Today I went and got my 6-month teeth cleaning and woke up at 6:30 excited for my 10am dentist appointment like you would the day before an anticipated vacation. “You’re always doing something for yourself, aren’t you?,” my significant other Randy stated in amazement. “Yes, yes I am! Preservation,” I responded.
I didn’t go to the dentist for the first time until I was 22 years old. I was a junior in college and saved up enough to take myself. I’ll never forget setting that goal: save up for x-rays & cleaning, $300. Check! I’ll also never forget the bewilderment from the dentist and staff that day when they saw how excited I was to be there and get my teeth checked out; like they had seen a ghost. I pranced in like a kid getting his first car, or someone recently promoted. I felt on top of the world. I felt successful. “I can’t believe I can afford to go to the dentist,” I thought.
Still to this day, only 8 years into my dentist visits, I get as excited to get my teeth cleaned as I did that first time.
Today was a different visit though. Since losing my job last November before Thanksgiving, my mother in March, and my father-in-law in May, (triple-whammy) such loss and grief caused me to pause, reflect, and search. I have made peace with the losses in a way that has allowed me to see the gifts buried in the loss. Those gifts have been fertilizer to my growing roots of curiosity and wonder. Maybe that’s resilience. Loss has caused me to lean in to life more, to take not one moment for granted, to be more present. “Everything is temporary. Time is Finite,” I accepted. Knowing that everything is temporary has caused me to honor time, spring into action and look at what’s in front of me moment to moment, savoring it in my mouth like the last bite of chocolate cake. And more recently, I look for where I can create things in those moments (more on that to come).
Today, when I sat down in that dentist chair, curious, and halfway thinking about Randy and my conversation this morning about “preservation,” I asked, “When is Randy’s next appointment?” The technician pulled up his electronic file on the screen in front of me, the screen where they show you your own teeth pictures and X-rays, and looked at his next appointment date and said, “He comes in later this month.” (I mentally noted to remind R of his appointment, happy to see he’s preserving, too!). I did not expect to see what I saw next; here is where I pressed further.
I’m not sure if the technician saw me looking at the notes next to Randy’s name, next to his appointment date, but there were listed patient notes about not only Randy, but me. When I saw they wrote notes about me, heat immediately flushed my face. I coddled the embarrassment for a moment, then kept looking forward. Here’s what I saw in Randy’s notes:
“Trina is Randy’s girlfriend. She recently lost her job and her mom. Determined to carry on. Encouragement comforts her.”
“Hmmmmm… that’s how people see me,” I pondered. How…interesting. Sparks of curiosity arose within like confetti.
I am not trying to get my dentist office in trouble, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to ever see that.
When I read it, after I moved passed my own shame of feeling like a loser, after befriending my fears of failure (“…lost her job…lost her mom”), I proceeded to a nicer perspective, “Wow, I did recently lose my job and my mom…and they care enough to know that.” I wish they knew how much my father-in-law meant to me…I wish he was on there. Still, I felt so loved by my dentist office. “Determined to carry on…” – I was so happy that they could see my determination in the face of loss, and just like that, I felt acknowledged. The two main things humans need: to connect to others and to be heard.
The thing is, most of us are so caught up in our own smorgasbord of life; we think people are thinking about us, but they’re not; we’re mostly caught up in our own lives. However, if we pay attention to the subtle seemingly-mundane, if we press a little closer into wonder and curiosity, we just may see that people do care; we may see that we care, too; we may unexpectedly connect. Today I felt cared about by my dentist; I felt connected and heard. And I left asking myself, “What can I do to care more, connect more, and listen more?” I can’t wait to see what treasures I find in the next moment.