Life and Root Canals

I had a root canal the other day.

*hangs head in shame*

I’m not proud of it. Honestly, I hesitated to write this post.

Root canals should be kept secret, like an addiction to coffee enemas or collecting belly button lint.

People look at you differently when they find out. One minute you’re a lovely human being, and the next you’re the guy who doesn’t brush his teeth. People assume that you gargle with Mountain Dew and eat candy for every meal, that you seldom brush. I understand.

But that’s not me. I hate Mountain Dew, and while I enjoy candy as much as the next person, I brush and floss daily. I never go to bed with food in my teeth. I like to think I have good oral hygiene. In fact, at my last appointment—the one where they made this orally damning discovery—the dental assistant commented on how well I brush.

Yes I do, thank you very much.

So why the bad tooth? Perhaps because it has been a while since my last professional cleaning. Or perhaps I’m a sleep eater; maybe I wander into the kitchen in the middle of the night and snack out on peanut butter Oreo’s and grape soda.

Who knows? Does it matter? You are still probably judging me right now. So, why am I telling you this?

Because I believe good writing is all about honesty and vulnerability, and because I think my issue speaks, in a way, to the problems that we all face, perfect teeth or otherwise.

When the pain in my mouth showed up, I had to leave work, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t focus on anything else because I had to keep ice or cold water on the tooth at all times. If I went more than ten seconds without it, a forest fire would spread through my mouth and quickly through the rest of my body.

I was miserable. It is probably the worst pain I have every experienced. How can that be?

A tooth is such a small thing.

But when the nerve at its core began to die, my whole body was hijacked. I was at the mercy of the problem, tiny or not.

There are so many little things, minor details that we overlook until they begin to malfunction and send our lives off course. These are things we have neglected or small problems left unsolved. These are seemingly insignificant relational breakdowns that are left to fester in the dark, only to one day cry out and demand undivided, sober attention.

It is only then that we realize the severity of the problem.

This is the married couple who used to have regular date nights until the kids came along. The priority shifted to the children, and since the marriage seemed to be healthy, date night became a former luxury instead of an essential escape.

This is the culture shift in a workplace that gives way to gossip, mistrust and finger-pointing.

It’s the church that slowly acquires a taste for comfort rather than sacrifice and slowly rots from the inside out.

Or the cavity that begins to form in a relationship when a spouse casually “friends” an old flame on Facebook—You know, just to catch up.

The trauma caused in these scenarios is microscopic, at first. But eventually the corrosion of neglect and foolish decision bores deep into the nerve centers of our lives, often causing irreparable damage.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Photo Credit: purplemattfish (Creative Commons)

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