Put On Your Oxygen Mask First


I haven’t been in a good place lately. For the most part, you wouldn’t know it; I’m pretty good at hiding my feelings and pretending I’m peachy. I don’t necessarily do it to deceive people, I just push things down because there are too many other things to do and surly me is of no help to anyone.

My wife will be the first to tell you, however, that I am terrible at hiding my feelings. She obviously can see when I’m pushing something down and because she’s nice she lets me believe I’m doing a good job of it so that I can have my dumb pride. But yes, I am terrible at hiding my feelings, and they seep out like a dam that’s about to burst, splashing onto everyone around me that doesn’t deserve to deal with them.

I’ve been pushing down a lot of stress and anger recently. The stress has to do with my personal life as we try to figure out what things will look like when the new baby arrives, how we’ll cover expenses while my wife is on maternity leave (throw in frustration about this country’s terrible maternity leave laws), where to go in my career from where I am, and what our next step will be in the near future. The anger comes from the ridiculous state our country is in, from seeing the daily news cycle which documents the downward spiral of democracy and civil liberties under the buffoon heading this administration, from seeing how this nation is building concentration camps and rationalizing them using God and the Bible. I don’t scream and shout on social media, but the ball of rage is firmly in the pit of my stomach, I assure you.

But as I said, I can’t hide it, and all this negativity spills out onto those around me. I lose my temper far too easy, I raise my voice at my daughter and dog for the smallest dumbest reason, I feel myself frowning all the time. This is not who I want to be. I feel like an ass when I catch myself acting this way, and that then brings me down more.

The quote above is by Warren Ellis. He tends to close his newsletters with a little motivational message, and this is the one for this week. I found that it spoke to me directly, telling me what I needed to hear right now. I’m breaking the message into five statements and writing on how each of them spoke to me, and how I want to improve my situation as a result.

To start with, and directly related to these negative feelings I’ve been repressing, I’m heeding the call to breathe. Not just to breathe, but to put on my oxygen mask first, alluding to the fact that I can’t help others if I haven’t helped myself first. Breathing is more than just about exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, however, it’s about centering yourself, about taking a moment before reacting, about letting go of toxins. I may not be into meditation, but I do recall that when I was doing yoga regularly a few years back, breathing, properly breathing, would help me calm down and center myself.

So I’m putting on my oxygen mask first, I’m breathing, and consequently letting go of all this negative energy inside me. The stressors remain, yes, but I’m choosing to determine how they affect me, how I channel that energy, rather than letting it overtake my life and turn me into an unpleasant person.

Photo by Miikka H, CC BY-SA 2.0.


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