Running on E: What Happens When You Skip a Chance to Refuel

I’m one of those crazy people who likes to see JUST how far I can make it on a low gas tank before I have to refuel.

Why do I do it? I have no idea. Because every time that little stick gets further down the “E” my heart races faster and my veins fill up with anxiety – hoping that today isn’t the day that I run out of gas and I have to call my husband to bail me out.

It’s not my best quality. I’m aware.

Last week, I was in the “almost on E” zone in the middle of some beautiful countryside. And instead of being able to take in the scenery, my eyes were glued to my dashboard to see just how much further I could make it.

I had passed a refueling opportunity earlier that morning, but I knew I had JUST enough in my tank to get where I needed to go…why stop now?

Well now I wish I had stopped because I had miscalculated how much more distance I had. With three young kids with me and no sign of there being a gas station anytime soon… I knew I was about to have the stress of breaking down … and it all could have been avoided if I just took the five minutes to stop and refuel.

Regret overcame me. I thought today was the day I was going to lose the little game I play with chance.

Suddenly, I saw a station in the distance and it was like seeing a watering hole when you’re stuck in the middle of the desert. “Thank God,” I thought.

I rolled in on fumes. My sprinting heart began the process of catching its breath. The anxiety excused itself from my veins.

I filled up the tank. I breathed a little easier. I felt a little more relief. And I continued on with a lot less stress and an ability to actually enjoy the ride.

You think I’m talking about my car, don’t you?

Yep. I did too.

Until I realized I had just written a story about daily life in my own body.

I treat it like I do my own car.

I push it (along with my mind and my spirit) as far as it can possibly go until it is close to shutting down—sometimes it does.

And even though there are times in my day where an opportunity presents itself to refill my tank, I ignore it because there are too many other tasks in my day to get done. If I still have even a little bit left, I feel I have to use it.

Instead of having a cup of coffee in silence on my patio to center my mind if I get 15 minutes to myself before the kids wake up, I scramble to put dishes away.

Instead of taking thirty minutes when I have a babysitter to take a run and take care of my body, I bang out work emails.

Instead of taking the hour in between when my kids go to bed and when my head hits the pillow to read a book, I tidy the house.

Continuing to live this way is always going to make me end up on that road in the middle of nowhere with anxiety and stress in my bones. Not being able to take in the scenery because anxiety is present where peacefulness and balance should exist instead.

And just like my car… I WILL shut down if that last drop dries up. But unlike my car, I can’t rely on someone else to do it for me.

It’s time to pay more attention to my personal dash board. To know exactly how many miles I’ve got in me. To start taking advantage of the re-fueling opportunities along the journey before I have to respond to the warning signs. To stop taking chances and recognize that I WILL break down if I push past my limit.

Because there’s too much scenery to take in around me…and I don’t want to miss out on the ride.

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Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is the creator behind "The Thinking Branch" ( a blog about finding perspective at the root of our daily lives. In addition to being a writer, Brea is the owner of the local newborn, children and family photography business Photography by Brea ... and the Mom to three kids under the age of four.

When she's not writing, photographing or mom-ing, you can usually find her glued to ESPN (Go Cavs!), listening to country music or traveling to spend time with her family in Pennsylvania.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

    • The comparisons were crazy when I started thinking about it. I’m glad I made the connection tho… because now every time I stop at the gas station I am going to stop and ask myself what I’ve done to refuel my own mind, body and spirit lately. Thank you for reading, Twyla!

  • So true! I have found that the best way for me to refuel is physically removing myself from the house and my three adorable (bossy) kiddos. Whether it’s calling a sitter or simply taking my coffee outside to sit on the deck during nap time, I really TRY to take my foot off the gas. It’s amazing what just 30 minutes can do for my attitude let alone an entire dinner out with adult conversation and no one eating off my plate.

    • I love your comment about it not needing to be a long amount of time. I think we underestimate those 10 minutes that we could have used taking a second to go outside and be outside (alone!) during a nap that I maybe instead used to check my Facebook, tidy the house, throw in a load of laundry, etc. It’s just about making it a priority to take those 10 minutes for myself first – and I LOVE that you have figured that out. Thanks for reading.

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