It’s easy to write about overcoming adversity and relying on faith and keeping a positive perspective. Oh sure! It’s a cake walk, when it’s just me and my fingers playing footsie with the QWERTY board. But when the rubber meets the road, when I actually get stuck in the middle of a trial, or a good three or more simultaneously, well then that’s when the:
- baby girl
- pity party planner
- driveling doubter
comes to the surface, faster than Michael Phelps comes up for air while butterfly-swimming towards another gold medal.
That’s when I’ve been known to mumble or even yell out the obvious:
- This sucks!
- We’ll never get ahead!
- Great! When it rains, it pours!
- Fantastic! What could possibly be next? (Don’t ever be tempted to ask this. You will get an answer!)
Yesterday, I had to have a tooth extracted. This is my 2nd tooth I’ve lost in my 40s. This, after having already poured a small fortune into trying to save it, and all of its companions.
I don’t have the greatest teeth. Week enamel. Eroding gums. Lack of bone mass in the jawbone. Lots of melted silver and even some cadaver bone bind what’s left of them together. I brush and floss regularly, don’t smoke cigarettes or meth or even drink sodas and still I can’t seem to save them. It’s not fair.
Yeah, like I was supposed to get the exemption to the “Unfairness of Life” principal.
So when I sat in the dentist chair I was given what in medical terms can be described as two bad options and one so-so option. With no time to mentally prepare, I had two minutes to decide to remove the tooth now, or go home and stew and cry some more and come back later and do it. Pragmatism trumped emotion for once: just do it….now!
1,2,3,4: In went the shots of Novocaine. My body never seems to “goes to sleep” without a fight it seems, so I usually get double the anesthesia, just enough to feel like your heart is going to jump right out of your chest. Speed now, knowing the impending physical exhaustion awaits after an hour drive home in traffic.
Five minutes after the xray results are in, I’m already under the knife. All is still. And then it happens:
Not just a few, but giant sobbing tears. I didn’t want to choke with instruments and a a wedge in my mouth while 2 surgical mask-encased faces in protective eye wear peer down at me.
“Are you okay?” the kind gentleman dentist asks? “Are you in any pain?” the nice female dental assistant asks.
“I’h fiiii!” I lie. (I”m fine.)
“I’h shuz rewy rewy saa!” (Translation for those of you who don’t speak dental jumble: “I’m just really really sad!”
“I know!” they both say in unison. They’re good at dental speak. “But it’s all going to be okay!” the good dentist says. All I see are his deep brown eyes looking at me warmly. Compassionate eyes. It helps a little. I begin to breathe almost normal again. But still the tears keep sliding out both eyes.
The forcible pulling of something from me and intense pressure starts.
And then the real hurt.
It’s not the pull and pressure that hurts. It’s my heart. It’s this knowing I’m saying good-bye to something forever, even if it’s only a tooth.
But this tooth was a good tooth I think. I kissed my first crush with that tooth in my mouth. I’ve kissed my babies and my hubby with that tooth. I used that tooth to shout out all the obscenities I’m ashamed to admit I’ve ever said; still it helped form those bullets I can’t take back now. Hopefully some encouraging and kind words rolled off my tongue with that tooth over the years too. That tooth tasted so much deliciousness for the better part of four decades. It was both utilitarian for speaking and eating, but also vanity of vanities, a part of my smile, it was part of what makes me…..well, me!
It goes before a fall. Or an extraction. A removal of something.
As I sat there, I mentally murmured a prayer of thanks to God for allowing me to have the tooth as long as I did. Even though I didn’t get to keep it my whole life.
And then I remembered some people I love so much:
So many friends that had to say good-bye to their hair, their ovaries, their breasts, all the things that made them feel womanly because they had cancer. That wasn’t fair either.
I thought of my friends that have had to say good-bye to a spouse,a parent, or both parents, or a brother or sister. They weren’t asked in advance if they were strong enough. They simply were.
And hardest of all, most recently, watching someone I love so deeply face the long-term reality of facing every day with courage and grace despite having suddenly lost their son. That’s not just loss; that’s major open heart surgery. It’s having the biggest part of you forcibly, permanently severed without presentation of alternatives or forms of consent requested.
We are all terminal here.
I don’t know what movie or book I heard that in, but I know it stuck with me.
Nothing lasts forever. We keep getting these opportunities to practice saying good bye to things until we learn to get it right :
- Complete control of our life
And last of all, most important, most beloved:
I know in everything there is a lesson. And I know even when I embrace it reluctantly, mine is this: Be grateful in good things; more so in hard things!
This moment, this thing is the gift, the real present. And though we don’t get to keep any of our earthly possessions or earthly wardrobe (ourselves), we do get to choose which gifts to leave behind. Memories, a loving heart, a giving spirit, a gratitude for even having had the chance to live at all. These best things which can’t be extracted from those we love.
PHOTO CREDIT: chasing-skye @ tumblr