“Do the right thing, and then do the next right thing, and that will lead you to the next right thing after that.” – Michael J. Fox
It’s been one of those weeks where I realize how many simple things (like eating non-liquidized food) I have taken for granted. It has also been a time of heightened fear. I had my bottom wisdom teeth removed. Now, for any of you needing this procedure, I am not trying to scare anyone. However, for those of you that have walked the plank of this surgery, well, you know that it’s no picnic either.
It didn’t help that the morning of the surgery, I woke up and my toddler said, “Mommy, this is the day you, um, you go die.” Dear Lord. She quickly corrected herself, and with a little giggle restated, “Oh, no, not die, Mommy. You go to dentist.” My husband was also in the room, and I saw his face flicker, just as my stomach dropped. There is something about prophetic ability in children that can be a little unnerving.
Well, luckily I don’t have the next celebrity medium on my hands, as I made it through the surgery. Although, I was terrified. Crying on the way in, double checking with each dental assistant, surgical nurse and even the front desk staff that this was a safe procedure and I should expect to make it out alive. Admittedly, I do have a bit of drama in my blood, but most of it stemmed from shear guttural terror.
So, I made it out alive, but within a few days realized I swished too hard too soon and I lost my clots, resulting in dry sockets. My fear was coming alive again, growing by the second. Panicking, I ran to Google, when what I should have done was taken a deep breath, and recognize I was entering fear mode.
Take everything one moment at a time and just do the next right thing.
Fortunately, I am surrounded by wise people who remind me how to bring myself back. Fear has always been a strong driver in my life, despite wishing it away. So, I have to consciously act to take my power back. My brain was on overdrive, going a mile a minute as to all of the things that needed to happen, could happen and probably would happen. I am so used to being the caregiver, the driver, the chef, the fixer – the one in control. And now, roles had reversed, and I lost this pseudo-control on which I regularly rely.
I paused. I took a deep breath. I focused on what was in front of me; what was the next right thing I could do, and what I could control versus what I couldn’t.
I followed the directions from the surgeon. I took medicine as prescribed. I consumed (via liquid and mush) as many healing nutrients as I could. I enlisted help from my husband, friends and parents when I needed an extra hand. I called the professionals when I had a question. And I took it one day at a time. And frankly, when all you can eat has to be run through a blender, one day feels like an eternity.
There is still fear.
Don’t get me wrong. I still started freaking when I woke up and the pain was still there. I panicked the first time I had pasta, and I swore my gums were going to heal over the piece of fusilli, trapping it forever as it became buried in my jaw bone. I went back to the surgeon 3 times in 5 days, just to check. And I even pureed meat. Seriously, want to gross out your family? Put a chicken taco soup in a blender and slurp away!
It’s been almost two weeks, and things are starting to calm down. I am starting to believe I will once again be able to have potato chips, although it is still in the distance. But what amazes me is how central the fear became in my life. I became obsessed with all of the things that could go wrong, projecting to the future, and I lost track of my sensibility so fast. And for me, that is the power of fear. It got me when I was 5, when I was 25, and is available at a moment’s notice now, stronger (and more specific in potential dangers) than ever.
We can step back and give up the need to control.
It just reminds me that when things, events or even people seem overwhelming, if we can get even a glimpse of that awareness that something is too much, that we can step back. We can stop the movie reel playing into the future, and instead, focus on what is right in front of us. We can use the tools, the resources, and the people around us for support. We are not islands, and fearful situations can push us out of our comfort zone, requiring us to relinquish our control.
And yes, I am aware far worse things happen in people’s lives than the extraction of wisdom teeth. However, for me and my powerful imagination, this was one of the most terrifying times I have experienced in a very long time. Fear took over, reminding me that sometimes, somedays, we need to take it even one minute (much less one day) at a time, and just do the next right thing.