In this edition of HELLO MIDDLE AGE

I had my wisdom tooth pulled a few weeks ago.  #1 tooth, if you are curious, the top one on my right side.

I’ve had both my jaws broken, screws both put into and taken from my head, and braces, so I wasn’t exactly scared about getting a tooth removed.

Here’s my latest 360 for long timers.  You can see the titanium screws have come out on the right side, and kind of see the hole he cut in the bone there.

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Also, my husband is a real weirdo masochist frankly, I don’t know what the experts would call him, but he is the kind of guy who will refuse Novocain because he doesn’t like being out of control of his face for a few hours.  “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PAIN?”  I have asked him on more than one occasion, and he’ll say crazy stuff like, “It’s just pain.”

Which, if you’ve ever been around when he’s cursing because he stubbed his toe, you’ll know he’s not immune to pain AT ALL.  He just likes to being the boss of his body more than he cares if something really freaking hurts.

If we’re doing character analysis, I am very easily suggestible and just a little bit competitive.

So I wasn’t sure if I wanted anything except Novocain to get the tooth pulled. I could do it, and save $200 for ten minutes of unpleasantness. And in small part because it might be hard to be all, “knock me the fuck out and don’t wake me until it’s fully healed two weeks from now,” and still retain the God given fear/awe my husband has of me that makes our marriage work.

But!  I also had this memory from a few years ago when a friend mentioned she’d had to get a wisdom tooth removed, and basically the dentist half crawled on top of her to leverage himself, then rocked the tooth out with pliers.  My friend made emphatic wrenching motions to demonstrate, and I imagined her experience not unlike the Shel Silverstein illustration here.  

Jokingly, I mentioned my friend’s story to the dentist.

He frowned like it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard.  “Well, I can see how a non-medical specialist might see it that way.  But I assure you we don’t use pliers.”

That’s right about when I revisited the idea of getting the laughing gas.

I was summarily encouraged by facebook, and having come through the experience, can report that while all the advice was excellent and appreciated, Linda from All & Sundry was most poetically accurate to my experience.  She said, “I’d vote for the gas just because it’s so effective at producing a state of Extreme Chill with a side of Hot Damn That Was Funny, and isn’t that what we all want during surgical dental procedures?”

By the day the procedure rolled around I was extremely anxious.  I quoted Linda’s comment in my head like a prayer, pretty sure the Nitrous would not work on me, and I was about to star in my own personal shaky-cam splatter gore flick.  And THE WORST, I’d probably just lay there whimpering because I was the fool who agreed to this.

I tried to summon my husband’s spirit animal, but only succeeded in summoning some shit-panicked spirit animal who wanted to flail all my limbs and roll off the dentist’s chair, onto the floor, and hide in the bathroom.

Somewhere in there, my feet got real tingly, and when I stopped being impressed with that, I did find that suddenly, I for real did not give a flying fuck at a donut about someone breaking tooth and bone while I remained trapped in the body they were doing that to.  I was indeed in a state of Extreme Chill with a side of Hot Damn That was Funny.  Thanks Linda!

The doctor came in and although it went pretty fast, there were sound effects I had only previously heard in movies like Rocky.  The kind that make you cringe because they imply not only are bone and tooth violently separating, but there are a lot of soft tissue connections being severed.  And although I legit gave no fucks, something in me must’ve, because I began weeping and trembling a little.

“Is there pain?”  The dental assistant asked.

I shook my head.  “It’s OK,” I tried to console her without accidentally biting the dentist. “It’s stupid.”

“No, no.  It’s not stupid.  It’s OK.”  She said, which was such a great thing to say, and so of course I cried some more.

Then it was done, and the Nitrous turned down, and I was off to watch TV and drink soup for the rest of the day.  When I got back to the waiting room, my tears had dried and my husband looked super impressed that I was so damn cool.

Later that week, I got this letter in the mail from the dental assistant who told me it was OK.

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Text:  hello Natalie, my name is ****.  I assisted Dr. **** today in your procedure.  Everything went very well, I’d like to thank you for being a wonderful patient!  Please don’t hesitate to give our office a call if you have any questions or concerns. 

As a younger person, I thought kindness like this was kind of worthless – a thing perky young women do that makes the world a nicer place but doesn’t really matter much.  A mint on your pillow.  A hot towel on the plane ride.  Forgettable, but pleasant.

But as I’ve gotten older, it seems like those kindnesses get stripped away.  We become adults, and there is no reason to baby another human being through the same life we’re all struggling to survive.  Especially lately, I felt like I have nothing extra left to give anyone.

For real?  I’m in a writing class, and one of the writers habitually comes late and doesn’t critique my work but then reads his.  I refuse to critique the guy.  I will sit and make a grocery list rather than goodwill the fellow.  He has a sob story about why he can’t be on time, and the rest of the group gives him a pass, and it pisses me off so bad I can hardly stand it.

There might be a majority of areas in my life in which I feel this way.  Like it costs me more to refuse, but I’ve hit my limit of generosity.

So embarrassing confession:  I kept her note for… it’s been two weeks now. I wasn’t a particularly wonderful patient so much as I was probably like every other patient, I’m pretty sure.   But her note is evidence of kindness given for free.  And I keep referencing it, proof that such a thing still exists.  Proof how powerful it is.  To remind me that being kind can mean something, even when it seems like it means almost nothing.