When you fly on a commercial jet, before take off, you are reminded that if the cabin should lose pressure an oxygen mask will come down from the ceiling. They emphasize that you secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Their reasons are both practical and logical. If you pass out and/or die because you did not take care of yourself first, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. The same is true of mental health.
Imagine yourself as a pitcher made of glass and full of water. The water, which we all need to survive represents all the good stuff you can give to yourself and others. Things like love, care, compassion, generosity. You can’t make your pitcher larger, glass doesn’t stretch.
Each day, week and year we as individuals decide with whom we will share our “water” including leaving some for ourselves. Some will opt to give little drops to practically everyone, others will pour out zealous amounts on just a few (if they want it or not), and the smart ones will keep a close eye on the level of water in their own pitcher and be sure to refill it before it gets empty.
Most of us have had a time or two when we let ourselves run dry. We either underestimated our strength and thought we could will ourselves to continue with no water or we got so caught up in attending to everyone else that we simply didn’t notice the water was getting low until it was too late. An empty pitcher can’t help anyone until it gets refilled. Good people don’t want to be selfish but it is only in refilling our own pitcher that we can pour into others.
Fortunately, we can refill our pitchers; we can even allow others to help us with the task. A completely empty pitcher takes a long time to refill. It is better to refill regularly. The empty pitcher, like the person on the plane that passed out from not putting on their oxygen mask, is now part of the problem. They can’t possible give anything to someone else no matter how great the need. Some people get a few drops in their pitcher and then immediately pour it into someone else’s perpetuating a cycle of being empty, aka, tired, unproductive and unpleasant to be around.
Last week I talked about feeling irritable and that several friends had told me they were feeling the same way. An acquaintance from back in our college days reached out to me by email with suggestions. His intentions were sincere but his suggestions were not going to add anything to my water level. His ideas were, for the most part, so far from what I would actually enjoy that I laughed as I read.
It is great to try to help out one another and I appreciated his effort although I didn’t employ any of his ideas. As I responded to the email, explaining why I was going to, “just say no”. I thought instead about things that I really wanted to do.
I got up early this morning and went for a long run with my dog. I selected a stretch of highway that I used to run frequently but had just recently reattained the level of endurance it requires. Once back home, I had yet another cup of coffee, which was one more than I usually allow myself. My shower was long and hot. I am now sitting on my own front porch with my feet propped up as I type my blog post. The sun is shining, the air is fresh and sweet. In a few minutes I might even take a nap. I am looking forward to a hair appointment next month and seeing my son next week for the first time in two months. It isn’t the stuff of trashy novellas or risque videos, suggested by my long time acquaintance. It is way better than that, it is Covid-19 self care at it’s finest as I realize that if it weren’t for the pandemic I probably wouldn’t allow myself such indulgence.
I am refilling my pitcher to the brim and I will soon be ready to help some others that are dangerously close to empty or perhaps even bone dry, but first, I’m taking the nap.
Be well my friends and as always thanks for spending a few minutes reading.
Thank you to the following that allowed the use of their photographs: Sven, Clint McCoy, Jared Rice and Dustin Belt