Self care and rest: two concerns that walk beside pastoral care. There is much stress about seeking and finding both. I don’t think there is one particular process. Or one place to seek rest. I think self care is about getting to know myself and finding what heals and refreshes the person God knows me to be. I can only talk about myself with real authority so I would love to hear how you find your own rest and how you care for yourself.
At one of our nursing stations an elderly woman can be found propped up in a chair that is not unlike a giant lazy boy. The reason she is there is for good and kind and safe reasons. She moans fearfully if she is alone and falls in her attempts to move when she seems to become fearful. So, in the nursing station people are always near. But no one on the unit really has the time just to sit with her. Hospitals are places of rushing. But being a hospital chaplain is all about giving time and each moment being important. Even in busyness. That’s the medication we offer. When I am at that particular nursing station I sit near her, smiling, sometimes talking and occasionally touching and holding her hand. Sadly, she cannot share her experience because of illness. I think that is what gives her the most unease. I try to find ways she can communicate her fear. I find myself contemplating life’s journey and death each time I see her. When I share such thoughts I am more often than not asked about my self care. Noticing what I find sad is part of my self care and sharing this opens me to a world of relationships and experiences of sadness and joy. And opens me to knowing there is an expanse beyond imagination of life around me. It is about me seeking my own response to life. I find God everywhere. Noticing my own feelings and expanding my world leads me to self-differentiate my own life from patients and families while resting with God. This is my self care. And I love long train rides. I can sleep when I want, look out of the window and imagine different lives and have conversations with coaches of new people who are all on their own particular journey. Trains lead me to a whole new world of ideas and observations about life around me and within me.
When I tell someone I am a hospital Chaplain the response is often “I couldn’t do it.” I know it is not for everyone, but it has shown me the path to freely choose my own rest and self care. My path is about sharing, and often discovering who I am by listening to someone else and then responding. And fulfilling their need with what is inside my own mind and spirit. But I cannot do that without my own rest in God. Last week I worked long hours into a Friday night because a family was delayed in arriving. And the patient was alone and actively dying. Her one request had been not to be left alone. I could give the time to honour that. To be open to my own imagination and memories and story of how that aloneness feels. And to know how I seek healing. I was able to fulfill her need for company by living my faith that God never leaves and calls me to be with others. Fully me, rested and cared for.
Look at the birds. Even flying
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, friend, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
~ Li-Young Lee