I’m currently in the middle of a new 4th step and am once again bewildered by the fears that have come up. The first time around, I wrote them out and many of them were so irrational that I had to let them go. Of course, many of those irrational fears still loom above my head and heart like Eeyore’s gloomy little rain cloud and this past week, one of those rain clouds let forth a torrential flow of water that made it’s way directly into my mouth.
To be specific and to drop the figurative bullshit, I finally went to the dentist.
It’s been about seven years since I last went to the dentist. I wasn’t suffering from any pain, which in terms of my old thinking means it wasn’t time to make changes, but with the new outlook on life and with my feet securely planted in recovery, I don’t think I need to be feeling pain to shift my self. So I said, ”Fuck it.” I hit up the dentist for a cleaning, knowing full well that the last molar on the left side of my mouth is in the process of crumbling and would need some serious work. What I didn’t figure was that it would need a root canal (my first, ever), and a little top hat they affectionately refer to as a crown. Whatever. I went. Did it. Have an appointment to get the crown next week.
When I went to the root canal man, I was under the assumption that he was the crown man. The secretary told me that she’d had two other emergency root canals that day and I laughingly told her that I would not be needing a root canal. Only the top hat. She said okay and let me speak with the doctor.
The doctor came in and gently told me that I would have to have my roots drilled out to keep the decay from infecting my head, to which I replied, “I’m a recovering alcoholic and I don’t want any sleepy stuff. I’m also already infected in my head. Mentally and physically different from my fellows.” He smiled and held my hand as I had a minor panic attack and shed a few tears for the fact that I would no longer be a root canal challenged young woman. I’ve had three cavities my whole life. I took a certain amount of pride in that. Like I was better than people who’d had root canals.
You know, it’s funny what happens when I spend money on myself. I have a ton of shame (still) about dropping large wads of cash into things I actually need, like root canals and windshield wipers, so when I began totaling up my mouthy expenses and it became apparent that I was about to drop nearly 4k in work, I started to get a little freaked out. That’s over two months worth of my financial budget, where I can easily live on 2k a month (as opposed to the 7k it took pre-2009!). Which means (in Jennie terms), I am two months shy of being homeless. I went from pride over facing the dentist to inflated ego over only having three cavities to panic about osteo-imperfections to sheer horror that I will be homeless two months. All of this took place in a matter of two days.
The truth is that all of my bills are paid. All of my bills will be paid next month, and the month after. I have never been homeless and I’m fairly certain that the only way I will end up homeless is if I start drinking again. Taking care of myself, in the form of dentistry, shots, physical exams, paps etc., will not be the cause of my ruin. In fact, these are things that big girls do all the time. It’s called “being a responsible adult.” I must remind myself that the underlying fear of homelessness may be rational if I am drinking and without home, but now, sitting in my backyard looking at the tomato plants and lime tree, homelessness is not happening to me. And I cannot fear the things that are not happening presently. That is just the deal I have to make with myself.
So fear. Fear is a good emotion if I am running from a lion or a man in a dark alley. However, fear is not a good motivator. Fear makes me more impulsive than I already am. Fear keeps me looking for an easy way out. Fear is a cheap date who gets drunk on bathtub gin and can’t remember from where it came.
I often hear that people are afraid of change. I think I’ve probably even said I’m afraid of change, or “I don’t like change,” or “change scares me,” or something of that sort. But I’m trying to think of life as a continuous spectrum and not as some stage-theory that moves step-by-step, chunk-by-chunk. Even before it began for me, it existed for others. And even as it ends for me, it will continue. I just occupy a little space on a long continuous spectrum. So why am I afraid of change? It happens instantaneously. Like when I paid the bill for the root canal. I was not afraid of the – perhaps – millisecond that it took to withdraw 2k from my bank account. I was afraid of what would happen two months after it, when I became homeless for taking care of and spending money on myself. Change is not scary. Fear is scary. The gradual and perpetual shifting of tectonic plates ensures that California doesn’t have a big earthquake. A bunch of tiny shifts so I don’t have to “do” a big change. But fear will prohibit me from being willing to shift, it will keep me rigid, it will keep me from getting my teeth cleaned for seven years and the end result will be a horseshoe shaped molar that needs it’s roots cleaned out. Fear will keep me sick.
“Today I am not afraid.
Today, I am okay.”