I finally confronted one of my life-long phobias last Monday. I had a tooth pulled.
One of my wisdom teeth finally decided to come up out of the gum, and promptly got a cavity since it’s hard for a toothbrush to reach back there.
Rather than put a filling in a fershlugginer wisdom tooth, everyone decided it was simpler to just yank the thing.
Simpler doesn’t mean less stressful, however.
I’d been dreading the day I’d have to get a tooth removed for about as long as I’ve had permanent teeth that might have to be removed. I counted the hours until Yank Day with borderline panic attacks, which was a new thing for me.
On Sunday night I didn’t get much sleep because I was nervous, tossing and turning in bed. Was there something I was supposed to be doing? What if...? On the other hand, what if...?
Then I made a momentous decision that dramatically eased my mind. I decided to just show up at the dentist’s office and deal.
It didn’t matter if I didn’t have the answers. I assured myself the dentist and his staff had done this a million times and had it down to a system. All I had to do was show up and take it moment by moment. Even I could do that.
When I got in the chair on Monday afternoon, I did what I often do when I’m nervous — clicked into reporter mode and started asking questions.
You know how when there’s a lull in the conversation and you sit or stand there uncomfortable, not knowing how to fill the time?
Since I started working at the Gazette I’ve learned a way out of those situations — go into reporter mode and ask people questions about what they do.
Most people don’t like talking about themselves — especially not in Minnesota, land of reserved Scandinavians.
However, ask people about what they do, about their hobbies or interests or livelihoods, and most people will talk your ear off. It’s a great way to fill the awkward pauses in conversations, and you often learn some pretty interesting stuff, too.
The tooth extraction itself wasn’t fun, but it was tolerable. Hey, considering what was being done, what with a piece of my head being broken off, tolerable was fine. I can handle tolerable. It’s intolerable I just can’t stand.
The rest of the evening was tolerable too — which is all I was asking for.
And thanks to making myself just show up and deal moment-by-moment, I now have one less thing to be afraid of.
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