Monday, October 6, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

For two weeks now I've been trying to think of a witty way of saying that I resigned from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Nothing comes so I'll just have to be straight about it.

For months now I've felt an ever-so-insistent nudging from Spirit. The message was, "Hey! We've got other things for you to do. But you have to leave the SCCA." Unthinkable! I loved my job and had always seen myself working there well into my eighties at which point I would be taking a cab to and from The Seattle Home for Really Old Chaplains.

I knew that to ignore the urging of the Spirit was at my own peril, nevertheless, ignore it I did. But the Divine always wins. I have the Happy Problem of having many speaking engagements all over the country. In the past, I used Leave Without Pay to do this. But there is a new rule at the SCCA that doesn't allow that, so I found myself using all my vacation time to give talks until I got to a point in September where my boss said, "I can't approve this trip because you have no more vacation hours."

How could I not go to Dana Farber and Massachusetts General? My boss and I discussed the possibilities: keep my job by changing my status to per diem chaplain. I would lose all my benefits, but it would give me the flexibility to travel.

So I could do that or I could actually . . . resign. My boss and I agreed to think about it over the weekend.

All day Saturday I tried on the decision of staying on and somehow working out all this travel. I felt tired and anxious.

When I woke up on Sunday I said to myself, "Now I will try on the decision of resigning from the clinic." I instantly felt as if I lost twenty pounds. I felt a heaviness leaving me. I heard the angels singing in their firmament,"What took her so lo-o-o-ong? We nearly had to kill her-r-r-r!"

Which was true because for the past two months I hadn't been sleeping and my heart would pound at night as I thought of all the things I had to do and then I was cursed with a Job-like gastrointestinal problem. Let me just say that if bathrooms were bars, I'd be considered an alcoholic because I was in one five times an hour.

So I resigned and cried my way through the week, including a very nice Good-Bye Tea that my boss arranged. I hated leaving the staff, my patients and especially my colleague Mia because we had Big Plans to redecorate that horrid little office we share. Even more important was that I was so looking forward to working with her and so we sat and just wept for a good hour in our office with the lights low so that it felt like a funeral parlor but without a dead body present. I realized that just because it was absolutely the right decision didn't mean it was not going to be hard as hell.

Then my sister arrived and we flew off to Boston. I did a reading and three talks and we walked the Freedom Trail and saw Paul Revere's grave and the Old South Church. But most magnificent of all was the historic Filene's Basement at which I found three beautiful bow ties for Wes which were marked down to $19.00. From $50.00!

I still can't believe I resigned as it hasn't felt like I'm not working because I returned from Boston and gave two more talks and have three more to go before the end of the month.

But here's the thing: just because I resign my job, doesn't mean I resign from people's lives. So I'm still in touch with many patients. More about that later.

And no, I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do next . . .


Judi-Great Dog said...

Debra, you are brave and ready for the new adventure. Wherever you go, whatever you do I am confident that you will inspire others, spread joy and offer compassion to those who need the "specialness" that is YOU!

You have gifts to give others in the world outside of spread those wings and fly. Remember to take time to nurture yourself-perhaps you will be rewarded with far fewer trips to the restroom! ;-)

Namaste...with love, Judi

PS NOW will you finish up your endorsement with Max to do therapy dog visits? Opie is woofin' and waggin' his support for you too!

Kim said...

Hi Deborah - I am very proud of your decision and was proud to be one of your last patients as well. Just wanted you to know my surgery when great and that I had a complete pathologic response (no cancer left!). Good vibes and prayers work!!
Love you,

Sharon said...


Well, wow, my first reaction was one of loss at the idea of you not being where I have known you to be. Nothing quite logical in that statement, since we've yet to meet, but certainly a statement as to how I have experienced you as an anchor attached to a particular location. I'm figuring my response stretches beyond just me. And now, having mulled it over internally for a few days, I can see the anchor hasn't changed, just its location.

I admire you for making the change --whatever that will look like. My most favorite musical ever is Into the Woods. I hope you feel like Little Red Riding Hood who pronounces herself both "excited and scared" at the unknown prospects ahead. Of course, she learns that her red hood won't protect her, but I suspect you have a Shield that will help you along the way just fine, even though that Shield might mostly be a way of thinking about and organizing your perspective about whatever transpires, and knowing you're not alone. And then the other lesson is that we never get done making new journeys into the woods to learn whatever there is to learn and to do whatever it is we're supposed to do. I hope you are in the midst of feelings of opportunity, being called, growth, etc. I'm sure it's Seabiscuit about to surge ahead in the big race with the jockey saying, "So long, Charlie!"

So, the best to you. With peace and extension of support,

Anonymous said...

Oh - so this is why I missed you the last couple of times. We have not had a good "sit down" during my treatments for a while, and I was missing you. Knew you had a speaking schedule, but figured to hear from you when they died down.
BUT - I see they did not die down!

A pox on the cancer center for coming down with that new regulation. They should have known how it would affect some people vital to the center. (My med onc for one - she is gone a WHOLE LOT. Hope she is not next!)

"Change happens" and I will send you a good joke to that effect to your inbox.

Wishing you relaxing and quality time in the "destressing module" and guidence for your next career move.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Debra. Another big change for you... Like a previous commentor, I have thought of you as attached to the SCCA, which is strange, because you weren't there (in fact, the SCCA wasn't there) when we first met. So - what does Martha Miyagi have in store for you next?

(And does this mean they'll now sell your book in the SCCA bookstore?)

~kathy b