Today, I went to the dentist.
I’ve always been proud of my teeth, silly as that sounds. They’ve always been straight, and I still have all of my wisdom teeth (which I suppose means I have a large mouth). I try to take good care of them.
But I do have one problem with them: I tend to clench my jaws in response to stress. Several years ago, I was so stressed that I actually chipped some enamel that way. (You can clench very hard when you’re asleep.) So the dentist made me a mouth guard. She took an impression of my upper teeth, and then a plastic device was made that fits over them perfect. And I have to wear it when I sleep. If you think of everything glamorous and romantic – well, this is the opposite of all that, isn’t it? But it keeps me from damaging my teeth.
Today, she looked at the mouth guard, which I always bring in, and told me that I’d been clenching very hard. Also, she told me that there was more chipping on the enamel. So clearly, I’m under too much stress.
The question is, what to do about it? It’s deadlines as far as the eye can see, although I’ve already asked for an extension on two of them. No, that’s not quite true. After May 15th, there are no deadlines. After that, it’s just summer and finishing the dissertation and writing a novel. No deadlines until September.
But still, what to do about the stress? Clearly, I need to do something.
Here, because I have no actual answer, I will go on a brief tangent. The dentist is in Brookline, so before my appointment, I went into Booksmith. I have what may be a bad habit in bookstores: I look to see if anything of mine is in there. You see, for a long time, when I was just starting out writing, I was intimidated by places like Booksmith. I would look around and think, so many books! What makes me think I can write one, can ever compete in this marketplace? (In a bookstore, it’s obvious that you’re competing in a marketplace.) But then I started seeing my stories in books on the shelves. Like these:
See? I’m in two of these books, Tails of Wonder and Imagination and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2010. Pretty nice, hunh? And someday soon I’ll be there with a book. And then more books.
And then the dentist told me that I was doing an excellent job with my teeth (other than the clenching, of course), so I rewarded myself by going to Japonaise, the bakery and coffee shop, where I bought an azuki cream. Here’s what one looks like:
What you can’t see in this picture is the filling: whipped cream and red bean paste. It’s one of my favorite pastries in the world.
And now back to the subject of stress. The dentist suggested meditation, but I’m not sure that would help right now. I think I would stress about having to mediate. But I have to think of something. I know I’m pushing myself, not taking very good care of myself.
One day, and I hope it’s one day soon, I want a small cottage where I can create a calm, peaceful space. Where I can write, and garden, and do all the other things I like doing when I’m not so completely stressed. I’m working for that – that’s what the stress is all about, trying to get there. But I don’t especially want to kill myself on the way there, you know? That wouldn’t make sense.
So I’m going to have to think of something. Sleep and exercise, those are probably good ideas. Eating healthily. I’ll probably have to start there, with basics. I know all that, I do. It’s just implementation that’s difficult. Because I have so much to do, and I want to do it all – because I want that cottage, more than I can properly express.