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I’m sitting here at my desk at 6:30 on a Wednesday evening feeling depleted. I’m listening to Beethoven softly on the speakers and from the apartment above me I can hear the strum of my neighbor’s guitar. It’s snowing softly outside and all I want to do is crawl into bed.

I’ve been crying a bit this afternoon. I’m worried that I’m not good at my job. Today was the third day in which I spent several hours sitting with one of our dying patients. And each time I’ve done this it’s been such an incredible experience — I’ve listened to their stories and held their hands and talked about life and death with them — and when I’m there in the moment it feels wonderful.

But when I leave and walk across some snowy driveway to Greg’s little green Honda and scrape the snow off the windshield and get behind the wheel for my solitary drive home, I just feel depleted. I feel drained and a little sad and a little overwhelmed by life.

I’m worried that maybe I’m not cut out for this. Hearing these people tell me how glad they are that I came by, how they can’t believe how much they talked, and how they hope that I can come back soon, breaks my heart just as much as it fills it up.

I don’t have a lot left when I leave. I guess I’m just really in the process of figuring out how to contain these experiences. Each time I have one I spiral into such deep philosophical thoughts about what we’re all doing here and what happens when we die and how meaningful humans relationships can be and I don’t know how to not think about these things.

I’m looking forward to my beautiful new home to go home to in a month. I feel like it’s going to be a very healing experience to live there. Greg and I are so excited about it. We can hardly believe we’re going to live there.  It’s such a peaceful place, such a writer’s home, such a home. And that it’s on a river with ducks and trees and frogs and little bobbing boats….

Off to take a bath shortly. Tomorrow is the 11 year anniversary of my mother’s death.

It’s only Wednesday and it’s already been a big week.


  1. Am keeping you in my thoughts today, Claire.

    Comment by Carroll on January 24, 2008 at 11:43 am

  2. i’m right here too, claire, and thinking how wonderful you are to delve deep and also to remind you it’s okay to let it all go in a moment and put your attention elsewhere
    so glad you are in my life

    Comment by Abby on January 24, 2008 at 9:31 pm

  3. I had no idea that was what yesterday was! OH Claire!
    Next time I see you we will have a toast to your mother.
    To your mother and to spinach puffs.

    Comment by Stacy on January 25, 2008 at 9:56 am

  4. Your suspicions are right. You are not good at your job. Oh yes you are brilliant with the clients and give them just what they need to make their lives meaningful as they approach death, but you aren’t professional. Getting too involved. Taking work home. Risking emotional burnout. You have got to do better and keep Claire in one piece.
    I suggest that you do what you do with the clients, being there for them as a person, not become a robot answering machine saying all the right things when the right buttons are pressed. Thats not your style and frankly, its about as convincing as a crape paper space suit at a town carnival. No, you cant spare yourself at work. You have to avoid taking it home. And remember now you will soon be having a real home with other people affected.
    You know this. I quote “in the process of figuring out how to contain these experiences”. Exactly. You need a partition, a firewall, a lockable vault not to forget the experiences, but to be able to open and pick through them when you choose.
    I suggest you create a ritual. Pick an event that consistantly happens when you leave work. Going through the door, getting into your car or during the commute home. Congratulate and reward yourself for giving 100% effort and caring to your job. You cant do any more for your clients today because you aren’t there. Its now CLAIRE time, to share with GREG time. Perhaps in the future to be shared with KID time. Time has to be shared, so grab your piece. Love happens simultaniously and can be spread around without dilution. Indeed, the capacity to love a single person increases the capacity to love many others. Spread your love, but husband your time.

    Comment by Paul on January 26, 2008 at 12:04 am

  5. Thanks, girls! It ended up being a really nice day, actually. And it’s nice to know that all my friends are thinking of me.
    Paul, thanks for your insightful and honest comment. I think you’re right — it’s truly about finding a balance between my job and my life. But that said, I think the only way to find that balance is explore both sides of the pendulum.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2008 at 12:56 pm

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