Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Committees, Laughter, & Pretzel M&M's

I wrote a blog back in March about what it would mean to me if I did not pass my candidacy committee on my road to becoming an ACPE supervisor.  I reminded myself that it is perfectly ok to fail and, in fact, failing can be a strength because it can help me see the places where I most need to grow.  Well, I met my candidacy committee in late March.  It was scary…empowering…anxiety-producing…eye-opening.  I went into the committee wanting to acknowledge my strengths while being open to my growing edges (how’s that for CPE language, folks?)

The committee included five people from the southeastern region of ACPE.  I sent off a notebook of materials to them one month in advance.  One member of the committee is called “the presenter” and wrote a presenter’s report about me that would be the starting point for meeting my committee.  My supervisor was allowed in the room, but he was asked to sit out of my line of sight and he could not talk nor could I look at him...hello, awkward.  The committee gathered and met for 30 minutes, then I met with them for 1 ½ hours, and then they sent me out of the room for 30 minutes to vote on me and write an action report.  I thought I presented myself well, but I did not know what all they were looking for.  I knew that about two thirds of the way through, I got mad at a committee member and the committee invited me to verbalize what I was feeling.  I told him I was angry with him and I thought his comments to me were unfair.  He thanked me for my boldness.  Seriously people, where else do you get thanked and receive validation for expressing your anger at a committee member who is voting on you??  They were grateful that I was able to say what I was feeling and not shy away from it.  Moral of the story: I passed my committee.  It felt wonderful.

The last paragraph of my blog from March said: “[What will I do] if I pass…well, I’ll  have to get back to you. But it will definitely include chocolate.”  Well, it did include chocolate – pretzel M&M's to be exact.  And a card signed by my chaplain colleagues.  And cheesecake.  And a celebratory beer...the fancy one with the blueberries in it.  And a big ole' bear hug from my husband who witnessed my sleepless nights leading up to committee.  And many congratulations from people who knew what passing meant.  And confused looks from friends who thought I got a promotion.  And sympathetic pats on the back from people who found out I still have 3+ years in this certification process.  I was proud of myself.  And it felt really good.

But here’s what else passing committee meant… It meant I got to supervise a group of summer students without another supervisor in the room (although I still have to videotape every session).  It meant I got to create the entire summer program which included coordinating over 20 didactics with topics ranging from grief to family systems to interfaith dialogue with a Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish spiritual leader to pastoral care in the neonatal unit to pediatric psychology to the viewing of surgeries.  It meant working with an amazing supervisor who challenges me and encourages me to challenge him.  It meant I got to find the same excitement in the classroom as I find in patients’ rooms.  It meant I got to smile when my students had light bulb moments and I got to cry when I felt like I was failing them.  It meant drawing parallels between their process and mine.  It meant trusting enough in my knowledge and experience to supervise someone almost 40 years older than me.  It meant sitting with students in their stuck-ness and not rescuing them, but instead creating the space for them to get themselves unstuck.  It meant laughing with them amidst the difficulty of all of our journeys.  It meant reminiscing about my journey through CPE and appreciating just how far I have come.

I often tell people I feel like I never have to work a day in my life.  Now don’t hear me wrong – this training is A LOT of work.  Some days I cry; some days I wrestle with myself and with my supervisors; some days I feel like I have no energy left.  But every day I laugh (it's the only free medicine at the hospital...bad joke, I'm sorry).  I embrace the process and what it has given me.  I see my family, my friends, and even strangers in a different light.  I assess situations differently.  I gain perspective and remember that even in my difficult days, others are suffering beyond what I can imagine.  I see that there is always something more to be learned and recognize that every new experience is a doorway into new meaning.  I see the beauty of life and wake up each morning grateful for another day to grow.  I wake up on Monday mornings excited to take on another week of adventures.  At least once a day, I stop and remember what many patients and families have taught me: don't take life for granted.

I will not be supervising students in the fall – I will be writing theory papers.  YUCK.  It’s a part of the process and it’s probably not going to be fun...but it’s a part of getting to where I feel called to be...and where I feel called to be is a place I never thought possible.  That's what makes this journey so exciting.  But amidst the busyness of this journey, I can at least take time to appreciate the small things in life: like committees, laughter, and pretzel M&M's.

- Gifts from the pastoral care dept after I made candidacy -

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