Running on Empty


For a period of time across the past few months I’ve been noticing a trend: My phone, my computer, my speakers, my car, and most importantly my self have all been running on low battery.

I’m someone who demands a lot from my devices. I like to play mantras and gongs pretty much 24/7 on my phone, which I use for work often. There’s a similar trend with the laptop - I am a multi-tab-open-all-the-time kind of person. I also rarely shut it down, but just close it assuming it will hold its charge forevermore.

For a while the metaphor of pushing, demanding and being quite inconsiderate of these items’ needs was lost on me. Until something big shifted. 

While a low-battery phone or un-charged computer is annoying, it’s far different from when our own body gives warning signals that it needs a rest. And if we don’t listen, it will continue demanding we pay attention, eventually bringing everything to a screeching halt if need be. Which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.

Towards the end of a big speaking engagement at a local workplace I passed out. I don’t remember exactly how I fell but apparently it was quite dramatic. Straight back from standing and teaching at a podium to the floor. Though I came-to immediately, and luckily was just fine, paramedics were called, vitals were taken, and I was escorted out via wheelchair.

I should add, as some of you have ascertained from subtle social media posts, I am pregnant. So, I get both a “free pass” as I can chalk this faint up almost 100% to iron deficiency, and also a smack on the hand with the deep need (especially in my line of work) for even more rest and body tune-in. Even more of a tenderness with self-charging. Even more of a deep need to practice what I preach and listen to my needs of going slower than I’m used to.

You see, the funny thing was, I didn’t feel like I was necessarily running on empty. I had been habituated to deceiving myself that my own low battery cues were no big deal, or just par-for-the-course of pregnancy that I missed my body’s warning signs. The strange rapid heartbeat that morning. The alarming (and new) shortness of breath that came while I (someone who loves to talk in front of a group) was public speaking.

It forced me to realize that my “empty” and all our empties are on a sliding scale. At this time in my life I need much more refueling than usual.

I have never in my life fainted before this incident. But I have to tell you, I am so glad it happened. It was a beautiful, albeit embarrassing wake-up call to give more attention to my changing situation. To tend to the low battery of my vitality with a force that is doubled down and beyond any weekly self-care bath time or bi-monthly massage.

This was a call from my body for a more daily help. More outsourcing. More asking for others to take care of things. More napping. More sleeping-in when possible. More of whatever I need to charge my internal batteries. Less guilt for outsourcing when I work from home, or napping/sleeping in, or asking others to help take care of things.

I have also begun to invest in the resting of my devices. Caring for them and prioritizing/lessening daily demands. I am finally seeing more of my own metaphor in their charging needs.

The experience of running on empty may be thrilling for a brief while, but it always ends up with something broken down on the side of the road. And given the fullness of the life I’m leading and wish to continue to lead, I’m realizing how essential it is to fill the tank of my inner vitality, in old and new ways, to ensure that I am replenished and rejuvenated to teach from an overflow instead of any sort of lack.

We learn through contrast and I am so grateful for the lessons of this contrasting time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go lay down and rest.

Joanna Andreae