And another Sunday is spent at the firehouse, and with it, the promise of less radio chatter, fewer demands, and more time for the mind to roam across our own plains. Even our usual clientele seems less inclined to dial 911 on this day; it’s as though they are intuitively gearing up for a week of rampant emergencies, real or otherwise. As mentioned in the Easter post, Sundays are a different kind of groove around here. I check in with my crew around the breakfast table, taking note of the conversation, picking up on clues, non-verbal and otherwise, that might indicate the various states of mind. Obvious issues are faced, but more subtle quirks take some work; how the marriage is faring, parenting challenges, financial struggles. These little components make up our disposition, and our collective components, all, make up our crew chemistry, and I try to notice when the vibe is amiss, because I believe in cohesion. As the official leader of the group (and there is a huge distinction between the official and unofficial leader of a firehouse crew), the responsibility falls on me to keep the machine running as smoothly as possible, and so much of that is chemistry.
Sometimes, in doing that, self-reflection goes by the wayside, because it’s always easier to help someone else than it is ourself, right? Sundays become the great equalizer, then. So, three pots of coffee in, ears peeled for addresses being toned from overhead speakers for our rig, a restless mind begins once again to take a good hard look at its environs, the world that it inhabits. And it begins to pace in this golden cage that is the fire station, where we can only be released when others dial those magic numbers that summon.
A friend loses a close friend unexpectedly and while grief washes over the local community, I watch, detached from the emotion that consumes so many people. My heart aches some for them, sure, but I need to exercise caution, for this job can force you to compartmentalize death as a coping mechanism; when you witness it with such frequency, you just can’t allow it to cripple you with each occurrence. I hope to never lose my sense of empathy nor sympathy, and I think that most firefighters would hope for the same.
I hope as well that just as empathy, sympathy and compassion are hallmarks of the heart, that we should never lose sight of our capability to love from the soul, truly. I used to think that love was a distant cousin of need, that as you grew to love someone, you grew to need them more until you couldn’t even envision a life without them, so necessary as they would become. That has borne itself out to be a high-school level of love though, and one that along with the ego begins to attach expectation, jealousy or insecurity to its identity. And disappointment is sure to follow.
We love our kids, we profess to love our best friends, we search for a love that understands our language, but these are almost peripheral, really. Love is breakfast food at any time of day. Love is coffee with two cups. Love is a mind that never strays far from its counterpart, and works in concert with the heart and soul, not unlike the symmetry of a fire crew, though most firemen would be loathe to discuss such things. They view love as bass fishing, killing creatures with antlers that need killing, or a loyalty to a sports franchise, and that is their reality and every bit as valid, too.
More recently, I’ve come to see love through a different lens: trust. Trust is the most vulnerable expression of your soul, especially for one that has seen some hard and unforgiving miles. Trust means following a path that you’ve discovered that makes sense to no other. Trust is flat-out fucking terrifying because no one will be surprised should you fail, and the wag of the collective finger will be felt, heavily, should that occur, and who has the strength to pick yourself up one more time, muster a smile and try again? Trust is believing that person when they tell you their truth, despite the paper tiger roaring in your mind that you’re a fool to give someone the chance to hurt you. Trust is facing them, letting go, and falling backwards into the unknown, hoping against hope they’re being true. It’s easier to face the real threat of facing forward and marching into a house that burns unforgivingly than it is to step off that ledge, backwards. 1000 times easier.
But that’s what makes trust, real trust, so damn beautiful, in my minds’ eye: its scarcity, its release of expectation and, when earned? The capacity to give of yourself freely, openly and with the balance of your heart. Trust is bacon and sourdough toast and scalding-hot coffee and laughs from the soul. I don’t believe my soul can rest until it discovers that trust from an authentic and genuine place. Recently asked to place trust, I nodded and agreed and my eyeballs began to sweat, because I know what it means. It’s being asked to go beyond love and into the unknown.
Empathy, sympathy, compassion and love still occupy my vocabulary, I think they’re core elements of us all; but to trust? To really trust?
What an exercise for the mind and soul. The heart is already there. The mind constructs unreal realities and the soul yearns with all it has to accept trust. It is a choice we must make, and once made, must be genuine and authentic, without disclaimers.
And so, paper tigers having been faced and faced down, we pace in our golden cage on a Sunday, ready to help when called, and gingerly, constantly, dancing with the notion of trust.
It’s a dance, and it’s slow but from what I’ve seen?
Is so damn beautiful.