Sunday, August 07, 2016

Pre-Mortem Gala

Last Monday, which I had off because I’d been on call on Saturday, Carol Joy and I saw Captain Fantastic, with Viggo Mortensen, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, followed by dinner on Valencia St. She told me about a friend who decided she would like to hear all the nice things people might say about her after she’s dead while she’s still alive and, after a year of planning and preparation, threw herself a very well-attended pre-mortem featuring displays based on her life, such as pictures of all her boyfriends and husbands over the decades. She lay in a pine casket (yep!) and got to hear all of her friends’ loving tributes.

Tuesday afternoon in class we discussed our call to chaplaincy, and Andrew said some things I found helpful. He talked about making the mistake of trying to decide on what his call was rather than letting his bones tell him. Of one possible career path, he said, “My body didn’t want to do it.” Of a thing he did decide to do, he said, “I couldn’t not do it.”

That day we also did an exercise where we non-verbally acted out dynamics we had observed among the three of us. It was brief and rather shockingly revealing. It showed how Andrew and I can sometimes ally against Mason, supposedly the person who has difficulty with emotions; probably it’s Andrew and I who are impaired there. It also showed how Andrew and Mason, the two men, can ally against me, and how I then immediately withdraw.

In my weekly meeting with Samantha the next day, I asked what the point had been and she said that the dynamics among the group of students are also likely to arise in our work in the hospital, and I think she is quite correct about that. For instance, I leave a bit more physical space around myself in interdisciplinary rounds than others do. I assume that the others are the experts and also that they know each other fairly well. I am new to the group and new to hospital chaplaincy, so I also assume that I am not wanted and express that by where I place my body. Standing closer to the others might communicate more confidence in myself and more trust that others are open to my contributions.

In the same meeting, Samantha, per a discussion she had with Jacqueline, withdrew her deadline for telling TWMC I won’t be there (which had been Monday). She amended that to say it would be good not to start if I don’t plan to finish, and if I start and then must stop, it would be good to give as much notice as possible and to finish the unit in progress; the year consists of four units. She pointed out that I’m getting a lot of advice from others and may feel pressure not to disappoint others. She asked what my own values are, and what my own theology (dharmology) says. She said that we might not be able to have everything we value at the same time when going through a transition.

I was utterly fried that afternoon and saw no patients. I sat in a semi-comfortable chair in a lobby in one of the hospital buildings until it was finally within 45 minutes of the end of the day. Back in the office, I said to Samantha and our office manager Rebecca, “I thought of a good reason I can’t be a chaplain: I’m an introvert. One hour per day of being with people is enough for me.” Rebecca always defers to Samantha, but on this occasion, she said, “Bugwalk, I’ve never known a chaplain who wasn’t an introvert.” Samantha said that if I conclude I don’t want to be a chaplain because I only want to see people one hour a day, she can respect that, and she can also respect it if I say, “I don’t love seeing people eight hours a day, but I find it meaningful.” Samantha herself is one of the people I’ve felt subtly pressured by. I think she has wanted me to go on to TWMC, but on the other hand, she has never said, “You’re the most promising student chaplain I’ve ever met!”
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