The art of re-fuelling


For the best part of a decade I’ve been practicing peeling. My. Fingers. Off. Of. Life.
Before that was three decades of resolutely and relentlessly applying my will to life, wrestling with and resisting how things were, and crafting them into how I thought things should be.

What changed?

Well, a couple of things – having my second child who even as an infant applied her will as forcefully as me was one. Reading books like The Power of Now and Outrageous Openness which introduced me to the power of the present moment, acceptance of reality, and opening myself up to the flow of life, was another. 

Yoga and meditation gave me daily opportunities to practice, in a safe space, getting comfortable with discomfort, and exploring commitment, discipline and follow through.

Once I started noticing how I would torment myself with scenarios which never happened, how I would impatiently jump in and try to speed things up, thus derailing the whole process, and just how damn sick and tired I was of being the puppet master, I realised how kind of shit I was at it all anyway.

Look, maybe some people can craft awesome lives being control freaks, but I wasn’t real happy with my results.

It was time for a better plan.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m still being given opportunities to learn: to let things come to me in their proper time and fashion rather than chasing opportunities and people all around the countryside, and the hardest thing of all – keeping the faith when deadlines loom and pointy ends narrow in.

It came to me today, as I was lying flat on my back to rest my spasming and exhausted muscles, that there is still much work to be done, but not in the flogging myself way, which is how I’ve come to be flat on my back for the last two days.

The work I needed to do was to not work, to not strive, to not chase. 

The work I need to do is to just be.

To just be means I trust that when I need to do something, it will be there for me to do. I don’t need to chase opportunities, I just need to be agile enough to take them when they come. I don’t need to strive to be the most actualised and amazing version of myself, I just need to be.

So, the last two days I’ve been given the opportunity to practice being, because I ran out of juice. Much like a car that goes along just fine, right up until the last drop of fuel is used, and then conks out waiting for the lights to turn green. Of course, the smart driver watches the fuel gauge, and regularly tops up to prevent such a thing.

I am the other kind of driver who knows there’s a petrol station a couple of hundred kilometres away, and plays a game to see how far they can get on a quarter of a tank. How you drive your car says a lot about you, and I like to run my fuel right down before I fill up. 

I knew I was running on empty, but I also knew I had six days off coming up in a couple of weeks and the end of my contract not much beyond that. I betted that I could make it, and started making plans as to how I was going to fill up once I got there – holiday fun, music, art, a weekend retreat with a friend.

I was so bone dry, that I came home in the middle of the day and just lay down on the grass, breathed in time with the ants, listened to the bees in the mandarin blossoms, felt the earth warm and endlessly supportive under my belly, and felt the sun, endlessly warm upon my bones.

My back was in spasm, but it didn’t need to be fixed with yoga or walking, it just needed to be rested. So I sat on the lounge chair, wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle and binge watched Anne with an E on Netflix. I went to bed at 8, and lay in bed until 8 am the next morning, only moving because the sun moved off the bed, and on to the verandah lounge, which is where I moved as well. I read my book, watched more Anne with an E, a movie with my daughter. I got tired easily, and when I did, I rested. 

The thing is though, I wasn’t just tired, I was empty. I’m pretty good at looking after my basic needs – getting enough sleep, eating well, daily yoga. What I haven’t been so good at, is figuring out how to top the juice up while working full time, and still being there for my family.  So, I just kept driving.

I know what the things are that fill me up:

  • Music and art – when people make beautiful and meaningful things and I get to witness it, I get filled up. 
  • Time alone. 
  • Visiting new places.
  • Learning new and interesting things.
  • Being with my friends.
  • Natural beauty.

I’m well past the stage where I need to figure that bit out. The next stage is making my own needs enough of a priority that I can do those things even when busy. Because that’s a good life. That’s a balanced, well rounded life. I just don’t have much interest in the other kind of life, where it’s all just work and no play. Who is?

How do you re-fuel, and more importantly, how do you prioritise it?

7 comments

    • Good morning Ardys ☀️ your mother sounds like a Buddhist 😊 I published this post last night before I went to sleep, instead of sleeping on it and publishing it in the morning like I normally would. And then woke up at 4am knowing that there was a crucial piece I left out if it. So I’ve reworked it 😜

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  1. So good to hear you have been forced to stop and nourish your body and soul Sara. The challenge for me (and every woman I suspect) is to always find that magic space to nourish myself amongst the busyness. I’m feeling that reserve tank light flashing at me now!! A beautiful perfectly timed post. I hope you emerge on the other side completely filled up and more of your beautiful self.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – my friends hold me up, even when I’m trying to drown! Hey, I went and saw that Kahuna practitioner today (more self care). She is a-mazing 😍 when she finished, she looked down at me and said, a little sternly, “warrior, it is time to put down your sword. It’s heavy, and you’re exhausted.”
      🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼

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  2. After reading a Brainpickings email mid last week… discussing Annie Dillard’s “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” I’m giving more focus to productivity, presence and more particularly the flow between the two. With all the time in the world I have been running out of time too many times… Those last words you wrote resonate with me most “Because that’s a good life. That’s a balanced, well rounded life. I just don’t have much interest in the other kind of life, where it’s all just work and no play.” I found to my surprise that it’s a far busier life than I ever imagined. I’m grateful to be here doing what I’m doing and not there doing what I did. Which involved running out of fuel from time-to-time. It’s a priceless life choice 🤓 However, life-life balance is not dissimilar to work-life balance, and I suspect something most would benefit from recognising the benefits, really the necessity of doing it better. So good of you to share your experience to inform our efforts.

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