Oxygen mask first

A part of me is dying. Perhaps it has to do with my son choosing to live in the United States for a year or my 50th birthday careening towards me in ten months. Or that my nearly grown daughter doesn’t need me nearly as much.

Perhaps it is the accumulation of years. Of trials and tribulations. Of ups and downs. Of unspeakable anguish and despair. Of thinking mostly of others and forgetting the self. Of working so hard to get it right and seeing that I did not always get there.

My dear friend David, who is a former flight attendant, looked deeply into my eyes last night and told me that when in the event of cabin pressure loss, an oxygen mask will dangle in front of me. He urged me to place it over my mouth and nose first and to take three deep breaths before even considering helping someone else.

It is a hard habit to break, that reaching for the other’s mask first. To help those in need whilst forgetting that I have needs too. It comes so naturally to forget that to be of service, you must first serve yourself.

I don’t know why I never learned that lesson really. And when I finally did break free of some of those oxygen mask grabbers, I was blamed bitterly. At least for a time. At most long enough.

But then there was forgiveness. And insight. And learning. And loving. It is a messy road to adulthood, something my children are learning. As a guidepost on that journey, I can only observe and gently nudge. Everything else is up to them.

So yes, a part of me is dying. That part that forgot to take care of myself. And in the absence of that piece, a new space is tenuously emerging. A space just large enough for an oxygen mask to rest.


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