If you’ve ever flown, then you have heard the pre-flight instructions given by the flight attendant. These instructions include the phrase-should oxygen be required please put your mask on before assisting you child or others.
I am not sure where it was that I first read/heard that used as an example of taking care of ourselves FIRST before we can help others. I am not sure about you, but I know that for myself it is true, I try to hold down a full time job, put my family first, give time to my church and at the end of the day, week, month…I’ve gotten most of what I needed to done…but at what personal cost?
In April, 2011 I was laid off from a company that I had worked for 6 years (I’d worked for the same company before college for a total of 11 years total). For the last 18 months of working for the company I worked a minimum of 100 hours a week. This company peak season started November and typically lasted until April. Only we had gone from a major software update, to peak season, to the layoff hand over prep. I pushed myself-a lot harder than I should have-I also learned somethings.
A) promotions are not everything-I got promoted for a position I wanted for 5 years on Wednesday…and laid off on Thursday…the overtime I was asked to work to “ensure” I get the promotion wasn’t worth it in the end.
B) don’t be a donkey-companies will find what baits your hook aka what carrot you’re willing to follow. The last couple of years I was with company I felt like I had a carrot dangling in front of me just out of reach…and when I got the carrot (the promotion) I didn’t even get to enjoy it-the promotion was empty, worthless, and in fact yet another tool of manipulation for them to try to get me to help with transitioning my position to someone else (someone less qualified, that I had trained).
C) Me First- the biggest thing that the layoff taught me was my priorities were all wrong. Going through a layoff realigned or maybe I should say aligned my priorities. It was no longer about what “the company” wanted or the status quo. I became the salmon that is determined to flourish by swimming against the current of the crowd. I have determined that my priorities are:
D) I have also learned that to be a benefit to my family I have to be selfish. No, not selfish in the traditional sense. I had to learn to put my oxygen mask on first. I had to learn to take time for myself. I had to learn to relax, unwind and that I didn’t have to be going 150 mph all the time. That doing nothing is okay. I had to learn to put me first.
As my mom’s illness progress, there are many times that the only way that I can be of help to her (or my dad) is by taking a step back. Taking a day for me, or an hour or sometimes only 5 minutes. Taking a long soaking bath with epsom salts and lavender oil-is not a cruise-but it is a half hour vacation. It does allow me to scrub away lingering frustrations, pain and hurt. Many times I find myself crying sobbing and praying…I learned long ago its okay to pray in the shower…naked came I into the world and naked will I leave…and I ain’t got nothing God don’t already know about…in fact He knows the stuff in my head I don’t share with anyone.
So, I’ve had to learn to take time for me.
When the responsibilities seem to much, when I am overwhelmed, when my emotional exhaustion manifest as physical exhaustion…when I don’t know how I’m going to keep one foot in front of the other…when the only goal I can see is surviving the next 5 minutes…I take time for me.
Many times in this “me time” I find myself giving God my worries, my pain and my frustration, again.
Its so easy and tempting to think we have to do it all alone. That its “our problem” to deal with, cope with or even escape from. The reality is God knows. God knows all about it even before we tell Him. God knows all about it. Often give things to God-worry, fear, disappointment, frustration, pain, anguish-and then I find after I have surrendered it all that I want to peek at it to see if it changed. Or, I want to poke a stick at it to see if it will growl. Or, sometimes I even feel guilty when I’ve been released from the burden for 5 minutes and I try to resume carrying the over-burden again. God tell us in Matthew 11:28 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Yet, I feel like I need to self-punish by continuing to carry by burden alone. (..and I wonder how this makes God feel that I fail to terribly in trusting Him.)
Me First-that is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn is that its ok to put me first.
That its not selfish, it’s healthy. …and that for me to help others, I must help myself first.
I’ve gotta put on the oxygen mask and prepare myself before I can help others.