Secure YOUR oxygen mask...

My little brother and I flew many times as kids; he is 3 years younger than me. Our flight pattern went from the Burbank airport into San Francisco and then back. I do not recall how many flights we shared, maybe a dozen or so; enough to create this engraved memory.

I believe I was 9 years old for our first flight, we always sat together, and we always sat toward the front of the plane.

This specific memory is not about our seats so much, or the experience, but of the flight attendants and their scripted routine announcement. I always made sure to pay attention, granted, by our 3rd flight I could have recited the announcement myself. I still paid attention. I was worried they could have changed something since our last flight, and how would I know what the change was if I did not pay attention. I had my little brother to take care of and I always wanted to be sure he was safe. I was an overachiever in the responsibility department.

The flight attendant would start the announcement:

  • How to buckle your seatbelt…
    • I would make sure his belt was fastened properly.
  • How to use your seat cushion as a flotation device…
    • This one always got me. My thought process:  "Oh, I cannot show him I am frightened, I hope he doesn't ask me why we would need to float.”
  • And finally be sure to secure your oxygen mask before helping children, the disabled or people needing assistance.
    • My thought process with this instruction went something like this: “I always follow the rules. But I truly do not understand why I would save myself before saving my brother. If those masks fall during our flight, I am not going to do it the way they say; I am going to make sure his mask is secure, before I secure my mask.”

That last sentence— “I am always going to make sure he is okay before I am okay”, became a pattern in my life. Whoever the party was, my brother(s), parents, children, husband, I always made sure everyone else was taken care of.

In fact, it wasn’t until the flight I took from Los Angeles to Atlanta with my 4 year old son and 6 month old daughter, sitting in my seat, outnumbered by my children; listening to that same announcement ring through— that I knew, I had to secure my mask before my children.

That was the first glimpse into the bigger picture of life, however, I still had no idea I wasn’t taking proper care of myself. I thought taking care of myself meant taking care of everyone else first. If I just keep pushing to make everyone else happy, my happiness is bound to show up.

Of course, needless to say, it took many years, therapy, reading, repeating to myself, that I am enough; setting boundaries and following thru with positive goals, to truly understand, that those around me will be happy on their terms. Most of my family will share their happiness with me when they see my happiness.

34 years later, I can honestly say, I will put my mask on quickly and securely and then help as many as I can around me.

Of course, I hope I am never on a flight where the oxygen masks open from the ceilings.


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