November 6, 2012
Two weeks ago I thought life as I knew it was over. I got braces. Bottom teeth only, but from my reaction you’d think I’d been dismembered!
Here’s the cool part. My reactions were so intense and hilarious that I couldn’t not notice them. (It also helped that they weren’t grounded in any form of reality.)
Here’s the process and accompanying thoughts that I observed:
First resistance/aversion/anger: “It’s too painful, I can’t chew, they look stupid, they’re inconvenient, braces are stupid, the orthodontist is stupid, he didn’t tell me I’d feel like this.” To put the icing on the cake I walked out of his office and immediately put a piece of gum in my mouth because he told me I couldn’t. Are you kidding me?! I’m 12, right?! Like he cares if I metaphorically flip him the bird with a piece of gum.
Next came projection: “I’ll never be able to eat salads, or apples, or nuts, or anything healthy or good for me ever again. I can’t stand it for a year. I’ll have him take them off when I go back. If I have him take them off he’ll think I’m ridiculous. Every adult who lived through braces will think I’m ridiculous. I am ridiculous!!”
Then regret/blame: “Why did I do this?! If I’d have done it like a normal person, when I was little, it’d be over. It’s stupid at my age.” (I noticed my vocabulary deteriorated to stupid as my primary descriptive word.) “Why didn’t my parents notice and do something about it then? Were they blind?!”
Shame: As I started seeing it become a bit more tolerable, I had the thought that maybe I could live through it. That’s when I noticed shame at having over-reacted. So I was off and running with, “For heavens’ sake, there are people in a bazillion countries without houses or food or water—what’s wrong with you??!!”
Finally, openness/willingness/curiosity=acceptance=gratitude: Did NOT see that coming!
I suspect that continuing to meditate every morning through this process may be part of the reason it was so easy to ‘see’. And since it was sort of entertaining to watch, it livened up my practice.
What I learned from this and some other changes I’ve recently experienced is that it takes me about three days to adjust to any relatively significant change. That’s the big news. Three days is totally workable, at least for me.
So no, the openness/willingness/curiosity didn’t come immediately like I’d prefer. But given the reality that a few years ago it might have been three weeks or three months or indefinitely that I’d have stayed in resistance or shame, I’ll take three days. And if I keep getting better at this stuff, maybe I can shave off another day or two.
And please, please don’t think I’m in any way comparing this to a real disaster. I truly get the size of my dilemma here. At the same time I suspect I’ve learned some things that may serve me if and when life does hand me something deeply challenging.
I’d love to hear if you’ve noticed that you too go through a somewhat predictable process in dealing with life changes, big or little.