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Posted May 13 2009 11:04pm

The other day, my husband called—he had run out of gas. Well, actually no, not him, but his car. He was getting ready to walk to the gas station and wanted to know if I could swing by and pick him up. The kids and I found him filling a one gallon gas can. We drove him back to his car—he put the gas in, got ready to start the car and….nothing. Maybe not enough gas? Back to the station, another trip back to the car. Still nothing. One motorist stopped—the problem, he suggested, was that the car was on an angle—more gas was probably needed. Back and forth we ferried gas, one gallon at a time—no other gas cans were available. With each gallon, my husband tried starting the car again—still no luck. Another motorist stopped and told us that a hybrid has to sit for a couple of hours in order to “reset” itself. B y this time with all the driving of gas back and forth, it had been a few hours and still the car was unwilling to start. My husband called the Toyota dealer—no one there was sure how to get the hybrid happy again. Did the battery need to be recharged? Would leaving it to sit quietly convince it to restart?  

It was getting dark, the car was at the bottom of a hill; we couldn’t just leave it. A policeman who stopped to help made the observation that if the car remained where it was, it would be trashed before long because someone would come flying over the hill and hit it. And still the car wouldn’t start. So AAA was called and the car was towed. It was days later before the Prius specialist was back at work. He had to reset the engine. His sage advice? “Don’t run out of gas.”

Why bring this up? I think there are a few things to learn from this event, (in addition to the fact that my kids felt that if they had been blogged about, it was fair play for Dad’s antics to get recorded). First thing to note is that there are times that something that seems like it should be easy can often be very, very hard. The car runs out of gas—you should just be able to put gas in it and that’s that. Sound like any advice you might have been given—just eat? It sounds easy, but it’s not. Just as the Prius needed a specialist to help make it work again, in your recovery, you may need specialized help. You may need tools provided by others to restart your recovery if you stumble or reach an obstacle.

Second, consider the evening. The kids and I thought we’d have a nice Friday night together as a family. Suddenly we were carrying gas gallon by gallon to a stalled car. Ever have plans that were completely blown apart? How about times when you have to shake your head about something that has happened—“You forgot to get gas? Our office is next to a gas station.” Now you can either get annoyed and angry and yell at the person and have them get annoyed and angry and yell back. But know what? None of us is perfect. If we let a bothersome thing pass and not get upset—then when we do something bothersome, maybe the same respect will be shown to us. That doesn’t mean that we accept someone hurting us—emotionally or physically, but that wasn’t the case. It was a small annoyance. My husband and I rolled our eyes, we laughed about it, and now I get to blog about it.


·        Are there times that plans have gotten blow apart for some unexpected reason? Remember my last blog? The conference that got canceled because of swine flu? Things happen in life. We might hope for things to work out perfectly, and sometimes they will but other times, they won’t. Journal about a time when something you had been planning for or looking forward to, didn’t work out the way you expected. What was the event? What happened? What was your reaction? Could you have reacted differently? Is there any way to see humor in the event now? Sometimes it’s hard to find humor at the moment—but maybe later you can. If you practice finding humor in the ridiculous circumstances that life throws at us—maybe you’ll be able to find some humor the next time a plan goes awry. 


·        We talked about how something simple can end up larger than one initially suspects. It took more than some gas to get the car going. It may take extra tools to tackle some of the challenges that you’re facing. Do you ever find yourself dismissing something as not that important, but then find that it trips you up again and again in your recovery? Write about what that situation is—describe it, describe the feelings that it evokes. Does that simple task take you back to another more emotionally fraught situation? Can you discover what might be turning a simple task into something much larger? Can you bring other tools to help deal with the challenge? We needed a special Prius technician—you might need to work directly with a dietician, a therapist, both. If you’re struggling in an area, talk with others to see if others tools can be brought in to help.

The tool you can use right now is to go Write On!


Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.


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