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How do you connect? Lately, I’ve been wondering if the very reasons we’re good at our jobs are the reasons so many of us have problems at home. We come to work completely steeled against the potential tragedy of our EMS day. We have compassion in a limited and guarded way. We walk into that corner of our brain where the switch for emotional availability lies and we flick that switch off before signing on with dispatch. Its hard to see back into those dark corners to flip up the switch when we’re bleary and beaten at the time clock at the end of the day. For those people that have regular partners, this unavailability is shared….its a bond forged in un-bondable conditions. Its strong. We have a ‘you and me against the world’ feeling with some of our partners at work. Are we able to translate that to our home life? I think largely the answer is no. In a non-EMS family, there is one absolute bond: the bond between family members that would lay down their lives for each other. When you respond to 911s, you’re looking at your partner and saying, ‘I will never let anything bad happen to you.’ If you’re like me, part time and thus routinely subject to partner du jour, I say that, I make that silent promise to people I barely know. Its a fierce loyalty that I give to someone who is sometimes nothing to me other than a body seat-belted in beside me. What do I have at the end of a shift that is just for the person to whom I’m committing my life? What special bond, unique bond can I give to a man that trumps my ability to look at a stranger and feel protective of them, and put their emotional and physical well-being at the forefront of my mind for 12 hours?
I’ll be honest. I’m not in a position to wax poetic about the joys of marriage and making a life with someone right now. But I can look at this situation without the rosy adrenaline fueled glasses. The feeling that I get, on an ambulance, responding to the worst that humanity has to offer with my partner at my side is valuable to me. It defines me. I need it in a way that is occasionally directly inverse to the ways that I need to be with my family. Sometimes I find myself picking up hours, a shift here or there just because I’m looking for that thrill. The feeling that comes from knowing that I have no idea what’s going to happen next. The loss of predictability. Its reckless….and yet it isn’t. When I’m at work, I walk into chaos and create order. Its a feeling of ability that I’ve never had at home. I can’t create order in these four walls, I can’t even create happiness. But when I get in my truck at the beginning of a shift, I know that sometimes order comes solely because I demand it. That’s not being interested in the loss of predictability though is it? Its a desire and actualized form of being in control. I’m not reckless, I’m the opposite of reckless. I’m desperate to be in charge of a situation, any situation in my life, and I think that’s something that I share with my EMS peers. We want to control our scene, we aren’t playing a game, we aren’t just driving fast and shooting from the hip. We’re looking for a way to ensure that everyone goes home. For me at least, I’m offering my fellow responders care and protection that I haven’t been able to extend to my loved ones in any tangible way. I’ve failed at home, but at home is not where lives come in to play. I’m making a mess, leaving figurative bodies in my wake in my personal life, but at work, everything is copasetic. I’m in charge of the path I make at work. I’m in charge of the whole show. Why wouldn’t I want to work 70 hours a week? That’s 70 hours a week when its ok for me to be commanding, and when my commands create good. Declarative statements never work at home, that’s not how we relate to our loved ones, not how we make bridges between one emotional being and another. But at work, my emotions don’t have anything to do with my task. I’m an automaton. Doing exactly what needs to be done because I know what’s best. Can a person do both? Can I walk into work with the confidence and authority required to successfully do my job and look out for my partner and on the same day throw off my gloves and be vulnerable at home? I’m not rotten, I’m not a mean person, but I have a hard time letting go of that need to know that everything is ok. For everyone. I’m not a control freak, but I take it personally if people around me are unhappy, or uncomfortable. How do I learn to be part of a relationship that isn’t based on one person being in charge of happiness and security? I’m half of a team at work. I want to be able to do that at home. But we need more than a safe scene at home. I take care of my partners at work. Can I be someone that takes care of my partner at home? I think I can. Maybe more central to the issue-for me at least-can I be someone that allows her home partner to take care of her?

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Posted April 12, 2011 by ALittleShow in Uncategorized

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