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May 5, 2012
How many times do we have to hear the oxygen mask story?
You know the one rule about oxygen masks, right?
Even those of us who have never flown probably know that if you should ever be on a plane that experiences pressure changes in the cabin, the oxygen masks will fall. You are supposed to put yours on first so you will be able to help others. Years ago, an astute someone applied this truth to our daily lives (especially to women!): You can't help others if you don't take care of yourself.
I'm kind of a rule follower, so I always believed I would put my oxygen mask on first if I was in that situation, but I recently read an article by a woman who experienced a flight in which the oxygen masks fell. She knew the rule too--not to mention that they were being told the rule. But there was a little old woman next to her who was frightened and unable to reach her own mask. The author made the split second decision to disobey the rule. How long could it take, after all, to get the woman's mask on and then hers? Surely she would have time.
In seconds she found herself--not gasping for breath--but getting so lightheaded that she was uncoordinated, fumbling around, unable to think clearly. She was about to pass out! Just in the nick of time she put her own mask on and then was easily able to help the woman.
I felt very convicted by this story. Maybe I would ignore the rule too.
Here's why I think that: I had been trying to schedule some desperately needed time alone for weeks and was feeling the lightheadedness beginning. I knew the calendar was full for weeks. I was getting uncoordinated: I sprained my ankle. It was the day of the 17 or so tornadoes that ripped through Dallas, so I had to hop through hail on one foot to get to the doctor's office and then home. Healthcare being what it is, it took 48 hours and 2 different facility visits to find out that the ankle wasn't broken. I found out over the phone and received no instructions for its care.
If you take one mother out of the picture, it takes at least 3 or 4 people to replace her. But nobody stepped up to replace me. The tornadoes had broken out the front and back windshields and moonroof in my daughter's car, so that afternoon and evening were filled with the family working to remove the glass and water and tape up the windows. Everyone is just as busy as I am--jobs, school, athletics. Steve now had to add wrangling with insurance adjustors and roofers for our totaled roof to his busy schedule. If anyone saw me limping, they told me to sit down, but they didn't do the jobs I had to do. My ankle hurt alot, but I kept going--to work, to Walmart, to a flashmob rehearsal that involved jumping and running and made my ankle even worse. I couldn't stop any of these things. I just kept limping along.
Without realizing the connection, I began to be emotional, inefficient and forgetful. About 10 days after the accident, my 18-year old daughter Danica noticed that I seemed unhappy. She asked me what was wrong. I thought about it and said, "I think it's that my ankle hurts." She looked down and said, "Why aren't you wearing a brace?"
I looked down too. A brace. What a good idea. I made a mental note to get myself one at Walmart later that day. Without either of us realizing it, she had just put an oxygen mask on me, although it didn't give me enough clarity to ask someone else to go to Walmart and get a brace for me. But I was getting slightly more oxygenated and had an epiphany on the drive to work. I called our women's ministry leader and asked her to give me permission to do what I knew I needed to do: drop out of the flashmob. I didn't want to let down the "team." I realized later that I was essentially asking her if it was ok to keep the oxygen mask on myself. "Is it okay if I take care of myself, even if others are inconvenienced by it?"
I was sucking in some serious O2 with this brave decision (anyone in their sound mind would have already made). Previously muddled cogs began to consider solutions to my ankle and oxygen problems. I got to work, called Steve and got his support for a 3-day hotel stay in which I would get off my foot. I was in the hotel by 2pm, working remotely for the next day and half and then writing, sleeping, and reading the rest of the time. My ankle stopped hurting. My thoughts and creativity began to return. I had been like Joe Peschi in that Snickers commercial: you're not you when you're hungry.
I wonder how many times I will have to hear the oxygen mask story. This incident taught me how unresponsive I am to my body's signals. When I ignored its pleas for solitude, rest and care for an injury, my emotions took up the call and my mind began to shut down. Heart, mind, soul and strength...all begging the slave driver in me to put down the whip.
I learned my lesson.Without a doubt, if I'm ever on a plane and oxygen masks fall, I will put mine on first. It's time to do that on the ground. No one else is going to mother me.
What about you? Have you ever been in a plane when the oxygen masks fell? What did you experience? How well are you doing at keeping the oxygen mask on yourself here on the ground?