Saturday, June 16, 2012

Using My Brain so that My Heart Will Work a Little Better

I often try and break down what my job consists of on a daily basis.  I do a lot of listening.  I do a lot of driving.  I do a lot of miscellaneous, non-spiritual things, and of course, try to make my efforts as holy as possible while completing those tasks.  Admission:  there are days when I feel on the other side of all things holy and spiritual.

As chaplain and part of the hospice interdisciplinary team, I do a lot of arguing for and pushing for the team to pay attention to the story of a patient and his or her family.  It's always important.  Sometimes, my efforts are futile.  Sometimes, I miss the story that needs to be heard.

In CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), one of the assignments was to write my pastoral care theology.  Lately, the internal dialogue in my head has centered around how my pastoral care theology has changed over the course of these past seven years.  I also have mulled over some of the thoughts and techniques we were taught and how I have used those techniques in the past and how I avoid some of them now or shifted into my own techniques and thoughts now.

A few weeks ago, I read a fantastic article by Johanna Shapiro:  "Illness narratives: reliability, authenticity and the empathic witness."  http://www.epocrates.com/dacc/1205/illnessnarrativesBMJ1205.pdf?ICID=EMN0512.  Inspired and motivated, I have tried to disseminate my own thoughts and the conclusions Shapiro makes into something tangible and useful for me.

The larger theme is this: peoples' stories are important.  At the simplest of levels, every individual's story makes up the larger human story.  And as a person hangs on to her to great-grandmother's brooch because it reminds her of wonderful childhood memories, a person hangs onto a personal story because they need it for their own sustenance.  Or, as a great-grandmother passes on a brooch to her great-granddaughter, so she will pass on a story to her too, needing to share it, wanting to give it to someone else so that the brooch, (and in turn, the great-grandmother's legacy), will be preserved.

In this larger theme, there are theological and sociological implications to consider.  I hear a lot of stories.  Some are tragic and heartbreaking.  Others are joyful and uplifting.  But, they all carry weight and the weight they carry eventually has to be addressed.  I've got to do a little exercising.  I need to do a little research and a little meditation.

Thus, I'm introducing a new series where I explore the myriad of directions this new line of thought might take me.  I encourage everyone to read the article--it is fantastic--and engage its themes with me!  Just take a quick look at her sources--we're going to go some places!

May and June have thus far been jam-packed, but I do hope to carve out some time, between pool-time with Little Miss Sunshine, church activities, and office audits, to take pause and work out my brain a little.  Here's to hoping...