Auschwitz survivors. To me they are the epitome of human determination. I cannot comprehend the agony of their experience. But I deeply admire their will to triumph, to persevere in the face of all obstacles. When I am feeling wimpy, facing the unknown or have a personal obstacle to overcome, I challenge myself. I will not buckle. I will not fail. If people survived years of abuse and deprivation, surely I can accomplish anything for one hour, even sitting in a dentist chair.
You have heard of Captain America and Iron Man. I am busy competing for the title of Silver Woman, The Caped Cavity, or perhaps The Dental Dame. I was not blessed with strong pearly whites, never had braces and have always hated my smile. My fifteenth year was particularly heinous dentist-wise, with several cavities followed by wisdom tooth extraction and subsequent infections. I was in that chair so often I jokingly greeted my dentist with “Hi Dad, I’m home.” Perhaps that was the year that scarred me.
I do follow protocol, brush and floss. Yet I am filled with shame when the hygienist sighs and starts rambling on about fruit juices and soda, neither of which I drink. I am not a child but certainly feel like one. I have a small palate and lots of teeth on a small jaw. I know people have much worse circumstances than mine, but when I see that rubber dam coming that they want to put in the back of my mouth I feel like throwing a tantrum. I hate feeling like I am choking, or that I can’t swallow or breathe properly. It brings me back to my childhood asthmatic days, before inhalers were a thing.
I scold myself, school my expression and make jokes. I appear completely comfortable and relaxed. My interior monologue allows no outward show of nerves or cowardice. I will not give in to displaying fear. I will do what has to be done and emerge a conqueror. So I keep my appointments and suffer through one afternoon. Humans in this world have tolerated situations unimaginably worse. Whining or cringing brings deeper shame than any diagnosis could. I have dignity. I am a grown-up.
Granted I am a grown-up who feels like she got slugged in the jaw with a baseball bat but my yearly trials are complete. I have no shame. I gracefully survived.