At a recent Atlanta Sisters in Crime meeting, the invited speaker, a former FBI Special Agent, described how she kept emotion in check for over two decades when she worked on heartrending, tragic cases: She went into “mission mode.”
Being writers, we pushed her to elaborate. “How did you feel?” asked one member. “What was going on inside of you?” The agent responded that she drew on her professional training and experience to compartmentalize* her feelings.
“I just went into ‘mission mode,'” she said. “You’re on a mission, so you stay in mission mode until you get the job done.” As she described an example to us, tears came to her eyes.
Afterward, another ‘sister’ and I discussed the Agent’s talk, and the term “mission mode.”
“I can use that in my current work in progress,” said my sister, whose book has Secret Service Agent characters. “I’d been looking for the terminology they use for that, and now I can use it in dialogue and elsewhere.” **
I can’t use the term in the book I’m writing. But in a different way, it described my attitude–my mode de vie, or way of life–when my son Jack battled cancer almost five years ago. I went into mission mode trying to protect and support him. I lived on hope. And I refused to take No for an answer. Last year, I wrote the story of our journey together. Titled ALL THE ABOVE, it will be released this spring.
Jack, weeks after his diagnosis and his first surgery (and first scar):
I can’t fathom what’s it like to work in law enforcement, where mission mode is normale, if not obligatoire. As an author, I imagine*** stories–make them up–and though I also have to “get the job done,” it seems a much easier job. But for 6 months in 2010, I had a lot going on inside of me that I shared with no one but my husband.
Until I wrote ALL THE ABOVE.
* my word, not hers
*** fiction, that is; ALL THE ABOVE is a true story