Taking Care of Yourself

The flight attendant stood at the front of the plane mechanically giving safety instructions for the flight. It was obvious that she could probably give those same instructions in her sleep, because she had done it so many times. Just like her, I had heard them so often that I didn't even look up from my magazine to see where the exit rows, the float cushion or the oxygen mask was located. However, something she said caught my attention this time. “In the event of an emergency, the oxygen mask will drop from overhead. Put the mask over you nose and mouth. If you are traveling with a small child or an infant, put your mask on first, then help the child.”

The flight attendant stood at the front of the plane mechanically giving safety instructions for the flight. It was obvious that she could probably give those same instructions in her sleep, because she had done it so many times. Just like her, I had heard them so often that I didn’t even look up from my magazine to see where...It would be easy to think that the responsible thing to do would be to help the child with their mask first, and then grab the dangling mouthpiece for yourself, but what she said made sense. A lack of oxygen due to a depressurized airplane cabin would cause hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain. It would only take approximately three minutes without oxygen for a person to lose consciousness or even suffer a heart attack. So how much help would they be then?

When I arrived at the conference I was attending, a speaker on time management emphasized the responsibility of taking care of yourself first–before trying to care for all the other people in your life, such as families, jobs and friends. For some people that behavior is not always easy, especially if that is not what you saw happen in your family when you grew up. I cannot remember my mother taking care of herself before she took care of us. The memory I have is of a woman who rose early to build a fire, milk a cow, cook breakfast, and get us off to school and work.  While we were gone she cleaned the house, wash clothes, hung them on the line to dry, tended a small garden, fed her chickens, canned food, made our clothes, and had our meal prepared when we all returned in the evening. Maybe not all in one day, but those were ongoing activities that took place each day. I can remember her buying one new dress and relaxing only when she was planting flowers or watching television at night, which she would have gladly given up to read us a book. I also remember her having a lot of health problems, but she was too busy to do anything about them, even when my older brother would try to take her to the doctor. She died of a stoke at age 52, when I was 13. She may have lived to see us all grow up if she had realized how important it was to take care of her health. But when I was talking to a friend about this subject, she reminded me that it is also important to take care of yourself by letting others love you.

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“It is the same way about having love in your heart,” she said. “It is hard to give something to someone else if you don't have any inside.” I am sure our mother loved us, but she didn't see that taking care of her health was a way of loving us. If she had, that would have given us many more years with her, which is what my siblings and I needed the most. When the conference was over, I visited my daughter for a few days. One morning I awoke to the sound of soft music downstairs. I got up and went to the nursery where my granddaughter was playing in her bed.  Thinking my daughter didn't know she was awake, I dressed her and carried her downstairs in time to see my daughter stretching her body to the rhythm of a popular tune. “I guess you didn't know this little one was awake, did you,” I teased. “Oh yes, I knew she was a wake, but I try to get my yoga exercises in before I get her up in the mornings.” she said.

Motherhood has a way of making you think that the more you give to your family the better you are loving them, but if you are aren't strong, rested and healthy the people you love may not be receiving all they need–and that is you. I watched the next few days as she cared for her child and her home. She ate well, exercised, read books, spent loving time with her husband and kept her mind stimulated with some freelance medical writing when her daughter went down for her naps. As a result, it was obvious that our 20-month-old granddaughter was a happy and healthy child.

My mother probably never imagined that she would ride in an airplane, but if she had, I have to wonder, if she would have gotten the same message I did when the airline attendant demonstrated the need to save yourself by putting on the oxygen mask before trying to save the child next to you?

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more