Last month I ran out of gas. Horrors, I know.
I had been watching that little yellow warning light on my dashboard blink,
But did I listen? No. I was running around town trying to pull a dozen little details together for my daughter’s 8th grade graduation ceremony, her end-of-the-year drama presentation, a family vacation, and then there was my son’s upcoming flag football tournament.
For several days in a row I wasn’t The Survival Mom. I was The Scatter-Brained, Half-Crazed, Lunatic Mom who gave a quick glance at her low fuel warning light and said, “Alright, already! I see you. Now leave me alone while I pick up those cookies for the graduation ceremony.”
And then there I was. With my Tahoe grinding to a chugging, embarrassingly slow stop along a busy street, just a mile or two from home.
My end-of-the-road parking spot was just a few feet away from where a work crew was fixing a traffic light. A policeman was also there and when he saw my stalled vehicle, he ambled over and listened to my sheepish explanation.
“I’ve run out of gas. I feel so stupid.”
A couple of minutes later the work crew came over and said they had a half-filled gas can and they would fill up my tank.
I innocently said, “My house is just over that way a bit,” and one of the workman exclaimed, “NO! You’re going to turn around and go straight to that gas station on the corner.”
His buddy snorted and said, “Hey, man! She’s not your wife!”
I think I’ve laughed at that line for the past month, but he was right. I had been ready, once again, to stay so focused on my immediate goal that I was overlooking the bigger picture: making sure my vehicle’s tank had enough gas to get me from Point A to Point B and beyond.
Of course when I mentioned this incident on Facebook, a number of you couldn’t help yourself:
“There’s this really good book I read that says to never have less than half a tank of gas in the car.”
“Aren’t you the one who says to never have less than half a tank of gas in the car?”
Snark, snark, snark! (That’s why I love you all so much!)
The lesson I learned from this experience is how easy it is to get distracted by the tyranny of the urgent and lose sight on what is truly important. I was feeling so pressured to take care of all my errands so my daughter would have the “perfect” graduation experience and every single loose end would be taken care of that I neglected to spend 5 or 6 minutes stopping by a gas station, which didn’t seem nearly as important until the moment when my gas pedal stopped working.
Now, maybe in your case your vehicle has plenty of gas and you carry a spare gas can with you, but what if your child suddenly got a gushing nose bleed? Would you have enough tissues with you and the knowledge of how to treat a serious bloody nose? Would you be scrambling around, looking for something, anything, to take care of it?
How about a dead cell phone battery, just as you urgently need to make a call? Or having the right wrench in order to turn off the gas line after a natural disaster? Flashlights with working batteries? Kids trained i
n how to respond when the fire alarm goes off?
Just a year or two after becoming a new mom I started comparing my brain to a shattered mirror. My brain suddenly had to focus on so many things, all at once sometimes, that I forgot to do things, forgot why I opened a particular drawer, or stood there with the phone in hand thinking, “Now, who was I going to call?”
I had transformed from Super Career Woman into Dory.
“I suffer from short term memory loss.”
The tyranny of the urgent caused my focus on more important things to become fuzzier and disjointed.
Being ready for everyday disasters and worst case scenarios is the bigger picture we need to focus on. So, I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve stopped setting goals of perfection for myself that require all my attention and swerve my attention toward petty details and away from necessities.
Not even The Survival Mom is a Survival Mom every waking minute and every now and then we need a wake-up call. Mine was sitting on the side of the road, wondering how on earth I was going to push my Tahoe to a gas station.
By the way, thanks to the gourmet graduation cookies I had just picked up from the bakery, I was able to hand over several of them to the helpful work crew in exchange for the gas. So, I guess it was ultimately a win-win for everybody.
UPDATE: I just went out and checked. My gas tank is 3/4 full.