My Tank Is Empty

After a relaxing and enjoyable weekend I came into a challenging Monday. I left several meetings with disappointments or backslides, some small and some serious. On Tuesday I found myself texting as my car dropped me at the airport and giving quick updates via phone after I cleared security. I’ve been in “fight or flight” mode for what feels like months due to the sheer amount of stuff that needs to get done and the higher-than-normal number of obstacles that keep popping up.  In a moment of transparency I texted a colleague, “Help me stay positive. I’m feeling a bit beaten down.” Her response was classic:

“That is scary. You’re the most positive person I know.”

Minutes later I shared that anecdote with my husband and we just sat there with a moment of silence between us on the phone. And then instead of lecturing me about taking on too much (we both know that is true) or reminding me that I don’t have the world on my shoulders (we both agree that I don’t) he simply told me that I’m a rock star and that he wishes he could do more to help. And then we talked about the time when I leave industry and throw out my shingle as a motivational life coach — you know, some day when the kids are grown and on their own. I smiled knowing even without seeing him that he was smiling back and that we would be ok.

It’s a pattern we’ve repeated many times over the years.

But, I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always been this easy. There was a time when I was younger and our relationship was still finding its way when we weren’t as understanding of each other. I remember moments where my admissions of being overwhelmed by my work turned into anxious questions like, “Are you going to get fired?” or “If it’s so hard why do you keep doing it?” There was a period of time when I tried to keep my stress to myself because it just wasn’t worth the further stress of having a conversation. It felt easier to pretend to be the Mel who was always happy, always under control, always ok. 

But it didn’t feel good

It won’t come as a surprise to readers of Too Much Mel that I’m a sharer. I share victories and defeats, I share ups and downs, and there is no one that I share more with than my husband. If you’ve been on the receiving side of a conversation with me, you know it can be exhausting. So, now imagine that you live with me. Imagine the chatter while getting ready in the morning, while packing up my laptop bag, while watching a movie, while driving to the store, while shopping and while sitting at dinner. Imagine the nearly never-ending podcast references, work anecdotes, self-reflection and story-telling. And now imagine me not sharing at the times when I just didn’t feel like I had enough *oomph* to persevere. Not sharing when my Mel tank was empty and what I desperately needed was a fill up.

Not only did it feel bad, it was bad.

I don’t remember when it changed. There wasn’t some eureka moment where all of a sudden I came to understand that it was inherent in his nature to try to protect me from any and all harm or when he came to understand that it was inherent in my nature to push harder and do more. I read an article recently about marriage longevity and it said that the key is to understand and appreciate the other person’s crazy — because we are all crazy. It’s crazy how much he worries. It’s crazy how hard I work and how much I take on myself. We’re crazy, but we’re crazy together. So, now we can acknowledge quickly when my Mel tank is empty and we know exactly how this particular chapter of our story is going to end: I’ll be exhausted and laying on the bottom of a pit and he’ll pick up the pieces. And thankfully at this point he won’t even tell me I told you so.

Even though we both know he could.

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