My coffee this morning is, perhaps, a bit of both – strong, and bitter. I can’t actually be sure…I don’t taste ‘bitter’ with any particular acuity, myself.  My own vantage point is that the coffee ‘tastes different’ in some hard to place way. It could be that it is simply a stronger cup of coffee than usual…

Bitter is not one of the flavors of Love.

Bitter is not one of the flavors of Love.

Strong versus bitter is something to consider on another level, isn’t it? The old adage that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger says nothing about what may become of our welcoming innocence along the way. Isn’t ‘bitter’ one opposite of innocent? The difficulty is that bitterness doesn’t typically serve me well as an individual seeking growth and wellness – it gets in the way. It is by far preferable, I find, to allow experience to develop over time in a gentler way, with a kinder (to myself and the world) outcome: strength. I still have a lot to learn about what develops strength versus what fosters bitterness…even with making coffee. 🙂

I was once far more cynical than I am now. More damaged. More wounded. More bitter. Experience had beaten me down, and torn my heart and my spirit to shreds leaving an emotional wasteland behind, and lacking any greater understanding that the journey could take me another direction if I chose my steps with care, I sort of trudged along…consumed by bitterness, ancient pain, and rage. That was a really long time ago. The first handful of steps in a different direction took so very many years…and the last handful of years have seen me take so very many steps in a better direction. The bitterness – the small bits that linger – are often simply a reaction from the damaged past to some “See? This shit, again??” moment within, before my brain can catch up with my emotions and remind me how far I have come, and that we are each having our own experience.  As emotions go, bitterness is every bit as fabricated as the rest, and just as illusory. The hurts in life hurt – they do – but the bitterness? I can choose differently. I can choose to raise my voice, use my words, and love the woman in the mirror by showing her the same respect, consideration, compassion, and openness I would show anyone else – and the reciprocity I need? That comes from using my words – answering circumstances with gentle reason, with awareness, with observation and clarity, instead of reacting with bitterness. Words may not change the circumstances – but I will feel heard. It takes practice to speak with tenderness, and vulnerability, about the things that set off a feeling of bitterness. It takes more practice to do so without letting hurt and anger become louder than the words – very few people, however much they love someone, can really ‘hear through the anger’ – we hear the anger itself, and earnestly wanting to be heard, I find value in learning to take a softer approach.

It’s a lovely  morning. A gentle, quiet morning that begins with a strong coffee, and an appointment, and will end with – no kidding – a baseball game! How peculiar? How delightful! How very different from the ordinary routine of the busy work week? I have never been to a baseball game. 🙂

Dinner last night with my traveling partner was quite relaxed and wonderful. I dropped him off at his place, still smiling, and headed for home – by way of rush hour traffic. It’s no wonder we spend so little time together on workday evenings – the traffic is nasty, and it takes 40 minutes to get from his place to mine! (It’s only 11 miles… 40 minutes seems somewhat excessive.) I can’t comfortably invite him to dinner much of the time, knowing that;  just the thought of the traffic in the evenings robs the idea of any fun. Why would I put him through that on purpose? It doesn’t sound very loving. lol  By the time I got home I was feeling on the edge of tears, and a hint of bitterness was creeping in. Rather than allow that to progress further, I reached for my handy self-care toolkit.

  • I checked my calendar – yep, due for my HRT; bitterness and other emotions on the darker end of the spectrum are often associate with fluctuating hormones. I take my hormones. This detail is not a safe one to ‘miss’ on – the consequences for my emotional experience can be pretty ugly.
  • I acknowledged how much I really just miss my traveling partner; this is an emotion that coexists with my day-to-day joy and comfort with living alone. Recognizing I have these feelings, I invite him to do something together this weekend (which both comforts me and gives me something to look forward to).
  • I take a shower and wash off the stress of the commute home through traffic; I rarely drive in rush hour traffic [or at all], and the scent of stress clinging to me could potentially continue to affect my mood. Besides…a shower after a hot day just feels lovely. 🙂
  • I meditate. Honestly, it takes the edge off, for me, in almost any trying moment.
  • I address other stressors that are in the background; there is paperwork for the appointment in the morning, and I had not yet found all of it. Taking care of that did a lot to ease my general level of stress.
  • I reminded the woman in the mirror that it’s okay to miss my traveling partner – he misses me, too – there is a greater purpose in living alone right now, a worthy one, a needful opportunity to heal and to grow. Taking the time to recall that this is a choice I am making for me, for my own sanity and longer term health and wellness, does a lot to ease the developing sense of bitterness.

Seriously? The bitterness was an illusion brought on by a little stress, a lot of love, and a lack of physical contact – it can be a challenge struggling with my libido in solitude, honestly, and that has been a thing that has held me back from finding my way through the chaos and damage more than once. The most important thing lacking in a solitary life [for me] is touch. An intimate connection with a physical component. Sexual romantic love. Going without that is super difficult for me, some days. Recognizing the simple primate mammalian truth of it allows the bitterness to subside – it wasn’t ‘real’ in the first place – and I move on with an evening filled with loving recollection of the excellent dinner I shared with my traveling partner, while I got myself organized for my appointment.

There is a lot of strength to be had in taking the very best care of this fragile vessel – and the being residing within it. Strength is…well… strong. And sexy. And nurturing. Bitterness? It doesn’t have those qualities at all. Given a choice, I’ll choose strength. I’m okay with not being so easily able to taste bitter. 🙂