Friday, March 04, 2016

Lifted Up

Small correction: Per the bill I just received, driving up to see Carol Joy in Novato in a City CarShare car was actually just $61.81 more than taking the bus would have been, making it an even wiser choice than I thought!

To say more about my clinical pastoral education interview at TWMC this past Tuesday, I arrived early, thanks to having allowed plenty of extra time. This proved to be yet another wise choice, since the driver of the 22 Fillmore, for unknown reasons, directed me to get off the bus several blocks before my stop, in fact, right in the middle of a block—not even at a bus stop. He said, “You wanted to get off at 18th and Minnesota? Get off here.” I got off the bus and I was on 18th St., but there was no sign of Minnesota. I had to stop someone with a smart phone to get directions. On my way back later, I saw that there is a bus stop right at 18th and Minnesota. Odd.

Having some extra time beforehand, I went into the meditation room near the Spiritual Care Services office. There was a woman in there using it as a place to do something on her laptop. When I closed my eyes to meditate for a moment, she politely stepped outside into an adjoining garden, and a splendid cool breeze came in. I was starting to feel boiling hot (in my jacket!), so I got up and stood in the open doorway for a few minutes, and then I walked around the room and came upon a large notebook in which people had written heartbreaking, anguished prayers, for instance, about their baby who was about to die. Periodically, there was a note from one of the chaplains indicating that the prayers had been lifted up and offered to God. It was tremendously moving.

One of the questions in my interview was: “If you are woken in the middle of the night when you’re on call because someone’s baby has just died, what emotions do you think you might feel?” I considered that, and said that I thought I would probably feel first terrified—will I say the right thing in this very worst moment of some stranger’s life?—and then sad. They asked where I felt the sadness. This was an easy one for a 25-year practitioner of mindfulness meditation. I said that I felt it in a large, diffuse area of my chest, and as a slight tension behind my eyes, where tears would come from. They asked if I might cry when meeting with the baby’s parents, and I said I might. I said that if it were my baby who had died, I might really appreciate it if the hospital chaplain was also sad enough about my terrible loss to weep.

The male chaplain pointed out that I had just said minutes before that, while I think it’s good to be in touch with my emotions while providing care, I didn’t envision walking around the hospital sobbing and asking the patients to comfort me—is it the case that I can take in new information or experiences and change my views accordingly? Certainly it is, and I appreciated both his pointing out that evident inconsistency, and even more, his seeming to see this rapid evolution in views as a good thing. He is a really lovely person. Also, he looks kind of like Mark Ruffalo. I got the feeling that both of them were looking for evidence that I’d be a good fit, not for evidence that I wouldn’t be. 


Had I mentioned the on-call thing? When you’re a CPE student, you spend one night every week or so sleeping onsite in case a chaplain is needed during the night anywhere in the hospital: a baby that has died, a cancer patient in physical or emotional anguish, anything.

At VFMC, in case you’re interested, you work your full day, stay overnight, and then have the next day off, unless that day is Saturday. At TWMC, you can come in as late as 4:15 p.m. the day your on-call starts (earlier if it’s a class day), and then you stay overnight and work the whole next day. In the latter scenario, I’d have to get someone to come the morning of the next day to feed Hammett and give him his medication.

The last piece of good news for that day: neither one of the TWMC interviewers was wearing a black jacket. The woman was wearing slacks, a nice top, a pretty necklace, and a fine-gauge black cardigan. Also, I didn’t have a hot flash while we were meeting.

After that second interview, I felt very excited about the various possibilities. For instance, maybe I can do the summer CPE program at VFMC and the yearlong program at TWMC. Or at least the summer program, which may make it obvious that where I really belong is in a nice anonymous cubicle at a large company, staring dreamily at a computer.
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