Hello and welcome to Friday, December 20, 2019! May each of you have the happiest of Holidays!
Put your own oxygen mask on first.
For most of my life, I’ve been quite selfish. I really didn’t see it. OK, in all honesty, I did. But I was too scared and couldn’t admit it! I had all the justification I needed to tell myself that I wasn’t selfish. I bought expensive things for people, I worked as a nurse, I was always doing my best to give to others. As I look back, I see that towards the end I didn’t have all that much to give. I was pretty empty. Though we are replenished by giving, I recognize now that I was trying to refill an oxygen tank built for giving with people pleasing – wrong substance.
I feel like we each start this life with a full “giving” tank. I believe we are built in such a way that we can naturally give to others in wholesome and meaningful ways – from a place of truly wanting to be of service. Some of us learn to refill the tank, and others, people like me, didn’t get the memo as to how.
I truly enjoyed buying gifts for others and working as a nurse. I care about people, I truly want them to be happy, I want to end suffering. As I look back on my life, however, I see how much of my desire to help was not driven by an inner canister of benevolence, altruism and charity. Much of my desire to be of service was driven by insecurity and people pleasing motives.
At some point in my life, my inherent tank of giving started to run low. With the lack of oxygen, I became anxious and desperately sought ways to fill the near-empty canister. Instead of using tools of self-care, I became self-absorbed. At some point, my tank ran dry. I felt incomplete. Lonely. Empty. My desire to help, give and to be of service went from a natural generosity to a panicky self-serving need to accumulate, be recognized and appreciated. My problem: I didn’t appreciate myself.
In the end, in all my giving, I was actually taking.
In the new beginning, my tank was refilled by those who have known despair and have learned self-care, self-love and self-compassion. In my deepest despair, I was told that I would be loved until I could love myself. I couldn’t imagine that happening. It did! My tank is filled, again.
When I started my Mindfulness practice over seven years ago, I heard – I mean I really heard – the message that we can only give away what we have. I’ll never regret giving with an empty heart. It kept me going for years and I was of benefit to many. But I see how my motivations to please and get recognition diminished my usefulness and kept me from receiving the true gifts of giving. In my self-loathing, I created a bypass valve from the canister of giving to an unfillable tank of self-seeking. As much as I gave, I could never reap the benefits of generosity.
I’ve learned how incredibly important self-care is – it allows us to be of maximum benefit to others.
We are entering a time of year that asks much of us. Most of us are already running low on oxygen. Through our roles and responsibilities, we have in many ways overcommitted ourselves. It’s built into to our society. Our employers ask much of us. We need to work to pay our bills. If we are in a relationship, that requires time, energy and effort. If we have kids, they need our attention, love and support. I read a recent article which stated that the average American family spends only 37 meaningful minutes a day with family/loved ones. If that’s all the time we’re spending with our families, how much time do we allocate for ourselves? What are we doing with the time we set aside for ourselves?
So many of us, myself included, spend valuable time scrolling social media, being entertained by a TV, playing video games and staring at our portable handheld devises. It’s not that these activities are inherently bad, it’s just that they don’t replenish our emptying tanks. The immediate gratification gained from these mind-numbing activities bypass the tank of giving and only temporarily add to an unfillable void. It’s unsustainable!
Speaking from personal experience, our tanks of love and giving will run dry. If we hope to be of benefit in this world, we have got to put the mask on ourselves and fill-er-up!
I have found that a Mindfulness practice is my oxygen mask. Meowadays, I get up, meditate, set a value-based intention for the day, remember that each day is a rare and precious day that will never come again, recall that I’m not promised a tomorrow, call to mind an accurate assessment of my current situation – write a gratitude list – eat well, do my best to exercise (something I’m currently lacking on and I FEEL it!), check in throughout the day, and in the evening, review how my day went. Although this may look like a lot, not considering eating and exercising, I spend less than an hour each day nourishing myself. When I do this, I see that I have much to offer. Occasionally, I’ll even treat myself to a massage or take a trip to the coast. I’ve also learned how to say no.
We can’t just know that we need to care for ourselves. We must take action. If you feel that engaging deeper in your Mindfulness practice might help you, I just so happen to know of a Mindfulness Life-Coach and a few courses commencing at the start of the new year! Wink Wink!
Regardless of what you do, just do something to nourish yourself. Please, put your mask on, first!
I love you and there isn’t anything you can do about it!
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If you would like to help bring Mindfulness to the less fortunate and to help pay for current services, your generosity will be deeply appreciated.