I’ve been meaning to write a piece on a former orthodontist for a while. I hope it is a start toward another piece of what will become a book one day. I have many hospital related tales to tell and so little time. Here goes something…
It’s funny, you meet people and interact with them on a regular basis, and never imagine your relationship will end. This was especially the case with Dr. B. It never occurred to me that I would, one day, never see him every month, or every couple of weeks. He was a fixture in my life from about age 12 to 26.
The bilateral cleft lip and palate team, during the time I was a patient at the hospital, did not have a psychologist on its team. They did prior to my time of care. It did not matter for much of the time I was treated for my cleft lip and palate issues because I had Dr. B who helped me with these self-esteem and interpersonal issues.
Dr. B. was a person who unknowingly helped me develop my social skills. He allowed me to be snarky, funny, and smart. I felt like I fit right into the world in a way that was not fully realized when I went back out onto the sidewalk or back to school after our appointments.
Dr. B would love to bring in the dental students and show off his hard work inside my mouth. I would say funny things as they “ooo’d” and “ahhhh’d” as Dr. B explained what he had accomplished. He moved my teeth around quite a bit. In fact, he even twisted one into a straight position, which was his great bragging rite to the students. I remember saying something along the lines of, “he’s pretty great, right?” or “what a guy?” to the five or more gathered students. This happened on more than one occasion. It made me laugh because I always predicted the explanation by Dr. B and the reaction by the students. And I am sure he knew what I was thinking every time.
Self Esteem and Mutual Respect
Most people do not look forward to going to the dentist, but I did, and to some extent still do most likely due to this wonderful, caring doctor. I knew I was going to laugh, show off my quick wit, and converse on just about everything. Many of the others that worked at the clinic treated me like a peer, as if I worked there, not as a child being treated. This was a clear sign of respect. I knew I had value in that environment, so I knew I must have value in the other places, too. When you have a facial difference, the reinforcement of your value in the world is significant to good mental health.
I’m sure I talked about friend and peer situations at school with him, and I’m sure Dr. B gave advice, but nothing specific comes to mind. He was a paternal figure in my life that I knew I could count on. You have to have allies when you are different. Whether it be your skin color, or your sexual orientation, you need to know people are in your corner ready to support you.
Resilience and Teamwork
Thanks to Dr. B, I was able to experience pain with some grace and dignity. Many times we both knew it was going to hurt, but we got through it together. I would always close my eyes tight and moan, and he would encourage me to just hang in there to put a little more pressure on those teeth he wanted to move. This was a lesson in resilience. An incident with his colleague, Dr. S, who I also love dearly, illustrates another great example of resilience, and learning to lean on another in time of mental and physical strife. Dr. S. wanted to take some impressions of my teeth to make a mold for one contraption or another that would eventually land in my mouth. Unfortunately, during this series of impressions (a process that is miserable to begin with) some of the composite, or gunky material that would make the mold of my teeth, got pressed up, in between my mouth and my nasal cavity. I was born with a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate, which means that the oral and nasal cavity are not separated by tissue and bone in certain locations. Dr. S. tried, and tried, and tried to get the composite out with the high-powered suction, and an explorer for over an hour. It was extraordinarily painful for me. Finally, both of us were exhausted, pasty white, and waving the white flag of surrender. I got up and felt the need to blow my nose. The composite came out my nostrils. Dr. S and I were shocked, gobsmacked, with our jaws wide open. When my mother arrived at the door to the treatment room she could not believe how tired and white we both looked. And there were many more times with Dr. B. where resiliency and the “we-are-going-to-get-through-this-together” attitude helped us reach the finish line.
If I had enough fight in me, and was resilient for all those procedures, what could the world possibly throw at me inter-personally that I could not handle? A lot. But I got through it.
Dr. B always saw the beauty in me. He never questioned me the way I questioned myself. Am I fun? Am I interesting? Do people even want me around? No, Dr. B did not question those things at all. I learned that I was fun, interesting, and that people do want to be around me. How did I know? He treated me as a friend, not a patient. He showed me my worth by how he chose to interact with me. His example spoke louder than words. This is one of the greatest gifts a person can give to another that by all outward appearances is different.
He was the dentist that tweaked my teeth, my self-esteem, and my life. I will always be thankful for these gifts. Thank you, Dr. B.
Up Close and Personal, Sunday, June 22, 2014. Please see more of my photographs on my flickr stream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/27325898@N05/
I enjoy making cards, and prints of any size. Let me know if you are interested.
Summer Sunglasses, Sunday, June 22, 2014
I am creative. Recently, though, I have not made it a priority to exercise those creative muscles in my life, probably because I am too busy working out, or gaining inspiration from the reality TV show du jour.
I want to draw more, paint again, and maybe learn to knit or crochet something. I believe it will calm me and prove a way to meditate while “doing something.” I am not one to sit in the lotus position, and get everything to be zen.
The arts engage all of my mental and physical forces into one activity. I’m not exactly sweating to the oldies, but there is a level of movement involved that is necessary for me to get closer to a peaceful state. Those of us with rapid fireballs of thought being tossed about in our heads need to engage in something physical to help calm the mind through matching it with a similarly intense body-based activity. Exercise forces the mind to focus back in on the body, and away from the barrage of thoughts and cognition that are just that…thoughts. Even though I may not be lifting weights, or playing tennis, my body must be engaged in something like drawing, painting, knitting to bring my awareness back to my physicality. In another words, to remind myself that I am not my thoughts. I tend to get stuck on them. They are fleeting, but like thousands of flaming boomerangs, they come back again, and again, and again.
I know this works. A few weeks ago I tested it by sketching. I entered the activity as I would a meditation. I focused on my pencil touching my hand, touching the paper. I noted the color on the page, and smelled the colored pencil as the color appeared. Everything was done non-judgmentally. I observed. I described. I let my brain rest. The thoughts cleared out because I was focused on the activity at hand, much like I focus on my body when I move around the tennis court.
I want to start practicing these mind-quieting activities by choosing those which I have supplies. I have pencils, paper, watercolors, acrylics, oil pastels, etc. I have an abundance of art supplies. If I give myself 10 minutes here, or 20 minutes there, at the end of the night to wind down with this type of meditation I know it will help me sleep, improve control over my mind, and the anxieties of daily life.
I will let you know how this experiment goes in a future blog post.
I made some changes this year with my physical and mental health in mind. I am more earnest and determined than ever to make progress in these areas. I thought by now I would feel different, things would have improved, but they have not exactly met my expectations (which typically, like the rent, are too high). Something has got to give, or in my case, I have got to stop, so I can give in, lean in. In other words, I have to pause, contemplate, and let go of those behaviors, thoughts, people, and situations that perpetuate suffering. Otherwise, I will continue to tread water and not earn the spoils of the war in which I fight each day.
I am fighting more than one battle, which is why I say war. I am fighting for myself, to recapture me. Because I am struggling I am doing it right. If I were not engaged with the issues that plaque me, mental and physical, then I would be going about it all wrong. Choosing to disassociate from them, or distract does not allow for real transformation to occur. I want to confront the problem head on, not sweep it under the rug only to trip over it, again and again, in the future. I make mistakes. I trip and fall; to err is to be human. I get up, I dust myself off, and figure out where I went wrong, so I can approach the problem differently next time it presents itself.
So though the progress seems glacial with regard to time and return on investment, I plod on because I know I will ultimately reach my goals, win the battles and ultimately the war. I pray to allow hope into my heart. I am wary of hope because I believe you are the change you want to be. I need the hope though to build the resilience and strength to continue along this road to a new and improved Kara.
I’m struggling to find a way to give structure to this blog. I have many facets of my life which I enjoy sharing with others through the written word. I have said to people that I can talk about any topic for 10 minutes. I do not express this to be a braggart, but to help people like myself that lack some self-esteem, or are shy. If you know a bit about many things the odds are in your favor that you will have something to talk about no matter your company. I encourage them to experience as much of the world as possible through books, TV, going to museum, theater, sporting events, etc. You name it, “Just Do it!” as Nike said in the 90s. This is the way I was raised. As a kid born to parents of educators, this immersion in all things arts and sports was pretty normal. It continues today, and my cup runneth over into this blog.
I feel like the blog just doesn’t have a point. My main themes are self, mental health, reminiscences of my past, struggles with my spirituality, music, movies, and books. I’m just all over the place, but then again, all of it is uniquely me. Me…maybe that is the theme. I think it shows people that read this crazy part of the world wide web exactly who I am, and thus that is the theme. I can’t do a cooking blog, or a blog about cats. I can only write about what I know. I know myself to some degree. I hope my experiences good, bad, or indifferent may help others.
This is me, enjoy the ride!
I have not read any poetry in a long while. I heard this poem mentioned during Marc Maron’s podcast where he interviewed, comedian and raconteur, Duncan Trussell. Trussell had just been through a rough year. He was treated for testicular cancer and suffered the loss of his mother. Maron asked how he managed to navigate through the last year. The ever spiritually connected and slightly wily Trussell said it is “like the Bukowski poem, it’s the broken shoelace that sends us to the madhouse.” In other words, we sweat the small stuff. The big crises of life are somewhat easier to absorb because mentally, physically, and emotionally we know what to do with them. Maron did not know the poem, so Trussell told him to google the it. Marc read the poem in pitch-perfect fashion. I could not agree with Bukowski or Trussell more. Both Maron and I had our minds blown this week thanks to these two men.
a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there -
license plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
light switch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s
and the toilet chain is
and the light has burned out -
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
so be careful