We lead busy lives. Even as I sit watching television, my mind may be busy writing a grocery list, planning the next day’s school lunches, organizing my work schedule, and adjusting my budget. Being completely present in any moment can be a challenge, and on days when our inner strength is lower than others, it can be a struggle to make it from that first alarm to bedtime at the end of the day. On those days, we rarely have the time to sit down for a quick break, much less perform intensive self-care rituals to help us feel able to face the day’s challenges. At times like this, having a mobile first aid of sorts can be helpful.
Preparing a first aid kit for physical wellness is simple. Bandages, burn gel, antibiotic ointments, alcohol pads, aspirin, and an ice pack can be thrown together for the random emergency on the go. Preparing first aid for mental and emotional issues can be trickier. It would be nice to be able to toss in the latest self-help book along with a list of guided meditations, but sometimes what we need on the go is something much simpler.
I got the idea for a mobile first aid kit long ago from my all-time favorite teacher. It was suggested that if we, the students, would memorize poetry, it would be in our heads forever. We would always have it to rely on if we needed it. At the time, I wasn’t sure what sort of situation would call for emergency poetry, but it’s been surprising just how often in my life the words of the poem I memorized have sprung to mind and provided me with comfort.
Many religious organizations will advocate the same philosophy, encouraging the memorization of holy scripture, chants, and even song lyrics. It works the same way. Once we commit something to memory, it is ours to hold. A mobile first aid kit for emotional and mental issues could be something as simple as memorizing select poems, verses, or quotes that soothe us when times are tough.
For change, healing, and empowerment, here are 5 I would recommend:
The Journey by Mary Oliver
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Comes the Dawn by Veronica Shaffstall
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child
From Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell by Marty McConnell
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
Renascense by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, —
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat — the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
She Let Go by Safire Rose
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
This is just a sample of the type of words we can pack, so to speak, in our emergency first aid and carry with us. The ones we choose depend on what brings comfort to our particular souls. The words we choose could be quotes or favorite sayings. They could be affirmations or prayers. What matters is that we begin to prepare for emergency emotional struggles just as we would for the physical kind. The sudden fall. The flat tire.
We pack emergency kits for everything but for our fragile hearts and beautiful souls, and they have emergencies, too. They have moments of trembling vulnerability where getting through to the next moment can seem impossible. And for times like that, when we’re feeling worn out and discouraged, we can reach inside and pull out the first aid we set aside for times just like this.