The Oxygen Mask Analogy

May 1, 2009 · 7 comments

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating:  there’s an excellent analogy I heard once-upon-a-time that regards self-care, and it goes like this:

There’s a reason why the oxygen mask instructions say to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your children:  if you spend your time trying to put it on your child first, you may pass asphyxiate before you can get it on the child, and then you both die.

By analogy to life, this means:

One has to take care of oneself first, otherwise one cannot be of use to others.

Being a person with some altruistic tendencies, many (if not most) of the things I do are with others in mind.  Shrink my head as much as you like – I won’t disagree that at some level my motives are selfish.  But there’s also a reason why this analogy resonates particularly strongly with me. 

I just read a blog post by Cynthia James that relates directly to this point.  Being possessed of a Y chromosome, and having read some of Marcus Aurelius‘ accounts of stoic philosophy, the term “self-nurturing” does not particularly appeal to me.  Nevertheless, I’m all about increasing my efficiency and effectiveness, so I’m going to give Cynthia’s suggestions a shot.

Cynthia asks that I create a list of three self-nurturing goals that I intend to accomplish (every day) over the next 30 days.  Here is my list:

  1. I will have breakfast every day.  Breakfast for me usually consists of two raw eggs scrambled in a glass with some milk before I leave the house, and two granola bars when I get to work.  I keep the granola bars on my desk and am already pretty good about eating them every day, but I don’t always have the eggs before I leave the house – for some reason I think that those extra 3 minutes will make a crucial difference in what time I get to work.   I will not leave the house without the eggs in my belly.
  2. I will meditate as soon as I get home for at least five minutes every day.  As a corrollary to this, I will also try to be home by 10 PM every day.  Eating dinner past 10:30PM has not been very good for me – and I’ve been doing that for a long time now.  Meditation will be in the form of yoga or simple zazen.
  3. I will do pushups every day.  Probably the best time is first thing in the morning, but after meditation will be fine as well (it’ll help ground me, too).  Pushups are something that I already do on and off.  Besides being good exercise, they’ll also increase my upper-body muscle mass a bit, which will be good for my self-image.  I can currently do 35 pushups at a go – I hope to be at 50 by the end of the 30 days.

These are three things that are already somewhat in my schedule.  I’d rather, though, that they were something I did daily, instead of intermittently.  I’ll mark the date in my Outlook at work (per Cynthia’s suggestion) and let you know how I made out at the end of May.  Wow.  Coincidence that today is May 1st?  Maybe.  Some say there are no coincidences.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott May 1, 2009 at 14:15

If you go VEG for 30 days I will give you 30 bucks a dollar a day buddy.


BRIAN May 1, 2009 at 15:24

If you suck rooster for 30 days I’ll give you $30. See Ted, you could be making some good $ off this blog already!!


niceguyted May 1, 2009 at 17:58

Scott, that’s not enough money. I’ve thought about going vegan for a bit anyway, but the transitions between herbivore and carni-/omnivore don’t sound like they’re too much fun for one’s digestive system.

And thank you, Brian, for once again making me look good by contrast. With you as a friend, why do I even need a Mensa card?


scott May 1, 2009 at 18:16

I eat tofu brian sucks the rooster we are learning a lot today


Tomers May 3, 2009 at 17:57

Two raw eggs mixed with milk?! The thought of that fills me with the urge to vomit. Yet, I also have a strange urge to try it and see if it is as disgusting as it sounds.


niceguyted May 3, 2009 at 23:47

Yeah, I used to try to convince myself that it doesn’t look like snot. I had to give that up and just deal. It’s not so bad and makes a big difference in my day, which lends credence to the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.


Cynthia James May 6, 2009 at 14:29

Good job. I support you 100% in nurturing your beautiful self.



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