Growing up, my mother (rest her soul) was a firm believer in alternative medicine. Preventively and also as a cure. It was only when nature had failed, that she succumbed to the authority of Hyppocrates and those that swore by his oath; doctors and their chemical concoctions, erstwhile known as medicine…well to me at that point anyway.

You see, nature in her wisdom, the same wisdom imparted upon my mother, had a remedy for everything. If you were keen enough to seek her and learn her secrets, there was something for everything. A herb for your cough, a paste for your wound and rest for your angst.

The one thing they all had in common however, was their blandness and perhaps also overwhelming lack any semblance of pleasure, goodness or anything remotely related. These remedies were often bitter, often painful and generally void of any form of pleasure. Getting myself and my siblings to partake of any of them was a battle that was always hard fought but with the same results; mother won, amidst protests and cries of anguish.

One such remedy that we were introduced to was aloe vera. Aloe Vera in its many types and forms is nothing short of a wonder plant. It was (and still is) nature’s answer to many ailments; malaria, fevers, mild infections….name it. IT WORKS. The only issue I had and still had with it was its taste. Aloe Vera or “ekigagi” as we call in in my local dialect, is perhaps the single most bitter tasting thing I have encountered in my short life on this God given earth. It carries a repulsively poignant taste. One that lingers in your mouth long after you have swallowed it. The agony impressed upon your tongue, one that is branded onto it seemingly forever like hot metal on hide.

The time came to take our periodic dose of this (we took it also when healthy, to keep the gremlins of sickness away),  was onewe dreaded but one we could not escape. It sucked!

But alas, the remedy always worked. It played its role. It either kept us out of danger or got us out of it. Suddenly it was all worth it.

As I grew older (I’m a ripe old 30 years old as of last week) I realised that the stuff we detested the most, was usually the best for us. Not only aloe vera, but a host of other remedies, natural and otherwise. Greens were never the best tasting dish on the menu, but they carried perhaps the most nutrients. Long nights studying and preparing for that exam took its toll on us, but it was the only way to get the good grades. Taking that leap of faith and jumping off the cliff looked like suicide, but it was the only way we learnt how to fly.

The bitter things were never pleasant, but they were the best way to get what we wanted. The reward was always on the other side of pain, on the other side of suffering.

This may sound retrospective, but it has never changed and I have a feeling it won’t. The difference is that now we are older and we have choices. We have the option to choose the sweet stuff over the bitter. The easy over the hard.

Mummy isn’t watching. Your prefect won’t punish you and neither will the school masters…but life will. It’s time we developed a taste for the harder stuff. The things that break us down in the moment, only to build us up stronger.

It’s always better after the bitter.

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