All the standard pre-flight safety demonstrations on board a big airplane take you through the use of an Oxygen mask in an emergency. The safety video clearly instructs the passenger to always fit her /his own mask before helping children, the disabled or any other persons requiring assistance. Simply put, during that limited time, your safety comes first. This cardinal air transport safety rule can be extended to cover our day- to -day living.
As Sonya Parker says: “Put yourself first. You can’t be anything for anybody else unless you take care of yourself.’’
She also tells us: “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness as a priority. It’s necessary.”
For those of us who read the Bible, the second most important commandment given to us is: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’. But then how can you fulfill this one if you do not know how to love yourself! You cannot give away what you do not have.
So I have learned to love myself first before I love others, find my inner peace before I help others to find theirs, take care of my health before I take care of others and to forgive myself before I forgive others.
This has never rung so true for me as it has done during the first year of my return home after being away for more than two decades. As I try to get assimilated into the radically changed system, I find that so much is going on around me and sucking up my energy and focus. In this interdependent culture, numerous demands are made on me as a daughter, mother, family member, a woman, a professional, a member of my community and a citizen of my country. The chaotic state in my country adds insult to injury.
Time after time, I have had to stop and think about what the interdependent culture and anarchy does to us ; it places heavy burdens on many of us and we end up carrying too much for too long. This alone has dire costs to us.
I never forget that no man is an island. Each of our individual journeys is intimately interwoven with the journeys of our friends, our families, our co-workers. Every step I take in becoming more fully myself has a ripple effect that affects others and the steps they take affect me. So finding genuine meaning in our lives contributes to the renewal of our families and communities.
As I continue to have a deep conversation with myself in this environment I have come to realize that four options available to me:
- I could choose to feel overwhelmed, paralysed and do nothing until I run out of time.
- I could choose to take on as much as my shoulders can carry until I burn out.
- I could choose to disconnect completely by turning away from it all.
- Last but not least, I could choose to wear my oxygen mask first and then go out to engage in the world around me; effectively doing the small bit that feeds into the big picture.
To work my way through the tangle, I have gladly chosen to take the last option as it allows me to focus eighty percent of my time and energy on the twenty percent that gives meaning to my life. It is the only way I can live out my own deep and great story.
I know for sure that no life, no matter how successful and exciting it might be will make me happy if it is not genuinely my own.
If I chose to disengage completely then I would miss out on my own unique life task that contributes to the making the world a better place to live in. I bear this responsibility out of the legacy of all the heroes who came before me. I have never been the type who waits for things to happen to me; I have made things happen to me.
Maria Edgeware says: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.’’
Delmore Schwartz always reminds us that: “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.’’
Let us fit our oxygen masks first then go out to be of service to others.
Thank you for reading this post. Kindly tap into your experiences and leave a comment about this post. I would be grateful if you shared it with your family and friends.