What Is The Medicine?
A Simple Question to Reframe Challenges as Fodder for Growth
My five-year old made the most glorious Ahhh sound after gulping down her strep throat medication this fall. I feel like making that sound right now as I’m writing this sipping a seltzer on my eastbound United flight. But my daughter was putting down that bubble gum flavored medication we probably all remember from our youth. Medicine was tasty when we were young.
Medicine is not often that tasty anymore. (I am looking at you, ginger turmeric echinacea booster.)
When I was 17 years old, a senior in high school, I did a near-hero’s dose of shrooms while visiting the college I would end up attending a year later. I found myself peaking while sitting with my then-Ex. She had been my first girlfriend. She was straight as an arrow — not partaking. She’d professed for many years to wanting to be in the C.I.A. when she grew up. Most of us believed her.
So somehow I’m sitting with her, my other friends off elsewhere frolicking on campus. She proceeds to ask me all the thorniest questions of my young life: how was my relationship with my dad (fraught), how was my writing going (complicated), have I ever had a bad trip before (prescient), etc.? Because at that point in life I was neck-deep in a people-pleasing character defect, and because at all times in life, I’m generally down to go deep into the darkness, I answered each question thoughtfully. It was all kind of innocent….
And then, I slipped into what can only be called a pitch-perfect knock-down unmitigated bad trip. Three hours of sobbing, irrational mayhem in my mind, as I braved and sniveled and grieved and was all but torn asunder. Everything I’d defaulted to hiding from wrapped around me and choked me senseless.
For years after I would call that “just a super bad trip”; I would fault my Ex for daring to poke my impressionable mind with those heated questions. I would tiptoe around any potential future recreational exploration for fear of that bad trip happening again.
Now I’m older and (oh so much) wiser, and I think there was a boat-load of healing in that journey, hard as it was. There was a logarithmic level of cleansing and processing going on that I could barely annotate in real time. There was a new chapter of my young adult life being scripted, an initiation of supreme, magical wonder taking shape from inside out. There was a bold, unbridled grieving and purging of so much in me.
There was potent medicine in that mayhem.
And that has become a mantra of mine in any situation particularly the hard ones: what is the medicine?
Cures, learning and wisdom don’t often come via easy experiences. When they pinch, when they gut, when they rug-pull, it’s best to brace, breathe, get steady, and find solid ground… and then ask, what is the medicine?
Maybe there’s no medicine. Maybe it’s just a bad day, a shit encounter, a toxic conflict. But a small glimpse under the hood might offer some alchemical gold, and make it worth it.
Yours in growth,