Secure your own oxygen masks first…..

#Quest2015, Day 11.

Theme: Service.

Visionary: Tara Mohr.

Your Quest2015 Prompt today:

How can I be of highest service?

I’m behind on my Quest responses. In part, it’s due to the chaos of the holidays. No matter how much I pare down, strip away, attempt to simplify, it seems this time of year always spirals a bit out of control. It’s so easy to slip my moorings and find myself suddenly adrift in a sea of stress, expectation, and obligation. There’s a lot of love, fun, and joy in there, too. But it all makes for a distractingly dazzling mix in which light and shadow play upon each other, the laughter balancing the last-minute freakouts until it’s impossible to imagine one without the other.

I can’t blame it all on the holidays, though. I’ve been resisting this prompt for a while. Perhaps because of the season, the idea of service grated on me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived my entire life in service–trying to be a good daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, student, teacher, wife, mother…….

Over the past couple of years, my path toward minimalism has inspired me to let go of many commitments that didn’t add value to my life. Most of these were obligations–to committees and groups, all of them worthy but their cumulative total of time and stress not worth the toll they were taking on me.

I’m still working on being the “yes”-girl, the one who always wants to help with the party, event, cause, etc. I want to make everybody happy, and in the process, I’ve been denying myself happiness.

The thing about happiness, I’m beginning to realize, is that not only do we each find it on our own terms, but my terms are going to look downright bizarre to others. Since downsizing my commitments, my resounding and tentative “yes”es, I’ve worried that others will see me as lazy. If I’m not running to and fro like a chicken with its head cut off, I’m afraid I won’t fit in. I’ve begun to realize just how deeply counter-cultural it is to say no, to honor myself, to protect my soul. I’m the only one who truly knows what I need.

I also know all the platitudes about helping yourself first, being good to yourself before you can be good to others. I’ve spend most of my life trying to be good to others first. So in 2015, I’m going to work on embracing the idea that service begins at home–and not in the sense of housework or child care, but my very own house, the house of my body and soul.

I think this is why I and many others have resisted the service prompt–because we feel drained by the service we’ve already given.

For me, service needs to start with a return to the basics: nourishing body and soul with exercise, sleep, food, rest, tea, and play. This Quest has reminded me, perhaps above anything else, that play is a crucial component of my health and happiness.

If you’d like to read some excellent responses to this prompt, please have a look at these pieces by my fellow questers:

Lauren Ayer: “I believe that it isn’t just things we are wasting—we are losing people, too. Unique and important beings slip through the cracks every day. Just as every day those cracks grow wider and deeper and hungrier. I believe in ‘no one left behind,’ in ‘never give up,’ in ‘no one is an island,’ in ‘every life is worth living,’ worth saving—starting with our own.”

Mark Horn: “What if collected illusions of brokenness are melted away one conversation at a time? I wonder.”

Molly Morrissey: “Getting curious to see where fear still holds me back, where I’m still living according to an old story, one that no longer serves me even if it once did, takes energy. Staying in this place of wonder requires the development of not only even stronger self-care, but also the development of courage, applied in just the right measure and at just the right time. (Too much courage is just bravado. Wrongly-timed courage is wasted effort.)”

4 thoughts on “Secure your own oxygen masks first…..

  1. This is thought-provoking for me. I am an introvert and a single mother of three. I have my life set up in such a way that I have a few hours alone twice a week. This is time I use for doctor’s appointments, trips to the grocery store, cleaning the house efficiently (in the way I am not able to do when the kids are home), sometimes having lunch with an adult friend, and exercising. This means my Saturdays are filled with activities that center around my kids, not with errands. This means my sick leave is reserved for staying at home with my children, not my own personal appointments. This means I can stay active and try to avoid the diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that have killed, and are killing, members of my family. This means my evenings are filled with homework and not chores. This means I can sometimes go on field trips with my kids and volunteer at their school. But…I feel guilty and selfish. I don’t often tell people exactly what I have set up because I don’t want their judgement. I should be working more. I should be with my kids more. But, if I were to change my schedule, I’d be “on” 24/7, and I don’t want to pay the emotional price. I think of mothers I know who work full time and have ill spouses. Their situation is not much different than mine—they don’t get any down time either. So, why should I be lucky enough to have the opportunity to have time to myself? Why should I get to have an actual work/life balance? No one else does. It’s a really odd place to be. I do know of couples whose parents or siblings will take their kids for a weekend sometimes, or a week in the summer. Neither of those things are possibilities for me. I love my life. I’m really, really happy. But I also feel as if I have this dark, guilty secret.

    1. Thank you so, so much for sharing this. It makes me happy to know that you are happy. And I think that any time someone is happy, we should all celebrate that and praise that person, and then try to figure out how we can be happy, too. The guilt we put on each other, whether intentionally or unintentionally, openly or by implication–is not okay. You deserve all the happiness that comes your way.

  2. I have nothing to add, no witty comments. I said a big “yes” to play a few years ago. There’s been no going back (well, maybe momentarily) for me.

    Thanks and playful blessings,

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