Sunday, October 2, 2011

clinical pastoral reflection 1st week

this has been an exhausting week of seminars and meetings and trainings as I begin my newest work of CPE, or clinical pastoral experience, at a rehabilitation center and nursing home in the center of the hub. it's been a greuling schedule of meeting staff at the site, discovering the peccadillos of the different populations, choosing the floor and the population we are going to work with, learning the legal and ethical limits we must adhere to, and for our small group of 7 students, all but 2 of whom are affiliated with seminaries but all of whom besides me are mainstream xians, it's been a week of trying to learn about each other and each other falls into the scheme of things. to that end we are tasked with writing a short reflection each week and I've posted my 1st below. I want to note that, while the reflection isn't due until tomorrow, since it's the 1st writing I've done all week, I'm posting it in its rough draft form as that's where I'm leaving it tonight.


I think what I like best about Sundays is the opportunity to take a family walk with my wife and our dogs. Today’s was good although it wasn’t for as long a distance as I prefer. Even so, it’s Sunday night, the first after the first week of CPE, and what I’m most often thinking about tonight is how much the woman next to whom I sat in service this afternoon looks like my sister. Or how much she looks like my sister looked twenty years ago, which is probably closer to this woman’s age. The woman is, I think, a resident on the floor devoted to Huntington’s patients, although I could be wrong about that, and after she fell asleep during the service I happened to look over at her and her relaxed face nestled against the pillows she was propped on so struck me as my sister’s face—even down to her double chins and slightly concentrated frown—it was all I could do not to reach over and startle her awake to get that image out of my head.

But I suspect it’s that sort of connection I should welcome, seeing the people I serve as if they were family members or at least as if they were familiar. All the years I worked in group homes or as a companion I never felt that way. I felt close to them, that’s not the issue, but as if they and I were family, and it’s in that distinction that I’m coming to terms with what I’m most often dealing with: the sense I had then of being overused and underappreciated by administration, the lowest on the pole and so given the worst, most labor intensive duties because more senior staff didn’t want to do them, much of which I was untrained to do, often left to flounder under the resentful stare of a client who knew I didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to do whatever I was doing and he certainly didn’t want me to do. I have had to remind myself constantly this week as I toured the floors and met people and listened to them that I was not there to dress or bathe or feed them but there to listen and talk with them.

It was because of a fear of this that I took so long to get my ducks in a row regarding setting up CPE and almost missed the cutoff date. For several weeks in July and August I knew I had to get my paperwork in order, but I always found something else to do. My wife, who’s also undergoing CPE, insisted I bring the fear up with my counselor, himself a minister, who pointed out the incredible differences between the shitwork I had had to do years before and the pastoral work I was entering. His arguments won out but I remain a little wary of the sense I often give into of doing things because they need to be done whether it’s my job to do them or not. One of my biggest concerns at the start of anything new is how anxious I get on thinking about the site when I’m at home and doing something I enjoy (like walking the dogs). I’ve noticed I don’t feel any anxiety about this at all.

Beyond this it has been a good week. I feel competent about learning chaplaincy and I’m excited to start work with the population on the fourth floor. I hope that the week we’ve spent in meetings means we won’t spend nearly as much time there once we get into gear: I’m not much of a meetings person and one seminar day a week will be about as much as I can stand. Aside from the above, if I feel any anxiety about this process at all it’s that, as my wife points out, I may not have completely come clean about not being Christian but remaining willing to pray and speak the language the residents are most comfortable with.

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