Friday, February 8, 2013

Running on Empty, Running on Stuffed

Extremes are not healthy.
An empty fridge, down to canned soup for supper. Gas on empty, rummage for enough change to pump one gallon of gas. A pile of bills, waiting to be paid. Hungry children searching for something to pack for lunch. Vitamins that keep a single, working mother running…gone. One dollar and thirty-five cents left in the bank account. Pay day changed…moved to two weeks away.    
I lived that scenario last month and can tell you that it is not fun, which is obviously an understatement. While we were able to receive much needed help, I felt stressed and anxious. Depressed that we were in that situation. Embarrassed that we had to ask for help. Worried about how it would all work out.   
Extremes are not healthy.
          Seriously, having nothing (no money, no gas, no food, no toilet paper, no cat food) sucks. 
          Yet is it fair for me to say that we had “nothing,” for we had a roof over our heads, each other, our cats, two TVs, two old but working computers, an old but working vehicle, three cell phones, numerous movies, books, articles of clothing, etc. 
          And while living this “nothing” and running on empty, we were richly blessed.  How were we blessed?  Let me count the ways.
          First of all, we learned how kind and compassionate people are. For example, a friend baked a delicious and healthy meal for us one night, and we dined on ham, potatoes, pineapples, plums, and carrots for days. Another friend filled up my gas tank and then took me to the movies because she wanted to watch Les Miserables.
Second, we discovered that God takes care of us, sometimes in the most extraordinary ways. For instance, after the movie with my friend, we stopped at the bathroom where a stranger handed me a $50 gift card to The Melting Pot. I suggested that this woman use it herself, and she related that her granddaughter had already left town and she didn’t really like it and was happy that I would enjoy it. Later that week, T-mobile called me out of the blue to lower our monthly bill and during that phone conversation agreed to replace our old cell phones with new ones (so we have the same exact style but working phones!).
Third, we became creative with using what we have and not wasting so much. One thing I am extremely grateful for:  the girls have learned to eat and enjoy leftovers. They would eat them previously but would grumble or complain or whine or ask for something else or suggest eating out.  Now they are often eager to eat up what’s in the fridge before buying more or asking for more.
Fourth, we realized a greater appreciation for what we have.    
Fifth, we received a stronger ability to live in the now.  My mantra during that time was this:  Right now, I have enough for what we need.  It was true.  In each moment, what I had was all I needed. 
Finally, we gained perspective, and as a former therapist used to say, “Perspective is everything.”
Extremes are not healthy.
As soon as payday came, I rushed to the gas station and filled up the car before heading to Publix and Target for groceries and necessities. I filled up the fridge and cabinets, ordered Reliv vitamins, and paid bills. 
Words cannot express how good it felt to fill up the gas tank rather than only put in a few dollars and to fill it up with my own money rather than relying on a friend. How abundant it felt to open the fridge and see it bursting with healthy food and watch the girls pack Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches along with cheese sticks, yogurt, pretzels, and fruit. I felt abundant, blessed, relieved, and a sense of wellbeing swamped me.
Extremes are not healthy.
I love the feeling of wealth and security that comes with having more than enough, yet I realize that it’s dulled us (our country, our society) in some ways.  As a nation, we are overfed and undernourished.  We are spoiled and rotting.  We are overweight and slow.  We are running on stuffed.
It was so easy to fall back into old patterns until I had to throw away half a bag of spinach. While that’s only a dollar fifty worth of food, it reminded me of just over a week ago when that dollar fifty would have been so vital.  And I hate considering how much food we’ve thrown away over the years. How much have all of us wasted?  How much food, time, talent, energy, people? 
I remember a favorite Ray Bradbury quote of mine from Fahrenheit 451, “Well, after all, this is the age of the disposable tissue. Blow your nose on a person, wad them, flush them away, reach for another, blow, wad, flush. Everyone using everyone else's coattails.”
Being alive is a blessing, having the basics is a miracle, and having abundance, more than enough, and convenience to go with it…that is a wonder. 
The blessings we received while running on empty and the conclusions I’ve come to while running on stuffed all lead up to something I’ve been wanting and working towards for years…balance.  
Balance is the key.  I don’t want to run on empty, but I no longer want to run on stuffed either.  I am grateful for both experiences because knowing what they feel like inspires compassion, kindness, and understanding; however, I am ready for balance in my life, and I know balance comes from self-discipline. 
That means planning ahead and only getting what we truly need for the week (including a few treats) and then using what is in the house before buying more. That means learning to be okay with a fridge half full rather than overflowing. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t be spontaneous and meet a friend for lunch, for example, but it means that I am aware. If I make that choice, what are the consequences? What am I gaining and what is the cost? 
And this scenario applies to all areas of life. How am I balancing work with play? Writing my words with reading other people's words? Time with family, friends, and God? Sleep with everything on the mental To-Do List.  Screen time with time unplugged?  
Where do you find yourself on the spectrum between running on empty and running on stuffed? What choices have you been making? What choices will you make in the future?


  1. WOW, reading yet another blog with tears in my eyes. Such depth, such raw truth: I HATE extremes!!
    Favorite part is reading that God never fails to bless your threesome. He is an Awesome God! :)

    1. Thanks, Heather. I appreciate your comments, and I am also grateful for the blessings God is sending! :)