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Fill Up for the Empty Tank

As I was driving to drop my kids off at daycare this morning, I glanced down at the gas gauge in the car. Uh-oh! Less than a quarter tank. Images of me, and my children, stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere flash before my eyes. They are dirty and hungry. We are stranded. At this point I should mention that we live in suburbia. There are gas stations and neighbors everywhere. Literally five people could show up with one text message in less than 7 minutes. But the fear of being stranded and unprepared paralyzes me for a moment, but then I promptly pull in to the nearest Sunoco for a fill up.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a ‘quarter tank fill up’ kind of girl. It could be that I grew up in the country and had long commutes to work. Perhaps it is a sense of responsibility or momma nearness. Or it could be that I’m just a little neurotic. But at 39 years old, I am unashamed to admit this: I am 100% in this first category.

In the last blog post, I talk about fear as a terrible motivator. Fear is absolutely the motivator for my rush to the gas station when the arrow moves. I’m vigilant about the health and safety of my family, but sometimes battle guilt when it comes to protecting the health and wellness of my own person. It’s mom-guilt. It’s wife-guilt. It’s employee-guilt. I am an overachiever, and I forever have a list of just-one-more items that I can and will pack into a day. Sometimes, pausing for a self-care check in isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be. My research indicates that I’m not alone on this one, so there’s comfort in that, right? Just check out chapter 7 in my book for more on that one…

The truth is that there is NO comfort in knowing that many of us suffer from running on empty and prioritizing self-care so low on the list. Rachel Hollis got famous with “Girl, Wash Your Face” and “Girl, Stop Apologizing” because too many women felt that they needed permission to take care of themselves. The truth is that it’s not just bad news for women, it’s also bad news for companies. In my work as a certified professional behavior analyst, I frequently examine the causes and effects of burned out employees. It ain’t good. When people (women AND men) neglect the recharging of their own batteries, it means disengagement and mistakes may be waiting right around the corner. I read in Forbes that making time and taking time for self-care is of critical importance to long term sustainability in business. Self-care is a hot topic, generating about 1,880,000,000 results in 1.5 seconds on Google. I won’t tell you all about everyone else’s experience here, I’ll share my own.

You know me--two careers, two kids, and too many responsibilities in a day. 

When my dad died earlier this year, in the midst of the quarantine, a couple of friends knowing me so well, sent me home spa packages--things to just make me feel better. I was so grateful for the welcome escape from the difficult reality that I was facing, that I immediately threw on a masque, poured a bath loaded with flower petals, diffused some essential oils, and went to a quieter place. Weeks later, when we lost our baby, I returned to the home-spa escape experience. Something was healing my broken heart and body in the scents and space that we created.

Grief is terrible like that. We feel it in our heart, in our head, in our soul, in our body. Some grief is completely invisible. Some grief is completely unavoidable. Some grief is utterly shareable. As I was grieving, my friends surrounded me with small moments of care, and I realized that I was solely responsible for filling my tank. Should I choose not to fill my tank, I would be responsible for negative outcomes. Self-care is important to me, but sometimes it just feels like there isn’t any time. Or sometimes the pain of life is too great to do just one more thing, even if it is for ourselves. Sometimes it feels like there are 1,000,000 other things tugging at me and requiring my more immediate attention. (Do any of you ever feel like this?) But, just like filling up the gas tank on my car, paying attention to my energy and wellness should be top priority. Those daily walks, the healthy food, the human connections are all part of it. Sometimes it isn’t enough. Losing my dad and our baby in such a short time took it all out of me. It slowed me down. It made me stop.  It brought stillness into my too-busy life. And the self-care, so necessary, allowed me to start to feel healing and feel beautiful again. There’s something truly special about slowing down, being still, and feeling beautiful. 

Sometimes that is what running out of gas can do.

Slow us down.

Make us stop.

But we can’t get stuck in a cycle of running out of gas. That causes real damage.

It’s important to understand what happens to a car when it is consistently put into a state of extreme gas deprivation. While every car has a different threshold of tolerance, there are long term effects that wind up costing money (here’s the article if you want to understand it better). Similarly, when we consistently put our body into a state of stress and stretch without pausing and refilling, we are likely to incur serious consequences. I wrote all about these things in Chapter 7 too. When we can’t let go of control, or can’t get control, our body knows. 

My friends, take the time. Fill your tank. Do the thing that makes you pause, return, and remember how precious and beautiful you are.

Love self-care and home spa experiences like I do? Check out the shop for my current favorites here

Know someone who needs a love letter? Send them a copy of my book with an inscription. You are enough!

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