Monday, September 1st, 2014

+J.M.J.+

First of all, dear readers, I want to apologize for the unexpected hiatus. I suppose a few updates are in order…let’s see. I have graduated college (Thanks be to God!) with my Bachelor of Science in English and Minor in Music. I have purchased my first car, reclaimed a summer job at a local daycare that I hope to keep for a while, and am doing well being a real-live adult, making my own car payments and insurance payments, paying for my own groceries, etc. I have a smartphone now as well…I finally upgraded in July when the buttons on my old Samsung Blackberry spin-off started to malfunction. (They’d actually been doing that for a while…I just was too lazy/too broke to replace it.) I got my hair cut as well…suffice it to say I have PLENTY to donate. =) I also passed the benchmark for two years as a Catholic in July!

Also, in less exciting news, I got a filling replaced a couple of weeks ago. But I did learn a valuable lesson from that whole experience that I want to share with you guys.

It started a week or so before I made the appointment towards the end of August to see a dentist. I began to have random, aching pains on the left side of my mouth. It became so bad that I would wake several times during the night, or in the night tear my retainers out of my mouth to try and relieve the pain. It came to the point where I could not chew with that side of my mouth, and I couldn’t eat crunchy foods even on the other side of my mouth (I was in the habit of bringing baby carrots for lunch…that definitely had to stop.). I had to chew super carefully and was on a strict regimen of extra strength Tylenol that barely took the edge off the pain. And shame on me if I did something to trigger it…no amount of Tylenol could stop the throbbing pain that overtook the whole left side of my face and shot up into my head, once almost giving me an instant headache. I would have to lay down with pressure on that side of my face and breathe deeply to get the pain to ebb, and then I would have to be sure not to eat or drink anything crunchy, chewy, hot or cold.

Eventually, after one such incident where I could hardly finish my lunch for the pain, I decided enough was enough. The next day I called and made an appointment with a local dentist and described my symptoms, and (thank God!) she said she could get me in the next day, first thing in the morning.
That afternoon, I reflected on the whole experience, with the hope that I was nearing the end of this continual torture. I realized that, though the pain was problematic, and that it could indicate a health issue with my teeth, it had helped me to do a couple of things that were hard for me to do on a regular basis, me being young and all and still in pretty good health (thanks be to God!).

First, I was able to be more moderate with food. I had never really understood the connection between fasting and grief, although I had experienced the loss of appetite that comes with high emotion before. When I was in pain, worrying about the health of my teeth, food was no longer appealing. I ate much less during that week or so than what I normally do. Normally, I’m a bored eater. I also “graze” throughout the day, taking small snacks here and there, rather than eating 2-3 full meals. Not so when I was in pain. Food was torture. It triggered my pain, and when the pain came my hunger left. I ate only as much as was necessary to keep my energy up, and drank coffee for the caffeine boost. I also drank lots of water and cut out sugary foods, as I was worried that my pain was from some hidden source of decay deep in my teeth. In this way, I realized I was becoming detached from food (that may sound weird, but I am what some people might call a ‘fat kid’ or ‘foodie’ in that I particularly enjoy my comfort foods, and trying new foods.)

The next area I noticed improving was my spiritual concern for others in that I was offering up my toothaches as penance for my family members and friends. This made the pain more bearable; I knew that any suffering can be put to a purpose when we offer it to God for our own good or for the good of someone else, whether they be living or dead (the holy souls in Purgatory). And with that in mind, my pain was not mindless and random. It was necessary, even merciful, and yes…sometimes even sweet. When we can suffer and say within our hearts, “God, I give this to you for so-and-so’s conversion or for the relief of so-and-so in Purgatory,” it makes the burden sweeter…it makes it a labor of love. Sometimes it was hard to think of it that way, especially when I just wanted to lay on the floor and cry despite my coworkers eating their lunches beside me, but the precious moments I was able to pull from that experience were well worth the pain. And the value of the old adage, “This, too, shall pass” was tested and tried and found most certainly true.
And now, here I am, with a new composite filling in one of my bottom left molars, and with the knowledge that I have two baby teeth with no adult counterparts just waiting to fall out of my head. Other than that, though, I’m good to go! Ha…just wait til these baby teeth fall out. It’ll make those years in braces worthless unless I can scrape up the money for implants. My dentist did say some people die with their baby teeth still in their mouths. We’ll see. If that’s what God wills, I’m sure I can deal with it, by His grace. The filling seemed to help greatly with the pain…I’ve been able to sleep with my retainers in again, and no more toothaches during the day. Sometimes I get a little pain here and there, but it’s mostly in my jaw, and I think it’s because the filling is a little too high…because I’m having trouble biting as well. Still can’t chew on that side, but as long as there’s no pain, I can deal with that.

Anyway. I won’t bore you with my dental problems. I only brought it up because I wanted to share those two valuable lessons I learned. I do hope to start posting more regularly again, at least once a week. My work schedule typically allows for some time in the afternoon while the children are napping, so I will do my best to be more consistent. In the next post, I hope to talk a bit about a book I just read (read: that I spent all day yesterday finishing) that is over 100 years old, but surprisingly relevant and accurate to the times we find ourselves in today; I also want to reflect on a conversation I had with a co-worker that took a surprising turn toward the faith, and revealed some interesting things.
I hope I have not lost you, dear readers…thank you for sticking around with me and my inconsistent posting habits! May God bless you and Mary keep you!

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

P.S. Don’t forget—September is the month of Our Sorrowful Mother. There are also 3 Ember Days in September: on Wednesday the 17th, Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th. These are days of fast and partial abstinence (except Friday, which is full abstinence), and the Ember Days should be offered for our priests, and for new vocations to the priesthood.

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