I glanced down at the gauge and noticed that the fuel warning light was on - the needle appeared to be on “E”. Ruh-roh.
I clicked on the car messages - which I had turned off at some point - and clicked through until I found the “miles until empty” message. It said “ --- miles until empty." That was as close to zero as it gets. Oh crap.
We were on the Mass Pike and had just driven past the one rest stop that would be available to us. I knew we had six to eight miles to go until the next exit. There wasn’t much I could do other than see if we would make it.
I should mention that I do not like being low on gas. I tend to fill up before any trip out of town - even if my tank is three-quarters full. But I was only doing the driving on the way home for this trip, and my husband doesn’t have the same compulsion.
As I slowed and turned off the air conditioning to make the most of my gas usage, I noticed the adrenaline coursing through my body. Sweaty palms, tingling hands and feet, butterflies in my stomach and flush in my cheeks. But there was really nothing for me to do with that adrenalin but try to drive ten more minutes down the road. I had no control over whether the car had enough gas to make it off the highway. All I could do was drive.
I noticed my mind starting to envision the worst case scenario. On the side of the highway with three kids; one of us having to walk two, three or four miles to the gas station in heavy 4th of July traffic.
Suddenly, I realized that there was something I had control over.
I forced myself to stop following that train of thought. And I started listing in my head things that I was grateful for in the current situation. It went something like this:
- I’m grateful that my husband is with me, and I am not alone with the kids.
- I’m grateful that traffic is moving along swiftly, and we are not stuck in a holiday traffic jam.
- I’m grateful that the child who would be panicking is asleep in the backseat.
- I’m grateful for the very fun visit we had with family over the long weekend.
- I’m grateful to be driving with sunny skies instead of rain.
- I’m grateful for my gratitude practice that helped me think of this idea.
I noticed my body settling down and the panic subsiding. I felt steadier, more grounded and capable. I kept going with my list for the ten minutes it took to get to the next exit.
We coasted off the exit ramp and right into the gas station.
I breathed a sigh of relief...and counted another grateful.
What is your relationship with gratitude? Where might you invite more gratitude to smooth rough edges or soften stressful circumstances?
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