Sunday, March 28, 2010


A while back, during a particularly rough period, I wrote a note to a listserv I'm on for parents of "twice exceptional" kids. (Twice exceptional, or 2E, is a way of saying someone is  intellectually gifted and also has some sort of disability.) I'm on the list primarily because of Big Guy. He's very bright, but has dysgraphia and slow processing speed, so his output is not proportional to what he knows. (If you know a kid like this, take a look at Mel Levine's The Myth of Laziness.) 

There are other kinds of disabilities represented on my 2E list as well: severe ADHD, early-onset schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, Asperger's Syndrome, and so on. The parents tend to be wise-through-weariness types, sympathetic people who are used to dealing with extremely difficult kids. It's one of my go-to places when Big Guy has challenged every ounce of my resourcefulness, and I need help from those who have struggled through similar situations.

In the note I wrote to the list, I outlined several new challenges that had arisen with which I felt unable to cope. Within an hour a half-dozen people wrote back. Their responses were compassionate, heartfelt, understanding. And they all said the same thing:

           Put on your own oxygen mask first.

I knew that. I knew it but had forgotten it, or forgotten where I put my oxygen mask, or forgotten how to turn on the valve.

So in recent weeks I've been thinking a lot about oxygen masks. The first thing I considered was that if I'm living my life in alignment with my priorities, there will be many times when I place the common good (like the needs of my family) above my own desires and needs. That's normal, and important, and healthy. Most of us can afford to 'sacrifice' quite a bit of attention to ourselves without any ill effect.

The second thing I considered was that oxygen masks aren't needed every day. They are designed for emergencies. Oxygen should be a naturally occurring substance in our lives. If it's not, something's out of balance and we have to figure out what that is.

Finally, there's the issue of oxygen flow. When I'm feeling depleted, what is it, really, that takes that grayish tinge out and brings back a rosy hue? This takes significant thought. Knock exotic places to go and luxurious things to do off your list; in a crisis there's rarely major funding (or time) available. Besides, oxygen is pretty basic stuff. 

Oxygen can be found in laughter, solitude, companionship, sleep, glorious art, thought-provoking conversations, exercise, good music, books that stretch your mind, prayer, acts of kindness, or any one of hundreds of simple things. Here's hoping you have an ample supply.

1 comment:

  1. You redecorated!

    You are a fount of wisdom, you are.