I will start by saying that for most of us, this year has been difficult at best. Many of us have had to constantly adjust our way of thinking, our routines and our feelings about almost everything.
Just to give some perspective on where I am coming from: my husband is a police officer and I am a nurse.
I am sure you can imagine, but this year more than most with the global pandemic and the complete upheaval of how a large portion of society viewed the man I love, has had its unique challenges.
If a stranger used to ask us what we did for a living, we both would answer without a second thought.
This year, that changed.
I saw nurses being unjustly feared and ostracized because of this false belief that they were dangerous, dirty or contagious. They were, of course, going to spread COVID like wildfire in every grocery store or gas station they went to. Many of us stopped wearing our scrubs in public as we had witnessed or heard of colleges being yelled at, called names and shamed because of it.
The truth really didn’t matter because the stigma was already out there. And fear was becoming a powerful enemy.
At the same time, my husband was dealing with a whole different level of hate and discrimination. The same individuals that 6 months prior would want to thank him and shake his hand for being a hero, were now flipping him off and throwing things at his patrol car when he was on his way to work.
We live in an area that was chalked full of protests and images of police officers being hurt and assaulted every day in the streets. We knew of officers having protesters show up at their homes and threaten their families.
As things progressed, we began to fear for the safety of our own family.
We moved his patrol car to a locked precinct and took our blue line flag off of our home. This was such a difficult decision, but we had to protect our children. As the hatred escalated, our sense of security and safety disappeared.
Despite everything happening around us, we both had to continue to work. We both had to continue to show a strong and unified front at home and make our children feel safe, regardless of how we felt.
We knew they were struggling on many levels. Although they knew who their dad was a true hero who saved and protected people every day, the angry voices in the public were getting loud. Naturally, they feared for his safety.
They were also scared for me. Scared that I would get sick and scared that I would bring COVID home to them. I can’t even tell you how many bleach wipes we went through. It was like a metaphorical sword trying to slay an invisible dragon.
Throughout this trying time, I joined several Pro Law Enforcement, Wives of LEOs and various Nursing Facebook groups.
I felt like even if I didn’t post anything, I needed to connect with people that were having the same struggles as myself and as my family. I needed to feel some normalcy and support and hope.
I needed to feel like this struggle was not unique. If other people could get through it, I could too.
That was a good start, but it definitely wasn’t enough.
We both had to pull our circles close and talk, yell, cry and laugh about it all. We had to get real and honest about the fact that these jobs, these callings if you will, are not easy.
Being a wife of a police officer on the best day, is not easy. Having children who have anxiety about their parent’s safety is not easy. Being a nurse or even a human being during a global pandemic is definitely not easy.
We had to find hope and happiness despite the chaos.
We had to admit and understand that we could not find that in a vacuum. We had to reach out and let others in. We had to talk about it.
We had to ask for help, and we did.
As the pendulum continued to swing, things began to level out and get a little more normal around here. I learned how to find humor in dressing up like an astronaut and showing patients my badge so they could see my real face.
My husband eventually brought his patrol car back home and learned how to listen to the quiet voices of the people who stood strong beside and behind him.
We even started to see support from our community. Actually, we saw more than support.
We saw love from our community.
We had people bring us treats, flowers and cards expressing their gratitude for continuing to be their helpers. We started to see this and it brought us hope.
As I walk through this life, as a wife of a police officer, a nurse, a mom, a friend and a daughter, I recognize that every one of my roles has its own struggles and its own blessings.
What I know above all else is that if I just reach out for help when I need it, someone will always be reaching back.
I will end with this. On New Year’s Eve, I cried with a grateful heart to just be done with this year… this year probably more than any other. I felt relief, even though I knew the magic fairy would not wave her wand and bring me rainbows and unicorns.
I felt like I had survived something.
Even though nothing had really changed, I felt stronger and more prepared for the next storm. I felt like I could take a deep breath, like I had allies if I ever needed them.
I think that is what happens when we join in others' struggles… when we let others in.
We develop strength in numbers. We develop a community that understands us and who will prop us up when we are too weak to walk. We truly learn that we are not unique and that others have the same thoughts and hopes and sadness as we do.
With that understanding we learn that we are never alone. With that knowledge, we gain the courage to live a beautiful life without needing to have all of the answers.
My experience has been that no matter what this life throws at me, as long as I am brave enough to reach out and ask for help…. someone will always be reaching back.
This is my hope and prayer for you, too.