I have wanted an olive tree for several years now. I can’t exactly explain why I want one; it is definitely a want as I am sure the effort of keeping one alive would not be worth the small amount of fruit we might harvest… maybe. In any case I wanted one and purchased one at the Farmer’s Market this past fall. A vendor there obtained one for me from her sister who grows them. I paid $18 for a small but lovely looking plant. I was thrilled. While purchasing said plant, the vendor, who knows that I am fairly competent with plants, told me no less than 3 different times to not water it too much. I earnestly followed her advice and my olive tree was dead in under 2 weeks’ time.
I want to jump up and down and yell and rant at the person who gave me such bad advice, blame someone. Cry over the loss of this plant that I have desired and finally gotten permission to acquire, now to just have it die on me. ME, the plant guru. Embarrassment that I killed a plant, frustration because I really don’t know exactly what I did wrong, sadness for the loss and wanting so badly to blame anyone but myself for the failure. So the plant sits on my plant rack. My initial hope that if I watered it more, it might come back from mummyhood, has been thoroughly crushed by time. This plant is not coming back despite the fact that it still looks ok having been dead these past three months. I even prayed for it in desperation but apparently my Heavenly Father had a greater plan and lesson for me to learn.
My husband T has been listening to a Gut Summit Webinar online in which different holistic doctors, specialist, researchers and experts share their experiences and thoughts on the incredible complexity that is the gut and its effects on the human biome. You do know that there are more “other” things living on and in you than there is of “you” right? Anyway, one of the speakers spoke about how devastating stress can be to your body and introduced a new psychological idea that I had never heard of… and I have a degree in psychology.
My understanding has been that when a person is confronted with stress of some sort, the person has two ways to react: flight or fight. This is pretty common knowledge and I have never questioned it. However, this speaker introduced a third option that seems so obvious to me that I am slightly amazed that I have never heard of it before. Freeze. The brain perceives a threat and has to make a decision to fight it or to run away. What if that decision process is so overwhelming that the brain can’t make a clear choice and just freezes? Now if a tiger is sitting there… you are probably lunch in an evolutionary setting. Good thing I don’t believe in the theory of evolution.
However, it got me to thinking. Failure or rather the threat of failure can cause me to freeze. I am fairly competent at many things, school was easy for me, so is drawing, sports and talking to complete strangers. I have been blessed by many successes in my life due to the gifts Yahweh has given me. The flipside of these blessings is that I view possible failure as fatal and a punishable offence. This of course is to be avoided at all cost due to both the repercussions on my ego and my perfection scorecard.
Thus I find myself avoiding situations where I know that I am not proficient and might fail. I do not enjoy learning something new because the fear of failing is looming over my head and when I get “lost” I tend to shut down and freeze. Emotion overwhelms logic which leads to a cascade of catastrophic failure. At least that is what it feels like, but is that the truth? This tendency can make my world very small and I miss opportunities to try new things.
If my self worth is based on my achievement in a certain capacity, I will never measure up. Failure will always be threatening to me, to who I am, rather than attributed to the possible outcome of a particular venture. Separation between the two is necessary in order to function, to unfreeze and to live. So despite my usual competence in green thumb territory, my olive tree died, a fatal end to a mistake I made. It is a sad thing but a tragic thing would be my refusal to try again.
It has sat on my plant shelf reminding me that I messed up. Reminding me of how I want to take it back to the farmer’s market and plunk it down in front of the vendor who gave me bad advice. I want to drop the blame with a heavy splat in front of her too. This my friends is called unforgiveness. Ah… there lies the core of the problem. Failure is not forgivable in my world. Unforgiveness equals death which is fatal. Perfection and failure, two ends of the pendulum’s swing and neither one is where you can live. One is unattainable, the other undesired.
If I believe that I am loved, that forgiveness is available for the asking, then failure is not fatal, not the end of possibilities. Yes, the consequences of my mistakes still stand, my tree is dead, but I am not dead. I do not need to be frozen in fear. I can forgive myself for following well meaning but inaccurate advice. I can forgive the well-meaning vendor who didn’t realize that I would take her so literally. I can forgive the olive tree who died on me when I wanted it to live so badly. Forgiveness….
So where to go from here? Well, I think the first order of business is to compost my tree, clean out the pot and put something living in it. Second is to ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me for my attitude and grumpiness about the whole situation. And finally, perhaps I’ll find an olive tree again to add to my little indoor forest of food plants.