I had constructed a very unrealistic CPE schedule for myself which called for going to sleep at 7:30 p.m. so that I could get up at 4:30 a.m. to meditate and so forth before going to work. When I got home Wednesday evening, after the difficult interaction with Samantha, I felt utterly miserable and decided that I was going to have to stop eating dinner in order to fit everything else in, which made me feel even sorrier for myself. I thought of various people I could call for support, including one of my new chaplain pals, except that my schedule allowed zero minutes for making such calls, let alone going to see my mental health professional. I pulled down the shades and got in bed.
Finally, however, I felt so wretched that I called my mother in tears and we spent an hour on the phone. I asked if it would be a sign of poor character if I were to quit CPE after three days. She consulted my father, who said to give it two weeks. Mom was very kind and sympathetic and said that if getting nine hours of sleep is non-negotiable, then I will have to spend less time eating and meditating. I’ve sat 45 minutes a day for a long time, but I’m going to have to let that go. Ten minutes will have to do on work days. I also remembered about Sayadaw U Tejaniya, whose practice for many years was conducted while running a business, without long periods for sitting meditation. Accordingly, he advises paying attention in a relaxed way all day long.
After Mom and I got off the phone, I sprang back out of bed and ate and listened to music, and on Thursday and Friday, I meditated for just 10 minutes and let myself skip stretching both days while I recuperated, and I felt much better.
At work, there are us three summer chaplain interns, four chaplain residents finishing up their year of CPE, another CPE supervisor besides Samantha, and maybe two full-time and two part-time chaplains employed by the hospital. I was observing that many of them appear not to be thriving, based on appearance and affect. (We summer interns look fantastic, of course.) Also, if the job really is to assess and attend to spiritual and religious needs (duh), maybe it’s not for me, because I mainly just like to go around being friendly and chatting with people. I’m hearing a lot of chit-chat about religion (duh), which is not that interesting.
However, here is one thing that does pique my interest, which is that people who have been doing this for a while notice a lot of stuff I don’t notice. After seeing a patient with another chaplain, she asked if I’d observed this and that—I had not! I would like to learn not to miss those things.
I found out on Thursday which campus I’ll be assigned to, and it’s the one where our office is, which means we will see our supervisor often, which is good (I guess), and it’s also the best one for bicycle commuting: a good healthy ride but not clear on the other side of town. My access to the bike cage still hasn’t come through, but I found out that I can ask the security guards to open the cage for me, so I got to ride to work Thursday and Friday and didn’t have to take the bus, which was wonderful.
I have been assigned to parts of three floors of the hospital: a transitional ICU (TICU), a telemetry area (or cardiology; not quite clear yet), and an orthopedics area. We shadowed another chaplain as he or she visited a patient, and the next day, we visited two or three patients while being shadowed, and then we were sent off to see patients and chart on our own! Thus on Friday afternoon I found myself having several short, friendly visits with patients and then sitting in front of a computer at a nurses’ station charting! “I’m working at a hospital!” I said to myself.
I had some misgivings about Samantha even in our initial interview and must say that she often takes a rather blaming, unpleasant tone. When you ask her about something, she says, “Did you try looking in the book?” and if you spend half an hour trying to figure something out yourself, she says, “Why didn’t you ask me?” The ratio of criticisms to compliments is about 15 to one. Actually, I’m not sure we’ve received any positive feedback whatsoever, though she seemed mildly pleased when I did something on my own she was otherwise going to have to help me do.
She and I met on Friday and she asked why I didn’t answer her boss’s question in that meeting and informed me that not answering is not an option, so then I told her what I had experienced in our interaction on Wednesday and she understood and sort of apologized. I don’t know if we’re going to form a warm relationship—it’s too bad she will be writing my evaluation at the end of the unit—but I am going to do my best not to dislike her. I also understand that we all are sometimes calm and kind and we all are sometimes jerks, and when we’re jerks, there’s a reason for it. She may have troubles I can’t imagine, though whatever they are, I didn’t cause them. I am going to just do my best in the coming ten weeks and work as hard as I can and learn as much as I can.
F. came over Friday after I got home from work, and it was nice to see him. Our whole relationship is upside down at the moment, because he’s usually the one to call me, and now I mostly have to call him. I felt so happy when I woke up yesterday morning. I don’t have to go to work! The sky is so beautiful! My first week of CPE is over! I’m going to have eggs for breakfast!