Almost every day my oldest daughter drinks a chocolate shake out of her green Paw Patrol bottle—one she loves for the dogs, not the characters. This shake is, of course, not just any chocolate shake. It’s packed full of various greens and nutrients, with a couple of vitamins crushed into it because I’m an opportunist.
Although she typically loves the shake, it usually takes her a while to get through it because she’s two and goes through everything but diapers pretty slowly. By the time she’s taking the final sips, I can see her face pucker up. The crushed pills have settled at the bottom of the cup, and the taste of sweet chocolate has suddenly turned bitter with the abundance of vitamin remains. The end is near.
We recently moved to a new home in an incredibly friendly neighborhood. However, just this past week, several of the residents on our street put signs in their yard, promoting their preferred presidential candidate and expressing a clear opinion on which way we should vote on the school levy. The street feels a little less friendly as people add more and more political messages to their lawn. Suddenly it feels like the neighbors are conversing via yard signs, and I wish it would all just stop. Can’t we go back to the sweet part?
I know that the final sips of my daughter’s shake are nowhere near as satisfying as the first sips, but I always encourage her to finish it because in the bitter is the opportunity. For her, it’s the chance to take in some more vitamins and experience greater health, restoration, and growth. For me? A time as bitter as election season is an invitation to lean in—not to arguments or divisive behavior, but to listening, learning, and choosing to actively love those around me, especially if they’re putting signs in their yard that I wouldn’t want in mine.
I’ll never forget the final moments of labor before delivering my daughter, who now slowly sips from the Paw Patrol bottle. I was seriously wondering if I was going to be able to continue laboring, and I wanted out. I begged for any sort of escape from my reality: put me under, take her out another way, I don’t care—I just couldn’t take it anymore. The nurses kept telling me that this meant it was almost time to start pushing, but I couldn’t quite believe them until I really did start pushing, soon holding my tiny, beautiful baby girl. I had wanted it all to stop, which meant the end was near. And what met me at the bitterness of that ending? My sweet girl; a precious new beginning.
The thing about bitter endings is that they don’t last. The cup is refilled, the election season comes to a close, the baby (somehow) comes out. A new day, new start, new chance typically meets us in the ending.
While the bitterness loses its power as it subsides, what does live on is the growth, restoration, healing, and humility that we allow ourselves to digest during the bitter moments.
The temptation is certainly to dilute the bitter with more sweet, to walk away or look away from whatever is challenging us. But just as I don’t want that sort of stagnancy for my daughter, I don’t want it for myself either.
Election season is difficult on most of us. The country feels pregnant with division, and growing through the bitterness of it all seems like the last thing any of us really wants to do. And yet, what an opportunity. What a chance to stay put, to engage the neighbor with all those yard signs, or to listen with patience and intention as someone shares her viewpoint. The good news is that when the yard signs start going up, we are in the final stages of labor before Election Day. It’s bitter and painful, but we know a new presidential term will begin for someone, and the yard signs will come down as we all find our way in the post-election season.
One way or another, it will be a new beginning. I hope, for us all, that it’s one of those beginnings where we can still taste the growth, healing, restoration, and revelation in our mouths a little bit. After all, the bitter is the opportunity, and opportunity doesn’t always taste so sweet.
Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies —— she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.