this would take as much time and energy but be less stressful and better for my car. I *knew* that all along, but I had just gotten into the habit of running around near empty and then filling it up at the last minute. And then like lightning had struck my head I thought, And that is how Im living my LIFE these days!

I used to deal with stress when I was completely overwhelmed by it, and then, not well. I largely ignored low-grade stress, pushed it off to be dealt with later or telling myself it didnt matter. Other people have had worse problems. Hell, Ive had worse problems. So I can shove whatever this issue is down somewhere deep because it isnt important. Because Im talking about me and not about you, this is the part where you likely are thinking, Obviously that isnt a good plan. It wasnt. I piled layers upon layers of stress until I couldnt ignore it anymore, and then with complete panic try to calm myself down. Trying to calm myself down from a state of complete panic wasnt very effective either. It had to be addressed. Difficult feelings and stress do not disappear if you ignore them hard enough. They tend to grow. Which often leads to the straw that breaks the camels back, which is never the fault of the last straw but of the piles amassed over time.

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Apparently I enjoyed this same pattern with my car, allowing my gas tank to go all the way to empty before addressing the simple need of filling the tank. Sure, sometimes my money is funny. Sometimes there is a reason Im not filling it yet. But these are all circumstances created by me that lead me to an empty tank and a near emergency instead of more simple maintenance.

Ive done a world of work on my inner self. Work Im a lot more proud of then my before and after photo. I continue to patiently pursue becoming my best possible self. I might be thought of as crazy, self-involved, obsessed or overly-optimistic. Im actually fine with any of those. Because every time I make the effort to expand further, grow more, learn to better deal with my life and stressors I find that Im always happier and more peaceful. Its growing up, maturing, deliberate leaning into uncomfortable spaces to shed light there. Its a habit that I dont know who Id be without. I want to look at whatever is keeping me from being fully present and at peace with myself right in the eye, so I can inspect it, learn from it and move on.

It might sound exhausting. It isnt. And now that Im not spiraling down into a emotional crisis from ignoring my stressors, I can address any issue as soon as it arises. If Im driving and find myself irritated with another motorist, I stop to examine my attitude and my day. If I find myself impatient with my kiddo I stop to breathe and see if I just needed to find my breath or if there is anything else Im not addressing. If Im feeling defensive or jealous I immediately ask myself what Im feeling insecure about.

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Since Ive been at this for so long my tool box for such matters is extensive. I run, I yoga, I dance, I lift, I sing, I shout, I meditate, I listen to water, I talk to old friends, I cuddle, I rest, I eat healthful happy things, I write, I draw and on and on. I know how to lift myself up, how to clear my head, how to feel connected up and rooted down. I keep at this self-inquiry so that I can avoid the pits of emotional crisis despair. So that Im not walking around subjecting my family and the world to an attitude problem or elevated stress level that could (and should) be dealt with head on. So that I can live my life with the best possible outcome: to not miss any of it.

So I keep my gas tank full. I notice when its getting low and fill up. I never wait til it gets on empty to address a need. Driving is smoother that way. My life is too.

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