Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

For those of you not already aware, I work in a hospital as a clinical chaplain. A colleague and I have determined that the best way to shut down a conversation among strangers, or even acquaintances, is to mention our profession. 

Often, I receive comments along these lines: "Wow, that would be a tough job." (Who has an easy job?) "I don't know how you do that." (Oh, you know, just chalk it up to a dysfunctional family and lots of interesting life experiences!) "Are you just sad all the time?" (This is one of my personal favorites.) Just like anyone else, I have good days and bad days at work; the part of my job that is most troublesome is not what many might expect...it's unfinished business.

Generally speaking, I am in the hospital Monday through Friday and then, with some exceptions, away over the weekend. Let's say, for example, that I've spent a few hours of each day making connections and providing support with a patient and their family; I leave them on Friday and when I return on Monday they are gone. There is someone new in that hospital bed, a different family to support; I'll likely never hear the rest of their story. 

Most of the time, thanks to superb training and heightened self-awareness, I can let all of this go; it doesn't bother me when one family leaves and another appears. But, certainly, there are cases that stick with me; these are the ones that get the wheels turning, the juices flowing, and force me to examine where/why I'm stuck. 

During my 41.5 years of living, I've left a lot of loose ends: two parents and a brother, with whom I no longer communicate; a hometown (and all of my childhood/adolescent friends) I quickly escaped at age 17, never to return; relationships cultivated and terminated, with no warning; jobs suddenly abandoned; and a lot of unanswered questions. 

I find myself both attracted to and repelled by my work for the same reason: the connections I fought so hard to resist in my younger years are now the ones I crave; nurturing meaningful connections, only to quickly leave them behind, now leaves me feeling worthless and empty.

What I find most interesting is that, while I struggle to forge long-term connections, the ones that stick through through the good and the bad and require a measure of vulnerability on my part, I'm an expert at love-'em-and-leave-'em; that this is one of the most important skills to have in my profession does not escape my notice. 

Even when I have tough days at work, I am reminded that there's a reason I need to stick with it, refuse to run away, and confront my resistance to the unfinished business. While my affinity and talent for short-term connections allows me to excel, the work is what allows me to search deeper within myself and uncover more of the hurt that I've been hiding for so long.

 

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (2/27/17)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (2/27/17)

The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller