Firefighter Fail – Lesson in Detachment


My intention was to become a firefighter.  Come March I’d walk with my academy mates to shake the hand of the fire chief moving from firefighter recruit to full fledged firefighter.  Alas…that’s not what will happen.  Firefighter will not be part of my resume.

CrossFit, strongman and weightlifting prepared me physically for the academy.  Upon entering the academy I felt physically strong and ready to put my body through the demands of training to become a firefighter.  The physical aspect of the academy was definitely a challenge and my body took a beating to say the least.  However, feeling like I was doing something physically was quite rewarding at the end of the day.  Looking back at what was accomplished in such a short amount of time – running 2.5miles as a warm-up (who does that?!), for example, was a win in my book.

Yoga prepared me for the mental challenge of the academy, sort of.  I have never been in the military, nor do I ever want to be.  Imagine my surprise when faced with the militaristic style of the academy!  To say I hated it would be an understatement.  It was a complete shock to the system to also find out how intensely phobic I  initially was of the SCBA.  This all boils down to some fairly deep rooted patterns within me, namely the fear of loosing control or letting go.  My very basic breath practice helped to get me through most of this, while the awareness of this pattern has pushed me to work with it so that I can hopefully one day move beyond the fear.  Interestingly enough, I learned the power of meditation during this time as well.  I used to be of the “this is too woo-woo” camp and was resistant to the idea.  When faced with the challenges I encountered the week+ I was in the academy, meditation became a necessity to maintain presence.

The combination of all the above gave me the confidence to quit the academy.  Crawling through the maze in full turnout gear on day 6 of the academy I realized that had that been an actual burning building I would’ve wanted no part in that whatsoever.  When I exited the structure I pulled of my mask and told my instructor and Lieutenant that I was done and would not be continuing.  That was the last moment I would be a firefighter.



How do you identify?


Basically, this sums it up.

Basically, this sums it up.

How do you introduce yourself?  Hi, I’m Anne-Marie.

Then what…do you go in to what you do for a paycheck?  What you do for fun?  Where you’re from?  It could go something like this….I am a paramedic at the local childrens’ hospital.  My wife and I live near the water with our four (yes, I said four) dogs and one cat.  I have a younger sister that is mother to my two awesome nephews.  My parents are still happily married going on 40 years!  I teach a Sunday Funday multi-level yoga class on Sundays at my wife’s yoga studio, The Space Above.  Occasionally I can be found at the local strongman/powerlifting gym, Brute Strength coaching a CrossFit class or working out with my wife and friends. I graduated with my bachelors in Philosophy and Film (photography) from Hollins University almost 15 years ago (good lord, really?), but love school so much that I went back to school for post baccalaureate studies because I thought I was going to medical school and decided to become a paramedic instead.  I’ve had various jobs – outdoor education, server at a few restaurants, even a stint as a valet, a lifeguard, a dog trainer, retail sales, etc.  When I was in junior high I met the girl who would become my first girlfriend.  I played a ton of sports and was a collegiate equestrian (on the national team, thank you very much), and found the barbell in 2009 while going through a huge life transition and haven’t turned back (lifting weights is awesome)…………………………………

It looks like a resumé, right?  That paragraph could go on for endless words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, but it doesn’t really tell you who I am – it tells you what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I like, some of my experiences.  Who I am, who you are, is a bit harder to answer, don’t you think?  All of these details give the reader an idea of what I like to do as a person, what I enjoy and how I like to spend my time.  You likely enjoy some of those things too, or know me from some of these experiences and that’s what has drawn you to my blog.

Who are you?  No, really.  Think about it.  Without the things, without the clothing, without the hobbies, without the jobs, without the hashtags…who are you?  Strip down to the barebones of your existence and see if you can discover who you are.  We’re just the same, you and I…and the person next to you, across the street, two states away.  All of these identities that we carry are just a mask making it easier to distinguish me from the person next to me in the coffee shop.

Baby Firefighter!  If you’ve made it this far, then you now know what prompted me to jot this deep thought down.  I’ve identified many different ways in my almost 37 years, and starting December 1st I’ll add the role of Firefighter to the Who am I? resumé.  You know that phrase, the only thing that is constant is change?  This sums up this whole bit of identification, it’s always in flux.  What’s important in that moment is what you’ll share with the people you meet.  Tomorrow that first paragraph above will sound and look entirely different.  Which also means this blog may look completely different as my experience as a firefighter paramedic emerges.  How does this new role look for me?  I don’t know.  There are so many unknown variables that I’m preparing to encounter on this new journey.

Go with the flow, and embrace nakedness.  Ok, so be naked when it’s appropriate, but don’t be afraid to share YOU with the world.  Embrace the change that you experience on a daily basis.  Just because you think you are who you are today, tomorrow, hell even an hour from now, you may believe you’re something entirely different.  Go with it.

Introduce yourself to me…who are you?

Be YOU! (This is the beautiful Tara, one of the teachers at The Space Above.)

Be YOU! (This is the beautiful Tara, one of the teachers at The Space Above.)


Simple Advice for Peace

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If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Many of you who know me personally know how passionate I am about children – their health, welfare and education especially.  And, if you’ve paid attention to my bio you’ve maybe noticed that I work as a Paramedic in a Children’s ER.  In my line of work I have been conditioned to separate and distance myself from the inherent chaos that this position brings.  I have taught myself to not create personal attachments to my patients beyond the short time that they are in the ER.  I see sick babies, some of them die, some of them are hurt, some of them have been abused by the hands of people they thought were taking care of them, and some hurt themselves because they can’t cope with the world any other way.

Occasionally a patient tugs strongly at my heart-strings and I cannot help but let my walls down.  Tonight was one of those nights.  A young man came in to the ED after ingesting a lot of pills in an attempt to harm himself and take his body out of this life.  Part of my job is to sit – or babysit – for these patients.  This is not only for their safety and the people around them, but also for their medical care – especially if they are in a critical state.  In this case I form a different type of relationship with the child and caretakers that are present.  I am present for deeper family interactions making it nearly impossible to not form a longer lasting relationship with them all.  This case was no different. 

A young, visibly depressed, withdrawn man entered quietly and compliently.  Initially he had no desire to converse or make small talk nor did I force it.  Taking care of his immediate requests to make him comfortable lead to only short two or three word responses.  With stable vital signs, my job was only to keep him safe and comfortable.  Then his family arrived.  He refered to them as his parents – his mother and grandmother.  Neither of them greeted my young patient.  They came in, sat down quietly and did not engage in any sort of introduction to me or the patient or begin any type of conversation.  During the few hours I sat with this young man his grandmother was the only one (other than the clinical staff) that entertained any sort of chatting, generally my patient was the one that was looking to receive the attention of his caretakers and not the other way around.  His mother did not speak one word to him and stayed engaged in her tablet the entire time – unless it was to complain about how it was late and express her adamant desire about not staying any longer that necessary to the nurses and doctors.  It became increasingly obvious that this young man was reaching out in a serious way and needed to be heard. 

“Thank you for being so nice.”  This is what my young patient said to me when I dropped him off in his new room for the night.  His family was reluctant to even accompany us up to his room and threw quite the fit about having any involvement in this child’s care.  They did not even say goodnight or goodbye to him – just walked away (not before leaving a very memorable impression on the floor staff).  My young patient said that it was difficult to relax with “all that was going on with is family”.  This was apparent by the physiological effects – measurable by his elevated vital signs and abdominal pain. 

We all just want to be valued, and heard, and loved. This young man went to extremes to be seen. This was not his first attempt and unfortunately it’s likely not his last at such an intense level.  I don’t believe he actually wanted to die, but he has no other means to communicate his need and desire to have a relationship with his family who seems to have given up on him.  The pain in this young man’s heart was impossible to not feel. 

Relationships teach us a lot about life, each other, ourselves and foster growth.  People are put in our life for many reasons.  Open your heart and listen to the people you truly care about, see them – really see them for who they are and what they are asking for in a relationship with you.  Be honest about your needs and don’t be afraid to say “I love you” and “No” and “Yes, I can”.  Realize that you are not alone, there is someone out there (and maybe more than one) that love you just as you are and hears everything you say and that you are that person to at least one other person as well. 

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.