Monday, April 19, 2010

"Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others..."

Over the past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  The circumstances by which I attended this conference were almost serendipitous.  A colleague heard about the conference and mentioned it to her supervisor, who said it would be a great professional development opportunity.  Her supervisor then mentioned that she should ask me to go.  INTERESTING.  We work in separate divisions, and I'm not someone in the supervisor's sphere on a daily basis.  So, when I heard about this conference, took a look at the website and the workshop descriptions, and found out I would be getting a free trip to Baltimore, I thought, HECK YEAH!

The conference took place during a full weekend of events at work.  My women's leadership group had an important culminating activity as part of their community service project on Saturday, and on Sunday the student staff we just hired for our summer program had their first training session.  However, for some reason, I felt the need to go to this conference.  I got the go-ahead from all parties involved, and I went.  I truly enjoyed myself, and came back yesterday with a new energy that I needed.

The entire spring semester had been personally and professionally taxing.  Family and relationship issues were weighing heavily on me, and I had been staying at work late almost every night.  When I say late, I don't mean an hour.  I was leaving work three or four hours later, either because I had an event to coordinate or attend, or because someone needed to talk to me.  No matter how much I said I needed to take care of myself, I found myself sacrificing myself because I felt needed.

Finally, after several months of late nights and weekends at work, I got sick.  Fever, chills, sore throat, sinus headache, and a cough lasted more than these things ever need to last.  Obviously, my immune system was not working well.  I had to miss several days of work during academic advisement, one of the busiest times of the semester.  While I was home sick, I thought, "I have been sick for the past three days, had the past two days off from work because I have run myself into the ground, and I wonder, how do I stop that from happening?"  When I was married, my ex-husband would make me get in bed when I started to look "peaked" as he used to say.  But now, it doesn't seem to hit me until it hits me full force.  No one is there to make me get in bed.  No one is calling me to come home.  No one really kicks me out of the office, either.  People always tell me I need to take care of myself, but the question remains: "How do I take care of myself?" 

The keynote speaker at the Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation, Dee Marshall, was a ball of energy who had so many inspiring things to say.  The theme of her keynote speech was "Do You, Be You, Love You".  I think I have the "Do You" and "Be You" portions down; and I do love myself, but as I stated in my last post, love requires action.  I'm not doing anything to show myself, or others for that matter, that I love myself.  Loving others requires that you love yourself first; you have to fill your own tank with love before trying to share love with others.  At one point in her speech Ms. Marshall stated, "Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others."  That really hit home.  In order for me to "Love Me", I have to "secure my oxygen mask".  Let's look at the definition of those words, courtesy of

Verb: To free from danger or harm; make safe; to effect; make certain of; ensure; to protect from attack by taking cover.  Adjective: Free from care; without anxiety.

A nonmetallic element constituting 21 percent of the atmosphere by volume that occurs as a diatomic gas, 
and in many compounds such as water and iron ore. It combines with most elements, and is essential for plant and animal respiration. 

Any protective covering for the face or head.
If we look at the definitions of the above words, the phrase "Secure your own oxygen mask" means to protect yourself from harm and ensure your safety by utilizing the necessary elements for your survival.  Once you are able to identify the elements necessary for your survival, you can protect your mind, body, and spirit.  Once all of these necessary elements of your life are protected - then, and only then - are you are able to assist others.  

I find it interesting that the adjective "secure" means "free from care; without anxiety".  Taking care of myself will help me to be free from care and less anxious.  This will make me better and more effective to those who require my assistance.

The Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation conference gave me an opportunity to step back from everything that has caused me stress and anxiety, and affirmed that I am valuable enough, to myself and to others, to "secure my own oxygen mask".  I am more determined now than I have ever been to learn what "loving me" really means.  I know that once I can "love me" - by identifying the necessary elements for my survival and implementing them on a daily basis - others will have a better, more effective version of me.

Am I right or what?  What are some ways we can "secure our oxygen masks"? 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Lessons on Love (Because I'm still learning...)

In a previous post, I wrote about having gone through divorce, and touched on my recent venture out into the world of dating.  Although things haven't gone the way I hoped with that particular person, the experience served as empirical research as I seek to understand and empathize with the students I work with, the majority of whom are struggling in romantic relationships.  A break in any relationship is painful, but it also provides an opportunity for reflection and growth.

I took some time to think about my experiences, and over the past few weeks have found that these reflections have been helpful to more than a few young women, and I decided to post them here.  So, here are more lessons.  Although they are directed towards women in relationships with men, I believe these are useful in all kinds of relationships.

  • You can fall in love many times.  You'll always love those you fell in love with.  But the one whom you show your appreciation to and who shows you he appreciates you is the one that lasts. You can live without someone you fell in love with.  The one who shows you he doesn't want to live without you is the one that matters.
  • Falling in love is a feeling. Living in love requires action.  It is a demonstration of how you feel. If you don't demonstrate that you love the person you claim to love, then to that person, there is no love. People don't see feelings unless there's an action that demonstrates the feeling.  
  • If you, as the lover, cannot demonstrate how you feel, then you might want to reflect upon whether or not you love yourself.  People who love themselves want to pour that love out onto others.  If you're bankrupt in the love department, you believe you have nothing to give.  
  • Loving yourself is not selfish; it's actually selfish not to love yourself, because you don't want to share yourself with others when you have no love of self.  
  • People who are always worried about getting hurt lack love for themselves.  They don't believe that someone else will want the best for them.  They don't believe they are worthy of being treated well.
  • Don't get stuck on one person, especially if he's not showing you that he loves you. But be careful that you're not looking for one specific demonstration of love. There are many ways to show love.  It's when there's no action behind the words "I love you" that you need to move on. 
  • Believe that you can, and will, fall in love again.  There's not one "soulmate" for everyone.  The person who wants to work through the hard work of love with you is your mate.  Walking in love together is what binds you to the person, not some cosmic force.  
  • Take the good you've learned from every relationship, and throw out the bad. Don't harbor any bad feelings for someone.  Hurt people hurt people. If someone hurts you, try to see what's behind the hurt. There are, most likely, issues of rejection in that person's life.  Don't let that person's issues attach themselves to you.  But don't try to fix his issues either.    Trying to fix someone is selfish. It's manipulative.  You want to change or fix someone because you want him to do what you want, or be how you want him to be.  He has to want to change for his own sake. Let that person go through his journey on his own.  Who knows?  His journey may lead him back to you.
  • Be grateful for every opportunity you've had to demonstrate your love. It makes you better at loving yourself and others.
Who knows when these reflections will end?  I'm still learning.

- Trish