There was a time in my life when I felt guilty about doing things to make myself happy. About relaxing, enjoying the little things, and just letting events and relationships play out around me as they will. I wanted to fix every problem for everyone I loved and I made those problems my own. And I felt unable to be happy and to take time for myself until those problems were eradicated. That was a lengthy phase of my life that left me emotionally and mentally drained. It took time, the Bible, and… flight attendants, to get me to understand – no, to believe – that I matter too. That it’s not selfish and awful to want to be happy and take actions to that end, even while others around you are suffering. We cannot be responsible for everything and everyone, at all times.
The light-bulb went off when my Mother told me that the Bible directs us to love and take care of ourselves, for we are each created for a reason and we are valuable in and of ourselves. I am not a very religious person, although I consider myself to be spiritual or at least a “believer,” and if asked about a religious affiliation, identify myself as a Christian. I do not attend church regularly and have not read the Bible (hence my ignorance of some of its contents). But I did grow up with a sense of a higher conscience – or whatever one wants to call it – that guides our actions and moral compass. And I believe that a lot of religious texts out there are compilations of universal truths about what is right and wrong. Whether endorsed by God himself or not, in the moment that Mom dropped that bit of righteous knowledge on me, I suddenly felt a validation that comes from ages of collective wisdom of our ancestors – that to love thyself is not an act of selfishness but an act of love. It was as if the Universe had given me permission to just let go and enjoy life.
Women, I find, are particularly vulnerable to denying themselves love and attention. My Mom, who helped me to take more responsibility for my own happiness and well-being, is a repeat offender in the self-denial department (perhaps that’s where I picked up that self–destructive behavior). Whether in personal or professional relationships, we often feel that we just don’t deserve better and we feel guilty when putting ourselves ahead of various other responsibilities. Why so much guilt?? Is it because Eve ate that darned apple? Come on, ladies – you set the example by which others know how to treat you.
And what in the world does this have to do with flight attendants, you wonder? – well, they are an unexpected source of a very practical and common sense approach to this dilemma – they always tell you to first put on your own oxygen mask, and then those of your loved ones and dependents. Because after all, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you may not be there to take care of them.
P.S. Now that the holiday season craziness is finally over and I am getting back into my routine (yes, it has taken me this long…), I promise to start back up with the posting of actual recipes this weekend!!