Sunday, August 30, 2015
I really enjoy what I do, a sentiment I think nearly anyone involved in hospice work would echo. It's challenging and necessary and I often find I'm overwhelmed by what I do and how little I know. That is the background to my post today. Why do I have this job?
The question is more complicated than you might think. What I mean is, Why do I have a job doing work that sometimes requires extensive clinical experience when I could not get accepted into the training? Most people in my position and in my company have four units, or one year, of advanced Clinical Pastoral Experience, or are in the process of getting it. I couldn't find a program that would accept me, or even interview me, but was hired as a chaplain, first with teens in recovery, and then with people who are dying, on the strength (I guess) of the talent my references say I have.
I'm left to wonder where the talent lies. I know it's not in my abilities as a team player. Currently, my management is more a suggestion than a presence, and that suits me fine. I often compare my solo work to my years teaching in prison. It was like being governor of a small state in India where, so long as the locals didn't riot, no one cared what you did. Or I think of it like contact improvisation, a dance form I studied in the 80s, that even untrained dancers can make beautiful.
It may lie in my patience with people. I don't need to talk with them each time and sometimes never. I feel I'm doing good work by sitting quietly while they sleep or watching TV with them. It may lie in my patience with myself. I spend time relaxing and meditating before going anywhere so I'm at my least anxious.
Or it may lie in my simple acceptance that they and I and everyone we know and love will die and the best we can hope to do is to meet death with a steady, if unsure, gaze. I have long come to terms with my own imminent death, and while I don't look forward to it, I don't begrudge it either. Live while alive, I say, you'll get used to being dead.