by Cody J. Elms
As I adjusted in the chair and it began to descend backwards, I looked straight ahead as all people do, wondering why these chairs are so oddly comfortable for such an uncomfortable place. Then began the normal pattern of events starting with me being transfixed by that dull, almost out of place relaxing glow that resonates from the examination light. I was at the dentist, and while I was there, my mind began to wonder to a place it often does every six months in this same tiny room.
First, not too many people anticipate going to the dentist for the mere fact that having someone poking around in your mouth is not exactly something we tend to enjoy, and if you’re anything like me, the day before the appointment you contemplate rescheduling, but never do. You go, because, well…you’re an adult.
Now by the grace of God I typically get the hygienist that doesn’t ask me my life story while she is wrist deep in my face, and for that I thank her. It isn’t that I mind conversing, hell, I love it, but I find it rather difficult to convey the content of my side of the conversation when there is a rotation of metal, sucker, metal, sucker, polisher, sucker going on. However, the lack of verbal discussion does not mean that my mind isn’t talking to itself the very second that she pulls out her torture devices…sorry…I mean cleaning equipment, I began this weird thought lottery that can really only be described as a sort of dental dialogue.
Okay, perhaps that isn’t as catchy as I had hoped, but the point is, my mind jumps from topic to topic, if only for the lone purpose of trying to ignore the amplified noises going on inside my jaw. On this particular visit, maybe because it is Thanksgiving week and the thought of what we are to be thankful for was floating around in my mind, I started asking myself the legitimate question, “Was this dentist appoint the worst thing to happen to me all day? All month? All year!?”
The answer was an astounding, “YES!”
That may not come off as such a big deal, but when you really reflect on how often we let the bad events of our lives consume us for weeks, months, and even years, I felt it was pretty damn good. I looked at my day objectively and determined that easily this was the by far the worst moment of it. Then I started going back through each day until I was into October. Then September, through summer, spring, and there I was at least a year ago. Now there have certainly been years where this would not have been the case, but as I have eluded to in previous columns in the Times Observer, we cannot let the past define us.
Let’s be honest, if my bi-annual dental encounter is the worst part of my year, then I am living pretty well. So that leads me to the inevitable Thanksgiving thought mentioned earlier of what I am thankful for.
It’s easy, everything. My son, my nieces, my nephews, my parents, my siblings, and extended family. But you knew that already, because why wouldn’t I be thankful for those things. No, as I sunk further into the chair and had gone completely into a hypnotic state that's soul purpose is to ignore the reverberating of the polisher sweeping along my teeth, it came to me that it is easy to be grateful for what you have or have achieved, but it is always difficult, and requires far more insight to be thankful for what you have lost. Even if that has at times been your pride or dignity. It is when you are challenged and you fail, when you make mistakes out of ignorance or self-indulgence and have to face he consequences head on, and when you lose despite your efforts to succeed that you become a stronger person. One of humility and understanding. A person who has not just witnessed their own darkest times, but on some occasions have been the blockade of light themselves. Therefore causing them to either fall deeper into darkness or to find the slightest of illuminating guidance to beholden to.
Life may not be ideal at the moment for you, but that does not mean you have nothing in it to be thankful for. We don't need a special day every year to reflect. It certainly does not require a table full of gluttony or a house full of people avoiding almost all topics of conversation beyond pleasantries in an effort to avoid an all out family war. Reflection is something that seems to hit us all at strange times where we would least expect it. Just remember that although you may find it difficult to make a list of what you're thankful for today, tomorrow you may be able to add one more thing to it. And that should be what you take away from this; That list is infinite and will always have space for one more addition. It began when you were a child, and despite where you may feel you are at times, it will continue until the end.
Exit hygienist, enter dentist, and instantly I come back to the reality of just a guy in the chair with his mouth open and masked people staring into his face. That's it, that's where my deep thoughts ended, and the weird minty taste of a job well done was all I could focus on.