There is a Yiddish phrase that goes as follows: “to the worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.” For a carpenter it goes like this, “If you are good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” For the salesman, everything sounds like a pitch. For the cook, it is about a pinch of this and a smidgen of that…. You get the idea. Our world is filtered through the familiar. To the one not in my circumstance, how can they know my circumstance? I have been married but do know not the struggles of being widowed or divorced. I have been sick from time to time but have not had debilitating illness. I have children and have had a miscarriage but have not buried any… I have been spared this wound.
There is a place that you reside, in your head, that is not the place others see. It is why you thought the joke was funny and why your spouse didn’t understand the ideas that you didn’t tell them. It is the place of reason, and understanding just why things are as they are. At least in your world. You ponder and surmise and resolve and all of it is in this place no one else can go. There are places reserved for jealousy and resentment, appreciation and warmth, expectation and anticipation, and sorrows without end. Dreams hibernate here, alongside fears unspoken. The gatekeeper is anxiety and its helper is hope. We are wired for survival to use fear first. It has kept us alive for eons. You know the part where the gazelle herd is grazing and one lifts its head abruptly and wiggles its ears just before it darts off, taking the herd with them… None know if it is the right direction, but run they will…, and then they all stop and say “whew”, and start eating again. This is the reason they run, but hope is why they stop. Perhaps this will be safe, at least for a moment to catch their breath… Perhaps.
When you are the one in horseradish it is a place that is a problem if you had begun someplace else. The comparison is then the issue, not the horseradish. The horseradish is just your current abode. For a time. You may not understand and may never know how you came to be in this place. It could be the ditch after you avoided the car ahead. It could be the “reflection room” at the hospital after your friend didn’t. It is the place of the here and the now, and perhaps the near future. It is where your friend went after they returned from helping at the calamity in a far-off land, needing to clear their mind. It is where, alone, you rebuild your home after the fire took your memories. You know this place, or at least a friend that has been there. It is near the fear, for you know you are not immune. Perhaps it is this place that you call home now. Horseradish is as it is. It is from this place that the music called “the blues” begins the journey home, to a home that is not what had been home before. It will be home for now, and there may be a ramp that leads to the door that allows for the limp that is your new companion. And will be for some time to come.
This is now home. Decorate it as you will. Art that is joyful or absent such. Words of hope or that which might have been. The palette you daub with the colors which you choose, in the blending and the hues that may be chosen, to put the happy little bush in the scene. Near the quick and happy brook. But it may be winter, and possibly there could be ice on that stream. It is your canvas to do as you wish. To begin, or to sit. This is the horseradish of your “now”.
Self-pity is a place that is ok to sit at the dock and swing your feet in the cool water during the heat of the summer, but don’t linger too long there. It is a trap. This is not a screed about the self-reliant, buck up, tarry forth and ignore the pain kind of lies. It is a call to be honest but restrained. The ability to talk of the wound and the process of the healing and the help of the friends and strangers and the grace in the times of more struggle than you could bear. Sober and honest, not lying or pretending that the leg is still there and that going for a hike is not an issue. Restrained, in that you may not be aware of the wound another is dealing with. Honest, because it may be that your story is the key to them telling theirs. Gracious, because you did not recover on your own. Others gave of their skill and time and some simply sat and listened to the humming machines as you slept.
Then will come the day to carry on. To step and fall and step again. Some pain is hidden from view. Like the broken ribs and the pain of the laughter that is suppressed, to prevent it. And the friend that comes simply to tell jokes at your expense. It hurts because you are alive enough to hurt… so smile at the irony that if you could get up off the couch you would break a rib or two on the scallawag across the room. Smile that your friends came. Smile as an act of defiance against the other options that face you. Smile in the midst of it all.
You are the same as I at this point. In the dish of horseradish. You may know not of the process you took to get here, but it is here that you are. Be there. Fully. With your whole being. Listen, and hear the sounds. See that you are not alone. Taste the bitterness of trials confronted. That you are still among the living in the dish of pain called “now”. You cannot get through this by stopping, but you cannot learn by ignoring it. Here is the sauce in the pan. Confront the thing, voluntarily, and learn something of merit. Then you will have a story to tell and a ready audience to hear it… that is in the sauce as well. Looking for hope and looking for a reason, they will come. Then, the healing will come. They will tell and they will listen and become the companion to continue with. In this place, at this time. A fellow traveller. All good stories have the companion. If it is not your story, then be the companion in theirs. Be the jester and the sidekick and the squire all in one. Here is the lark of the thing, it is here that you can laugh. Jesting and teasing and laughing at the incongruity of the place you once were and where you are now. It is now that is now, not then. Not soon. Now. Be present. Your troop will rejoice with you.
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