March 3, 2011

Running on Empty

Last week was one of those weeks.  I had a million things on the go and was starting to get bogged down in the details.  Despite the fact that I listened intently to the news from Libya at least twice a day, news of a whole country in crisis, a life and death situation for its people, I couldn't seem to get past my own tribulations.  I'm like that sometimes, caving inward, obsessing over things I can't control, like the weather report or the ever present possibility of an outbreak of headlice at my daughter's school, all the while knowing I'm being ridiculous, praying for deliverance and trying desperately to look at the bigger picture to gain some perspective for crying out loud. Finally, after a few days of struggling to be heard my inner voice of reason spoke up.  She said firmly, "Sit down, pick up an absorbing book and start reading.  Do it now!"  I obeyed, and as my hamster wheel of a mind slowed down and focussed on something outside myself, I gradually started to regain my sanity and an overall sense of calm.

I am a mother of four, a volunteer, an event coordinator and a writer.  My mind is usually going a mile a minute and I'm putting out energy left, right, and center all the time.  Some weeks, like last week, are particularly packed and by the end of it I've really got nothing left.  The tank is running on empty, and beginning to consume itself.  If I don't put some fuel in the tank my mind is left to its own destructive tendencies and things can go from bad to breakdown.  But what exactly is my fuel?  I think everyone has their own fuel.  For some people it's a good bottle of wine shared with a spouse over dinner or a weekend getaway.  Those are both fine options but can get a bit expensive.  My fuel is more readily available and budget friendly.

Yesterday I took much of the day 'off'.  By that I mean I took one day to just relax and not expect too much productivity from myself. I spent the whole morning watching a DVD I'd borrowed from the library and had not yet made time to watch.  I had tried to renew it online but was prevented by the fact there was a hold on it.  The DVD, a three hour and twenty minute BBC production of George Eliot's beautiful story Daniel Deronda literally did take my whole morning, and I enjoyed every minute of being able to watch it without interruption (apart from the breaks I took to make a cup of tea and visit the bathroom). No one even phoned which was real luxury.  After lunch I went for a walk downtown to pick up some buns to go with the leftover chicken soup I had made the day before - so I didn't even have to make supper.  After supper my husband and I did the few dishes there were and then settled down again in front of the television as the weather was too nasty for an evening walk.  The Washington State PBS channel had a great show on about The Troubadour - a Los Angeles club where basically all the big names in the 1970's singer-songwriter genre got their start.  James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Eagles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and even a twenty-three year old Elton John were all in that L.A. music scene in the early '70's.  They were also all part of the soundtrack of my childhood so I watched the program with special interest while my mind kept drifting back to my parents' pine panelled living room with its record player and hundreds of records. (We also noted that Jackson Browne had exactly the same hair style back then as our eldest son has now.) After the program I had my customary evening soak in the tub, read my absorbing murder mystery novel and went to bed.

This morning I woke up ready to take on the world once again.  I had no idea what I was going to blog about this week but I sat down at the computer and immediately thought of Jackson Browne's song, "Running on Empty".  I typed that in to my title box and started writing this post.  I wrote a bit, then went to have my weekly coffee out with friends.  After coffee I put up posters around town for the annual Writer's Workshop and 'Open Mike' evening I organize with my friend The Librarian and walked home for lunch.  The warm sun was breaking through the clouds.  The birds were rioting in the trees and the hope of spring coming at last was visible on the faces of almost everyone I met.  I noticed that the snow from the last two snowfalls was melting fast and had revealed, to my great relief, that my snowdrops, which had begun to bloom weeks ago, had survived. 

My tank runneth over.

Here's Jackson Browne performing Running on Empty in 1978.  David Lindley, whom we saw perform last summer at our local music festival plays the great slide guitar solo near the end.  Enjoy!


  1. Sounds like you've a major outbreak of the Spring blues. These are fat worse that the Winter ones. These blues actually kill people. Well, old people specifically. Ever noticed that old people get over the Winter only to just drop off the perch between mid Feb and mid April. It's downright nasty in it's longevity also. And sometimes mistaken for a prolonged dose of flu.
    In the past you would have had a huge feed of baby nettles for the iron, nowadays you can get a food supplicant. But what's really needed is a holiday. If you think about it, in your house, who exactly has had the most recent holiday from what they usually do. Yes, that's correct, the four little energy filled fruit of the womb.
    A point that just occurred to me. Your hubby is in the business. So why the hell in the off season are you not off doing 'market research'. What the heck was the darn point in marrying a Strawberry farmer if you are not getting the odd off season free-bee.

  2. Hi Vince: You are very kind. Yes, I get those Spring blues every year at some point. I remember writing a poem about it when I was in college. The thing is I don't always recognize what they are until after the fact. During, I just feel like crud.
    As for the 4 fruit, they start their two week Spring Break on the 14th of March - Canada's break up of the year is a little different than in your part of the world, I think. I may be going away for a weekend at the end of April - to an arts conference. My lovely sister will be there, too, so perhaps I can look forward to a little getaway after all. Hmmmm.

  3. Watching a movie at home during the day is for me the ulimate guilt-inducing, decadent, luxury but sometimes that is exactly what we need in order to relax, recharge and be ready to, once again, take on the world. A quick fix for me is always a walk, preferrably in a forest, but at this time of year, the weather can be a turn off. However we owe it to ourselves, and our families who have to deal with the consequences, to take these breaks and refuel before the "warning light" comes on.

  4. we all need those breaks at times...glad you got to enjoy your movie...when i get overloaded like that (yes, it happens) i have to hard as it is at times there is only so much of us to spread around...

  5. It has been a long dull winter and it's still very cold here with unusually low levels of sunshine to make matters worse. You did the right thing with your day off. I'm glad it helped.

  6. It sounds like you had a great day off. I felt a sigh of releif just reading about it : ) We all need days like that. I call them rejuvenation days. They are hard to come by sometimes. I love Jackson Browne and "Runnin' on Empty". Thanks for the flashback : )

  7. I feel your pain...or your previous pain. Although, if you've gotton over one round, I'll bet you're into another one now.

    How do we do it? Currently, I'm trying to figure out how to get my daughter to lacrosse practice. With three busy kids and a husband who works get it, I'm sure.

    But, as you said, people in Libya have major issues going on, so I'll stop whining. :)

    Maybe I'll have a day on the sofa and watch a DVD, too. :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!