I'm about to go on a 3 day soup bender. Maybe it can be shorter, if I have a good combo of luck and hard work.
I was driving home from St. Paul Street – I'm not going to explain why and I could feel that tooth in my mouth start to hurt. It starts as a somewhat nonspecific pain. A throbbing raw feeling on the right side of my mouth where, if I didn't already know exactly what's going on over there, I wouldn't be able to tell if it was emanating from my upper or lower jaw. By the time I'm pulling into a parking spot to my apartment building in Penfield, the pain has localized itself with razor precision and is clearly radiating out from the one culprit of a tooth. At this point, I'm keeping my face very still. If I accidentally breathe air in through my mouth, the little Mussolini in the back of my face hole might reward me with a tiny dagger of extra pain. If I make the mistake of smiling at some stray thought or cloud or old couple holding hands on a walk I may spend the next 10 seconds wincing. I walk into my apartment, drop my bags and make a beeline for the bathroom where an industrial sized bottle of ibuprofen waits for me. I don't even take off my shoes which is huge. I always take off my shoes. Not because I care about the shape of my carpet but because I really effing hate shoes and one of my all-time favorite feelings is taking them and my socks (those little bastards), off and feeling the ground. But nope, not this time. Boots stay on as I toss back 600mg with a shot of melted ice water from last night. I don't even care.
I spend the next 15 minutes doing some dishes and then heating up soup. I'm super hungry and chewing equals misery right now. I know enough not to chew on the side of my face that hurts, even after the ibuprofen kicks in. Because I've favored that side all week, the left side of my mouth has little stab wounds all over it from trying to masticate without being fully equipped. The biggest problem over there with left-y is a cut under my tongue that gets scraped if I move that bad boy around too much. This makes chewing even soft foods seem just not worth the effort. I heat up a can of soup and seriously consider blending it because the chunks of potatoes are looking a little suspect. Like they may require the movement of my mouth to break them up and that seems like mission impossible right now. Somewhere in my head I think that I'm not supposed to put hot foods in the blender though and, at the moment, hunger is beating pain in the uncomfortable feelings octagon. So I'll risk the extra tongue damage.
So now I'm thinking about this tooth and the emotional baggage and learning opportunities it's presenting to me this past week and right this very moment. The first lesson has to do with pain in general. If I'm meditating and something hurts or itches, I breathe into it, if that makes sense. Like, I move my breath over there and just really let myself feel whatever that feeling is. In some ways, I might consider it a gift because a good annoying itch can do wonders to snap me back to the present moment. This practice has taught me some degree of steadfastness. I can just sit here and feel this tooth. And in fact, if I don't check in with and acknowledge this pain frequently, like I failed to do yesterday, it seems to have some sort of cumulative negative effect on me. I felt totally cranky and miserable yesterday and it took me a hot minute to realize it was because I'd just had constant pain all day. Where as today, my tooth still super duper hurts, but I've just been acknowledging it and letting myself feel it all day instead. This obviously doesn't mean I'm not taking painkillers for it because, clearly, I am. But without going into too much detail, the pain can oscillate and if I've been a couple hours without it, I may be somewhere without oral analgesics and I'm not interested in staying on a 24 hour pain control regimen. Anyway, in some ways then, I'm kind of grateful for this pain, it is of the #7/10 variety in terms of dental pain (I rate other pain outside of my mouth on an entirely different scale). It's pretty bad, but not the worst I've had. I don't get to feel pain like this very often. I bump and bruise myself playing roller derby or being clumsy, but that sort of pain doesn't touch this feeling. So it's a really good opportunity to work with a feeling I don't get to work with very often.
This little dude in my mouth also has a bunch of emotional baggage for me, weirdly. I didn't get all my adult teeth and I didn't get to keep many of the ones I have. This guy is one of my only guys left that meets up with a buddy to chew. I'm hoping the reason he hurts is because I just had him drilled and then capped with a crown and the nerve and gums are settling. But what it could be is that not everything was taken care before the crown was placed, I have an infection, and I may lose the tooth. This has happened every time I've gotten a crown. It makes me really sad to think this. In fact, I'm tearing up typing this because I just don't want to face this reality. I can't really chew carrots anymore unless they're cooked, which, let's face it, is disgusting outside a good curry. I look at people in awe when they eat those little crackers topped with stuff at parties. Bagels feel like an exercise in futility or a waiting game while my mouth enzymes go to town and it dissolves. This little dude is like my last bastion of hope or something. Every year at Christmas I joke that I want dentures only it's not really a joke. I can barely chew anymore and it's not because of something I did. I didn't do meth, I didn't get in a bunch of fights in a hockey game, I brush my teeth religiously, I floss like a boss (at least my gums are amazing). It's genetic and complicated but this is the mouth I have and right now it can't do much, but I'm bummed thinking about what it soon won't be able to do. Dental implants are VERY expensive and not covered by insurance. The teeth I have are too little to structurally support bridge work. My dentist said implants are really it for me and we can do a payment plan and just do like one tooth a year. I feel ungrateful considering this because that means it will probably be at least three years before I can really chew again, especially if I lose this bad boy back there, and that just feels so long. On the other hand, I know, it's only three years, it's not the end of the world and I'll get used to what I have to do to eat.
So I'm in this weird place right now of just trying to both be ok with feeling bummy about my mouth and also not wallow in it. I'm not the worst person off, by any stretch of the imagination! I have dental insurance, I have a job, I'm smart and I can figure out how to cook and get nutrients sans much mastication. But I also think it's a good idea to go ahead and mourn the loss of chewing carrots. Food is important and it's fun and I just don't get to participate in it's consumption like I used to and like most people can. I'm going to go ahead and feel bummed out and temper it with the reality that it could be a lot worse and it might get better. I actually feel a bit better just processing some of this “on paper” so to speak.
Here's to a three day soup bender while I let my poor mouth rest and heal!