“In the event of an emergency, secure your own mask before assisting others.”
If you’ve ever been on board an airplane, you’ve heard the spiel before. It’s standard to the safety speech, but have you ever really taken the time to think about what they’re talking about, or realized how right they are? If the plane is crashing and the cabin depressurizes, you can’t do a single thing to help your fellow passengers if you’re suffocating from lack of oxygen.
Maybe the example is a bit dramatic, but it paints a very vivid picture. So why do we think that the same thing doesn’t apply in real life? Why, when it comes to our lives, do we think we can ignore the safety speech?
For most of my life, I’ve been an overachiever, an entrepreneurial spirit, and I thought that I could burn the candle at both ends without consequences. Anything that I put my mind to, I accomplished; I held the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” close to heart. Burning brightly, I threw 110% of myself into my passions, and I fought fiercely for the things that I believed in.
I ignored the safety speech for way too long, and it could have cost me everything.
In fact, I ignored it until the day I got the call from the doctor’s office. That sentence that you don’t really want to hear from anyone, much less your doctor – “we need to see you tomorrow” – when the doctor skips lunch so that they can fit in your appointment. That moment where routine yearly blood work turns up a chronic genetic condition that changes everything.
(A quick side note to my insurance company, if you’re sneaking around reading my blog posts – this doesn’t mean you should jack up my insurance premium. In fact, you should lower it. The diagnosis just means that I’m going to be a lot healthier moving forward than I would have been before I had my full health picture. K, thanks. Now, back to regularly scheduled programming.)
There were a couple of paths that my brain went down after this phone call, full speed with no brakes. The worst-case scenarios, you know the ones… they took over for a while. Then, the second thing that happened is that my priorities became crystal clear. Family, and the fact that my parents were an entire continent away.
My business coach has been using free writing as a tool for me to gain clarity around my purpose, and I’m going to share some of the thoughts that came out of the writing session that took place the week after said doctor’s appointment:
The thought pattern of how to find a peaceful balance – how do I move forward from here? How do I create a meaningful, powerful and revolutionary life in a balanced, peaceful way? How do I save myself as I try to (and still want to) save the world? I find that I am back to the discomfort surrounding “I don’t know” because now I truly do not know how I am moving forward. I know that the prime directive is self-care and taking care of my family. Beyond that, the great unknown lingers.
In some ways, I experienced a great wave of relief – here was a bright, flashing sign to slow down, to reevaluate. This wasn’t me giving up or chickening out – this was my body, my doctor, saying “stop”. No more high stress situations, more yoga and meditation. More healthy eating and lots of work on system balancing.
In all my talk of broken systems, it comes down that my body is the broken system that I need to work with first. Do your own work – in the most head-smackingly personal and direct way possible.
Even with the knowledge of what my diagnosis could mean, I have felt strangely calm since last week. Maybe I’m still in shock, or maybe I have a deep realization that freaking out about what is going on will do absolutely nothing positive, and has the potential to cause some real harm. Whatever the reason, I am thankful for my ability to transcend the mess and put one foot in front of the other. For now, that means following my doctor’s orders, and starting to evaluate what goes and what can stay.
I feel like I already shed so much in coming here to Portland, but perhaps the things that I shed were just skin-deep – maybe now it is time to dig down to the roots and find my spiritual, structural detoxification.
From these roots, Rebel Yogi began to really take shape. For most of my world changing life, I had come at the problems facing our world from the stance of an activist: fighting. I tried to frame it as what we were “fighting for” as opposed to what we were “fighting against” to keep things positive, but it was still fighting. One of the literal definitions of the word fight means “to oppose action”, another means “to move forward with difficulty”. We’re not exactly setting ourselves up for success if we think about it that way.
So why do we spend so much time mired in the fight, throwing ourselves valiantly into the flames? Faced with the knowledge that I could not continue to approach life in such a way, I was forced to stop and look for a different way of doing things. I had no other choice.
I don’t have all the answers, and that’s what Rebel Yogi is about – walking this path together, figuring it out as we go. I’m sure we’ll stumble and make some mistakes along the way, but if we’re going about things with the right motivation – caring for ourselves and finding that place of balance before reaching out into the world – securing our own masks before assisting others – I know that we can change the world for the better.
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Michael Margolis wrote a post about origin stories that provided the inspiration for this week’s post.