I’m a rule follower.
That’s why when I hop on a plane, which I’ve been doing regularly this year, I’m the geeky one who puts down my reading material to listen to the safety talk.
The information hasn’t changed in years, but I pay attention for the same reason I renew my CPR regularly. When someone is standing in front of me having a heart attack, I don’t want to be trying to remember which comes first, the rescue breaths or the chest compressions.
After the flight attendant reminds us how to fasten our seatbelt and use the seat cushion as a flotation device, she provides the cautionary reminder in an event the cabin loses pressure and the oxygen masks deploy:
“Put your oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.”
It makes for a thoughtful wellness metaphor, and I remember liking it the first time I heard it used in that way. I even began using it in my wellness workshops from time to time.
Many women can relate. We are masters at putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own until we end up sustaining ourselves on diet cokes and airplane snacks.
Coincidentally, I sat next to just such a super woman on my flight to the east coast this week. We shared a laugh when she asked the flight attendant if it was too early for a diet coke, who then jokingly differed to me. I said, “Well, I happen to be a wellness coach—okay, just this one time.”
It turns out my seat mate was Lisa Patno Bianconi, runner-up for the first ever Music Educator Award given out at the Grammy Awards this past year. She beat out over 34,000 applicants for the honor.
What makes her so special is the music program she developed at the Kurn Hattin School in Vermont uses the power of music to help abused, neglected, and at-risk youth find hope in a life that often feels hopeless. One of her young students was quoted as saying, “She felt like the mother I never had.”
After hearing her story, I wanted to say–forget the diet coke, let me buy you a drink.
Talking to Lisa, who has made it her life’s work to place oxygen masks onto the little faces of lost children while hers dangles in front of her unused, made me realize how ridiculous this metaphor is as a motivational tool. It makes no sense.
First, women are fearless caregivers. It’s what we do. And we will risk life, limb, and even our own health to do it. We’d rather go down with the plane than watch our teachers run out of paper, our kids struggle to succeed, or people in our community hurting.
Not to mention, once the mask drops down from wherever it drops down from—(thank goodness I have no idea where that is)—it’s a little late to worry about who gets first dibs. My guess is there are emergency lights flashing and loud buzzers going off in the cockpit signaling a massive system failure of some sort.
And even if the pilot—or the woman in a wellness crisis—does pull out of the nose dive in time to land safely, valuable time is lost and precious moments are spent not feeling like our well-selves.
You get my drift.
The smarter approach seems to be what airlines and pilots do to keep those yellow masks tucked safely away in their secret compartments, and airplanes flying smoothly and on time to their destinations.
Now that’s a metaphor that makes more sense.
I laugh at the thought of trying to convince someone like Lisa—-or any woman, for that matter—to put their oxygen mask on before helping the people around them. I just don’t see it happening.
But what if we could begin to connect the dots and recognize that fueling our lives with wellness, rather than sheer adrenaline and diet coke, would help the cause in a more sustainable way?
Maya Angelou said it best, “Nothing will work unless you do.”
Sure, the whole oxygen mask wellness metaphor thing sounds good at first. But look up from your book the next time you fly and really listen to the safety spiel. Deciding whose oxygen mask goes on first is one decision you don’t ever want to make.
It might just be worth switching out your morning diet coke for a nice hot cup of herbal tea.
Feel good. Be well. Meg
Do you tend to wait for a wellness crisis (sheer exhaustion, cold or flu, nervous breakdown?) to slow down and take care of yourself? What would it take to balance self-care with care for others?
Or try this week’s wellness prompt . . .
Wellness Prompt: What are your 3 biggest challenges to taking care of your wellness on a day to day basis? Spend a moment jotting them down. Consider some opportunities for taking care of yourself while continuing to help the ones you love around you. What would they be and what would it take to follow through? Ten minute write . . . go!