Ever felt like a jalopy? Worn down, beat up and not running smooth; as if the road is just too much to travel down? Well, perhaps, like myself, you too suffer from ETS-Empty Tank Syndrome. Just like a car, our body’s engine must be maintained and serviced in order to run properly. Each of us have a “tank” to keep filled, “pressures” to balance and a “windshield” to keep clear to see what is ahead. With regular maintenance and attention, a well-oiled machine is able to keep going even when levels run low. But, eventually every engine seizes up when the tanks run dry.
My latest ETS episode was triggered with the loss of three very important human beings in a short period of time. Each playing a very different, yet integral part in helping me fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a published author.
These past many months I‘ve been “driving around” on fumes fearful of breaking down. My “dashboard” was lit up with warning lights just like a car headed for the scrap heap. Instead of handling the situation, I stayed parked in my garage at home. This worked fine for me until my busy time as an author approached. My normal elevated levels of excitement to speak and share my life stories with teachers and students were dangerously low. I could not even muster up an ounce of interest to do my usual presentation slide show, updated to reflect current events that had taken place in my life. It was my fear of falling apart in front of a group of students when instead of using the present tense, I would be using the past that was debilitating me. I shared my fears with a few and desperately clung to their sage advice. But in the end, I knew it would be just me, my heart and my stories alone in front of the crowd.
So as I sputtered along driving to school one morning I practiced the tricky bits of my updated presentation. In the parking lot I concluded my mental pre-game pep talk, gathered myself, my stuff, straightened my back, and put on my big girl panties and walked in. That day I did my best. I was vulnerable, honest and above all-brave. Yes, of course there were tears, but I mostly maneuvered around the bumpiest parts without having to call for roadside assistance.
Once all the books were signed and I said goodbye to my new friends I literally sashayed to my car. The drive home was so different from my morning commute. My tank was full, eyes clear to see the road ahead of me and engine was purring like a kitten. As I cruised down the road I pondered my newfound happiness. My heart felt just as if I’d spent the day with a friend I hadn't seen in a while; how I loved being in her presence, how she made me feel and how invincible I felt by her side.
As the sun set, I realized sharing my stories with teachers and children in a school environment is the equivalent to taking my car in for a complete overhaul. The visit boosted my happiness level and rejuvenated my spirit. I actually felt all tuned up. Seriously, I think I even increased my miles per gallon.
I’ve always wanted my blog to be an honest platform for me to share my daily life. This latest struggle taught me how empowering it is to refill your own tank. I learned running on empty is exhausting, isolating and an unhealthy place to spend too much time. It’s our personal responsibility to recognize and respect our sadness and then find the courage to replace it with happiness.
Moral: You owe it to yourself to be happy.
Cheers to a full tank,
A very honest little thing you should know about me: For too many years I determined I was not a therapist-attending kind of person. I’m a pretty private gal and speaking about my emotions for an hour was comparable to a Brazilian Wax. But, when I was recently drowning in sadness I knew it was time to contemplate professional help. When I can’t read without squinting, I go to an optometrist. When my car doesn’t start, I call a mechanic. So, you’ll be proud to know when I wasn’t working right, I found a therapist. And like the calls to the optometrist and the mechanic, I’m sure glad I did.