Did you see Truth Part 1? Here’s a recap in one sentence.
The fire service and fire life seem harsh and unfair and slow to change and even to recognize the need to change and fraught with politics but the truth is, we have the ability to challenge ourselves and make change for the good.
Truth Part 2 can be summarized in one sentence (and then I could write a novel): The good is worth fighting for.
Some of you may still be stinging from Truth Part 1 or even not believing it. I realize that most firefighters and family’s perspective of the fire service is only their house or their department or their community. And you may not struggle with all of that, right now. These truths do come from almost 4 years of my personal experience traveling the country and visiting with tens of thousands of firefighters and officers. And sincerely I’m not trying nor wanting to paint a bad picture. These truths come out of genuine concerns for our firefighters and families.
Someone also said these truths are only my opinion. Take them for what they’re worth to you. All truths start with someone bold enough to recognize trends and speak up to make a difference. Here’s the hope.
Truth #5 The efforts of good men will prevail. Love never fails.
Truth is, if you don’t believe this, your heart and soul will be stolen, taken hostage, ruined by bitterness and wasted by living in cynicism.
I’m not a fan of sarcasm because I see it as real hurts leaking out disguised as humor. Anyone know a sarcastic firefighter? (all hands raise) Call it a coping mechanism or what you will, the job takes it’s toll and if you don’t believe the best, that good men will prevail, you are at risk for falling into that hurt, bitter, cynical, sarcastic place.
When you reflect on the good things that have happened, you can see that in the end, the good guys are winning. They don’t get every save. They still have enemies. Not every “best man” gets the promotion. Not every firefighter stays married. But those who are able to guard their hearts and make steadfast in their mind the positive, the hopefulness and goodness, do prevail.
They walk out 35 year careers still proud to say they serve the public. They love their job, despite the political challenges around them. They’ve changed the lives of likely hundreds, if not thousands of people with whom they’ve interacted in their career.
When times get tough at the station and the environment gets tense with another union versus leadership challenge or talks of the inevitable “crew change”, I like to remind my husband that he’s there first and foremost to serve that community. And who are we to know that it won’t be until year 34, Day 356 of his career, that he makes a save on a (toddler / child / teen / mother / uncle / leader / homeless man / drug addict) that’s going to drastically alter the course of life as we all know it. That person may go on to lead / invent / give millions and wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that save.
It all works together for the good of all, even when we can’t quite see it with our own eyes.
Yes we need to do the work. See Truths Part 1 and the challenges I laid out for fitness, further education, emotional health, walking the walk. We can’t be stagnant and wait for it to come to us. But the efforts of good men do prevail.
Your Truth Challenge: Fight the slippery slope towards cynicism, bitterness and walled off emotions. Be the good and believe in the good in others around you.
For more reading from a Christian perspective we like this post: http://rickthomas.net/when-christianity-disappoints-you/
Truth #6 The Fire Service is not what’s wrong with our marriages
Yes there are many influences from the fire service that can make our marriages a little more challenging but insert any profession and you’ll find each has their own list.
Yes there are some men who prioritize the fire service over their family and get things a little backwards. I wouldn’t blame the fire service though. It’s not twisting their arm. It’s an individual choice.
The stress of the job, long shifts, sleepless nights, emotional exhaustion, long seasons of medic school and studying for promotional tests, working closely with members of the opposite sex. All of these factors can influence your marriage. The only thing you can control is your reaction to the negative influences and the steps you take towards change to make improvements.
Truth is I used to blame the firehouse on a lot of things wrong with our marriage as well. The real truth is that we both needed to get on the same page about putting our marriage first, loving each other through our best love language and learning to “fight fair” without hurting each other.
What’s your first step to break out of this lie that it’s a fire service issue?
Look in the mirror and own your own business. One year my husband and I called this being the “CEO of Me”. Getting our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional selves together so we can be the best spouse / parent / worker in all areas of our life.
Your Truth Challenge: Know Thyself. And get to work on what you CAN control. Your attitude, response and actions. If nothing else, you will come out a better person and see things more clearly.
I love this quote about truth from Virginia Wolfe
Truth #7 You Don’t Have To Have It All Together. And You Don’t Have To Do It Alone
No one wants to admit they need help, especially a firefighter.
And no one really wants to admit their marriage or mental health is not in the best place. Even to just say you wish you had a friend like you did when you were (insert that age you had that best friend). Somehow as we get olde we are conditioned to act like we have it all together while the truth is, no one has it ALL together.
We weren’t meant to do this life thing alone. Even if you’ve managed to go your Mr or Ms. Independent way for some time, there will be a crisis when you wish you had built that community around you so it didn’t feel so awkward asking for and / or receiving help.
But there is a tendency in the fire service to “do it our own way”.
Recreating trainings that you’ve seen done elsewhere in your own way for your own department. Watching a speaker and then taking their material to teach your own class to your own crew. Maybe that’s fine. Because the reality is that the funding doesn’t seem to be there to get everyone to the professional levels of training that are needed. But even when I do sit through a professional, national level training, departments are left to go home to their own station and write their own SOPs and training to implement it. What about collaboration? Sharing efforts? More heads and more hands making lighter work? Why the tendency to have to do it “the way we do it at (blank) county fire and rescue”? And for goodness sake, sometimes 1 unit, 2 unit and 3 unit at the same station can’t even collaborate together.
And here with 24-7 COMMITMENT, I get way more requests to “help me start my own fire family program” than we get requests to be part of what we’re doing. You have all seen it on Facebook. There are a zillion fire wife groups and pages that sprouted up after Firefighter Wife began to grow. (Here’s the secret you all want to know by the way. What we do here is way more than Facebook. And what we need to do for each other, is way more than can be carried out on Facebook. And we need to do it together. Not a bunch of independent entities. It’s too much work for any one person. Hence the 86 volunteers who help us around here.)
Here is one more Truth Challenge: Before reinventing the wheel, look to collaborate.
And I’ve seen this independent attitude carry over into the wives and families as well. It’s what scared me about fire wives when I first met my husband. Everyone was so independent, walls up, surviving in their own way that it seemed like no one was willing to reach out with a kind word or an invitation. The couple of tight friendships I saw that had formed were clinging to each other so tightly for survival they didn’t dare let someone else step in and alter that balance. And it all makes sense. The fire service and marriages can be a revolving door so if you’ve found your little bit of good thing, why rock the boat and upset that?
So why not do this all alone? Because the fire service is here to serve. And we do a darn good job of serving the public and serving each other in crisis mode – line of duty death, injured firefighters, sick children, etc. But most of life does not happen in crisis mode. It happens on every moment in between.
Is this the price we pay for being the type of people who work well in crisis? I refuse to let that be the case. It’s time to care for each other in between the crises.
The diversity of what defines a firefighter is far and wide in the US. 70% volunteer. Working a “day job” and running calls other times. Many volunteer departments running <1 run per day per year. Firefighters in the southeast who make $25-40k per year. The sweet spot of full time firefighting professionals in larger cities that bring in $70 – 100k per year. And specialty firefighting like the wildland firefighters and all their back up teams in California who easily bring in over $100k per year. I know that might be shocking to some of you but that’s why this is about the truth. And when you see such a diversity in what defines a firefighter, it’s no surprise to me that the “brotherhood” doesn’t feel real. There is much judgment between those different entities.
Yes we will continue to bring specific resources to all the demographics of firefighters and their families. But together we are 1.2 million firefighters plus families. That’s one awesomely powerful force of good other there to do life with.
Your Truth Challenge: Reach out to one fire family, firefighter, fire wife just because. Build that connection now before you are in crisis mode.
(We don’t really have gang signs. We’ll teach them to you if we can ever figure that out ourselves 😉
Truth #8 This is for everyone. Not just marriages in crisis.
I didn’t even know how much I needed this kind of friendship until that’s what we discovered together.
This is not about husband bashing. This isn’t for just newlyweds. If you’ve been married 20 years and “have it all figured out” you might be quite surprised at how your life is improved by engaging in an encouraging, positive, uplifting community of people.
Remember all that cynicism and sarcasm and bitterness? Too easy to get sucked in if you don’t guard your heart and spend time in a positive place.
If we stopped doing everything 24-7 COMMITMENT today (and we don’t want to so don’t read into that) the friendships we’ve built here are worth the value of Mark Zuckerburg and the entire Facebook empire (if we had to pick some dollar amount).
You may not know me well enough to just believe these words. So try these from our Fire Wife community when we asked them about their “truths” and 24-7 COMMITMENT:
Truthfully, I need to slow down and see a situation from all perspectives before reacting. This group has taught me that I’m not the only one who feels, be it in my marriage, friendships, family or life in general. I sometimes feel so strongly that I forget there are other’s feelings involved and I’m so thankful to have other experienced women here to help me find a balance. At the same time, their experience helps me know I’m not the only one who has been there and is working on this aspect of my life.
Truth is not always what you see on social media- truth is sometimes a silence- truth can hurt but hiding the truth in the dark can hurt worse.
I have a hard time telling truth and I must be prompted by the Holy Spirit and his timing. It’s especially hard in Rescue My Marriage. My truth may be exactly what someone needs to hear. On the flip side, I have a hard time HEARING truth as well. Most of all, this group is full of truth and not drama.
A hard truth- by overreacting I make my FF’s job harder and our life in general harder. This group has taught me “truth” perspective (a lot of this I learned before I had this wonderful group-the hard way).
Truth is I bring a lot of irrational fears and insecurities into my marriage that I acknowledge now and accept that I need to change. Anxiety and self doubt have no role in a marriage except to strain it. The sooner we see our shortcomings and grow from them the sooner we can move on to a happy, healthy marriage!
I have an extremely hard time telling the truth to my husband. By truth I mean my feelings. It’s so hard for me to bring up my feelings in a productive manner. I either choose not to say it or it ends up in an argument. I do find myself biting my tongue more than I used to before this group. I’ve learned that I can change my perspective and work through my feelings instead of putting it all on him.
Truth is I need to accept my self for whom I am, the way I am, and be the best that I can be. Truth is I need to accept that life is crazy with ff work and (other work)- this season always makes me more anxious and frustrate easy as he is gone more than rest of year and it affects marriage cause I get angry that he isn’t around as much to help with 4 kids etc. Truth is that I am amazing in his eyes and am everything he wants no matter how I feel about myself.
I am stronger with my husband. Truth! I have always considered myself pretty independent but this year I have found that I need my husband and when I ask for help he is always there.
It blows my mind how quickly we noticed a change when we began to actively put effort and focus on our relationship – even with the simplest things smile emoticon 24-7 was the “little birdie” dropping hints along the way that really brought this out.
I learned in 2015 that my marriage is like a jar of pickles; it’s insanely hard to get to the good part, but once you crack it open it’s worth the struggle and it only gets better with age. It took many years to get to the part where life is fun. The kids are older, I’ve dealt with some feelings of family that hurt my heart, I had to manage being by myself an awful lot with my FF being at work and also Army Reserve duty, and the biggest thing I had to realize is that because of personal actions on my part it put my husband on watch. This made him not be his true self. I had to swallow what I was doing wrong and allow him to feel ok to let go. I’m ok. The truth hurt, but it set us free. We are in love more than ever and reading the posts on Marriage on Fire have given us both great ideas and topics to discuss. It just seems to be getting better with time.
Truth is, before discovering 24-7 COMMITMENT and exploring it’s magnificent content I was selfish and mean. I used to be hard on my firefighter, always telling him what he didn’t do. I rarely gave him the time of day AND I used to convince myself he was a cheater. All the while he put up with my insecurities and processed to give me whatever I wanted, managing to still love me. With the help of 24-7 COMMITMENT and the love dare I feel like a different person. I’m learning how to love him deeper and appreciate the sacrifices he has always made for our son and myself. Our marriage has done a complete 180 and we are closer than I ever imagined we could be. Truth- I love deeper because of 24-7 COMMITMENT.
Truth is I am a firewife. I tried to keep it on the side, in denial maybe for quite awhile. wasn’t what I’d of preferred but it is who he is. This year with Cal-Fire hit me a little hard. I accept it now and feel good about it.
Truth is, I need a few good friends in my life. I like to think I’m ok on my own, but I’m really not.
Truth that I found here: I used to blame so many things on his job. There are some contributing factors for sure. But being more real and comfortable looking at myself, I realized I have a tendency to see and speak the bad too often. I love my family the most, but if you were observing my interactions day to day you might not know it. Focusing on what I can do to improve situations always bears the most fruit, and slipping back into old patterns is easier than I like to admit.
The hard truth for me was… what I was ready to “complain” about in my marriage, other women have been praying for.
I’m too independent, too stingy with my time and affection and was too blind to see that my physical touch husband was loving me like he wants to be loved while I am sitting over here like, Acts of Service Dude… I’ve been working on it since.
Truth is that God has shown me so much through 24/7 COMMITMENT. I don’t have friends but I have a lot of sisters . God has shown me how to trust Him to reach out and be used. In doing so I’ve learned so much more myself. I’ve been brought so much closer to Him and I’ve learned to let go of so much hurt from my past. It haunted me and was harming my relationship with my ff and my children. Scream free parenting, rescue my marriage, love dare, several wonderful sisters I’ve met have all been great resources that helped me see into my deep truths that we often push back and hide to try to face the world. I’m a free person now from my past and can live in peace. My relationships are peaceful and God is good. 24/7 COMMITMENT is a blessing and I’m thankful that we are not just a fb group, another club, a social platform, etc. but truly a ministry that can share with each other on common grounds that understands where we all come from.
Truth is I’m too hard on myself. I need to give myself some grace with all things in 2016. Including my marriage.
Truth is I don’t really remember how I coped with the fire life before this group. Even though it’s only been a couple of years, it’s hard to remember. Truth is I know without a doubt that this group has made my marriage what it is today (and that’s pretty darn good!). Truth is I’ve lost count of the random times I thanked God for Lori (usually during those moments when I’m struggling with the fire life and I remember something someone posted or when I post something and get a reply which lets me know I’m not alone).
Truth is their job scares the hell out of me. I couldn’t do it for an hour.
Your Truth Challenge: Join the Fire Wife Sisterhood for women or Honor Guard for men and make a connection.
Good truths are actions that happen in person, through individual acts of goodness.
The young firefighter who took the 24 hours of forced OT on December 24th so none of the guys with families had to.
The people who showed up in my mailbox with letters and with personal text messages and phone calls at the right moments throughout this year.
The personal letters and gifts sent when one of our own Fire Wife Sisterhood members lost her firefighter to a long battle with cancer this year.
The way the Fit Fire Wife community is there to uplift and encourage everyone who is struggling with that fitness demon (clearly a very sensitive subject based on comments received in Truth Part 1 about “3x and 4x firefighters” potentially incapable of doing the job.) Listen, if we didn’t care about you, we wouldn’t waste a breathe and this written word to address it. We hope the anger it ignited in you is the motivation you need to realize you are CARED about and people want to see you live to your best potential with a long, healthy life.
The team of tireless volunteers who traveled cross country and did the grunt work of event setup and tear down for our 24-7 COMMITMENT participation in Firehouse World, Firehouse Expo, FDIC. Special shout out to Tim Sendelbach and his team at Firehouse for their support in 2015 and 2016.
The fire service speakers, organizations and bloggers who retweeted and shared our posts expecting nothing in return. (Frank Viscuso, John Dixon, Ryan Pennington, Rhett Fleitz, Willie Wines, Station House Pride, 555 Fitness, Firefighter Throwdown, Fire Rescue Fitness, AJ Fusco, All Hands Working, Jodi Monroe, MN8 Foxfire, Distant Cellars Winery, Bad Axx, Andrew Starnes, FF4Cures, Pi Coffee, Nozzlehead Books….and way more than I can ever keep up with in the endless social media notifications – email me if you want to be a part of this and included on this list)
And of course our primary supporter, QALO, who is way more than just a great brand with a great product. They’re the real deal with friendship and business guidance and a desire to focus on the good and do good.
Compared to the over 100,000 social media followers and email subscribers we have, this list of people is rather short and elite.
The truth is in our words and actions.
Thanks to everyone who is willing to take these truths and move them into actions that reach well into 2016 and beyond.
If you’re looking for more ways to support our mission, read this.
Latest posts by Lori Mercer - WifeOnFire (see all)
- Family First, FDIC, or Both? - April 20, 2018
- When Fire Life Meets Fire Wife Entrepreneurship: how to stay married - June 14, 2017
- Ways to Honor a Retired Fire Wife - March 24, 2017