When was the last time you were on an airplane? What was the most notable experience about the ride? If you can’t think of something immediately, then, lucky for you it was actually a pretty non-eventful trip. (I’m a pretty anxious flyer so my response to this every time would be “I noticed we didn’t plummet to the ground in a fiery crash.” But I digress…)
Have you ever noticed how few people pay attention to the flight attendants’ pre-flight safety talk? We’re too busy texting the last messages before we have to turn the phone off, or talking to our seatmates. or flipping through the Skymall catalog to see what random but totally awesome items they’ve come up with in the current issue. I try to listen to the flight attendants each time, not because I don’t know the speech by heart. Mostly it’s because I want them to feel like at least one person out there is validating their effort to try to save our lives despite our best efforts to ignore them. One day I realized something really cool about that safety speech: Each time a flight attendant goes through that speech, they give you the most useful piece of creativity/life advice out there.
See if you can spot it:
The cabin is pressurized for your comfort and safety. In the unlikely event of a cabin depressurization, oxygen masks will appear overhead. Reach up and pull the mask closest to you, fully extending the plastic tubing. Place the mask over your nose and mouth, and slip the elastic strap over your head. Tighten by pulling on the ends. The bag does not need to inflate for oxygen to be flowing. If you are seated next to a small child or someone needing assistance, secure your own mask first, then assist the child.
Secure your own mask first.
It’s simple really. Make sure you can breathe before trying to save anyone else. You’re less likely to be able to save anyone else if you are dying – literally and figuratively. To paraphrase an old adage, “If the artist (writer/musician/creative) in the house ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”
In other words, get up in the morning by yourself and write in the silence before you have to make breakfast and get kids out the door to school. Sign up for that yoga class you’ve been dying to take and forgo bringing work home with you once a week. Say no to one commitment you’ve over-scheduled in your life to play guitar with a few friends on a Wednesday night.
Are you aware of what your oxygen mask looks like? Not everybody does or it’s been so long since they’ve used it, they’ve forgotten. If you can’t immediately name three things that feed your soul, fill your well or filter out the negativity in your life, then the first thing you need to do is get in touch with what you truly love in this life. I don’t care if it’s collecting snail shells, writing haiku about barns or Tuvan throat singing, embrace whatever it is and push a space into your life for it.
All those things we really want to do that we never seem to find the time for, the things we say we’ll get to once the lawn is mowed or we’re caught up at work, or once the kids are older, those are the things we should be doing first and fitting everything else in around them. Seriously. I mean come on, you’re doing laundry instead of the one thing that makes you truly happy? I promise, if you shut the door and play your trumpet for an hour, when you come out, that laundry will still be there and you’ll manage to get it done. Or you won’t. On your death-bed, I highly doubt you’ll wish you’d done more loads of laundry.
Secure your own mask first – give yourself just a little bit of what you give away to others. When you can breathe into your own life, spending time doing that thing that makes you happiest, it is so much easier to be present, happy and available for all the other people and obligations in your life that need you to pay attention to them.