Mar 22, 2013

Feeling The Heat

The time-frame for this post is April of 2002

Pride. Arrogance. Self-confidence. The stuff Fire-Medics are made of.

I’d reached a place in my life where I was so full of pride I wouldn’t take correction from my partner. He was younger and less experienced, but I knew he was right. I was making some bad decisions. I just didn’t want to admit it.

Whenever he questioned my decision-making, I resisted his arguments with my own and made excuses. I found things to accuse him of. He accused me. I accused him. He blamed me. I blamed him. We were like a couple of unruly kinds in a sandbox. The problem is – we were supposed to be professionals doing an important job. Making a mistake can cost someone their life.

The tension was so bad that everyone noticed it. The whole department began walking on eggshells for fear of setting one of us off. We had a meeting with the Assistant Chief and asked to be split up. He laughed and told us we were stuck with each other. We began keeping journals of each other’s mistakes. When you’re afraid that your partner is out to get you – paranoia sets in. Eventually, my Lieutenant suggested that I see a counselor. I didn’t think I needed one, but I agreed to anyway.

I saw a counselor who specialized in work-related mental health problems. I drove to his office once a week for 5 or 6 visits. He saw nothing unusual in my behavior, so he cleared me to return to work without restrictions. In his professional opinion, I was just fine. But in my heart, I knew I was reaching the end of my rope.

My partner and I were best friends for years. But now, because of pride and my unwillingness to admit that I was wrong, we couldn’t stand being in the same room. We were shacked together for 24 hours, every third day. Wherever he went, I went. We fought fires together, ate together and slept in the same room together. It was driving us both crazy.

The stress fractures in my mind were turning me into an emotional mess. Something had to give.

I remember like it was yesterday. There we were, returning to the station from a call. I was weary from the battle of defending my lies. I knew there was no hope of ever reconciling with him unless I waved the white flag of surrender and stopped playing games. My will to keep up the charade was gone. I just wanted peace. So I told him I was sorry for all the crap I’d put him through. I told him he was right and I was wrong. I was making bad decisions and my pride wouldn’t allow me to admit it. I told him it was all my fault. Through a river of tears, I told him I was sorry for destroying our friendship.

He sat in the passenger seat speechless.

I confessed all the junk I could think of and asked him to forgive me. As soon as I did, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. What the heck was happening?

Eventually, he agreed that it was best to bury the hatchet, forgive and forget and move forward with life. It was finally over. We talked about my problems and gradually, our friendship was restored. It took time, but we were on our way to having the kind of partnership we had years ago. I felt better than I had in years.

In a few short weeks, I would meet God for the first time in my life and it would happen at the fire station.

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