I am not looking forward to going to the dentist today. I usually have good check-ups, but every few years there is an issue that crops up and I know exactly what the doctor is going to say. It is the same conversation that we have intermittently had over the years. He will say, “it looks like you’ve been grinding your teeth again.”
“I know” I will tell him, but I will feel as though he can see the evidence of everything I haven’t dealt with in my inner life.
Then he will recommend a very expensive mouth guard and I will remind him that I have tried one in the past and that in the morning I find it under the covers, on the floor, in the pillow case, anywhere, but in my mouth.
Grinding my teeth is an old and flawed strategy to deal with stress. I can float through my days easily enough and be convinced that I don’t even feel stressed at all. Then night arrives and although I may sleep well, the nitties and the gritties of some deep inner disturbance tries to work its way out through grinding my teeth.
This is a terrible and ineffective response. It creates jaw pain, headaches, face pain, earwax build up, sinus issues, enormous wear and tear and stress fractures on the teeth. It is also an in-my-face reminder that I haven’t been dealing with my stress at all.
Sure, my brain logically knows that the last few months have been FULL. There has been a rapid succession of unexpected financial demands, emergency car repairs, health scares, house guests, a college graduation, a seasonal move from one house to another which highlighted necessary house repairs, a death in the family, a whole bunch of birthdays, working on an estate plan. It feels like a few years’ worth of life squeezed into a few months.
I also know that my brain creates thoughts that encourage me to NOT look at what may be going on inside. “Isn’t that just exactly what life is? Look at Facebook or the news, so many people are worse off than you. Don’t be a whine baby”. Thoughts can be truly cruel.
When so many balls are being flung at you from so many directions, how can you not take a hit? Like a shark that will drown if it doesn’t keep moving, it’s often a necessity that we “carry on” through one crisis to the next. After all, the bills still need to be paid; food needs to be in the fridge; and that growing pile of laundry will not wash itself.
However, now that my old enemy, teeth gnashing, has shown up, I am reminded that it has been too long since I’ve allowed myself to be still. And I mean really still. Like meditation still.
The other day, I finally sat for meditation. Which is really just sitting with oneself. I sat, and I realized how my everyday mind had been afraid of this moment. Afraid of the storm of emotions that had been roiling within. Afraid of being overwhelmed. But I sat. And I sat with and welcomed the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve-s. I sat with the regrets, the admonishments, the judgments about myself and others. I sat with the sadness of loss; the fear of growing old and incapacitated; the financial worries; the concerns for my children and their own life challenges. I sat and I looked them all in the eye. I sat and I even grew a little bolder with a call to ‘bring it on’. And as I sat, and welcomed and accepted, I found that everything that I had feared did not submerge or drown me as I thought it might, but rather I was able to let them wash through me. I may have ducked under a wave for a moment, but then I popped up again. And as I sat even longer, I found that these waves of emotions and thoughts began to dissipate on their own and I found that I was sitting in a different place. I began to sit in the natural compassion, kindness, gentleness and peace that was living beneath all of it. Finally, the ability to truly exhale, ahhh….and there I found my oldest and most steadfast friend. The overwhelming sense of peace and the feeling and knowingness that everything IS ok. This is different than my brain telling me it’s ok, this is a deep, in your bones, grounded to the earth, completely embodied FEELING that I KNOW everything is OK. I’m OK. I know this feeling. I have been here many times. I have also strayed away many times too. I like to call this feeling my essential being-ness. How many times I have forgotten that this lives here too. How many times I have forgotten that it is I who have abandoned you and not the other way around. Yet here you still are just waiting for me to return. And I have returned. The trick is that you can’t think your way here. You must feel your way here.
Sit, feel, allow, acknowledge, welcome, accept and return. This is a much better strategy. BONUS – now that I’ve come back “home”, the teeth grinding has subsided. For now, at least.
I hope that it never returns; however, if it does, I hope that I can think of it as a friend who is knocking on a door inviting me back into my own house of peace. Back to my own essential being-ness.
And that dentist visit today? Well, I can sit with that as well.