You probably tune out when the flight attendants do their choreographed safety dance. I do, too. As I recently heard a man at 7-Eleven say to his lady over the phone, “Listen, you tell him if he gone kill me, come kill me. I ain’t afraid to die. I don’t want to die, but I ain’t afraid to.” You and me both, sir. You and me both.
When I fly, I’m like the brave 7-Eleven patron in another important way: I’m usually intoxicated. That helps with my lack of concern about the location of the nearest exits, which may be located behind me.
However, there’s one part of the spiel that always sticks with me (borrowed from airodyssey.net):
In the event of decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.
It’s obvious, right? If you pass out due to lack of oxygen, you’re going to be useless to someone needing your assistance. You have to make sure you are alive and alert before you start worrying about anyone else.
Yeah, it’s obvious when you read it from the non-fiery-crashing comfort of your own sofa, but it’s not obvious when you are panicked and your adrenal glands kick into fight-or-flight mode (or in this case, fight-or-crash mode). When the shit gets real, your instinct isn’t to protect yourself, it’s to protect your kids, your mate, and the vulnerable people that you care about.
And counterintuitively, if you jump to the aid of your kids or hubby or grandma first, you are much more likely to all die. You have to go against your instinct here and take care of yourself first.
The harsh reality is that every one of us has people relying on us, and every one of us is a passenger with limited control over circumstances. Every one of us is absolutely running out of time, and thankfully we’re usually spared from knowing how much time is left. And every one of us has a tendency to pop our headphones in, down a few drinks, read SkyMall, and zone out to help make the time go by faster.
So let this post be a little turbulence to make you take off your headphones and perk up your ears:
If, on this short flight, you want to be the best mom, dad, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or partner you can possibly be, take care of yourself first, then assist the other person.
You’re the hardest worker, the uber-mom, the machine of a human that gets shit done come hell or high water, right? You are the most important employee at your company, and the place would go sideways without you. You’re clearly your kids’ mom and your partner’s partner…they need you and you can’t let them down. And I’m sure you could list off a few other people and places that need you: your church, your HOA, your parents, your dog, the other parents, your best friend…it goes on and on.
I get it. You want to be there for everyone. Admirable, even if it is next to impossible.
But I guarantee you that you’re on a failing quest if you don’t place your own health and well being as the center of your world. You have to take the same counterintuitive advice that you tuned out on before takeoff: If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t effectively take care of everyone else.
A person that puts everyone else first slowly becomes less and less effective in his or her role.
The signs are easy to see if you’re looking for them:
What used to be loving guidance becomes impatient, frustrated correction.
What were once kind requests become snappy demands.
What for a time was above-and-beyond becomes sufficient-at-best.
The jobs keep getting done, you keep delivering because you’re you, but you’re walking uphill through a muddy, mosquito infested swamp, instead of strolling along on nicely maintained trail.
And the scowl on your face and muttering under your breath make it clear: this fun walk together through the woods has morphed into a walk you’re finishing mostly out of obligation.
Your kids see it. Your spouse sees it.
Everyone who depends on you sees it, even if they don’t have the words or chutzpah to tell you so.
If you don’t take care of yourself first, you simply cannot effectively take care of everyone else.
What “take care of yourself” means for you may not be the same as it is for everyone else. It’s a pretty safe bet, however, that taking time for yourself could mean something like exercising, reading, letting someone else watch the kids, eating actual food, getting a massage, going back to school, going on a vacation, taking a sick day every so often, painting, turning the ringer off on your phone after 8 pm, taking a hot bath, enjoying a dinner at a great restaurant, changing jobs, playing a video game, cracking open a good bottle of wine…you name it.
I’m not you, but I am pretty sure you could list a few things to do that make you smile and recharge your batteries.
It’s not selfish to put yourself first.
It’s having enough maturity and understanding to know that often, the highest and best use of your time is to make sure you can maintain your effectiveness for the long haul.
That concludes the safety message portion of the flight, please enjoy your tiny bottles of liquor, and sorry for the screaming babies the universe strategically placed on each side of you (it’s just to teach you patience, you should be grateful).