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 Dictionary.com:
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"?