Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
~ Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents


“ In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “We have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger – while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need.”


I invest most of my off-work time in teaching workshops on things like emergency preparedness, first aid, food preservation and similar “survival” skills, including gardening and permaculture.

I enjoy doing it, but most people have no idea of the amount of preparation, resources, energy and time I have to invest before (and sometimes after too) apart of the obvious time invested in actually presenting the workshops: I have to research, buy, write hand-outs, make copies, create samples, clean and organize stuff…then I have to figure out logistics, as I don’t drive nor own a car and many of my workshops are in faraway places. For some of them, I have to travel in buses, trains and ferries for almost an entire day only to get there and another one to come back. Most of my workshops are free of charge or inexpensive compared to taking the same at other institutions.

In the last few months, I have realized how much energy all this has taken out of me and how tired I am.

I have also tried to share what I know with family and friends, with no much luck in terms of awareness: people know me as “that sweet lady doomer”; they tolerate me, but not necessarily engage in profound and (as I see them) necessary conversations about what’s going on, how to stop or even reverse it and, if all of it fails, how to prepare for the worst case scenarios.

For me, being prepared goes well beyond having a “survivor’s pantry” full of food, water, backups for energy/shelter/health/transportation and tools (as I already have)…it also means (and I would say these are the most important things someone can do) to be free of debt (I’m not), physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy (I’m working on it), connected with like-minded people who can act as “backup” for emotional and spiritual inspiration and strength and learning/practicing and sharing the skills we need to live in a more sustainable world…and to use in case our world becomes suddenly upside-down due to a collapse (financial, socio-political, environmental, etc…)

That’s why this excellent article from Peak Prosperity came just in time: Grasshopper Nation: Planning For Those Who Aren’t Prepared

It asks very important questions:

  • Of the people in your life, which ones will you put aside reserve resources for?
  • How much are you willing to put aside for them?
  • And, what are your limits? At what point will you say “no”?


I would liberally translate them into: what people in your life would you make the effort to approach and trying to engage? how much of your time/energy/resources are you willing to invest? and what are your limits, when is it time to start saying “no” without regrets?

As Adam Taggart says, you have to put your oxygen mask first. Being in disaster response and emergency preparedness for so many years, I know how important this is…but I don’t apply to myself!

The next are excellent steps for those of you like me (an ant mentality as opposed to the grasshoppers, which are the majority), thanks to Adam for the great article! The comments are mine, if you want to read the original post (highly recommended), check it here.

  • Put your oxygen mask on first. I’m a bit less into “financial resilience” so my line is more into building internal resilience first (physical, emotional, spiritual) so you are strong enough to support others when they come to the full understanding of our predicaments. It also means making sure your efforts to help others (note to myself here!) don’t diminish your own resources and make you financially or energy-wise vulnerable…
  • Serve as a model. I would add: without judgement towards yourself and others…do what you can with what you have, wherever you are and with what you already are. Changing ourselves takes time and in many cases we have monsters, ghosts and many other very real barriers that don’t allow us to be the model we wish to be.
  • Keep your reserve assets confidential. I partially agree with this one. It depends on what type of “assets” we are talking about. Those who hide things are more likely to become a target of desperate grasshoppers. If we talk about inner resilience and skills, I would say share as much as you can as long as sharing doesn’t diminish your own energy or abilities to learn more skills and become healthier!
  • Build awareness among friends/family of the risks in play. Good luck with this one! I’m still learning how to deliver the news in ways that create change. I’ve found out that many are not interested or are so scared that don’t want to learn…as long as this building of awareness does not diminish your own ability to respond, go ahead…with compassion, but also with bold honesty
  • Get folks engaged in the right actions for the wrong reasons. Really liked this one, it’s fun…but does it work? I’ve been engaged in many of these and have a sense of wasting my time as I’m hungry for reality and sharing with like-minded people. I may need to work more on this one…
  • Define your line. Curious, will read and report: http://www.peakprosperity.com/step-5-emotional-capital
  • Empower the latecomers. Fully engaged on this!


A note to all the ants out there: we tend to look into the future; we are strategic thinkers and planners and like to be prepared. We also like to research and discuss topics that may seem dry to others but are super exciting for us. But what most defines us is the sense of responsibility: towards us, our loved ones and our communities. We work hard creating awareness, learning and sharing skills, building resilience and supporting others…our problem? We barely take care of ourselves!

The strength of the ants, however, is that when we take responsibility, we also take control of those things we still can control.


A note to the grasshoppers out there: you tend to live in the “now” and be optimistic. You trust that things will work out, someone or something will intervene and make all good again. You think you don’t have control or even responsibility and you are partially right: when you give away your responsibility to others (the government, the corporations, the activists, your insurance company, the Red Cross, your bank, your community supermarket, etc.), you lose control of things that are important not only for your wellbeing but also to your survival: air, water, food, shelter, transportation, etc.

Your weakness is that when the time comes, you won’t be prepared. You have given up all your power to others and you may burden your partner, your family and friends, your community. But you still have time to change. Nobody is born an ant or a grasshopper. We are all conscious beings capable of inner and outer resilience.


And now, back out there…24 degrees Celcius and going up to max of 30 later today! So much to do at home and the garden! Enough of my grasshopper side!

2 Comments on “Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

  1. I love this message, Silvia, and the story of the ant and the grasshopper is one of my favorites. Sending you blessings for the important work you do ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carol, feeling weak and going inwards as being an ant can be overwhelming at times…the work you do, even inspiring, encouraging and giving people food for thought is equally important. An honour to have you as a blogger friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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