So I ran out of gas on James Street today. It’s an experience I never enjoy, and yes, today was not my first time going through it. I hate it because it makes me feel helpless. Well, first useless, for not getting gas sooner, or not calculating how far I was from a bone dry empty tank, then the helpless kicks in and that is truly the worst.
We all know helplessness, maybe some more than others, but we all know it to some degree. That moment when you are stuck and suddenly keenly aware that there is absolutely nothing you can do to help yourself. You are a victim of the situation, reliant on it or the people around you. It is a feeling I detest. As an independent, self-motivated, self-sufficient young woman feeling helpless makes me feel uneasy and feel a failure.
It’s odd in a way, that a girl who grew up on fairy tales would feel this way. I loved the princess in every story, the damsel in distress. I loved the prince who swept her off her feet and carried into happily ever after. I think maybe I loved it because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t yet get how horrible that distress feeling is. Although to be honest, most of those girls had it pretty good what with the dwarves, the Vera Wang inspired mice, the glass shoes, the talking willow trees, plus they all had great hair, what could possibly be distressing with long flowing curled locks? But I digress. Needless to say, I loved their stories until I understood their feelings. Waiting around to be saved sucks.
So there I was on James Street, or rather, in James Street as the panic set in. I spent a brief moment rising to the occasion, troubleshooting my options. I turned the car off then on again, determining that I was in fact out of gas, ruling out the possibility that something horrific had gone wrong with my car, a relief in ruling that out at first, then the first twang of helplessness realizing that this situation was in fact my own fault. Next I turned on the flashers, threw the car in neutral and hopped out, ready to push it out of the road, at least a little bit. And then the helplessness came pouring down like the rain overhead. This looks far easier in the movies, or with a group of big men. I however, am no match for a small SUV, and try as I might, that car was no more likely to move for me pushing than it was to materialize a tank of gas out of thin air and drive over by its self.
I jumped back in and pulled out my phone. I knew my friend Davia was running errands so I swallowed my pride and asked for help. That’s a bit of a lie actually, I told her what happened and let her offer some help, which I graciously and with some relief, accepted. Moments later a woman pulled over next to me asking if I was out of gas and if I had a gas can she could fill. My mind flashed back to the last time this happened, a few years ago on my way to work. Roxanne saved me that time. I excitedly stated that now I could keep the gas can in my car “for next time” I said. “There won’t be a next time” she replied, reminding me that putting gas in my car was a better option. So no, I didn’t have a gas can, it was in my shed, where it belonged as Roxanne had told me. I informed the woman a friend was on her way to help. The woman’s son lived around the corner she said, if he had a can and some gas around she would be back, maybe even before my friend arrived.
Next two men pulled up and offered to push me to the side of the road. Finally! I told them I had tried myself, unsuccessfully. They both laughed and looked at me strangely. I think they thought I was kidding. Minutes later Davia arrived. As I got into her car the woman pulled up behind us and jumped out of her car with a full gas can.
So there I was, a few minutes into my helpless state with not one but two people by my side, all of us in the rain and cold, pouring gas into my tank. I thanked them both and drove on to the gas station. While filling my tank the man next to me asked if I was the car on James Street a few minutes before, I sheepishly responded yes. He apologized for not stopping, that he had felt guilty since, and that it had served as a reminder that he needed gas as well.
This silly little event this morning got me thinking about helplessness. It is a feeling I have known in the past and one that has overwhelmed me lately. The coming months present opportunities for big changes for me. I am selling my house. A home I have loved and made my own, one I saw myself in for years to come. I put it on the market last week. I am leaving my job, not tomorrow, or next month, but I am planning to leave Upstate and see what experience I can gain as a traveling nurse for the next few years. I am leaving Syracuse for the first time ever and will be going from my home to studio apartments and cities I have only visited, hospitals I have never known. I am so excited. I am so terrified.
The hardest part is right now. Everything is unknown, the sale of my home, the money I will get for it, the first assignment I will take, where it will be, will it be NICU or PICU, will my health cooperate. I feel like all of these variables are in the air, and while they are up there, they are out of my control. Those of you who have followed my blog know how challenging a lack of control is for me. So I am excited but somehow can’t help but feel like a victim of my own opportunities.
So out of gas, watching the world blur through my rain soaked windshield on the side of James Street waiting for help I realized that what I am struggling with right now is feeling helpless; feeling the need to rely on others as I move into this new adventure, and most importantly, as I wait patiently for the pieces to fall into place.
And maybe that is the most wonderful thing about helplessness. It allows us, it forces us, to allow others to help. The woman today, the men that pushed me over, I wouldn’t doubt that part of them feels good that they had an opportunity to help someone who would never give them more than a thank you. They didn’t have to stop, she didn’t have to circle the block and come back for me, but she did. Davia didn’t have to stop her errands and plans to cross town to pick up her pathetic friend. Maybe I have been wrong, maybe it’s a good thing to need each other, to be reminded we all can feel helpless, like the man at the gas station was reminded. And maybe, for some of us, feeling helpless is where we need to get to for that to happen.
Maybe it wasn’t about the princess, maybe it was about the prince.