Oxygen Mask Rule

Ever since I can remember, I lived by the philosophy of “Others First.”  As a youngest child, my mother, in true old-school Italian style,  often reminded me of the elevated status of my two older brothers.   She would say, “When your brothers need something, get it for them.”  I could hardly watch a TV show without having to go to the kitchen to get one of them a bowl of ice cream.  I remember wondering at an early age  if I would ever really matter.

The mantra of helping others was reinforced by my Catholic education, reminding me always to take care of others and not be selfish.   My role models were the nuns at Marymount College  whose life work was to do for others.  All of this led to my becoming a  good sister, a good wife, and a good mother.  Years later, as my children were all on their own and I no longer had a spouse, I wondered whom I was going to care for.

But on my flight  to start a new life in Sarasota FL , for the very first time in my life, I heard a different message.  The  flight attended began her routine monologue about the exits, the emergency white lighting on the floor, and the oxygen masks that would drop in the “unlikely event of an emergency.” I had heard that talk literally thousands of times, but this time her routine words had a special meaning for me.   Regarding the oxygen masks she said, “If you have a child with you, secure your own mask first, then help your child”–translation: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST!!!!!

And there you have it….Take care of yourself first

The “Oxygen Mask Rule” speaks to the point that if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot possibly be helpful to others.    When you think of it, how can you possibly help your children, tend to your aging parents, influence your grandchildren, and be available to coach and guide friends and business associates to be at their best, when you do not have order within your own self?

Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN levels understand that they have to be in good physical and mental health in order to be what they wish to be and all the world expects of them. “Oxygen Mask Philosophy” would indicate that a top priority for women is that they exercise and eat healthy, that they find time for themselves to relax and manage the stress of life, and that they send a different message to their world than the one I had received as a young child.

I continue to struggle implementing  the “Oxygen Mask Rule” as I continue to put others needs in front of my own.  As a matter of fact, at a recent dinner with my brothers and their wives, I found myself throughout the meal asking the waiter for things to please my brother Mike to increase the likelihood that he would enjoy his meal, and my meal got cold. My sisters-in-law find my behavior odd, but I do not think they understand the power of the message given to me as a three-year old child and reinforced through my college years.

I have grown in this regard, yet I  still have room to improve.  I cannot be at my best if I have not had my physical exercise and yet when I will visit my children for 3-5 days I totally forget my exercise, putting me on a back burner.  I revert back to the old message of  taking care of others first.  I need  to fix that.  And as we approach a new year, what better time to set this  as a priority!

“Oxygen Mask Rule”–take care of YOU first.

How about you?  Does the Oxygen Mask Rule  have any meaning in your life?

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3 responses to “Oxygen Mask Rule

  1. You can not be compassionate to others if you are not first compassionate to yourself. A good way to begin a new year!

  2. It took me a while to really get this concept. Perhaps it is accurate to say that only when I was truly on my own with no one else who depended on me, did I embrace this and understand what I had neglected.

  3. cynthia geracoulis

    Hi Maryann! You probably don’t remember me, but I was a friend of your niece, Lynda—visited your home in Newburgh (millions of years ago) and went to the spa weekend you put together at, um, the name escapes me..La Costa?? hmmmmm….somewhere in San Diego. Anyways….wow! Was “facebooking” and sometimes go on these tangents looking people up from my past and BAM!! I needed to see your blog…..once again in my life I am NOT taking care of me, and need to! Thanks for the reminder! I’ll be stopping by again….BTW you look fabulous!!!!! 🙂 Thanks! Cynthia

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