Holding onto Gold: A Tea for Darker Days
We all have them. Those days when life feels heavy, or scary, or overwhelming, or painful. It’s part of being human and is unavoidable. But there are ways to lessen that pain. There are opportunities that arise from it. And sometimes, there is even sweetness to be found in the suffering.
Every time I post about my struggle with chronic illness, I am blown away by the support and kindness shared with me. But more than that, what I hear is endless echoes of “me too, me too, me too.” We are not alone in our suffering; nor are we alone in our joy. Every one of us is a beautiful complexity of pain and wonder and all of the other bits that make us truly human. It reminds me every time that it’s impossible to tell what someone is experiencing from a surface glance -- that’s why it’s important to be both open and compassionate. I find the most compassion from others with similar stories, but that’s not necessarily a requirement. I have a friend who has been pretty healthy her whole life and yet she always knows what to say: “I know I can’t fix this, but maybe I can help by making you have better moments. Can I spend some time with you next week?” Because really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it - those little glimpses of magic and wonder that keep us moving through the darkness. When I’m struggling with thoughts like “I’ve been sick for 10 years, what’s the point?” I remember those moments of utter magic amongst the painful flares and traumas. I think of moments of tenderness with ones I love, of sunset wanders filled with glowing golden light, of little acts of kindness shown to me by strangers. I feel grateful that I didn’t give up so many years ago. The world is full of magic. There are always brighter days ahead. Take it week-by-week, day-by-day, or moment-by-moment if you need to.
In this moment, what is one thing that’s beautiful? Just one thing. It can be in your physical space or in your memory. Maybe it’s the way the sunlight filters through the leaves outside your window, highlighting each in a ring of silver. Maybe it’s a joyful memory of a first kiss or a sweet smile. Maybe it’s the taste of food after days of not being able to eat. Whatever it is, hold onto that gold. Let it fill you. Taste it, smell it, surrender to it. Then, in the next moment, do it again.
Suffering is compelling - it pulls us in, pulls us down, and sometimes we succumb to it. Sometimes the only way through it is through it and we just have to keep plugging on. Suffering exists across time, and we can access parts of the past, present, and future that either help us or harm us. The negative might be fixating on traumatic past experiences, the present sensation of pain, or the fear going forwards. The positive might be holding onto happy memories, noticing the simple joys of your present moment, or moving towards the future with a sense of purpose. Each of these is a decision. And it’s not always possible to take the positive road - we all have rough days - but when you’re able to make that choice, it helps. Those moments that we can find joy or wonder or a sense of purpose are medicine. They are a tonic for the soul. They are a balm for the cracks in our feeling of hope, the aches in our hearts as well as our bodies. That’s why, on my bad days, I dream. I research the things that catch my attention, from dragons to amber to ancient mythology. I plan magical events to gift to strangers when I’m feeling better. I look forward to creating delicious foods, detailed artwork, and blog posts like this one.
This tea is a representation of the things that help when days are dark. There’s a symbolism imbued within its fragrant liquid; if you believe that intention is a kind of magic, then this drink is magical indeed. Save it for the bad days. And when you drink it, remember what it stands for. Focus on each component. Hang onto each moment and trust that, eventually, the sun will come back out. Also, these ingredients are just suggestions. If there is a different herb or spice that feels more fitting to you, feel free to substitute it. You know yourself better than anyone. You know what kind of magic you need.
Rose petals - for Love, that force that fills us with all numbers of emotions. For the tenderness of a caress, the passion of a kiss, the familiarity of a hand or the care in someone’s eye. This love can take any form, can be from any direction. The love that comes from family, from romance, or even from the companionship of a devoted dog can all be fodder for this special kind of gold. Roses are an age-old representation of love, both for self and for others. Their soft floral scent is comforting and sweet. Can you remember a moment of love in your life?
Goldenrod - for Joy, the golden light that fills us when we feel elated or excited or content. Often this joy is tied to a sensory memory - the feeling of warm sunlight, the smell of a birthday cake, the taste of victory pizza. Goldenrod is known for its uplifting qualities and its sunny yellow color alone makes it a great representation of joy. Can you think of one thing that brings you joy every day? Or one memory that’s particularly filled with it?
Anise hyssop - for Purpose, the dreaming that keeps you moving forwards, for the projects to finish and goals to work towards and dreams of the future. What do you feel passionate about? What do you dream about doing or becoming? What do you feel called to do or drawn to share? The sweet blossoms of anise hyssop are always abuzz in bees, working passionately and tirelessly for the benefit of their community. The licorice smell of it permeates the air as these little winged representations of purpose busily pack away pollen and nectar. What do you want to fly towards?
Wildflower honey - for Wonder, the sweetness of surprises and beauty of the unexpected. For every little detail that captures your attention, the dewdrops sparkling like diamonds or the note from a stranger tucked into your library book. Wonder is a sense of play and discovery, the ability to be utterly enchanted with life. For me, it’s also the ability to share wonder with others - nothing feels quite so rewarding to me as hiding little surprises for others to find. Honey never spoils, adds sweetness to our lives, entrances us with its golden color and viscous texture. Can you think of a time when you were filled with wonder? Can you think of a way to share wonder with others?
To Brew: Making this tea is more than pouring hot water over herbs. It is brewing a potion and filling it with magic. Go through the motions with purpose and focus, think about what each ingredient represents as you add it, and stay focused on those golden glimmers of light as you sip it. Like I mentioned above, it may be helpful to jot down some reminders of what each part represents, then answer those questions for yourself. Add each ingredient to a heat-proof container, then pour boiling water over them. Leave to steep for 3-5 minutes, then strain into a cup and drink. (If you’d like to preserve this tea blend for later, you can also dry each of the herbs, then mix them with some granulated honey to mix into hot water later.) As you sip, it can also be helpful to picture a golden light spreading through your body, from your lips to your torso, spreading out to your fingertips. Hold the image of that glowing gold filling your body with vitality. It might just make you feel a bit better.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. We all have our own ways of coping with life, and I would love to hear what you hold onto during those dark days (determination? comfort?) and what you might choose to represent it (calendula? chamomile?) Each of our potions will be different, and each of our methods unique, but we’re all in this together, connecting over our shared humanity and maybe even a cup of tea.
Lots of love,
P.S. As always, this post is free to you thanks to the generous support of my patrons! For as little as $1 a month, you can support my mission to spread wonder through my blog posts, recipes, and surprise events. If you'd like to learn more, please visit my patreon page!