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Put the Mask on Yourself First…

by JJ Lee on 09/03/17

When was it that you became less of a priority in your life? 


Maybe it was when you started college or trade school, and studying, perhaps necessarily, took precedence over most everything else.  Perhaps it was when you got married and began a new life with your mate.  Or when that promotion came and you had to move and adjust to a new and unfamiliar place.  Then, the children started coming and as much as you couldn’t imagine living life without them now, well, you’re certainly not living your life with them, either.  Of course everything went on the back burner when their college tuitions mounted—you had to work extra hours on top of your already over-taxed schedule.


You’ve heard it before, and maybe even have it memorized.  You know: the speech the flight attendant gives just before takeoff…  It goes something like this: “In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from your overhead compartment.  Passengers traveling with small children are requested to put the mask on yourself first.” 


Do you know why you’re supposed to put the mask on yourself first?  There are two reasons, really.  First, what I call the psychological reason: If your children are starting to have difficulty breathing and you attempt to cover their tiny pie hole with that big yellow mask, they’re going to be certain that you have either completely flipped (they always knew you were a little crazy) or that you’re trying to kill them to make up for all those trips to the soccer field.  By placing the mask on yourself first, you model that this is actually appropriate behavior.  Mommy wouldn’t put something over her nose and mouth snuffing out her own life just before the trip to Bermuda that Daddy finally agreed to after all these years.  So, it must be okay.  Presto, they let you put the mask on them and, if all else goes well, you’re sunning yourself and sipping funny frozen drinks with umbrellas and they’re hunting sea shells before nightfall. 


And, there’s a second, really practical reason:  If you’re flailing around like a captured catfish because you can’t breathe, chances are you will not be able to coordinate the movements necessary to get the mask anywhere near your kids’ faces.  But, with oxygen smoothly, if artificially, inflating your lungs, your mental synapses fire like pyrotechnics on the Fourth of July and soon you’re not only breathing easily, but now your children have stopped having the events of their short little lives flash before their eyes.  It’s back to trips to the soccer field for you! 


But in life, we don’t put the mask on ourselves first.  Most of us think that taking a little time off once a week for a massage is far too hedonistic.  We wouldn’t consider asking Little Jaynie or Johnnie, Jr. to ride their bikes to soccer so that we could take a yoga class for an hour.  And yet, we’ll spend all weekend going to nine different stores in three tangent counties to buy them “what-the-other-kids-are-wearing.”


When does it stop?  When will you stop living for others and start living for you? When are you going to start fitting yourself in to your own schedule?  What’s it going to take for you to “go where you want to go, do what you want to do” as the old 60s song intoned (as if you could even remember what you want to do and where you want to go anyway)?  It’s time, passenger. 


Maybe your friends and family will respect you more.  Maybe they won’t.  But perhaps you will respect yourself more and model self respect and honoring your body as a temple, to them.  My granddaddy used to say, “You’re a long time dead,” and I don’t think most of us will look back from our death bed and say, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office….” If you’re waiting for the kids to grow up, the mate to retire, or anything else in life to make the space for you to have and be everything you want, life is passing you by.  Abraham Maslow said, “…people must be what they can be…” What can you be?  There’s only one way to find out: Put the mask on yourself first!


How can you put the mask on yourself first?  Here are a few “everyday” ways:


·         Start the day off right: Listen to relaxing music in the morning instead of drive-time talk radio.

·         Take a yoga class.  Don’t have time?  Stretch for 10 minutes during your carpal tunnel break at work instead of having coffee and a muffin.

·         Go for a walk during the first half of your lunch break.

·         Take a few minutes before you go to sleep to reflect on your day—what worked and what didn’t—and adjust your expectations and plans for tomorrow based on your reflection.

·         Get a massage once a month.  Better yet, learn to give gentle, relaxing touch therapies like Reiki or Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and trade sessions with friends or your partner.

·         Though it’s been said before, it never hurts to hear it again: things as simple as taking a luxurious bath, buying yourself fresh flowers, and remembering to drink plenty of water, get needed rest and take your vitamins are great ways to manifest your importance to yourself.  These are the very least, and yet in a profound way, the very most you can do to establish or prove your self love.

·         Study or do something that doesn’t contribute a thing to anybody else; do it simply because you enjoy it!


The last one is my personal favorite.  Ask me how I deepened my spiritual connection learning to drive golf balls….

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JJ and her amazing super dogs: 
Mollie and Stevie Nix
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