My last layoff began with a month where I would work and be paid as usual, followed by a month where I would not work, but still be paid as usual and be considered an employee; after that, severance pay would start. However, from the minute I got my notice, no one in my group expected me to do one single thing. The arrangement is the same this time around, but my boss (not incorrectly) expects to make full use of this final month, so I have been busy teaching my co-workers the things I do; my work has been distributed among four other people.
Meanwhile, I sprang into action regarding chaplaincy. I emailed one of the three teachers of the yearlong chaplaincy training I took at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies, called another, and both emailed and called one of our guest speakers whom I’d particularly liked.
To be certified as a chaplain, you need three things: 1) A master of divinity degree, or the equivalent thereof. 2) Four units of clinical pastoral education (CPE) in the form of a residency at a hospital. Four units of CPE takes a year. 3) To be ordained or endorsed by some appropriate body within your religion.
I wanted to talk to one of my teachers about ordination, and another about what she thinks should be done first, the academics or CPE. I got a call back from a woman who works for the same health organization the guest speaker works for. She said he’s not really so involved with CPE anymore, and gave me some information herself. However, a bit later, I got an email from the guest speaker saying he’d be delighted to meet with me, and we made a date. I remember he was very funny when he came to our class, and he stayed with us for lunch and answered a lot of questions.
I got a call back from the teacher I wanted to ask about CPE versus education and we made a date to talk on the phone. However, before that rolled around, I mentioned to one of my classmates via email what I’m planning to do and she said she had run into another of our group in Kyoto (the one in Japan) recently and that he had been accepted into some program or other.
I emailed him to inquire and seconds later my phone rang—Sam, explaining that after applying to quite a number of CPE programs from Alaska to Colorado, and after five or six interviews, he has been accepted into a yearlong CPE program at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center (TWMC) starting this fall. He directed me to a couple of websites and I realized that, while people usually apply for CPE a year before they want to start, it was not too late to apply for CPE for the fall of 2016.
Applying for CPE involves writing five essays. I thought this over. If I was going to have a week of hideous stress, that did not sound very healthy and I should probably let the deadline pass. On the other hand—ahem—I do have ample experience crafting jolly little nuggets of writing. I decided I could probably do this, especially since at least one of these essays could readily be adapted from one of our chaplaincy class written assignments.
I sat down at the computer and typed and typed and typed. On Tuesday morning, I spoke with my teacher and she said that she thinks it’s better to do the academics first, because right after people finish CPE, they’re ready to go to work, but not yet qualified to do so, or at least, they are competing against other people who have the certification. Nonetheless, people do this in all kinds of ways, including doing the CPE first.
I had figured we’d be on the phone for 20 minutes, but instead we spoke for an hour, and she was so helpful and encouraging that I now feel I have acquired a wonderful mentor. I was relieved and inspired when we got off the phone. She said the journey to professional chaplaincy is 3-5 years, and I can think of myself as being in year two due to my dharma experience. She said the turtle wins the race, not the rabbit—people with deep roots in their own wellness and religious identity.
She added that this is a tried and true track, and that I can trust the process. I should ask myself, “How can I be a turtle and get the most out of this?” I should make ready to ride the ebb and flow. She said that for anyone she has observed who has wanted this and put in the effort, it has worked out. We will have to give her a name. What is a beautiful name for my wonderful mentor? Jehoshaphat? Takes too long to type; also not beautiful. I will call her Naima.
Without my having asked, she offered to review my CPE application, and I agreed to send her my essays the following morning and returned to my computer to type and type and type. Normally I’m not Mrs. Full Court Press. Normally it’s more like I’m going to get nine hours of sleep, stretch, meditate, have a nice breakfast and take a walk and then I’ll see what does or doesn’t fit into my schedule (while also of course super-efficiently getting my job done), but this seemed worth an unusual effort.