Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013.09.04 A Gethsemane Moment?—Write About It

Last week I had what I VERY loosely call a “gethsemane moment.”

Naming my blues after the agony of Jesus in the garden is highly pretentious but it came to mind as I prayed and reflected about what had happened to make my mood take a plunge from buoyant to dregs for no reason that I could see. Nor could I imagine why Gethsemane came to mind.

New Testament gospel stories tell us that Jesus went with his disciples and followers into the Gethsemane garden to pray on the night before they entered Jerusalem to confront the powers. Most of us know the enormous anxiety that accompanies even a small confrontation which is conflictual. Dangerous!  You want friends around you to encourage and support you. Jesus was no different. He begged his three best friends to stay awake with him in his darkest hour. They fell asleep! Such friends! Such utter and ultimate feelings of aloneness. Such abandonment. 

In my "gethsemane moment" I felt alone with thoughts like: no one calls, no one cares, I have no use to anyone, no purpose, belong nowhere, on and on in a morass of dramatic irrationality. I also felt physically exhausted, not tired just spent. I prayed for insight. Nothing. I called friends. Not home. Dick out for the day.

I was tempted to condemn my feelings; instead I focused on Gethsemane. I'd been there just two years ago when we went on pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine.

Gethsemane is a small garden outside Jerusalem. It is tended in very loving, and I might say excessively protective, ways by a group of Christian monastics. Tourists are not allowed into the garden unless they have arranged for special permits and then only in small groups.

We Episcopalians walked around the garden and gazed into it over the iron fences. Olive trees line the road to the garden. In Jesus’ day there were no Christians and no tourists—just olive trees. Five of them are 1880 years old. They evoked worship in me. They are huge, gnarled, majestic, preserved in their ancient beauty, like guardians of Mystery. I wept. AND these old olive trees still yield fruit—very significant because olive oil and its products are the mainstay of the local economy in Israel today. The word gethsemane means olive press. 


To soothe my "gethsemane moment" I ate dark chocolate and read the day’s comics. Then I wrote because it's what I do.

Three insights emerged.

1)  I was missing my manuscript, my memoir, my story, my life in words, years in the making, but most intensely labored over in the last year almost every single day for several hours. The day before I’d delivered it to an editor. Her skill and work will take over for now. At first I felt an uplift, like a weight dropped from my shoulders. But the next day my mood plummeted. I was grieving.

2) It’s good to exaggerate feelings, blow them out of all proportion. It brings them to light so you know exactly your own state of mind and heart.  Such purposeful exaggeration keeps you from judging your feelings as silly because you already know they are overblown. So I let them be.

3) My feelings were nowhere near the depths Jesus must have known. Gethsemane came to mind not so much because Jesus felt similar aloneness, though he did, but for the sake of the olive trees—images of time, memory and aging, and the knotty wisdom of necessary bereavement.  

Irrational, yes. Ridiculous, no.