Running on Empty

October 1, 2021

I ‘knew’ of Jackson Browne when I was asked to go to one of his concerts this weekend, but I didn’t know Jackson Browne’s epic songwriting skills nor truly of his remarkable way of writing songs that were so prophetic.

Browne has been writing about the challenges of our society and our times for decades. He has been writing songs about our collective and personal losses for his whole life and he started in his 20s. Now in his 70s, he is still singing right into our hearts. He sings with us into our grief; he emboldens us be activists; he writes lyrics that speak to us deep inside our being and remind us we are not alone in our sadness and loss.

I had just come out of a Friday evening in the USA – Saturday morning in Asia workshop on Stretching Our Learning Edges where folks were describing their burnout and fatigue, their frustration and loss, and their real sadness. And they were doubly saddened that these were feelings so many of them were feeling so early into the school year – like weeks into the school year.

How could this burnout be so bad so soon? The Washington Post published an article last week, Why this stage of the pandemic makes us so anxious, in which Amy Cuddy and JillEllyn Riley speak about how our surge capacity has waned and how normal it can be that we ‘just don’t have it in us’ to be vigilant and capable of managing – we are too depleted to do this all again so soon. They conclude their essay by saying “…if you’re experiencing increased sadness or anxiety along with an urge to dramatically change something about your life — some of the markers of pandemic flux syndrome — be assured you’re not alone.”

You are not alone. You are not broken. You are in the middle of your life managing a new way of living and it takes time to recalibrate – time that we aren’t being given. Hence the burnout. This is where Jackson Browne returns into the story.

So, I head off from my workshop and land directly in the middle of a Jackson Browne concert where he begins to sing Running on Empty. Here’s an excerpt from his song where I see my workshop ran right into his concert.

“I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on

Running on (running on empty)
Running on (running blind)
Running on (running into the sun)
But I’m running behind
Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it, with what you do to survive
’69, I was 21 and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned into the road I’m on”

He sang on and how I wish my colleagues from the workshop could have been with me to hear him give voice to what they were thinking.

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes, I see them running too.”

Running on Empty was written in 1978. 1978. Let that sink in. Things are and have been, in different ways, really rushing under our heels.

Browne than sang For A Dancer which ends with these lyrics.

“Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
Just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found

Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around (The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive, but you’ll never know”

It is a fact there is sadness and uncertainty and with all of that there can be community. Let’s do a Zoom tea (or cocktail). Let’s do a walk and talk. Let’s be with each other on the journey. It is just crazy how this life feels. And we still can make joyful sounds. We must.

In times of fatigue, ask yourself:

  • Who do you listen to or read when challenged by life? Can you seek out their words for yourself now?
  • Who is your community? How can you connect in ways that work for you and bring you strength?
  • In what ways can you ‘throw some seeds’ so others can grow and find sustenance through and from you?

Throwing seeds and sending hugs from afar.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

I have been on some terrific websites lately. Have a peek. and are amazing to peek into. They could be used as writing prompts in classrooms too. These folks know how make data visually appealing and so intriguing. Check out these graphics – I found them particularly interesting. and and write some terrific newsletters.