Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heavily Meditated

That’s what I saw on someone’s t-shirt recently.

On Friday (my day off after being on call—which recuperative period will not be offered at TWMC, the medical center known here as the Truly Wonderful Medical Center, where I might or might not start a year of clinical pastoral education in September) I: meditated, went to the office to drop off the on-call stuff, took the bus home from work, had breakfast, gave Hammett his morning medication, finally did all my online courses for TWMC (this took quite a while), made an appointment for drug testing for TWMC, called Lisa M. re our date the next day, brought the recycling bin in, looked at a book online that my fellow student Andrew recommends, called Modern Times to order three books (including one required for TWMC—a paperback that costs $40!), tried on some stuff that arrived from Lands’ End, had lunch, wrote down what I spent in the past week, updated some personal documents, walked over to see Jack for bodywork, walked back home, did my exercises, had dinner, talked to David and Lisa on the phone, and gave Hammett his evening medication.

F. arrived at 9 p.m. after the open mic at the soup kitchen, which I normally attend, but this was the one possible time that David, Lisa and I could talk, and it was a very nice chat. It wasn’t long enough, but it was lovely to hear their dear, familiar voices. I came away with the impression that Lisa is leaning toward thinking it would be good to continue with the chaplaincy adventure, while David thinks it would be more prudent to collect a solid salary for a few years more; I may have that wrong. I know everyone thinks it’s perfectly fine whatever I decide to do, and I often hold both opinions myself in the course of a single day.

I also had a good talk about the whole thing with Jack. Unfortunately, this meant I didn’t really notice that bodywork was occurring, but his thoughts were helpful. He noted that I have been developing the capacity to be present and to be open with others for many years. We discussed my finances in detail and he said he and his partner, at 65, have been giving this a lot of thought themselves, and to him, it sounded like I don’t have anything to worry about financially if I decide to go on with CPE. He also thinks I would not have too much difficulty going back to my old company in a couple of years, if the “bottom drops out” of whatever I’m doing. He also said that if I decide not to do the year of CPE right now, I could probably do it some other year.
Finally, he gave me some tips on Alexander Technique for chaplains, since both charting and standing with patients have proven to encourage less than great ergonomics.
 
I’d been thinking that I would have to do a year of CPE (which is going to be very hard!), and then have to buy a car (that I don’t want!) and do education (that I’m not interested in!) and then work for a time as a hospice chaplain, which I’m scared of. I’ll say hello to and chat with almost anyone on the street or on a bus, but the idea of driving around to strangers’ houses is daunting. I’m not scared of the patients, but of random relatives or friends who might turn up, like their grandson who just got out of juvenile hall. I think I’m also scared of poop and vomit.

My current CPE supervisor Samantha agreed this past week that a hospital is a more controlled environment and said it is her understanding that “hospice chaplaincy is an adventurous job.” However, she pointed out that one of the part-time chaplains at our hospital has done only one unit of CPE (plus all the education). Therefore, she is “reasonably confident” that after doing five units of CPE, I could get a contract position (part-time, without benefits) at a hospital. My first thought was, “Great! I don’t have to have a car or be a hospice chaplain.” My second thought was, “I don’t want a part-time job without benefits at a hospital (or anywhere else).”

By the way, why am I doing online courses and spending $40 (!) on a paperback and schlepping over for drug testing when I’m not even sure I’m going to be at TWMC in September? Because if I do end up doing it, not having done those things will be a problem. Failing to complete basic requirements would be kind of a stupid way to make this decision.
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