Monday, June 25, 2007

Expect the unexpected

Ok, first of all, I apologize to anyone who actually was trying to follow this blog, as it's been 6 mo and 14 days since I last posted. Whoops. I guess seminary studies and field education duties got in the way...

A quick update on my life in the past 6 mo: I completed my second year at Union Theological Seminary very well indeed, although really no closer to cementing my career direction. My field education experience was wonderful, although as my supervisor put it, "I"m not sure if this experience pushed Beth closer to parish ministry or further away from it." At the time I said closer, but as usual it's a day-to-day thing with me. I was part of Union's production of the Vagina Monologues (yay for Rev. Elsa Peters' "Prayer for My Pussy!") and played Sara Jane Moore in "Assassins" (also put on at Union). I also organized Union's very first prom--that's right--which was (a little surprisingly) a great success. I turned 28 in April. I was a bridesmaid in my friend Darlene's wedding. My little sister graduated from college. And now, dear readers, I am out of the City for the summer and back at home in NH doing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE--doing chaplaincy in a hospital), which is where this post comes in.

One of the biggest things I have learned in my first three weeks here is that life can change in an instant. Intellectually, yes, I've known this, but here in a hospital that serves as the regional trauma center I've really internalized it. A boy gets hit with a bat at Little League, and the CT scan for injuries uncovers a brain tumor. A woman gets ready for a heart stress test and before they can do it dies in front of her family. Kids race from a relative's house to their home for bathing suits, and one ends up with a traumatic head injury and possible brain damage. A healthy pregnancy ends in a stillbirth. One thing I've heard many times already is how unexpected everything is.

It makes sense, right? I mean, no one in their five-year plan says, "I'm going to get a promotion, I'm going to buy a house, I'm going to get diagnosed with breast cancer." Our supervisor is always chiding us for "predicting the future"--saying that we know how someone will react or how we will feel in a certain situation. Of course, we don't know. But on a grander scale, we need to realize this as well, because we do tend to plan--our futures, our relationships, our retirements. Someday we'll go to Hawaii. Someday we'll start that business. When I'm old I'll be this way. When I'm a grandparent my life will be like this. Who knows what curves life will throw us, though.

I'm not saying that we should be worried all the time. Just the opposite, in fact. I believe we should enjoy every moment we can. And if that unexpected turn in the road appears, we'll know that we really have lived with what we had--and that we can continue to live, if differently--without a loved one, with reduced function, with a terminal illness.

There is (what I believe to be) a Jewish tradition of thanking God for little things, and often. For instance, if asked, "How are you today?" the response might be, "I'm well, God be thanked." Today I'm really reflecting on this gratitude. I've been tired and stressed and just generally run down. But I am alive, and healthy, as are my loved ones. By the grace of God go I...and thanks be to God for my blessings.

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