When I nine or ten years old, my parents gave me my first big bike as a birthday present, a blue Schwinn that I loved beyond measure. My father wheeled it out of the garage with a huge bow on it, and I immediately jumped on and took off down the street, despite the fact that I was supposed to be blowing out the candles on my cake. I also didn’t bother to let my dad check on a few safety things first, like whether or not I could actually reach the pedals. “I’m just trying it out!” I called, as I disappeared. When I didn’t return after five or ten minutes, my cousins launched a search and rescue. They found me in a heap, covered in an alarming number of scrapes, technically termed abrasions, but more appropriately called strawberries. Needless to say, I had no desire to attempt another ride, so we wheeled the bike back up the street where my dad was waiting to administer first aid. This was always his responsibility. My mom was what is known as a hemophobe, or a person who is terrified of the sight of blood. When injuries happened, she tended to go hide in the bathroom. The first line treatment for strawberries back in the 1960s and 70s was the orange horror known as mercurochrome, which was banned in 1998 due to fears of mercury poisoning. Before we knew anything about that, however, we wore our orange stained scrapes like badges of honor. In the days after my bike tumble, I can remember studying those strawberries every day and waiting for them to go from oozy and worrisome to scabby and then good as new. As they healed, so did I. My confidence in riding my bike returned, and before long I was drawing my maps of the neighborhood, tucking them into the little pouch behind the seat, and taking off on my many adventures, often very much on my own.
The process of healing from a physical injury seems to follow the same pattern for most of us. It begins in much the same way as it did for me when I fell off the bike. We assess the damage, get some help, and then watch and wait until the day comes when we turn the corner and know we’re on the mend. The size of the injury really doesn’t change the process; we just scale up or down accordingly in terms of our fear, response, expectations, and timeframe. Unless we suffer a setback, our progress is fairly linear. At a certain point, we find that we are beginning to own the injury. Because it is something that happened to us, outside of our control, it becomes very personal and feels uniquely ours. We may even begin to develop a fondness for it, especially as it heals, and it becomes something that we weathered, withstood, and overcame. Emotional hurts follow a slightly different trajectory because their forward motion is not linear at all. When we suffer a great loss, or heartbreak, or disappointment, we all know that there will be mornings when we wake up and say we are better today, until the following morning comes along and we are once again drowning in grief. Our reaction to emotional pain and injury is similar to the one we have for its physical counterpart, in that we begin to develop that same sense of ownership. We carry our grief in a way that becomes almost visible and palpable, and there are some people who struggle to be around us because our pain overwhelms them. In either instance of injury, we somehow believe that the process of healing can only come from looking the hurt squarely in the eye and incorporating it into the fabric of who we are.
The problem with this type of ownership is that like anything else that we claim as our own, we may reach a point where we struggle to let the injury or hurt go. It is ours, after all. We have lived with it for some time now, allowed it in, talked about it with friends, family, and sometimes whoever would listen, and it has begun to define us. It is firmly attached. In order to extricate ourselves from its grip, we’re going to have to use force, and we fear that we will cause even more pain. Sometimes we see the really big injuries and hurts as being responsible for granting us a new understanding and appreciation of ourselves, as if weathering their onslaught is the thing that makes us more profoundly worthy. We’re not all that far from the truth in feeling this way; it’s just our perspective that is flawed and can become dangerous. If we see the injury or hurt as having augmented us in some way, we have lost the focal point of the idea of healing. The very root of the word itself can be traced back to the 13th century where it has its origin in Old English, Proto-Germanic, and Old Saxon words that all meant “that which makes sound and well again” or “that which restores wholeness.” If we apply these concepts logically to the idea of any kind of hurt, it would follow that in order to experience genuine recovery, we would have to first see ourselves as less intact, or a bit broken in some way, having lost something rather than gained. If we allow ourselves to rest in this vulnerable place and actually feel what it is that hurts us, whether that pain is physical or emotional, rather than wear it as a badge of honor that we view as uniquely and profoundly ours, we would begin to see healing as the gift it truly is: completion from within.
For today’s cocktail, I felt as though there was only one direction in which I wanted to go. One of the drinks that speaks to me most of healing is the Bee’s Knees with its honey and lemon profile that serves as a reminder of things that make us feel safe and comforted. I didn’t want to make too many changes, so I kept to that original profile and augmented it with a few additions. I recently had the opportunity to taste a sample of a local mead from Armageddon Brewing called Cerberus that’s made from three different varieties of honey. Additionally, I picked up a ghost pepper infused honey that was also bottled locally by Birds and Bees Farm in Columbus NJ. I loved the complexity of the mead because it served as a reminder of the many levels of mending that actually occur as we heal from an injury, physical or emotional. I also loved the powerful bite of the ghost pepper honey, which mellows out in the cocktail, but still lingers enough to not let us forget that only hurt can precede relief. I added two dashes of homemade bitters made from chamomile, an ingredient that speaks of comfort, calm, and feeling whole again. Finally, the Bees Knees is one of those cocktails whose components come through individually at first before they synthesizes into a whole experience. It’s just the nature of the drink. This process seemed to apply fittingly to a post written about the mechanics of healing and the way in which they can bring us back to feeling whole again, so long as we allow them to do so. Cheers everyone. Happy Saturday! I have a few vacation days planned this week and hope to do some healing of my own. I look forward to returning on Saturday, July 22nd!
The Gift of Healing
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe.
Garnish with a chamomile flower.
*Mix one part honey with one part hot water. Whisk until incorporated.
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