The year of the oxygen mask

My current goal is to make 2019 the year I finally find my oxygen mask.  You know, “make sure your own mask is on first before helping others”?


In October 2016 I was having a very stressful time and then election day hit.  It did not go well for feminists.  Fortunately I had recently started therapy again and was still on one psychiatric medication, but I got an additional one at the suggestion of an excellent psychiatrist who is unfortunately hard to get hold of and who doesn’t take my insurance.  At the time I was working with a group that researched (among other things) health in Latinx communities, and I am White.  I was chicken and called in sick to work the day after election day.  Then I pulled myself together.  You know how politics has gone since then.

A week later, my beloved father-in-law died unexpectedly.  Most of 2017 was spent in mourning.  In 2017, our cat almost died several times and then did die (we have new ones now!), and my beloved grandmother died just before Christmas (she was very old, and the heart of the family), and my other grandmother’s dementia got the best of her.  Her body is still walking around, but she’s away with the fairies.  There were a few months where our apartment seemed to have contagious depression.  My sister’s husband was laid off in a really dickish way in mid-December of 2017.  Friends were sad and anxious.  Far-away family struggled with finances, finding my grandmother a nursing home that would take her (achieved in 2018!), and my beloved aunt got very very sick in early to mid-2018 and perforated her bowel from the stress of it (surgery, months with an ostomy bag, weight down to less than 90 lbs.).  My cousin almost died and had to have emergency brain surgery the night of Christmas Eve 2017, causing his father my uncle to miss his own mother’s funeral.  In 2017 and 2018, my father got diagnosed with something potentially scary (he’s fine now, but has an occasional midnight panic attack), my sister struggled with infertility, my mother-in-law and her whole family grieved and mourned, I quit my job and got another (where I have a good boss), and so did my partner.

Going into 2019, I have just recently, like in the past few months, started to feel like I can even take a breath.  2018 was something of a dumpster fire, but it was also the year of the gradual, eventual turnaround for people I care about.  We might be ok now; I just need like another 6 months of nobody dying and I’ll be able to brain again.  Come on, just make it six more months!

It’s been a struggle, folks.

Finally Finding the Oxygen Mask in 2019:

I’m against New Year’s resolutions.  I suck at them.  I decided to try doing small but good things for myself each month in 2019.  (I got the idea for the first one from Lifehacker.)  Doing a big thing, or even a couple medium things, is totally outside my capacity for now.  I hope that by doing these small things, I will be substantially less cranky by the end of 2019.  I will also stay on my meds and in therapy.

January:  Don’t spend money except on food (or toilet paper).  I thought this was going to be easy but it turns out I already messed up in the second week of Jan., and barely noticed!  The point of this challenge is mainly to *notice*.  I’ll keep working on it.

February:  Go on Patreon and sign up to support at least 2 creators whose work I appreciate.

March:  Eat down the pantry and freezer.  Defrost those noms.

April:  Clean up my damn room.  Put stuff away and keep it clean-ish.

May:  Information/news break.  Absolutely no clicking on twitter links or links that look like they might be irritating; use facebook only for the one (closed) group I’m in.  [#2 will keep you all in links :)]

June:  Moar blogging! [#2 WOOOOO!!!!]

July:  Eat more delicious fruit & local veg.

August:  Eat more delicious fruit & local veg.

September:  Deeply Rest.  Still figuring out what this will mean, but I came up with this phrase that sounds appealing.

October:  Focus on reading for enjoyment.

November:  Absolutely no news exposure from any source. [#2 will keep you all in links :)]

December:  Focus on reading for enjoyment.  Don’t go anywhere.

#2 notes:  Those of us with oxygen masks can help carry the load for those who are finding theirs.  There will be important actions to do in 2019!

Do you plan to improve self-care in 2019?  How?  Or do you have a routine that’s working for you?  

27 Responses to “The year of the oxygen mask”

  1. ellie Says:

    My main self-care thing is going to be maintaining an exercise routine– which I actually started in November of 2018. It’s requiring that I get up at 5:15 and I’ll need to bump it earlier as things progress, but– if I can keep it going, it’ll be good for me on a lot of fronts. Especially weight loss–I gained a lot of weight in the last 2 years, and I’m really ready to get my body back to where it feels more comfortable.

  2. rose Says:

    Some decades ago life was being highly unpleasant, HIGHLY nasty.
    A woman I knew only slightly took me to lunch and told me her story of a terrible time in her life and that she had finely gone to see her parish priest for guidance. (She was Catholic, I am not. I strongly suggest you now picture your favorite picture of a plump monk with tonsure and long robes with rope belt, etc) after she told the story to him 3 times (because clearly he wasn’t ‘getting it’) he said: My dear, XYZ are happening and almost 2000 years of Catholic history (RIght, this was pre yr 2K) have made it clear that in times of trouble, every day one must: sleep regular hours in a regular place, eat regular food regularly every day, recreate (not procreate) regularly every day ~~ and in time your answers will be clear.” When I have shared this over the years I also encourage people to every day step outside (weather permitting), even briefly, and find one item of natural beauty to notice and really see. Hold on a half minute at a time if need be. Breathing in and out and repeating. Plant both feet firmly on the ground/floor and feel centered in the present second, and then the next. These are oxygen masks.
    Know you are not alone. Hold psychic hands; read this blog site, watch some puppies or kitten videos.
    Because it is hard. We do need hold each others hands in the scary dark. There are people putting their hands out to you for mutual support. Be as kind to you as you would be to anyone else you liked/loved.
    You have a good list of monthly ideas too!

    PS: It did get better. The Golden Rule assumes you are kind to you so you can emulate that to others…. remember that half, especially women seem to miss that idea.

  3. delagar Says:

    You’ve been having a bad time. <>

    I like your plans for the oxygen mask!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks. Reading books is important to me, too. I enjoyed Fault Lines! It reminds me so much of the Liaden series (which is a compliment!). Also, have you read Ascension by Jaqueline Koyanagi? You might like it.

      Fortunately, the Christmas season has supplied me with *many* things to read.

  4. chacha1 Says:

    That is an exhausting litany of woe. :-( So sorry you had so much to cope with. Getting through it is an achievement.

    Last year, end of May, I unconsciously did the oxygen mask thing. Work anxiety had reached such a pitch that the only thing, literally the one thing, that made me feel less hopeless was submerging myself in writing. This turned out to be highly productive and by the end of the year I felt like me again. Work is still a shitshow but IDGAF. Some personal issues are still problematic but IDGAF. My yard is neglected and my house is dusty and IDGAF. I am writing.

  5. Leah Says:

    I think this is a great idea. This month, we are doing your March goal. We call it pantry/freezer orphan time. Check out the blog Yes & Yes and her “no grocery challenge” if you want support in that goal. I reorganized two cupboards last weekend, brought a bunch of uneaten snacks to a social time (where they got used!), and have committed to buying no meat until we use up all the meat in our freezer. I’m also increasing my vegetable intake.

    I hope this goes well for you! Keep us updated.

  6. bogart Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about all those things. Oxygen mask = good idea, and here’s hoping 2019 will be kinder.

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    You remind me of online friend Little Green Revelation (experienced personal injury, lost both parents, sister diagnosed with cancer all in the space of 12 months) and I just want to wrap both of you in warm and fuzzy wool and put up a big shield around the outside.

    I’m doing my best to manage my own oxygen mask. That includes getting massages regularly, making the best of our decision to adopt Sera, working with her and training her as best we can, as consistently as possible, try to get more than 5 hours of sleep per night instead of fighting sleepiness to read. I don’t have a set routine yet but here’s to finding a good one in 2019!

  8. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    That sounds like a very hard couple of years, and I am glad to hear that things are finally stabilizing. Here are a couple of virtual oxygen tanks as your New Year’s present!

  9. becca Says:

    Yikes that’s a lot! It sometimes seems like these things all clump together. Sending all the emergency fluffy kittens!

    I’ve been trying to carve out different self care habits and figure out what helps keep me calm- it hasn’t been simple. But some of that is because I am taking a very active role in trying to track what is working and what isn’t so much.

    My radio went out in my car and so now I am listening to podcasts (Hidden Brain, Make Me Smart and other NPR/APM ones, and also Laura Vanderkam’s Best of Both Worlds). This is mostly good, I think. Certainly I haven’t noticed getting enraged by anything and that causing a driving safety issue the way I did when NPR was reporting the Charlottesville stuff. Some episodes are definitely better than others. I am also finally (after many years) making time for pleasure reading, and it is definitely helping with my concentration (I made it all the way through Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140! Which actually was *not* great for feeling peaceful, because it is a very thoughtful take on what will happen post-climate change sea level rises).

    I also read that viral buzzfeed article on Millennial burnout. While some of the issues are more working-mother burnout relevant, or high-powered career frustration burnout than generation-specific, it still deeply resonated. It will take a lot of pondering to decide what to do with that, but *sometimes* systemic views of casuality is helpful. Certainly, we are all in the “ugh, politics” boat together- that much systemic I can ID for sure.

  10. First Gen American Says:

    Over the last 13 years, I’ve very slowly put on 40 pounds. It’s only about 3 pounds a year and that’s what made it so sneaky….Ive gone from slightly underweight to overweight in tiny chunks. Healthier eating and more active family adventures are the main thing on the goals list. I just hope it doesn’t take 10 years to figure out how to reverse it.

    This is also motivated by my back pain which is directly related to my weight. I switched insurance to be able get more physical therapy and get strong again. My activity level was limited this summer because of it and it made me sad as historically long mountain bike rides have been the easiest way for me to drop weight. Also getting my AAFA certification for group fitness. I already teach a cycling class on the weekends.

    Sadly, when I need it most, nutrition goes out the window when crisis strikes. I didn’t make the best food choices for the 3 months my mom was in the hospital.

  11. Which box is the oxygen mask in? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] January I declared that 2019 would by the year of putting on my own oxygen mask.  What have I done lately?  Well, I haven’t done the money stuff that I talked about in […]

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