Subjects to write about... to think about...
Spirituality. Depression. Women writing and telling our own stories and gospels. Helping each other. Sojourning.
G of G Moments
by Ann M. Greenseth
I am not writing this because it is the season of Lent, although it is. I am writing this because I’m in a Lenten moment, which in the present circumstances would be true no matter what season it is—of the calendar year, the church calendar, or life.
So many people I know are sunk deep in Lenten moments right now, too. They might not describe it as such. But I listen to them and feel an immediate recognition of where they are right now, emotionally and spiritually.
And I want to say to that person: We are all allowed Garden of Gethsemane (G of G) moments. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Perhaps that idea is too “religious” for some, but hear me out.
Imagine. It is the hours leading up to betrayal and pain and unbelievably heavy responsibilities. All of that may even be expected, but that does not mean it is welcome.
Jesus, the person, experiences the G of G moment. In those hours, he mourns, questions, grieves, agonizes over what lies ahead.
Now, there are a couple of aspects of this that I notice and want to emphasize.
He is alone. His friends are in the vicinity, but they are not mourning and agonizing with him. Anyone who deals with depression, whether situational or clinical or somewhere in between, knows that most people don’t want to be around you when you are in that Garden. It’s a true conundrum for the sufferer. I know for a fact that I feel better when I can express myself to someone—spew the anger and fear and loss. Not at someone, but with someone. With a “someone” who is capable of listening and not judging.
If you want to know why I see a therapist, that is a primary reason. A) I don’t want to burden my friends and family. And, quite frankly, B) many of my friends and members of my family don’t want to be burdened.
I say B) with some sorrow, because it is a huge burden to keep it all inside. It is also unwise and very, very unhealthy. I do want and need people in my life who can be there for me when I’m in the depths. I am blessed. I have a few. In addition, I am in a financial situation that enables me to seek professional help.
What about those who do not have those people? Those resources? Who carry their burdens completely on their own?
Next time you’re praying or sending healing thoughts out into the universe, think of them. Mention them.
Another aspect I note about Jesus in the Garden is that the one Being who is right there with him lets him mourn. And agonize. And question. That Friend does not say to him “Oh, come on. Cheer up. You’re about to save humanity. Put a smile on that face.” The Friend allows him those hours to feel what he feels. Even to question. Did you note that? Even to question.
What does that tell me? Quite honestly, I think of the LMSs in my life. “LMS” stands for Little Mary Sunshines. I don’t want that label to sound bitter, though I suppose it does.
A dyed-in-the-wool LMS is a person who tells you to cheer up no matter what the circumstances are. To snap out of it. To look at the bright side. Silver lining, silver lining, silver lining. Look at the Silver Lining. Do it now. And then, the worst of them break into some syrupy, sunshiny "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" song. In general, they don’t even want to hear about the circumstances.
When I’m in the Garden and a person goes all Little-Mary-Sunshine on my ass, I am suddenly, agonizingly hurt and angry.
That’s another reason I go to a therapist. If she’s a good therapist (and mine is excellent), she knows when to listen and when to leave the “cheer ups” and LMS Silver Linings by the side of the road. With the rest of the dung.
I remember vividly one of Teri Garr’s lines from Tootsie. Her character, Sandy, declares: “I have to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.” That has always stuck with me. It’s so true.
LMSs have their reasons, and seasons. I acknowledge there are times when saying “cheer up” is appropriate and uplifting. Someone is rotten to you and makes it clear they don’t like you, for whatever reason. For no good reason. The LMS may say, “Hey, get over it. Why do you care about their opinion?” Very good point.
Perhaps LMS-ing isn’t the point. Perhaps there is true talent to acknowledge here. That talent is the “knowing” when to sing a bright little ditty about sunshine and lollipops and when to simply talk and listen. And then listen some more. Or sing a song of empathy. And knowing the right song to sing given the circumstances: Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, The Pretenders’ I’ll Stand by You, U2’s Stuck in a Moment, or the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun. That’s the real and most humane talent, isn’t it?
Some years ago, a friend (a sometime-LMS) recognized that I was going through something deep and agonizing. With love and attention, she urged me to get professional help. I made all the usual protests. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time… whatever. But I did what she suggested. It made all the difference. And that is not overstating it. It was one of the most loving, caring, supportive actions anyone has ever taken for my good.
Let your friends and family have their G and G moments. Know when to set aside the LMS-like thoughts and actions and listen instead.
Furthermore, if a friend or family member stays too long in that Garden, as I was doing, help them. Tell them a truth. You need help. It is not weakness to admit it. Don’t listen to the naysayers and LMSs that say it is. It takes amazing strength to recognize that you need help and get it. It takes amazing strength to be that person who urges another to get that help.
Recognize the strength. Ponder the timing of what you say and sing.
So, yes, I love many of the LMSs in my life. But I also know when some of them call, there are times I simply can’t answer. And, if they truly know me, hopefully, they understand why.
Let your friends and family members have G of G moments. Be there with them in the Garden, if you can. Or, if you can’t go that deep (and I understand that, too), urge them to find someone to be there with them and help them come out of the deep.
Then, be there for that person when they come out of the Garden. Be there to help them walk it off. Talk it off. Sing it off.