Monday, November 16, 2009

The "teaching moment" in a toothache...

It's not often that I am "under the weather" but this past weekend I experienced the rather humbling experience of a toothache of undetermined origin. I did manage to see a very fine dentist late Friday afternoon and various drugs and analgesics have now, finally, begun to restore a sense of wellness. It needs to be said that I have good teeth, enjoy a well-balanced and healthy diet, and maintain a regimen of daily exercise. So why is it that certain "systems" break down occasionally - from undetermined causes.

Feeling rather sorry for myself, I thought long and hard about this and about the fact that aches, pains, and a plethora of disabling conditions (both emotional and physical) are epidemic in our society. Just think of how all too common it is to hear about (or to experience!) such troublesome and debilitating conditions as back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, depression, migraines, allergies, gastrointestinal problems - the list goes on and on and these complaints are as common in our society as raindrops in November on Vancouver Island! Interestingly enough, many of these conditions are not seen to be caused by structural abnormalities or any other obvious pathology. I am, admittedly, not a physician or psychoanalyst but surely that would give one cause to wonder.

I thought about my toothache and what may have precipitated this "episode", given that my teeth enjoy regular check ups and reasonably sound daily dental maintenance. My theory is that I let my guard down. Yup, simple as that. Life has been very busy and, as is often the case, when demands increase, resources can be quickly diminished. That only makes sense. The more energy that is required, the more energy is expended and if one does not "resupply" you end up in deficit. Another way of understanding "deficit" is vulnerable.

There is a paddling analogy. You set out on a favourite loop that normally takes four hours. Mid-way through the paddle, however, headwinds increase significantly more than what was forecast. The paddling becomes more strenuous, you work harder to maintain balance and headway, you expend greater energy, a degree of anxiety may even enter into the mix, the body begins to tire and weaken. What you have here, of course, is a recipe for trouble - big trouble. Increasing demands are beginning to draw away available resources from where they are needed, and the paddler becomes vulnerable.

In a worst-case scenerio, you experience an unintentional wet exit from the kayak. At this time of the year, the ocean is cold. The body is immersed in sea water and approaches a hypothermic state. In order to protect the core, heat resources are drawn from the extremities - hands and feet, legs and arms are now useless and the paddler is unable to initiate a self-rescue. Yes, very good reason to wear cold water immersion gear - or stay home. The point is that resources have been drawn away from where they are needed.

So back to my tooth (#15, 2nd molar maxillary). I have a picture in my mind's eye of every bodily system and component as having a small but determined defense system - a tiny little "soldier" on guard, if you like. So #15 may have been experiencing a little bit of a "down" day or may well have been perfectly fine. Whatever, the demands of life required that extra "resources" be pulled in, and perhaps, away from #15. At the same time, some meals were hurried and others missed, the morning run postponed until later in the day and then forgotten altogether, sleep time was exchanged for "worry time". You know the story - the list goes on. So poor little tooth #15 - it became vulnerable to whatever nasty forces sometimes gang up on us when we fail to "resupply" resources. Unprotected and alone, the brave little tooth called out for help - a "distress call" that I can tell you was heeded! Ouch!

I really do believe that much of the epidemic of disorders that we experience today, especially aches, pain, and fatigue of undetermined origin may well relate to our life-style and our disregard for ensuring our that our bodies, minds, and spirits have sufficient resources to meet the demands we put upon them. We have not acknowledged the need for balance in our lives. Sidebar comment: I also believe that the pharmaceutical industry makes billions upon billions of dollars addressing the results of our poor self-care!

So, as there is often a rainbow amidst the storm clouds, there was a "teaching moment" amidst the horrible pain of a toothache. I believe my episode could have possibly have been prevented by a better understanding and awareness of the need for balance. As demands increase on the finite resources of our being, as they do in all of our lives, we need to take time to replenish - or even just time out to "chill". There's no shame in admitting the need for sensible balance - even if you're a guy!

So here's the "toothache (or add you own malady) remedy": exercise daily, eat nutritiously, hydrate properly, get sufficient sleep, laugh and smile more, worry less, forgive more, live altruistically - and, for heaven's sake, stay balanced, so that the equivalent of your "#15" will stay well.

Take care out there,


Photo image: The Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) and a November rainbow over Howe Sound, taken from Gabriola Island.


  1. I've been waiting for this post for three days...could you hear my laughter when I read the title. I am glad you realize that even men need time to "chill"
    Sorry that it had to happen this week though...get some rest and add to the self care list once again...turn off your phone!!
    Happy Bday for tomorrow!!

  2. Yeah, bad timing, but smiling again - and still enjoying the balloons! Should have been running in the desert, nevermind, it's all good, or at the very least, there's good in everything! D.

  3. One granddaughter, about 8 years old at the time, in response to my question, "What are you doing?" answered with, "Nothing." She's had a busy day up to that point and was taking time to rest. I liked what I learned from her and know that your message is a good one for me. Cheers and thanks.

  4. Hi K and thanks for stopping by. I loved the photo of the Waingarara Gathering! I hope you'll write lots more on your blog - you've already given me an idea for a children's story!


  5. Too bad the tooth had to come into play to let you know you needed time out to chill. I agree 100%with your remedy and have to start adjusting my life accordingly. I have not been reading your blog lately as I've been so busy myself. Hopefully I'll be able to do better during the winter months. Sorry you could not get away on a much needed trip.

  6. Hi J,

    Too busy to read my blog???!!! Just kidding - haha!! I totally understand. Always nice to have you back for a visit.