On the week of thanksgiving I visited a dentist because I was experiencing severe discomfort on the right side of my mouth every time I chewed. After running a few tests and x-rays, the doctor informed me that I had a fractured molar. The tooth had been damaged to the point where it agitated a nerve which also contributed to mild headaches and earaches. All of these conditions were caused by this fractured tooth which the doctor and I assumed was a result of habitual ice chewing. The doctor indicated that my safest option was to extract the tooth because it could potentially get infected since the tooth was fractured to the nerve. Talk about great timing… NOT! I became extremely concerned about my ability to eat on thanksgiving because I like to eat. I was bothered by not being able to enjoy the meals and desserts that are only prepared during the holidays. This concern prompted me to explore immediacy and the existential meaning behind this internal event. How did this one tooth make a significant impact among the other 31 that were ready and willing to entertain some thanksgiving grub and how does that apply to life in general? There was meaning in this moment….
The missing tooth represented a noticeable void that provided support to the surrounding teeth. This molar was a partner that worked in conjunction with the upper molars when I chewed. The location this molar once occupied is now vulnerable and void. Until I get a replacement crown the teeth immediately surrounding this void are now vulnerable. None of them seem as strong or effective without having the support of the missing molar in place. I have always had healthy teeth and never had to use any dental corrective measures for my mouth. It has been a luxury that I took for granted. That molar had a good run over the course of my life and it served me well. But now that I need it, it is not available. Its void is noticeable and made me think about how my habit of eating ice was based on the invincibility or luxury of having teeth to chew the ice with. I never saw the day where a habit, such as chewing ice would cause what I took for granted to be compromised. Just that quick I am no longer interested in chewing ice. Why didn’t this interest come before I suffered the fractured tooth?
Forget about imagining how you would live without something or someone…. rather focus on how important and meaningful people, abilities, possessions, etc. are in your life at the moment. Value those things for what they are now and not what they have been, could, would, or should be. We often do not know how fortunate we are until we experience a loss or complications of some degree. The idea here is being thankful for who we are, where we are, and what we have in this life without taking it for granted. This event has made me more mindful of how I live my life holistically. The lesson…live moderately and appreciate what you have while you still have it.
Kareem Puranda is a counselor-in-training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is an advocate for the disadvantaged population and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.