Their faces showed slight surprise, eyes expectant. They shyly held onto to every word the police officer said, switching back from his face to the translator. Kids played nearby oblivious to the serious nature of the meeting. I soaked it all in, trying to read minds that thought in a different language. There was one unmistakable emotion, however, that betrayed each one. Fear.
A murder had taken place in their neighborhood. And they were terrified for their kids and for themselves, some leaving the comfort of their beds and sleeping together on the floor.
I’ve not been in their shoes. But I have fought with my own fears.
Fear of failure.
Fear of letting people down.
Fear of things I can’t control.
And sometimes, fear of success.
Two days earlier I sat with some friends who challenged me. They raised the bar for my business. They told me to move forward towards risk. They suggested I invest deeper into the dreams I have gotten a taste of.
It scared me. Because these people are lifelong friends, they recognized my hesitance. And then showed me a movie trailer.
Now, there’s something. In my years of dealing with those who are hurting, fearful, overwhelmed and devastated, I never thought of pulling out the iPhone and showing them a movie trailer. Not even close. But I watched, and was glad I did. Here it is:
Will Smith’s words spoke to me: “If we are going to survive this, you must realize that FEAR IS NOT REAL. It is a product of thoughts you create. Now, do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real, but FEAR IS A CHOICE.”
Fear is a choice?
I thought fear was an emotion. An emotion that has dominion over me because I perceive the danger to be real. My mind naturally plays tricks on me. I let my thoughts go to what could happen based on circumstances, based on real danger, or based on perceived danger. Life will hand us the unexpected, and because we are who we are, we try to ready ourselves for the unexpected by going to places in our minds that are imaginary. The result can be FEAR.
Violence is real, and at times visits our neighborhoods. It’s close. In response, our imaginations ignite fear – it may be our turn next.
But what if we band together and unite, keeping each other informed and accountable? What if we take a step towards the fear in daring boldness, and decide we will not be pushed around by those who seek to destroy?
Risks don’t always pan out. In response, our imaginations ignite fear in the risk – if it fails, I’ll lose everything. Maybe. But then again, sometimes losing everything is the beginning of real success. What if that risk is something that expands my business, carrying a message to the very people who need to hear it?
In either case, and in the case of fears that each of us carry, there are varying degrees of danger. But fear is not real – it is a product of thoughts we create.
Fear is a choice. What will you choose?
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 30th, 2013
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When I Moved In, I Brought My Baggage
Jim and Angie sat across from us, their meals barely touched. They recounted an issue that they couldn’t get past in their marriage, and it was huge. They were so concerned that they brought it to Brent and I, their mentors, to help them sort it out. About that time Brent asked, “Is this something that you struggled with in your home life growing up?” Jim’s face froze, and I could almost see the light bulb brighten above his head. He then recalled a story that had paralleled their issue to the tee. The core issue was apparent to each one of us, and they came up with a simple way to deal with it.
In this life journey you’ve been on, chances are you have picked up things along the way that aren’t so good. Someone hurt you. You have adopted others’ destructive messages about yourself. Perhaps you made poor choices in your past, and you are reaping the consequences now. Whatever the reason for the hurts in your life, if not dealt with, they can adversely affect your marriage.
Dr. Gil Stieglitz, in his book entitled Marital Intelligence – A Foolproof Guide to Saving and Strengthening Marriage, says that past baggage is one of five problems we face in marriage. He writes,
“We carry with us wounds and destructive internalized programming as well as guilt and consequences from our past actions. There is no way to seal off the past and have its unresolved issues stay away. At times the impact of unresolved past baggage is so strong that it must be dealt with before progress in marriage can be attempted… It will continue as is unless those wounds are exposed, grieved, and processed… People need to process their pain from the past.”[i]
Many are the hurts of those we know. Some heal, some don’t. Some make peace with their pain; others live in the past. If baggage is affecting your relationship, there are healthy ways to deal with it. Check your support system (see next chapter). Some things can be talked out with a wise friend. I also recommend going to an older, wiser couple with your husband. When Brent and I went through a tough time with one of our teenagers, we sought out the help of a couple we respected who’d gone through similar things with their son.
Counseling is also a great tool. I once heard a police officer say that when she needed help with plumbing she called a plumber. When she needed help with electrical, she called an electrician. So it only made sense when she needed help with some emotional issues she was facing, she called a counselor.
[i] Gil Stieglitz, Marital Intelligence, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH books, 2010) page 184.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 27th, 2013
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Since this time last year, I’ve been working on a project called Selfish Prayer. I am the ghostwriter, which means that I write a book for someone else. That someone else is a member of the California National Guard, and served in Afghanistan in 2009 as a Medevac flight medic.
It’s been quite an education.
Previously my knowledge of the Armed Forces came from stories from my grandfather, a WWII veteran, a few conversations with my brother who fought in Panama in 1989, and the brief journey we endured with my son who went to Marine boot camp and came home early because of a medical discharge. I, like so many other Americans, hold a special place in my heart for the men and women who serve in the military. They have my respect, my support, and my gratitude.
But when a retired California Highway Patrolman who worked for my husband approached me about writing this story, I had no idea what lay in store.
My first exposure was to attend a speaking engagement to hear my client’s story. Wow – he recounted how he was lowered down from a helicopter in the midst of a fierce firefight to retrieve five wounded soldiers the age of his son and all those who were involved survived. He then loaded me up with newspaper clippings, magazines, pictures, and video that I spent the next year reviewing.
We then conducted interviews with medics, crew chiefs, pilots, and doctors, flying to the southern states and driving countless miles on the west coast to hear their stories face to face.
I looked into their eyes and heard the inflections in their voices. Anger. Hurt. Bravery. Camaraderie. Love.
At times I had to swallow the lump in my throat, and other times I couldn’t hold back the tears as most of them shed tears as they shared their memories. They gave me pictures, camera footage, raw recollections, and felt comfortable enough to speak freely, sometimes taking me aback.
Since then, I’ve gained a new and deeper appreciation for those who’ve been to battle. Because once they got on that plane and headed to the war torn fields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the war imbedded itself into their souls. There were horrors to witness. There was blood shed by brothers they loved. There were injuries and deaths and decisions and injustice and boredom and shock and smells and sounds and hate and ego and misunderstandings. And it was packed into a year or so and that year will never leave them. It is permanently etched into the fabric of their being.
When they get on the plane to come back to US soil, they bring the war back to us here at home. They try not to. They try to keep it hidden in some compartmentalized nightmare within their minds. But it’s left an indelible mark upon their souls, and it permeates their personalities and separates them from those who love them. I pray we have the courage to bridge that separation that naturally occurs.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, where we remember those who’ve fallen on the battlegrounds of wars past and present. Their blood was spilled for our freedom. We are grateful for their sacrifice.
This Memorial Day I am also mourning the losses of those whose hearts did not stop beating, but have lost just the same. There are many who lost limbs, lost recognition from burns, lost brothers they loved, and still more who lost their marriages, lost mental footing, and in many cases, left pieces of their souls on the battlefield. Those of us who are carrying on with life in safety and security seriously do not have a clue as to the sacrifices and loss they have experienced.
As for me, I’ve heard soldiers cry. I’ve shared the memories that dance just behind the darkness in their eyes. I know that when I wake up in the night, there are thousands of veterans who are reliving their war in their dreams in homes across America.
Veterans, alive and gone, it isn’t enough to say thank you. I acknowledge your sacrifice, and I pray for your healing, and for all that you’ve done (even the unimaginable), I am grateful for you.
Selfish Prayer: How California National Guard Changed the Face of Medevac Amidst Chaos, Carnage and Politics of War will be released in July 2013. You will be able to purchase it via Amazon.com and will be available in paperback and ebook.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 27th, 2013
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Proactive Steps To Deal with Fear
We can know the odds and be prepared for the worst. But there are always those close calls and creepy little feelings that come up from time to time as we face the danger of what our spouse does for a living. How do we disarm them?
1. Face the worst case scenario. Much of what we fear is unknown, and fear breeds worry. Think through your greatest fear and play it out in your mind as to how you will deal with it. Come up with an emergency response to the “what if.”
2. Demystify the experience. Familiarize yourself with your agency’s death benefits and protocol. Talk to your spouse about who you would want to deliver the news should something happen. Security is very important to us as women, and not knowing what will happen if can be a catalyst for worry. Brent’s agency encourages officers to designate who will notify next of kin in case. You can be a part of that decision or work to initiate such a protocol in your husband’s agency.
3. Resist the temptation to listen to scanners or dispatch applications on the Internet. This is not an emergency response to facing the worst case scenario. This is a distracting illusion of control. “If I just know what’s going on, I can handle it…” Risky approach. This could perpetuate fear, not dispel it.
4. Talk out your fears. I talked with Brent in his down time once or twice and found it helpful. I’ve also talked with other seasoned wives, and this helps too. You may even consider talking with a survivor if you have the opportunity. If you are a person of faith, prayer is an excellent way to talk out your fears. Personally, this is where I found much comfort when I have dealt with occasional fear.
5. Let it go. This is one area you can’t control, and if you try you’ll drive yourself and others crazy. Go back to your foundation. What or who is it that you trust?
My friend Michelle Walker lost her husband in the line of duty New Year’s Eve of 2005. I asked her how she dealt with fear before he was killed. I learned that her father was with LAPD and had suffered a shooting but recovered. Incredibly, she never feared that her husband would be killed. She answered, “Fear drains your energy, puts stress on your marriage and family, and ultimately won’t change a thing. I’m so glad that I didn’t waste the time I had with Mike worrying.”
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 20th, 2013
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At some point in your husband’s career, you will face fear. Some of the wives I’ve talked to said the first year was the hardest, and then they settled down. Some of you have a natural tendency to worry, and this is hard for you. There are still others who hardly worry at all until they come face to face with a reminder that what their husbands do is dangerous.
Rosa told me that she was having trouble with fear. Her husband had graduated from the academy just three months earlier and then was sent to Oakland. I understood; in the last month there were two separate shooting incidents with our department alone and a riot deployment. A year earlier Oakland Police Department lost four officers to a single shooter. It was a dangerous place. She wondered how to deal with it.
When fear rears its ugly head, how can we deal with it? I think the answer lies in what we choose to put our trust in. What is it that we can hold on to that will be adequate to stand up to the “what ifs?” Let’s look at a few facts—they’re in our favor.
According to the National Employment Matrix, there were more than 1.2 million law enforcement members in the United States in 2008. During 2009, there were 116 deaths of American law enforcement officers, according to LawOfficer.com. Concerns of Police Survivors estimates on their website that 140 to 160 American officers lose their lives on duty every year. This is still too many on-duty deaths, but you can clearly see the odds here. Police officers are not even listed as one of the ten most deadly jobs.[i]
There is a great deal of time, energy, thought, and money that goes into the training that your husband receives and continues to receive throughout his career. There are many people throughout the country whose jobs are to reduce the amount of injuries and deaths of police officers. Law enforcement training is designed to provide each officer the mindset and tactics to make it home at the end of each shift.
The same can be said about protective gear. There are constant revisions and improvements in body armor, tools, and weaponry. My husband receives several catalogs a year to unveil the latest technologies available to law enforcement.
But we still lose excellent officers every year. It is a possibility no matter what the odds. So, how can we protect ourselves?
If something should go awry and you experience an injury or death, information is power; educate yourself. Here are several proactive steps you can take to ensure you are protected in these situations.
1. Do research on what your department provides for the families of fallen officers. In many cases, there may not be monetary benefits, but they might support you through assistance programs and help with funerals.
2. Look at federal and state benefits available to you.
3. Make sure your husband’s life insurance and accidental death/dismemberment is adequate for the needs of your family.
4. Draw up a will and provide a copy to the executer.
5. Keep your beneficiary information updated.
6. Ensure that your spouse keeps your contact information updated in the records at work (i.e., new address, phone numbers).
7. Have a conversation with your spouse about final wishes, how he wants to be buried and where, details he may want at his funeral, etc. If you can’t do this, have him write it down and keep in a safe place.
8. Know that police survivors have a strong support community through Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS). Their website has a wealth of information, and should you have to face this, there are local chapters you can contact.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 17th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Thinking
Pursuing happiness is short-term thinking. It concentrates on right now. Right now I’d be very happy if I had a big piece of German chocolate cake. And then after I eat that very large piece of German chocolate cake, I’d be happy if I had just a little more. So I’ll eat another half piece. Fifteen minutes later, I’ll be miserable because my stomach hurts. And then in the morning when my jeans are too tight, the guilt sets in. Long-term thinking is different. This mindset understands that passing on that dessert means better-fitting jeans, and that is the avenue to self-respect and good health. It is making a decision to pass on something that will make me happy temporarily to obtain something much more satisfying in the long run. Long-term thinking is realizing that when I am happy, I celebrate it because there will be seasons that I will not be happy. And yet I’m okay with it.
Long-term thinking in our marriages requires looking at the goal: to still have a thriving marriage at the end of our lives. Actively pursuing a satisfying, contented marriage means investing in your relationship over the years in happy and not-so-happy times.
Long-term thinking doesn’t blow things out of proportion when you have a spat this week after connecting on a deep level last week. Relationships ebb and flow, and short-term thinking will create drama. “You never…” is the accusation when, in actuality, he does at times just not enough for you or not enough at the moment. Drama gets tiresome when it pops up again and again. It takes out large withdrawals from your marital bank account. In contrast, long-term thinking relaxes a bit and doesn’t panic. Long-term thinking stops taking cues from whatever doesn’t feel right at the moment and tries to understand the big picture.
Put Fear in Its Place
The most common thing cops’ wives hear from non-cops are questions about how we deal with fear. It’s the first thing thought about once a loved one decides law enforcement is the career they want to do, and it’s the most obvious. Those on the outside looking in assume that we worry all the time and the circumstances dictate to what degree. When Brent promoted to lieutenant and was relegated to a desk, our non-cop friends figured that I wouldn’t worry as much because he was out of the danger zone. They were surprised to hear that I didn’t worry as a lifestyle, that I had dealt with my fear long ago.
The first time I felt fear about my husband’s job was about nine months in. He came home one morning and told me how he and his partner came upon a gang fight in a bad part of Los Angeles. Being the eager rookies they were, they stopped, called for back up, pulled their guns, and yelled freeze. And those who were fighting did freeze, unbelievably enough. All except for one, who took off running. At that point Brent’s partner gave chase, leaving Brent alone with twenty armed gang members, having only a six-bullet revolver and a shotgun. It was at that point he realized that the situation could go really bad. He was outnumbered in people and in weapons. They could’ve turned on him in a heartbeat, … but they didn’t.
It seemed like forever, but soon he heard the cavalry coming; others arrived, black and whites screeching in from all directions. Gang members were sorted out, handcuffed, and taken to jail. Brent’s partner came back too with the fleeing suspect in custody. Turns out one of the bad guys was wanted for rape. It all turned out well, but the fear factor was definitely there.
Brent laughed about it—and at first, so did I. But it scared me. I started counting down the “what ifs,” and fear crept in with them. Honey, we’re not in Chico anymore! He’s fighting real gangs with real guns. The danger was near, and it was very real.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 6th, 2013
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I don’t wear the badge on a uniform. But when you’re married to an officer, you wear the shadow of their badge on your heart.
Pat, wife of a CHP officer who was injured on-duty
Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor
In 2006, one of our officers responded to an accident that involved a disturbed young man. One thing led to another, and a fight ensued as the man tried to steal the officer’s gun. A sheriff’s deputy joined in, as did a paramedic who was on the scene. The subject was overpowered, and he went to jail. This kind of thing happens often, but this time a reporter with a camera just happened to stop and snap several pictures of the entire incident. The photos made their way to a variety of places, and Code 3 Magazine picked them up and published them.
In response, they received an emotional letter from a wife of a police officer with three small children. She wrote that she was shocked to see such graphic pictures and didn’t wish to receive the magazine anymore. In the next issue, there were several responses to her letter. Here are two excerpts:
…[B]elieve in your husband… and support him with all your heart. It is for you, your children and the world they live in that he serves as a peace officer. You are and need to be a part of that. A loved one’s support and faith is often the secret weapon that a peace officer will use to survive a critical incident. Hiding from reality will not work.
Deputy sheriff married to a highway patrolman[i]
Being an officer’s spouse is not for the faint of heart. It takes strength, will and an understanding for the love of the job that officers feel and commit themselves to… I hope she can come to terms with that which she is now married to. If not, her constant fear will destroy both her and her marriage…
Former officer and wife of police officer
Fear had taken its toll on this young mother, and it seemed that she responded with avoidance and anger. It’s a natural instinct but one that could be destructive to her and her family. So, what’s a girl to do?
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Worry and fear are chronic when the ground you stand on isn’t firm enough to steady you. Every house is built upon a foundation, and the house will only be as sound as the materials it’s built upon. If your personal foundation is built upon things like truth, morality, goodness, and a love for others, chances are you’re standing on something solid that will withstand the storms life brings you. But if you are standing on ignorance, selfishness, fear of what could happen at any moment, or are led primarily by your senses (touch, sight, taste, etc.), your life will eventually falter on these shifting sands.
What is it that you stand on as an individual? What are your goals for your life? What drives you? When you are eighty years old, what do you want your life to look like as you take inventory of the years you invested? The answers to these questions will determine your success in life as a person, a wife, and a mother and levels of satisfaction or regret at the end of your life. It will also determine your emotional stability in the face of what your husband’s career hands you.
Most women that I talk to want to be happy. That’s what life is all about, right? We don’t want trouble, we don’t want pain. We want to feel good inside and out, have fun, live positive lives with positive thinking. It’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Unfortunately, if we are actively pursuing happiness, we are headed for disappointment, maybe even sorrow. Let me tell you why. Happiness is subjective. Happiness is elusive. And the definition of happiness is ever changing, depending on what it is that we chase to fill that happy place.
My youngest son recently wanted a Wii so bad he could taste it. He researched it on the web. He saved his money for months. Whenever we went shopping, he asked to swing by the electronics section just to see if they had them in stock. His pursuit of happiness was wrapped up in buying that Wii. Finally the day came when he received his Wii in the mail. For the next few weeks, he played Wii for hours. And, yes, he was so happy! But after a couple months, I noticed he was researching something else on the computer—catcher’s gear. Here we go again!
Happiness is short lived. There will be times in your marriage that you will not be happy. There will be seasons that will take you down some dark paths. If your underlying pursuit is to be happy, you may want out in these seasons. Why? Because chasing a feeling that comes and goes will be a constant source of disappointment. And in that emotional instability, you will inadvertently undermine your own marriage.
[i] Correspondence, Code 3 Magazine, (Spring 2007).
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 2nd, 2013
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