Welcome January, welcome drizzly wet weather, welcome back to school. I’m sitting here on my couch, thinking about what I want to share today, and…I’ve got nothing.
The new year dawned, and like clockwork I knew it was time to decide on a topic for my monthly post. It’s just one post a month. It should be easy, right? I got my deadline, knew it was coming, and wracked my brain for something inspiring, something worth writing about, something everyone would want to read.
But here I sit, and I’ve just got nothing in the tank.
It’s really nothing new, either. The holidays were the same whirlwind of busyness, constant to-do lists, and things happening. I felt myself rev into high gear to meet the demands of the season and to prepare for the new year to come, and now we’ve somehow hit the middle of January, and I’m wondering how I’ve made it this far into 2023 when I feel like I’m operating on empty.
Do you know that feeling?
When I was a kid, I can remember riding around with my mom so many times in the car and noticing the gas tank. The indicator would be almost on the Empty line, and she’d tell me with the utmost confidence that it still had miles to go before it was out of gas. I’d sit there wondering what would happen if we ran out of gas on the highway and if we’d have to call my dad to come get us, but she had this confidence that it didn’t matter that the E-line was right there because she knew how far the car could keep going before she had to get gas.
One time she pulled into the gas station and filled up the gas tank. When she got back in the car, she told me it had filled up all the way to 16 gallons, and she didn’t even think the tank was that big. I remember being awed (and a little horrified) by her uncanny ability to just know how far her car could go on E.
Now as an adult, I sometimes think about that and wonder how far I can go on empty.
We’re told over and over that familiar saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” But I would argue that a lot of us pour out whatever we’ve got even when we’re running on empty. I know a lot of times I’ve been over-stimulated, touched-out, sleep-deprived, plain “hangry,” and emotional. Yet I still keep pouring out of that place of feeling empty, feeling that I’ve got nothing left to offer.
I don’t always have the same confidence my mom did about running on empty. I’m the one who catches the cars at the quarter-tank mark and starts mentioning needing to get gas soon to my husband. I have no interest in finding out that my van actually takes a gallon more gas than I thought, all because I let it run on empty for a few extra miles. I’m the anxious one who wants to make sure we fuel up on road trips and don’t miss out on a gas station on those desolate stretches of the interstate where exits are few and far between.
So when I’m over here wracking my mind for something to share, why have I let myself run on empty for the entire month of January?
I guess it’s because at some point running on empty became a bit like second-nature. I got used to putting off my needs and pushing aside the things that were important to me in order to make sure the house runs smoothly, my kids are taken care of, and everyone else is happy (or, if not happy, at least healthy). Somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that the most important job I had was making sure all the people in my life are cared for without prioritizing my own needs and wants.
I won’t lie and say I know what needs to happen so I’m not running on empty. I’m not really here to do that. I suppose I just want you to know that if you’re running on empty, if you have nothing in the tank, you’re totally not alone. And if you don’t know how to stop doing that, hey, let’s be friends and talk about it because I’m right there with you!
It’ll probably look different for you than for me, and maybe the first step is in admitting that I need a little time to myself to try and prioritize some things that make me happy, fill me up, and make me feel like, well, me. I’m not going to beat myself up for having nothing to offer. I am going to take some time to just be alone and work through some of the things I know help me feel better.