Attach Your Own Oxygen Mask First

You know what they say on airplanes: In case of emergency, attach your own oxygen mask first, and then assist those around you. After all, if you’re dead, you’re no good to anyone. (Unless you’re really rich, and you leave someone your fortune, I guess, or if you’re an asshole, and your dying makes everyone’s lives better…but, you know what I mean.)

There’s “dead” as in, stone cold dead, in a biological sense but there’s another meaning, too. Life exists on a spectrum between fully alive, activated, and engaged, and….well, dead inside.

It feels like I’ve been dying a little bit lately. I realize the hyperbole of that statement. But it’s been ages since I had time to write. I’ve been moving, packing, unpacking, organizing, planning, and cleaning. I’ve been taking care of my daughter at times she’d usually be in daycare, because everything’s topsy-turvy in our lives. Her new school doesn’t start ‘til fall, so she’s been spending some days with grandparents, other days in a new nanny share, and many, many days with Jordan and me.

The nanny seems to be good with her, but isn’t terribly reliable. She was supposed to watch Ali every day of the week except Thursdays, but informed me a week before her start date, “Sorry, I can’t do Tuesdays anymore!” (it was the most cheerful, non-regretful-sounding “apology” I’ve ever heard). Then yesterday, her first day on the job, she informed with similar levels of cheer that she couldn’t make it this Friday.

I then spent half my workday (the time I was paying someone to watch my child) trying to line up someone else to watch my child.

These last few weeks, I’ve been mommy and homemaker and move coordinator and grocery shopper and family organizer and communicator but I have not been artist, or business owner. Those parts of me have been in a suitcase, yet to be unpacked, and it’s making me feel completely disembodied. Pissy. Dead.

You might say that for someone as organized as I am, a period of chaos like this one is a good learning opportunity  a chance to grow. I would listen to you, respectfully, and nod a bit, knowing you were right. And then I would punch you.  

Not really — I’m not that violent. But, I’d want to.

Because I don’t want to “grow.” I want to write. And work with my clients. And have my house all painted and set up the way I want it, and my daughter in daycare from 9-5, and peace in the kingdom. I want things to be normal. Then I can get messy, creatively. Then I can improvise. But first, I need the structure.

This morning, I worked it out with Jordan that I could have a few hours to work and write while he watched Ali. I felt like a free woman as I walked the five blocks to the coffee shop in our new neighborhood. Writing this feels like sucking in air from my oxygen mask, hard. Soon I’ll be ready to help my seat mates with theirs. I’ll be ready to mother. To give.

But I need to give to myself first.

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