A friend recently went to the dentist for the first time in years.
You know how it goes. You’re doing to do this thing or that thing. It’s on your mental list. But this isn’t quite the week, month, season, year, decade…
The dentist was no fun. My friend had an extraction last week. He needs thousands of dollars of work. He was anxious and, in the chair, felt strangely ashamed, as if a better person could have willed his teeth not to break down.
“But the weird thing is I also feel really good about myself,” he added. “I hate going and I dread the many visits that lie ahead. But something shifted in me when I made that initial call.”
Then he added, “I knew in my heart that my life couldn’t quite move forward until I went to the dentist.”
I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot. Because isn’t it true about a lot of things? We’re like the paralytic by the pool in John’s Gospel, (supposedly) waiting for someone to come along and take us to the healing waters. But the fact is it’s pretty damn comfortable by that pool. We develop vague senses of grievance, self-righteousness, and learned helplessness as we lie there by the pool telling ourselves that we’d take the next step if only someone would….basically take the next step for us.
We try to carry on as if we’re not lying paralyzed by the pool. We bravely “get things done,” “do for others,” and grimly complete our daily chores but deep in our moral conscience, we know something needs to change and we’re terrified. We want interior freedom–guidance and direction for the next leg of our journey–but we know we won’t get it until we take a particular action, specific to each of us: go to the dentist, move into a new apartment, apologize to someone we’ve harmed, file our taxes, clean out the garage: until we take responsibility for our own lives, in other words.
This move to Tucson was one such particular action for me.
I have no idea what lies ahead–maybe nothing much different at all from the life I led in LA.
But a huge inner block/resentment/wound has simply evaporated.
I also have a new dentist!
For now, that’s enough.