On being “called”
It seems premature to write how excited I am to (finally) be in CPE. I mean, we haven’t even seen any patients yet! But the exhaustion I felt prior to the first day was quickly replaced by feelings of happiness, gratitude and anticipation. Ever since my initial chaplaincy experience at Huntington in 2006, I began to think that chaplaincy was where I fit best, and I remember leaving my working days at Huntington invigorated, not depleted. Does the excitement I have felt this week point towards finding my “place” in this world? Or is it simply because it feels luxurious to have so much time just for “me” and not have the full responsibility of caring for an energetic, particular, stubborn, but entirely endearing two and a half year old?
I heard a baby cry in the ED and the strong visceral response I had surprised me. My heart was immediately heavy, I felt a little panic, and tears sprang to my eyes. Is this PTSD? Is this grief from my own experience with our son’s hospitalization that has not yet been worked through? What is it that I was responding to? I usually become aware of what I think by first recognizing what I feel, so that thoughts that rushed through my mind in that time were scattered and less coherent. My body was telling me something – but what? What was it about that time that was so traumatic for me? The words I remember thinking as we stood in the ED were “that baby needs comforting”, “that baby is alone”, “someone is hurting that baby”, “I need to save him/her”. I’ve always been embarrassed at how deeply traumatizing our son’s hospitalization was to me, feeling, instead, that any normal person would have grieved for a month or two or three, or twelve, perhaps, but not thirty! It has been two and a half years and I am still discovering parts of me that need time and healing. How is this going to affect the care I offer to patients at Arcadia? Will my self-awareness enable me to set aside whatever personal shitsu comes up in the moment and focus on the people in front of me? Or is this going to get in the way? And when will I finally bid goodbye to my grief?
Deacon Mike asked a fellow intern to offer a practice prayer for healing for a patient. I sat in my seat incredibly thankful I wasn’t the one asked. I dread having to compose a spontaneous prayer with a patient. I used to feel rather comfortable with praying and would have described many moments praying with others as sacred, but it’s been many months since I offered a prayer on behalf of someone that was not pre-written. Who would I be talking to? Do I believe, or do I not? If I do, how can I ease myself back into this practice without feeling exceptionally awkward and stiff? If I don’t, how will I respond to such a request?