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  • Katie Smith

My Oxygen Mask

Recently my cavity-prone child had to get a few more "quadrants" of baby teeth filled, mostly due to overcrowding and a strong gag, but I learned that after they administer nitrous oxide, they give a good dose of natural oxygen to clear out all the laughing gas from their system.  

Like a breath of fresh air, the chemicals are cleared, and you get your child back in his normal frame of mind. Stress, trials, change, and physical ailments also demand an increase in our oxygen intake. Depending on the size, weight, and elevation, everyone requires a different level--adults are no different.


My husband and I jokingly reference an "oxygen" scene from the movie, Four Christmases, all the time. The main characters played by Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon argue about who would or would not help the other if their hypothetical plane was crashing. Vaughn argues that he would not help Reese first because the FAA wouldn't want him to. He must apply his own oxygen mask before helping others-- otherwise he is no help to anyone.

My hubby, like Vince Vaughn, follows the FAA instructions closely. He knows how and when to get his oxygen flowing in order to reduce casualties. I, on the other hand, will start to pass out trying to save my family before putting on my own mask. 

I'm not sure if it's a mother-thing, a personality-thing, or a gender-thing, but I'm having to learn to improve my oxygen-intake on the road. I recognized the need when we were stationary, but I could go longer without oxygen because I knew a natural break for school, sitter, or separation would soon supply it.

After a month in the rig we are all more aware and slightly more receptive to each other's need for oxygen. But we still struggle from extreme bouts of high and low altitude. In other words, this lifestyle increases the jolts between incredible high moments followed by an extreme low time. Dancing to danger, high winds to low pot holes...we have made adjustments to regulate our oxygen rather than jump from one extreme to another. We are trying to embrace wherever we land as part of God's handiwork. It's easy to reflect on deficits, and discuss solutions after the fact, but it's quite another thing to implement them on a daily basis. 

I naturally want to prevent the airplane from crashing or clear our rig of the chemicals that cause silliness or tension. But that's when the lack of oxygen intensifies the problem. A break, a detachment, even a long, deep breath and silent prayer reminds me that those moments are glaringly temporal, and with extra oxygen, I better attend to the problems at hand.

Too often I'll view life from a 30,000 foot perspective, enjoying it to the fullest. This could be my last moment, so I must attend to all the needs I can before I'm gone. However, this mindset inadvertently causes me to endure exhausting moments endlessly as well.

Extra oxygen clears our minds too see moments as ephemeral. We are all learning where and how to get our own oxygen mask, or wait for mommy to put on hers before asking for help. Crafts, writing, audiobooks, running, biking, organizing, etc--they all help us get a little extra oxygen before continuing the journey.

Here's to more calm, slow inhales and exhales as those tanks fall from the overhead bins! Thanks Vince Vaughn for clarifying this for me.

~Oxygen Carefully and Carelessly

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