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when the oxygen mask isn’t enough

This morning, I am faced with myself. My singleness. The momentarily crushing hard of solo parenting. It’s been a wearying and trying week, for sure. My tank feels pretty empty and it’s hard to not try to fill it up with all the temporary fixes I can find.

To say I’m reliant on God to fill me first is an understatement. Perhaps, that I need for Him to fill me first is a better statement. Some days, (most it seems), I do this all so inadequately. Most days I’m fumbling to meet their needs and mine, and don’t even know how to let God be enough for me.

I really do hate the oxygen mask instruction that people always give me, (you know- the prompt to make sure my own needs are met so I can adequately tend to the needs of my children for their survival), and here is why…It’s never enough. The decision to get up extra early for some quiet alone comes with a price- less sleep. The gym, coffee time, time with friends, a hike alone.. all things that entail “self-care.” These and other attempts to take care of myself feel like grabbing the oxygen mask as it’s passed down a line of people and needing to stockpile the life-givingness of it, when that’s impossible. The breath is beautiful in the moment, and I’m certainly grateful when those moments come. But it never feels to be enough.

So here’s the rub- we aren’t designed to meet our all of our  own needs. There are three growing bodies and souls in my charge; hearts being expanded and experienced by love and hurts, bodies that crave touch and affection, homework to oversee and stories to hear. The list goes on, yet the joy is often still here. But I can’t depend on my kids to caretake me. They can learn to see me as a human with needs… they are learning to offer help at times- cook a meal, give a tender bit of affection, carry my things out to the car. But obviously, their place is not to meet my needs for deeper intimacy with a grown-up, which we are wired for.

Not for a moment am I pretending that others don’t meet my needs..I have so many beautiful friends and family that hear me, give hugs, offer support and are a bright spots interspersed through my days and weeks. And for that I’m so profoundly grateful.

As I write, several things are occurring to me. One-there is power in words; speaking or writing. To get the frustration on the outside instead of in is such a freeing act. I already feel much lighter. Two- the little things of God really do make a significant impact…the sweet birds at the feeder right now, the candles flickering around me, the offering of affection from each of the boys as I sit here and write. But I realize that I have to make space for these things to land and take root in me by getting my frustrations out- through writing, praying or talking with a friend. And third, I need to remember and remind myself that everything is temporary. I will never get this day to do again, these people to love on this day again, this set of circumstances to walk through again. I can be ok with my frustration, loneliness, and weariness and let God meet me somehow in all the messy. To learn to look for and pay attention to all that’s wholly wonderful with a Holy Wonder- to see it all as ways God is filling me and let it be enough today.



About Erika Barrett

Endlessly curious and a strange mix of too simple and way too complicated, I'm in awe of the beauty and glory this life offers, celebrate resourcefulness and finding simplicity in life. I am a certifying LifeCoach, specializing in helping others find a way forward towards crafting a life of joyful purpose. I'm also Masters Level Practictioner of Splankna Therapy, which is a mind-body-spirit therapy model. I'm a currently single mama to three beautiful souls, and I love to be outside, adventuring and exploring, laughing, playing in the water and hugging those around me. I'm a believer that life is rich when we become aware of the little moments placed before us and embrace them fully-the joy, sorrow, beauty, love and pain. Life is too short to be so serious, yet there is so much devastating brokenness all around us that feels crushing. My writing is about a journey into wholeness and restoration. For me, you and those around us. So won't you join me in diving into our experiences and hearts? Feel free to share a thought or many, and please, please, love those you're with.

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