Boiling Water and a Frog

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Self Care

I had a root canal and fell in a hole.
My tooth had been hurting for a while, but of course it went acute on Friday night. I got through the weekend on ibuprofen and NyQuil, only to discover that my dentist doesn’t work on Mondays. Good for him.
Bad for me.
As the pain grew worse, my confidence and optimism dissolved. My attention focused on my jaw and the ebullient happiness of the last two months dried up, leaving me feeling discouraged and ridiculous for even trying on such a dream. The pain radiated up through my skull. I didn’t get a piece of business I was trying for (can you imagine?) and felt personally rejected. I had no inclination to write here; I had nothing to say. I felt like I’d fallen into a hole; like the solid ground of my new life had given way beneath me.
It was a bad couple of days.
As soon as that beloved dentist’s needle slid into my jaw on Tuesday morning, I could feel the despair lifting. And there was my happiness underneath, a bit battered but still solid. The dentist chair I was sitting in decided to rise up on its own accord and the dentist, the hygienist, and I were laughing, and I was me again. (At least until the pain medicine wore off.)
Since that root canal, I’ve been thinking about how pain and stress dampens our happiness and confidence. My tooth was a bit like the frog in boiling water: at what point did the pain start affecting my outlook? Was it Friday, or had it been quietly eroding for days beforehand?
I’ve been thinking about what other frogs might be out there. Is there a quiet pain that I’ve become accustomed to taking its toll somewhere else in my life? If I dug it out, like a root canal, what new sources of energy and resilience might I find?