The Zen of Firehouse Zen

web Mick CPLately, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in my life. When I was a lot younger, suffice it to say, I was living for the moment. Now in middle age, I can feel the effects of that relative recklessness when I don an air pack, pick up my kids, or drive long distances. Though I feel it, I am not in pain, nor am I complaining; I wouldn’t trade those moments, even the bad ones, for anything in the world. They are what made me who I am today.

Mentally, I also feel the wear of time, but it’s more like the smoothing effect a stream has on a rock formation; I feel like I am much more introspective and a lot more forgiving, although I don’t probably project that outward as much as I should.  While I have long since forgave any trespasses against me, I have even “friended” people on Facebook who I thought would never speak to me again, and some have every right not to.  So maybe time is at least being good to me in that other’s memories of me are rather short.

I decided this morning I needed some meditation time so I found a place to reflect.  So here I sit in my car at the Coligny Beach Park, using the Town’s free wifi access, because the traffic and the fountain and the ocean nearby provide a soothing background.

This laptop is my mandala.  The keyboard permits me to focus as I rapid-fire hunt-and-peck this blog, my typing skills acquired not through high school typing or anything formal, but through thirty-plus years of typing reports, writing procedures and standards, and eventually, blogging. I know I have said that I blog because I desire to share what I have learned, but  it’s really more esoteric than that.  I blog often because it helps me to think and to focus.  By putting down in writing what I should be considering, it helps drive me positively in that direction.

Blogging is my way of directing my energy somewhere positive, rather than in some of the more destructive directions I have seen others go through.  I only wish that those in so much pain or confusion could find the kind of satisfaction that I get when I put something down on here, step back and re-read it, and have that feeling, like the crack of a baseball hitting the sweet spot of the bat, and watching the result of my effort sailing toward the deep right fence.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, my writing is very much stream-of-consciousness.  When I am writing, I just start letting it rip and see where it is taking me.  The subject I began on sometimes isn’t even what I began to think about.  But one of the things I wanted to get across in this post relates to something my friend (and brother blogger and co-worker) Lt. Tom told me about meeting some fellow bloggers in Baltimore a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, my schedule is such that I am booked way out for things and with a wife and three children, the department, a flooring company, and other projects, I can’t make it to some of these “meet-ups” that I’d really like to attend.  He was asked if I am really about what I talk about in FHZ; as in, do I walk the walk as well as talk the talk.  Tom told me he said I was, which is very flattering, but incorrect.  The better answer (not that he would know) is that I am not, but I strive to be.

Lest you think me a hypocrite, I’ll sum it up for you in short fashion and leave you with a thought.  I, nor anyone else on this mortal coil, is perfect.  I am as deeply flawed as the next and I can only hope to live up to some of what I suggest on this blog as being a best practice.  While I try to maintain equalibrium, I find that I don’t.  I find that I try to avoid generalizations and emotional statements, but I’m not always successful.  As much as I have studied about conflict management, I find myself reflexively disregarding my own advice, reacting to problems, snapping at people I care about, being short-tempered and ultimately regretting my actions.

But the road to enlightenment is paved with self-awareness and the first element in healing and moving forward to become a better person and leader is to understand our own flaws, embrace them, and to make the step.  I try very hard to do the right things and am challenged just like each of you are.  I have found ways to check my impulses and to learn from experience.

I have screwed up enough in my life to make up for a thousand lives.  I have done many things that are embarrassing and cause me to regret my actions, I have betrayed my own beliefs and I have treated others as they should not, and certainly don’t deserve to be, treated.  However, all I have ever asked of anyone is for them to point out that I have hurt them and to allow me to fix the problem, because I have never done anything to hurt anyone out of spite or maliciousness, but more often out of my misunderstanding or failing to appreciate their point of view.  I believe in karma and I believe that if we really have others’ best interests at heart, somehow, that karma is repaid to you.

I ask of others to do their best and if we fall short, let’s figure out where the friction lies and work through it.  I have little to no tolerance for people who are only about their own agenda.  If we have differences, I am willing to listen and to understand, but it’s important to know that when ultimately a decision must be made, then it needs to be made and we should all move on.  I know plenty of people who move around in their own little world, focus fixed straight ahead, mouth gaping, oblivious to those around them.  When we stop focusing on our own needs and look toward the needs of others, our needs get served in the process.

Let’s all strive to be better and to understand each other, but even more so, to understand ourselves.  When we can accept our flaws and our own baggage, we have tackled one half of the problem.  The next step is to understand the other half.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  If you really believe that others should be more considerate and understanding, first we must see that change in our selves.

3 Comments

  • Tom B. says:

    I forgot to tell you, Chief. What they actually asked was, “Is your Battalion Chief really that big of a jerk in real life?”

    Seriously, though. I know you’re not perfect, and I’m sure the Fire Critic and Fire Daily know this also.

    What they wanted to know is whether or not you were “the real deal” or just a good writer.

    I interpreted the question as, “Is Mick Mayers an enlightened leader or does he just play one on Firehouse Zen?”

    I felt that I was in a unique position to answer that question since you are my direct supervisor.

    One of the other things they wanted to know whether or not I trusted your judgment on the fireground.

    That was an easy enough.

    Anyone could share their thoughts about how to fight a fire or how to interpret a 12-lead ECG.

    You share the inner-workings of your mind.

    That’s a deeply personal thing, but it’s important because you’re a good leader.

    Understanding your thought process helps the rest of us who are trying to command respect from our subordinates, fellow officers, and superiors.

    What I look for in a leader is character, competence, patience, understanding, and the willingness to listen as well as set appropriate boundaries within which creativity and initiative are encouraged and rewarded.

    So far I have no complaints (but if I did, it’s nice to know you would listen).

    Tom

  • truck6alpha says:

    Tom,

    I appreciate that you understand I have a sense of humor. I’ve got a special project for you tomorrow just to prove it to you. 🙂

    See you in the morning.

    Mick

  • Dear Mick,
    In my life at present, blogging has been the way to work toward self-knowledge: who I am and who I wish to be. I have also been fortunate to learn about the lives of others, make friends, and even get some questions answered (big and small).

    As to destructive reactions of others–
    I think many first responders are constrained from blogging about their work pressures. IMO, this is a terrible mistake by their agency. I believe it’s good for relieving employee stress. I also think it’s good for civilians to gain some empathy for those that serve them so well.

    Thanks for inviting me to visit. Your blog is well-named. I am always looking for those who live a considered life.

    I’ll be back,
    Ann T.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *