I’ve been spending quality time at my dentist’s this week, having some ‘maintenance’ work done. My dentist, a lovely man whom I’ve written about before, never speaks of ‘cavities’ or ‘tooth decay’ when discussing the state of my teeth, although no one could fault him for using such precise language.
Instead, he refers, euphemistically, to the ‘wear and tear’ that comes with age, and which requires a number of marathon sessions in the dentist chair.
I never moan or complain when the drill goes a little too deep for comfort, and I certainly don’t cough when the nurse chokes me with the saliva ejector, for I am an A* patient. If I’d been a child, I’d been commended for being ‘such a good girl’ and had my pick of colourful stickers at the end, but instead, I get a bag full of toothpaste for free, and another appointment in my diary.
It’s true I’m a good patient. Just ask the gastroenterologist who shoved a camera down my oesophagus to check for abnormalities. Or the other dentist who once performed a three-hour long root canal without anaesthetics. As always, I was the quiet, accommodating patient, who never make a fuss.
Admittedly, my pain threshold is quite high, but more importantly, years of having to put up with doctors and nurses prodding every part of me, invading my integrity as a whole person, taught me how to take myself out of my body when necessary.
It’s nothing to brag about, of course, it makes me somewhat sad reflecting on how, as a young child, I first learned to separate myself from my body to avoid pain. And I’ve since spent decades trying to reclaim my body as an integral part of myself, learning to live in it instead of constantly seeking to escape. It’s not easy, and to this day, my default reaction to pain, be it physical or emotional, is still to split off.
Giving birth went some way towards reconnecting myself to my body; labour pains were of such magnitude that there was no way my mind could take leave of my body. The awfully idealistic birthing plan I had devised while pregnant and which stated that I wanted an as ‘natural’ birth as possible, was all but forgotten as I screamed, anguished, for an epidural.
It took me many years to start questioning the utility of being able to escape my body; after all, if it meant less pain, what harm could it do? Well, for starters, it left me in a perpetual state of survival mode, and by the time I’d reached 30, it had made me both miserable and ill.
As long as my body and mind remained divorced from each other, I was also living life disconnected from the reality of my innate wholeness.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m all 100% integrated now, and I may never be, but I am learning to live in, and love, every inch of my flabby, cellulite-affected body to an extent I never did before. And no A* grade can beat that.