First, making your own red wine vinegar is an almost effortless, fun and very, very tasty kitchen project. But before I get to that, I want to talk about suffering.
More of my professional life focuses on suffering rather than joy. Most seek my help because they are suffering in some way. The grit playing out in our lives can grind us down to nothing. And nothing is a clean, clear place free of distraction where we can get a tremendous amount done. And on the flip side of suffering is joy. Joy is our goal, isn't it? If we all had the amount joy in our lives we wanted, then we would not be reading this website. We would be joy-ing out on the couch not caring about disease or heartache or death. I know right now, there are a lot of people who feel like their lives are falling apart for one reason or another. Pulled apart by some sharp-edged news or unforeseen happenstance. The ceiling of normalcy collapsed that no amount of distraction can protect against. Suffering is sitting in their lap as an unwelcome visitor. And as much as it causes the worst kind of discomfort and pain, I know this to be true; if I take the path of attempting to turn off the feeling of suffering, it will go on and on like a bad song. And if I take the path of facing suffering and let it do what it will with me, like perhaps changing the circumstances in my life, not only will I move through it more quickly, but I will forever be tender to life's big gifts. Cut off life, or become more tender to its workings. Maybe not so easy of a choice.
Last night I was speaking to a long-time friend. He was speaking of his last seven months of facing his unhappiness. In the act of facing this tall mountain of his, he regained a life with meaning, healed his marriage and paved a new way for himself. I was so curious about his experience because I too, have done this. And, I have found it to be a path not often walked. As limitless as making peace with your heart is, I do not encounter many who have. And once you do, life expands your heart so wide that you become less immune to the harshness of life with no thick skin to brace yourself with. So through this, I have become a more compassionate person and at the same time so much more tender to everything. I pull inward a lot to manage this. I also take almost nothing lightly these days. I tend to say 'no' to almost nothing, but get carried into the deep waters so much faster than I previously had. I suffer more. On my road to more joy, I suffer more. Except now I don't judge the suffering like I used to, and let it run its course with less fanfare. This paradox of more suffering with joy could seem to be intense, (and it is!) but I consider it sides of the same coin now and let it hold equal weight for wisdom. And in doing that, suffering becomes a powerful vehicle for finding my center more quickly and an effective way to move beyond the rights and wrongs of a situation. As my heart unfolds it's mysteries to me, it becomes less about joy or pain, and becomes more about loving all things present.
I tell my clients the same thing. When you start on the path to redefine the level of happiness in your life, you redefine the level of suffering too. Joy and Suffering become allies to lifting everything in your life. Both somewhat lose their meaning, and become vehicles for the same outcome; trusting your life. Joy and suffering are only participants and not leading actors to that larger issue at hand. Loving always takes the leading role.
So if you are in the depths of sorrow right now, I encourage you to hesitate before you scramble to be anywhere but there. I want to tell you that you are going to be ok. There is powerful medicine in suffering. Transformation is always on the horizon while in the state of suffering. And there are others there with you. And you are never alone. And when life seems to be pulling apart at the seams, consider letting it. It may be the surest, fastest way to something more magnificent that is right around the corner.
DIY Red Wine Vinegar
This is so easy to make. The hardest part is finding the "mother" to make the vinegar. Mother is the acetic acid bacteria that turns alcohol into acetic acid with the help of oxygen. You have two choices; either buy mother online, or buy raw red wine vinegar and use that. Once you have your mother, all you need is a crock to ferment your vinegar and a few bottles of red wine. I bought my ceramic crock at my local hardware store. You can buy a crock online here and here. Cover your crock with a dish towel and rubber band. Once you have all of your ingredients, add two bottles of wine and the bottle of raw red wine vinegar, or follow the directions on the label of the vinegar mother.
My mother has been going for almost 2 years now. I usually let the vinegar ferment about 6 months, then skim off a bottle's worth and add more wine to the crock. It is hands down the best vinegar I have ever tasted. It is not however, like balsamic vinegar, which is more syrupy and sweet. Red wine vinegar is more astringent and versatile in recipes. Once you start growing mother, you can cut pieces off and give them away. The mother will grow back. I put my mother in the picture above. It is sitting on the plate. It is a perfectly formed disc that has an interesting rubbery consistency. My vinegar mother has been a great source of conversation at dinner parties when someone decides to peek into the crock sitting on my shelf. So fun!!