Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Banks Are Excellent, Especially Chase

I mentioned in a recent post that my credit card had been misused twice lately and wanted to clarify that it wasn’t the exact same credit card. Chase caught the first problem immediately, canceled the card, and sent me a new one, and they caught the second problem immediately, too.

Before I left for Ypsilanti, I read all of Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved, edited by Jonathan S. Watts and Yoshiharu Tomatsu, in preparation for clinical pastoral education, and particularly liked two chapters. It dawned on me that one of the authors’ names looked familiar, so I checked the website for VFMC (Very Fantastic Medical Center), where I’ll be starting Monday, and was delighted to see that this writer is the director of hospital chaplaincy and CPE there. She won’t be supervising me directly, but will be my boss’s boss. I will be supervised by someone who is in training to become a CPE supervisor, which takes six years.

I got up at 2:45 a.m. on a Thursday to leave for Michigan and was standing right next to my open living room window at 3 a.m. when I heard a woman screaming, “Help me!” It didn’t sound like someone who was drunk or someone who was playing around. It sounded like someone who was being raped or killed. I raced to the phone and called 911 immediately. I heard her scream “Help me!” again, a bit farther away, and then I heard a final scream, quieter still, as if she were being dragged up the street. Then nothing.

This street is behind my building. To get to it, I’d have to go out front, down to the corner, and all the way around the block, so there was no point in rushing outside. For the next week, I checked sfgate.com every day to see if there was any mention of a crime in my area involving a woman, and didn’t see anything, which I guess is good, but I still have a bad feeling about it. Who was that woman, and what was happening to her out there in the dark?

I arrived at the Detroit airport without incident, found the weather muggy and warm, and got into a shuttle in which the heat seemed to be on full blast, or so I thought until the driver announced cheerfully that the A/C might need recharging. Then he reminisced about the years before there was such a thing as air conditioning in cars, which I took as a suggestion not to be too particular about what exactly was issuing from the vents.

On Friday, per intelligence from Marian, my chaplain friend in Ypsilanti, I walked over to the public library to meditate with a group. There were eight of us sitting in a circle, and I thought the instructions given by the leader were particularly good. Four people take turns running this group, including Marian. One thing that day’s leader said was to let our bodies register the calm our minds had created. She is a therapist who uses Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing technique in her work; there is a book by Gendlin by that name. Afterward, I asked if anyone wanted to join me for lunch at Dalat, a Vietnamese restaurant, and the one person who was free was the instructor, so we ate together and had a nice chat.

Later that day, I went over to meet Marian, her boss and another colleague at the hospital about ten minutes from my parents’ house. It’s the hospital where my parents go when they need to go to a hospital. As it happens, Marian’s boss is at this moment the head of the national committee that evaluates M.Div. equivalency, while her colleague is a CPE supervisor. I asked the latter what he thinks is the most important way trainee chaplains should practice self-care, which I keep hearing mentioned, but he said he thinks CPE students harp on self-care too much and forget that they also have important responsibilities. “Like saying ‘I can’t see this many patients because I have to take care of myself?’” I suggested. Marian’s boss nodded. I will take that to heart (while also practicing superb self-care).

Marian had said that Buddhist equivalency was about to become more difficult. It turns out that it depends on how you go about it. Her boss explained that an increasing number of educational institutions have a formal relationship with the Association of Professional Chaplains, so if you just go to one of those places, it’s easier, while if you want to cobble together something else, that is increasingly less welcome and therefore standards are becoming more rigorous, if I understood correctly. He said that if I have questions about my plans, I’m welcome to contact him. Isn’t it kind of cosmic that, of the five Buddhist chaplains I interviewed, one should be right there, where I myself was going to be just a couple of weeks after we spoke, and that her boss should be the head of the equivalency committee?

That evening, my sister came over. I spent a lot of pleasant time on this trip just being with my parents, including a lot of time watching TV—getting my semi-annual Rachel Maddow fix. I love Rachel. I was also reading Chernow’s Hamilton biography, and Ram Dass and Paul Gorman’s How Can I Help? Plus I’m still plugging away at Rob Burbea’s Seeing That Frees, two or three pages every now and then.
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