I heart u, CPE

April 27, 2008

I recently started a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) chaplaincy internship at a local hospital.

First, I would like to say that CPE should totally ask the Peace Corps if they could have “the toughest job you’ll ever love” slogan, or at least share it. There are six of us interns in the group, and we are a fabulous mix of young, old, gay, straight, American, not American. . .etc. What we have in common is that we’re all kinda evangelical, but not in that icky conservative I-will-now-attack-you-with-a-Bible way; and everyone is pretty smart. We also share the fact that we are all trying to learn how to hold a holy space in the midst of quotidian places. We have a great supervisor who manages to corral all of us into a reasonably cohesive and caring unit most days.

I’ve learned so much about my ability to be pastorally present in the past few weeks. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. We choose a ‘theme’ to focus on during the CPE unit, and mine was outing my hyper-critical voice. Ouch. The voice that gets all judgy, especially on me. The more I get to know the voice, the sadder I feel for it. She (he?) really thinks that by criticizing, worst-casing, over-analyzing and over-assessing, something productive can be gained. She is, of course, sadly mistaken.

The CPE schedule is from 8:30-5:00 every day, and some days, by the time I make it to 3:30, I am whipped. Even with purposeful self-care breaks, healthy lunches and plenty of sleep at night, ministering to sick folks takes energy. Sometimes, a lot of energy. Especially if you’re dealing with a death. So far, I’ve dealt with three, and each one was pretty intense. Plus, I’m still tutoring some kids after work (I know, I know, it’s nuts, but a girl still has to make a dollar), and I’m working Saturday afternoons at a local academic enrichment school. My Sabbaths have become inviolable. I don’t even run an errand on Sunday. I go to church and chill the hell out and that’s it.

So that’s my days and nights for the next six weeks. Learning and growing some more – in a direction I never could have predicted, but that is super good. I heart u, CPE.


To blog or not to blog

April 14, 2008

I feel like I’m kind of at the end of my rope in coping with my husband’s ex-wife – how her existance and her choice of interactions affect me.  I feel like too much disclosure, and I’m being inappropriate – this is a public blog.  Then again, I feel like I’m not really sharing what is going on in my life, because I’m being so circumspect.

I’ve done my best to not vent about her to anyone except my best friend (Sorry, G-Whiz), my husband, our couples therapist, and my client/friend Leshawn (also a step-mom) since really, it can be kind of tedious.

She called the house on Friday and was yelling at my husband.  She is relentlessly unkind to him.  I understand that they must have unresolved angers at each other – how could they not?  They seem unable to ever say what is authentically on their mind.  My husband just never says anything, no matter how much he is bothered by something.  Her favorite rant always centers around some perceived injustice to her son.  I have no idea what she is really trying to say when she says this stuff.  Their inability to be authentic with each other leads to more stress on both of them, and me.  Apparently, they had a pretty inauthentic life together even when they were married.  At least, that is how he characterizes it now – emotionally dispassionate and disconnected, even at its best.  “Flat” is the word he always uses to describe their marriage.  I have no way of knowing if this is true.  I wouldn’t care, either, if she weren’t still in the picture.  But she is.

I am just worn out.  She has done creepy things like drop by with a friend and start demanding that her Halloween decorations be found.  Every month she manages to find some issue to hassle her ex-husband about.  The oldest kid and she triangulate against him all the time.  It is tiresome for me to handle in a way that I didn’t know I could be emotionally tired.  This first year of marriage has been the most exhausting year of my life.  And that includes the year of my divorce and my first year in Africa.

I know I could go to therapy to get help in dealing with how I feel about all of this – but that makes me mad.  Why should MY ass have to be taking the time and effort to sort through this stuff when neither of them does?  So I don’t go.  Even writing it and looking at it, I can see how immature that is, but it is how it feels.  This crap is not my mess!

Another reason I don’t blog about this stuff is that I’m afraid I will sound whiny.  But, it’s been several months now of very spotty writing over this issue, so oh well.  If you think I’m whiny, sorry.  As I walk uphill, I guess sometimes I whine.


April 12, 2008

Recently, I was accepted into a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship program.   It is at a local hospital, and I am in a group with five other interns.  It is an incredibly intensive program – we interns are invited to minister to the patients at the hospital one-on-one in every kind of circumstance.

I’ve not had to be at a job site from 8:30-5:00 in a long time, but that is the requirement for this ten week program.  When I did work somewhere with those hours, I was getting PAID.  In this case, I pay them for the privilege of learning how to pastor people I don’t know.  This is a skill that I don’t really have much experience with, as congregational work takes place amongst people with whom one is familiar.

This past Monday, I was asked to say prayers over a man who was going to be removed from his ventilator.  I am glad that my theology includes a concept of God as generous and understanding, because I think my prayers were inadequate.  At best.  His weeping family stood around the bed – and I cried with them.  He was only in his fifties.  I felt so sad for them.  This was not what they expected.

This is perhaps the most extreme thing that can happen to a family: an unexpected death.  Expected death doesn’t seem all that much better, either.

Then there are things like what I’ve been going through lately: unexpected feelings about how my life is unfolding.  I wasn’t cut out to be a second wife or a step-mother.  Especially when the first wife is an angry lesbian who hates my husband, her former husband.  My vocational life hasn’t made much sense to me in a long time.  My family life doesn’t make much sense either these days.  My life with God still has its moments of transcendence and goodness, but He is confusing me too.

I’m trying to hold on to the truth that nothing can separate me from the love of God.