A few months ago, I bought a new car. My old car served me well through seven years and 140,000 miles—even in the midst of countless spills, potty accidents, and 18-hour road trips. My poor car bears the scars of a family, for sure. It has long scratches down each door where kids scraped their bikes past it in the garage. It has crayons crammed into the floor tracks so the seat can no longer move back and forth. It has Legos and Barbie shoes stuffed into the seat pockets and cup holders. I still find tiny shards of glass, some two years later, from the unfortunate break-in at the park where my daughter’s wallet was stolen (but miraculously, the envelope with $1000 cash was NOT!). I’ve had my old car in the shop so many times, I’m on a first name basis with the guys at the service station.
So, what I’m saying is, I love my new car. Well, as much as I can love a worldly possession without crossing the line into sin.
I have hard and fast rules for the new car, of course, not the least of which includes no eating, drinking, pooping, peeing, or vomiting on the seats and/or floor mats. Also, no stuffing Lego pieces, Barbie shoes, and/or Crayons into any crevices.
A new car takes a bit of getting used to. My old car has OnStar, my new car has XM radio. My old car has dual air, my new car has a fan to cool the seats. The buttons are different. The features are different.
Thus, for these first few months, I’ve been accidently turning on my windshield wipers when I mean to turn on my headlights. (Bonus! My windshield will be streak-free as my head slams against it in the accident I cause from driving in the dark without headlights). I go to change the radio station and end up making a phone call. I hear unfamiliar “dings” occasionally, and have no idea what they mean. I have an ignition button where the key used to go. (I mean, can someone please help me with this? I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to do with my keys when I drive. Is there a designated spot? If I drop them into my purse, then I have to dig them out to lock the door when I leave, which seems highly inefficient in this day and age. The car automatically unlocks when I approach it, even without the key, but it does not lock automatically when I walk away from it??? I’m just a little unsure of the proper protocol here.)
Anyway, about a week into the new car driving experience, I pulled into the church parking lot for a staff meeting, and proceeded to turn off the ignition (button, not key!). As I reached my hand awkwardly toward the button, my eye went straight to the nearby fuel gauge. Which, to my absolute shock and horror, was on empty. As in, Very Empty. Like, E-E-E-E-E.
Why had I not seen this sooner? How long had it been this way? Minutes? Hours? Days?
The fuel gauge is still in the same general location as the old car (bottom right), but it was just enough different that it was out of my direct line of vision. Also, because of all the unfamiliar beeping and dings and such, I suppose I never heard the “ding” to indicate the fuel was low.
FYI, I’m not a big risk-taker. I am not one who enjoys seeing how low the fuel tank can go before I fill it up. When I was 16-years-old, my mom told me to never let my gas get below ¼ of a tank, and, to this day, I follow that rule. I have enough uncertainty in my life. I don’t need the assurance of sufficient fuel levels to be one of them.
So, here’s the thing. Sometimes you realize you are running on empty and have no earthly idea how you got there or how long you’ve been there. You didn’t hear the warning signal. You didn’t see the indicator light.
It’s not because you have been negligent or stupid or careless.
You simply didn’t know where to look.
If you find yourself on empty today, but can’t pinpoint the cause, I want to help. Here is a series of questions to ask yourself—a maintenance checklist, if you will—to help bring into your line of vision why you find yourself feeling depleted or off-balance.
Think of it as a bumper-to-bumper inspection, but much less expensive. ☺
21 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Feeling Off-Balance
1. What am I eating? Have I eaten too much sugar the last few days? Am I eating fresh, whole foods? Or has it been grab and go, takeout, pre-packaged stuff?
2. What am I drinking? Have I had enough water? Am I drinking too much soda? Too much caffeine? Too much alcohol?
3. How is my sleep quality? Am I getting enough? Do I need a nap? Do I need to go to bed a little earlier? Am I falling asleep and staying asleep? (If you are having trouble sleeping, be sure to read my post about the herbal supplements that are saving my life right now!)
4. Am I getting enough exercise? Am I moving every day? Have I found an exercise routine that I love? When was the last time I strengthened and/or stretched my muscles?
5. Am I going outside? Am I breathing fresh air, getting natural sunlight on my skin, and touching nature in some way? When was the last time I went for a walk? When was the last time I just sat outside and looked up at the sky?
6. Am I sick? Do I have allergies? Do I need to rest or go see a doctor? Do I need to adjust my prescription meds?
7. Where am I in my menstrual cycle? (Shield your eyes, men!) Do I have PMS? Peri-menopause? Menopause?
8. Am I stressed? Is there something in my life, big or small, that’s causing me to worry? Is there something I can do to eliminate or diffuse that situation?
9. Am I sad? Am I grieving the memory of someone I’ve lost? Am I disappointed that life is not turning out how I hoped?
10. Am I isolated? Am I getting out of my four walls and interacting with other humans? Am I having actual conversations with my voice, not just my keyboard?
11. Am I on my phone or computer too much? Am I watching too much TV? Do I need to stop watching the news? Do I need to set some new boundaries around my own screen time? Do I need to charge my phone in a separate room? Do I need to take the weekend off social media? Do I need to deactivate accounts and delete apps?
12. How are my relationships? Do I need a date with my spouse? Do I need to spend some quality time with my kids? Do I need to call my mom or dad? Do I need a coffee date with my BFF? Do I need to forgive or ask for forgiveness? Do I need to distance myself from or sever a toxic relationship?
13. Am I dreading something? A task? A conversation? An event?
14. Is there something I know I should be doing that I have been putting off? Has God told me to step out or step down and I have failed to do it? Is there a conversation I must have or project that I must do, but I haven’t done it yet?
15. Do I need a break or vacation? When was the last time I took a whole day to rest? When was the last time I took a whole week to recharge? Can I put a vacation week or Sabbath day on my calendar right now?
16. Do I need to de-clutter or simplify something? A messy table? The mail pile? My closet? My morning routine?
17. Am I comparing myself to someone? Do I feel like I need to keep up with her or her accomplishments? Have I let the Comparison Trap confuse my priorities?
18. Am I trying too hard to please someone? Am I trying to not get someone angry? Am I too worried about what others think about me and what I’m doing/not doing?
19. Am I stuck in a cycle of perfectionism? Am I having a hard time starting or finishing a project because I can’t get it done perfectly? Is there something undone that I just need to finish or walk away from?
20. Am I too busy? Have I taken on a task or responsibility that I cannot handle? Do I need to cancel something? Do I need to hire help? Do I need to delegate something? Do I need to write out a To-Don’t List?
21. Am I talking to God? Have I prayed today? Have I read His Word today? Have I made room for Him in my mind to talk to me? When was the last time I just sat in silence and let Him speak?
The key to keeping your balance is to know when you’re about to lose it. Once you know where to look, you can take the necessary steps to remedy the situation. If you want to dig into any of these questions more deeply, pick up a copy of Finding Your Balance—an 11 Lesson Bible Study, available for $14.99 on Amazon–which is, incidentally, is cheaper than a tank of gas.