The Bitter Pill

Put the pill on the tip of your tongue now fill your mouth with water while simultaneously swallowing both. The water flows easily and freely down your throat but the pill remains on your tongue. Having been doused by water it now begins to disintegrate. Immediately the bitter/sour taste adheres itself to your taste buds. Despite your best efforts to dispel the taste it stubbornly stays put nonetheless. Your gag reflex kicks in bringing up undigested debris from your last meal. The combination of the two forces you to regurgitate leaving behind an even more bitter/nauseating taste that is even more unpleasing/unpleasant that is shuttled into your battered palate.

In life, we swallow many bitter pills (i.e. that’s a bitter pill to swallow). These are not pills that are shaken out from a pill bottle into your hand or picked up by your fingers for insertion into your oral medicinal intake system. Instead, these are pills that are remnants from events in your life or verbal assaults that were fired at you in machine gun like fashion. The time frame that has elapsed since these events are of no consequence. Just like the little white pill that melted in your mouth leaving a not so pleasant taste to remember so too are these poison pills embedded inside of you.

Years or even decades may walk on by with extended periods of absentia from bitterness only to resurface again brought on by any number of different triggers. When peace prevailed you were convinced you had finally divorced yourself from your past or at least that chapter of your past that went like a wrecking ball through your emotions before settling in your psyche somewhere they cannot be found. When the exact perfect opportune moment comes all peace you had enjoyed is shattered like a foot stamping on a miniature wine glass. Shrapnel is everywhere. That is how it feels. The periscope in your eyes takes umbrage at all that is seen or heard. You hate them! You hate it! They all just make you sick seeing their picture-perfect still watercolor lives.

The advice that is given is to you is discharge all of your negative baggage. It is eating you up alive they will tell you. Your physical health is being beaten into a million bits of pulp. There can be no denying the veracity of any of the aforementioned statements. But dammit none of them seem to understand or understand you! Their books, their lectures, their self-proclaimed expertise are worthless words of rubbish to you. Nobody can feel what you felt, heard or saw. The infection that not even the strongest anti-biotics or pro-biotics can kill has you in a stranglehold. Life sucked into a vacuum can never fully be shaken out of the overfull disposable vacuum bag that is you. Did they accusingly say you are such a bitter person that you drive people away from you like herds of stampeding elephants? Nobody will want to get within ten yards of you as that is how toxic you are. THEY JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!

In the courtroom of human emotions where your fitness to continue to be a contributing member of mankind is judged by your own piers, a verdict will be handed down. The naysayers will argue that somebody who is walking around with an over-inflated tire tube inside of them that is one pinprick away from detonation can never rid himself of the demons that own every living fiber of his being is cancer. He will never be able to give it a rest already. How long has this groundswell of emotions been buried within him? How long can it last? Is there legitimacy to his feelings? Where does his past belong? What will his future bring? Questions upon questions with each question being more absurd. A soul that looks at the world with tinted glasses that obliterate all the glad tidings he still holds. Sewing labels on people are something many a tailor will embellish doing. Using uneven erratic stitching patterns a quilt of loose unraveling threads is draped over his tense muscled body to serve as a protective armor against the ranklement of bitterness.

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.  Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.

~ George  Carlin.

The comedic genius that was George Carlin was a very bitter/angry man. His bitterness was born part over mistakes he made in life (the IRS was his arch enemy) in conjunction with a thinly disguised disdain for many things in this world. Bitterness consumed him like a fire to dried wood but fueled his live shows.  This was a man whose life could not hide many of its secrets from. Ripe with anger he covered many faces with uncontrollable laughter.

One of the keys to diluting the acid that is burning you inside is laughter. What is there to laugh about? What is so funny? Yet the experts of emotions say laugh so laugh you must. Or should you? My walls are not adorned with degrees in psychology from some very prestigious bastions of education whose student populations were the brightest of the brightest however learning about the workings of our judicial system when it came to the matters of child custody, shared custody, visitation, what is best for the child, and so on taught me more than any educator ever could. By way of intellect coupled with savvy (void of any legal knowledge except that which my new friend who was newly admitted to the New York Bar Association during that time taught me and my wife who was his first client. The bitterness, hatred, and anger that permeated from all participants nearly took away our friendship. An epic mistake on my part putting those two together) bestowed upon me the ability to attack legal minds so that they saw me as the good guy in this entanglement. Nonetheless, one by one the three children found their way (thank you BCS) into new homes. Those kids came to love me dearly.  Joel, & Daddy Joel soon became (their choice) just daddy.

How did that make me feel? Could you swallow that pill and go on as if all is normal? I doubt it!  When accusations flew that this was a scheme I cooked up so that it would only be my natural son (plus new natural siblings who sadly never made it a full term) my wife and I rankled me. I had always wanted to adopt them as my own but it could not be as it was not up to me. Yet, I was the villain.  For the crime of being born as my biological son, he was cast as a villain as well. The scars that were left will never heal. Nothing or nobody can make them heal. There isn’t a single word you could say that would change anything. Joel knows bitterness and internalized anger but hides it from the world. What is trapped in me was trapped in my father as well. His escape was outbursts of anger used in conjunction with hitting and throwing things.  Conversely, despite carrying ever-increasing loads from life being less than kind or less than fair I reside in quiet reflection.

Nothing has changed lo these many years later as it is all still there. Sprinkle on my mistakes, bad decisions, missing paychecks, an unfortunate love affair with the IRS that is still ever-present makes me a prime candidate to explode like the Atom Bomb but it does not happen. Chances are it will never happen.  I cannot and will not kill or hurt an animal nor will my fists raise themselves ala Muhammed Ali waiting to unleash a devastating right hook or just pummel somebody into submission.

We do what we do for whatever reason we do it not always knowing or asking why.  It just happens planned as an architect would except push come to shove it was me or us against the world. The register tape adding up the sum total of our wrongdoings grows longer and longer still as if it were a spider climbing down its web to overtake its victim hopelessly entangled in a sticky gooey web resigned to the moment when it will be eaten alive. That my friend that is just how it feels. I am not throwing down a gauntlet for you to pick-up so man on man violence can ensue much to the delight of those sitting ringside waiting for that first droplet of blood to fall or stoke fires for pointless arguments. Society in a way expects this from you as without the fight scene there is no drama. Who doesn’t love a good fight even if no blood is spilled?

While I can unceasingly wrestle with myself for control of my emotions that although failure is not uncommon especially when my Yetzer Hara (evil inclination to go against G-d’s will) confiscates the good until my Yetzer Hatov (inclinations to follow G-d’s will to do good) wins out. Conversely, there are souls whose souls have been gutted can see no way out but to kill as many people as possible without the slightest feeling of remorse anxiously anticipating his crown of martyrdom to be placed upon his head. His time his up but in his dying moments, an evil contented smile is witnessed by all. Loners, an overtly angry person filled with venom lives and breathes amongst us. Then he snaps as he has buckled under the weight from everything life gave him that he felt was unfair is now out in the open. What reasons do you need to die? What reasons does he need to answer your question in the only way he knows how.

By the mouthful, I have swallowed those bitter pills that languish on my tongue. None of this has done me any good but through it, all success was waiting in the wings.   I lapped up every drop of sweet milk put in a saucer in front of me as you would do for a kitten whose mother was no longer alive to nurse it until it felt contentment. I twisted, turned, and molded every bit of resentment, anger, bitterness, disgust at life into a heat-seeking missile with my target being the almighty dollar. Hitting that target was a natural for me as it is for others. No, how much I made I wanted more. I neede more. I had to have more. More! I had been wronged (forgetting my part in all of this) so this was my chance for salvation. All this money would cure everything as my Yetzer Hara told me. It was lying to me all along. I hate my Yetzer Hara so how I do I make it go away?

What lays below the skin surface of a man we will never know or if we do know will be too late. Sometimes there are symptoms but they can deceive reality.  You cannot sit in front of a magician with his black baton that he will wave in circular motion mumble some words while waiting for that green puff of smoke that signifies all is now well. It doesn’t work that way.  So what do you do or in what direction do you mauver the rudders of the plane you have been piloting all your life so that you line up with the right runway land with a thump while charging down the runway until your thrusters bring you to a complete stop filling your lungs with hope.  Dreams can weave magic if you let them. If only you believe in the messages they carry.

There were many concealed explosives (figuratively not literally) along that road I drove over in life. There were highways without lights that taught me to focus my reddening straining blue eyes downward to avoid the glare from cars passing me by or on the other side of the road where the lighted speed bumps have been planted to keep you focused on the right direction. Those roads led me away and back to where a murder had been committed ending the life of a sibling. The less said about that the better.

The theme or message of this article is not I can do it (keep it all inside locked away beyond the capacity to escape to any large degree) so can you. Some can scale walls while others stumble over a pebble on the sidewalk. You can do what inside of you tells you can or possibly more. In general terms, you can be taught how to let it go (how I hate those words as they were told to my aging mother over and over again as the untimely death of her daughter plus the passing of her husband sucked all life out of her)but you have to want to or need to. Do it for yourself or in the names or memory of others. Carry only what you really need to while crumpling up and throwing the rest away into the nearest garbage pale. How you do that I am not exactly sure. Who can help you I am not exactly sure?  Have you earned the right to be happy? I do not know. What I do know is the bitter pills you swallowed that made (make) you so sick must be pumped from your stomach. Choose or find what you feel in your heart can work as that is your best guide. Statistics, magazine articles, speakers, etc. cannot hear your beating heart or your throbbing pulse so their value to you is minimal at best.

If it all starts getting too much for you to the point where you know when you explode you will take others with you PLEASE seek IMMEDIATE help. You are hurt (have been hurt) as I have been hurt. It’s okay to feel the resentment or bitterness inside from all those who have wronged you or the times you wronged yourself but although I feel your pain and can sympathize with you that alone will probably not be enough. Remember one time when it was good. More likely than not you can find your way through the fallen branches, the overgrown branches that may make your journey back to whole more difficult but know that you can.


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Blessings Joel, as life gives us so much to embrace, much of which can be unpleasant and nothing one wants to remember. Recently attended a two day retreat on humiliation, humility and forgiveness and one thing I walked away with that letting go is so uplifting and restores one’s soul. Beautifully written and heartfelt for sure.

    • Lynn, Thank you for taking the time to read my article and adding your very wise comments. Indeed letting go can lift a tremendous burden off your shoulders leaving you feeling more refreshed. My apology for not responding to you sooner however, I had one of my more severe seizures today.

    • Larry,
      Thank you for reading my piece as thoroughly as you obviously did.
      Your comment was terrific (nothing new there) as it was nothing short of 100%+ true.
      Take care!

  2. Joel – Life is full of wonderful highs and heartbreaking lows. From the highs, we experience joy, happiness, success, compassion, awe, and so many other amazing feelings that lift our spirit and ego. But, we learn these moments are fleeting and the high is temporary. But it is the lows that teach the important lessons of perseverance, resilience, hard work, moral uprightness, etc that help shape us and build character. Blended together, these moments make us the person we are today. I can honestly say that I would not want to change any of these events in my life because it would change me. Embrace who you are – a sensitive man who is trying so hard to make sense of an internal pain that seems to plague you – because eventually, in your search, you will find the real you – and most importantly, you will be glad you made the journey because you will see the wonderful person you have become. Salom, my friend.

    • Len, Thank you for always knowing the right things to day. You are always there to try to push me up. Life has been hard and never seems to get easier. My struggles with my life as I turn 63 next werk always reminds me of my struggle to get past the bad parts of the past.

    • Joel – I lift you up because you are a friend who is truly worth the effort. Besides, since I am turning 64 this year, I have an obligation to help youngsters like you. 🙂

  3. “Know that you can,” the final message, brought an unexpected relief against the turmoil that human life must suffer, in one form or another, on a consistent basis. Dear Joel Sir, I read with great interest this outstandingly beautiful summation that throws open unhealed wounds, brings forth a multitude of possible remedies (that fail to deliver,) and yet your narrative kept me engrossed beyond belief.

    It will be a travesty of facts to just say you are a master story-teller. Why, because you are an all-encompassing healer that offers valuable lessons through real-life stories hard to find anywhere else, and even that, in such a beautiful form as the one above.

    Thank You, with Warm Regards!

    • Bharat, I am flabbergasted (not in a negative way) by your comments which have left me at a loss for words that could adequately thank you or show appreciation for all of your compliments. This was very special. However, it comes as no surprise when it comes from somebody like you who has long since earned my respect and admiration. Moving forward if I comment negatively on one of your articles please chalk up to Joel doing what Joel does so well which is being a grouch!

    • I would take your negative comments, if and when they came, as a show of affection that gives you an inherent right to make me review what I write, Dear Joel Sir.

      So far as I understand, you are a weather-beaten, perennial Winner that keeps coming back like the phoenix rising from its own ashes, time and time again.

    • Thank Bharat for your friendship as having friends (and family) is the greatest gift you can ever get.