Have you ever wanted something so badly, and then when you got it you realize that it was yours all along, it just needed some tweaking? Oh man, am I having one of those days.
Teeth have been a lifelong struggle for me. First there was the teething. I don't really remember that part. After watching my daughters grow teeth, however, I've decided that it's a struggle. Then there was the losing of the teeth, which was softened by the sheer delight people took in me looking like a happy homeless beggar. It happened a little late for me, as many things did. I was still losing teeth in late high school. And one of them never grew back in. It was exceptionally handy for drinking through a straw. The teeth that decided to show up for class battled for space. It was guerrilla warfare, people. And I felt the sting of those unsightly suckers so deep.
One day we were at a baseball game (go Mud Hens!!), and some drunk joked that our daughter had more teeth than her mother. That guy was conveniently standing at the railing of a balcony so I chucked him over the ledge. No, I didn't. I'd never do that. But I wanted to. I also wanted to cry a river to drown in.
My teeth were my shame factory. They should not have mattered so much. They're teeth. I told myself this all the time. No one cared about my teeth. Well, the people who mattered didn't care about my teeth. The people who didn't matter judged my teeth hard, and vocally.
Staring strangers. Snarky smirks. Anyone with teeth anxiety will totally relate to this, I'm sure of it. It's so tender a topic that we just don't talk about it that often. Or ever. Also, it's easy to feel ridiculous for being hurt over the visible part of your digestive system.
Anyway, after years of shame and sadness over my totally embarrassing, but exceptionally healthy teeth, I had the opportunity to get braces. It was so hard to choose to get them. There were worthiness triggers and a whole lot of anxiety over spending so much money on myself. It took months and months of hearing my husband say, "This is so much more than okay. You deserve this, even though I'll miss your beautiful crazy smile." My longest term friends all told me I needed to do this for myself. I don't think there has ever been a decision I've made that I sought more reassurance for than this. And they're just teeth.
Well, the braces went on. There was surgery to make the stubbornly antisocial tooth join the party. There was teething at age 30. There was pain and blah, blah, blah.
And today they came off. I was so nervous this morning. For weeks I've been having these weird visual anxieties where I bite into an apple and my teeth fall out. Or I look in the mirror and my lips are all deflated. Today while the orthodontist was grinding off the adhesive I started giggling, partially because I was happy, and partially because I was imagining myself with no teeth at all. What a shame to spend three years with braces just to end up toothless.
I wasn't really nervous that my teeth were going to fall out this morning, though. I was nervous about receiving. This has been an enormous gift. This is burying those old sad stories. And maybe my teeth wouldn't be pretty, but they'd be all there. I didn't know if I could stand being so blend-in-able, which was all I really wanted. I wanted people to look at me smile and not go, "Egad!" I wanted to be able to smile without feeling small or weird. I was nervous about receiving the gift of a smile that blends in.
Could I bear it?
I wish I could say that it's not a big deal. That in the end I was bigger than my teeth and that I learned that it doesn't matter, like a highly evolved person would. But it so matters to me, and I am so happy with this smile.
What is the most shocking of all is that, not only is my smile blend-in-able, my teeth are the ones I always wished I had. Can it be? When I'd look at someone and think, what a nice set of chompers, I had no idea that my teeth (once forced into a peace treaty with each other) were exactly the kind of teeth I wanted. Oh, happy day. I got home and took a good look and then couldn't settle down for hours. I thought it'd be hard to bear. No. There has been literal heal clicking joy in this house.
And the thought that has hit home brightly and definitively is so cliche it has me rolling my eyes so hard they might fall out of my head: I had what I wanted all along. They just needed a little tweaking. Click your heels, Dorothy. Voice what you want. Say what you know. Open your arms. It's already there. You're already there. Show up. Let it be what you want it to be.
Allow Goodness to win. For Goodness sake.
Can it be? Yes, it can.
While there is certainly a whole lot of happy going on about my teeth, there is also this enormous sense of relief. Today, I know that I can receive exactly what I want, what I choose, what I fight for and work for, and even what is gifted to me--with joy. Maybe odd for lots of folks to even think that receiving could be challenging, but not all of us.
To those, like me, who sometimes think receiving is a game for someone else, but not for you:
It's safe for us to receive. It won't make us jerks. It's safe. It's safe. It's safe.
Love to everyone,
Especially to people with crooked, crazy smiles,
ps~ Don't think I'm out of the crooked family. My orthodontist didn't know whether to align my teeth with my nose or my chin. There's still a whole lot of crooked going on. ;)
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.