I often get asked if I’m consumed with worry when my husband is working. I’m sure most of us field that question a lot. My answer has changed over the years. I’ve been a cop’s wife for a long time and, much like all things, my attitude toward his job has evolved. When we were young and first married, my answer was a firm “no.” In fact, I almost found the question offensive. I’d think “of course I don’t worry when he’s working - he’s trained and capable, strong and always on ‘the ready,’ why would I be anything but secure in that?”
Things have changed…and they’ve changed significantly. I do worry now-- every second he’s not with me. I’m not even sure “worry” truly captures the sinking feeling of impending doom I’m finding myself in the last couple of years. Things like “routine” traffic stops and domestic violence calls are my enemy. My mind wanders to really unhealthy places until my phone rings or I receive a text message from him that all is well.
Not only do I worry when he’s at work, I worry when he is or we’re in a public place together. We all know, there is no “off” switch – they’re alert and armed at all times and in all places ready to deal with anything. What if a robbery occurs and he’s put into a situation he has to react to? What if he’s outnumbered? What if his gun jams? What if my children are there? What if there’s no cover?
Needless to say, life has changed. My attitude has changed. I’ve often teased him over the years about being “tainted” or “jaded,” ruined by what he’s seen throughout the course of his 20+ years in law enforcement. I have come to the stark conclusion that he isn’t the only one.
No, I can’t change any of that. I haven’t even a lick of control over the lot of it. So what can I change? This is the question…how can I parlay all of this worry and stress and concern into a greater good? Is that even possible?
Let me give you a little background on me. I grew up in the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri smack-dab in the middle of “Tornado Alley.” I lived in a log cabin built with logs cut down and milled by my parents. It had no inside walls and no basement and was in such a rural area that we didn’t even have tornado sirens. My parents had a little radio called a “weather alert” and, in severe weather conditions, it would make the most awful shrill blaring sound. We knew, if we heard that noise, a funnel cloud had been spotted in our immediate vicinity. My parents would chaotically load us up, and head to my grandparents’ cellar about a mile up the dirt road.
To this day, I can still hear the sound of that weather alert in my mind. We live in Las Vegas, obviously, and the threat of a tornado is slim to none, but I guarantee you, if I heard that shrill squeal of a weather alert radio tomorrow, my knee-jerk reaction would be fear and panic.
The moral is that we’re all “conditioned” and conditioning is a “learned behavior” and, thus, something we can change. Sure, it isn’t often an immediate change, especially if that behavior has been central to our lives for an extended period of time…but it can change. Now listen, I’m not saying to never worry about your husband, I’m simply suggesting we reroute some of that “worry” into a cause that can make a difference…but how? Let’s simplify.
Be a friend. It’s the easiest thing to do. When my kids come home from school and tell me that there’s a new student in class, I always tell them to make sure they befriend them. As you know, being a cop’s spouse can come with a lot of situations that normal “every day” people don’t experience and, honestly, situations that we haven’t even experienced before. It is times like these that you need, and conversely, can be a good friend. Let’s be real, there is just no substitute for a really good friend – those who know and love you at your best and know and love you at your worst…and don’t judge you.
Participate. Be a part of the group that’s there to support you. And do your part and help support those who need it. I know, I know, there’s a “stigma” that comes with the term “support group” so let’s just call it “group therapy.” Let’s be serious, though, the principles of “group therapy” make sense. Who understands you best…? People who are walking the same path as you understand you best and can provide invaluable counsel and insight when you need it the most. Trust me, I know.
Make yourself available. Be that person people can count on. Like you need another thing on your “to do” list…I get it. Be honest, though, have you ever met anyone who has served another and said “well, that totally sucked!”? No, you haven’t because, let’s face it, serving others feels good, it just does. It’s a matter of fact that you will find your life will be enriched immensely when you help others and, on the flip side, let others help you. I know that for some of us accepting help is hard, but don’t deprive others of the blessings of loving and serving you.
Be a good example. Just do your best. It’s really all you can do, it’s all any of us can do. Think about it this way: There are times when you are influencing someone when you don’t even know it. You never know, you might be answering someone’s prayers with that random call or text message. I have often found that the answers to my prayers come through the love, support and care of others without any prompting on my part. Own and honor your position as a force of good in the world. I promise, it will make a difference.
Be one of many. Be a part of a greater good. Think of this concept: How many pillars held up the colosseum? Way more than one. The stronger the foundation, the sturdier the building and the larger the load it can support. Let’s be frank, it’s a hard job being the spouse of a cop. It just is, but there is comfort gained knowing that, whether silent or vocal, there are others on that same journey with you ready to hold your hand when you’re scared or help you up when you fall.