I didn’t cry.
Sense of place. Good afternoon from sullen Vermont. I made my first trip to the dentist at around seven or eight years of age. My mom prepped me; she told me I might have a cavity that needed to be pulled, but the dentist would numb my tooth so it wouldn’t hurt that much, and if I didn’t cry I’d get a treat after the appointment. My mother never accounted for an inebriated dentist. He forgot to numb my bad tooth, and pulled out the one beside it. Realizing he made a mistake, he went out to the waiting room and told my mom, then went back into my mouth and pulled out the bad tooth, once more forgetting to numb it. Treats were hard to come by in our house, so I made damn sure I didn’t cry. My mom told me later she smelled the alcohol on the dentist’s breath, but she didn’t know what to do. For her generation and French Canadian culture, you didn’t challenge professionals.
Fast forward to Thursday, when I got my four mercury-tainted fillings removed with high tech protection, and got them replaced with safe, composite enamel. As I sat down in the dental chair, I started shaking so bad with fear that the dentist and the hygienist noticed and went into action. Within minutes I wore headphones on that played soothing classical music, wore an eye mask, and held in my hands a hot worry stone wrapped in muslin. Now I’m not saying I breezed through the dental work. I never breeze through anything that involves my teeth, even a simple cleaning. Still the care and attention I received regarding my stark fear of being there (without anyone even knowing my story) made a huge difference on how I framed the appointment, and how I’ll feel about my next one in November (the simple cleaning, thank God).
For all of you dental phobics, there are practices even in this small state that address your fear of simply being there. In every part of your life, seek out your sense of place. Please don’t settle for “getting through,” like I did for 45 years. As I finish up this post to you, I’m thinking of other areas in my life that require a better fit, and how it’s time to address them. What about you? What needless experiences can you reduce or eliminate?
Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.