The first time, I went at lunch, and had my teeth cleaned. I was declared cavity-free and the dentist, as he always does, raved about my “pretty teeth” and gave me a nice little ego boost.
The second time, I went after the kids were done with school, and I sat and worked on my laptop while they got cleaned and checked and declared pretty as well.
After the first visit, I was given my customary goody bag (floss, toothbrush) but it was missing toothpaste. “No paste anymore?” I asked. The hygienist explained that the toothpaste companies weren’t sending samples out as often as they used to, and now they tend to run out. “Oh, that’s too bad,” I lamented. “You know, I can never find those little tubes of Sensodyne anywhere, so I love getting them here. I use them when I travel for work.” The hygienist immediately brightened; she’d forgotten I have sensitive teeth, and Sensodyne they actually did have. She went and grabbed a tube for me, and I thanked her profusely.
Every now and then I get it into my head to try some sort of home teeth-whitening strips, and within a day or two I’ve morphed into one of those overacting senior citizens from the commercials, wincing at every sip of hot or cold. Whiteners aggravate “my condition.” (I cannot bring myself to say that without air quotes. It’s like I’m admitting to being 90, otherwise.) I pretty much need the sensitive toothpaste to keep myself functional, as years of grinding my teeth have weakened my enamel and left me a delicate flower in the ways of all things tooth-related. So I’m always slightly surprised when the dentist raves about how strong and healthy my teeth are, because they don’t feel strong to me, they feel finicky and delicate and annoying.
So what does this have to do with anything, or at least what does it have to do with comfort zones? Let me just say that I have absolutely abhorred this challenge. Picture me kicking and screaming all the way and you’ll get the general gist. I hated getting into shape, but I loved how I felt at the end. I don’t particularly love spending an entire day cleaning closets, but I do love the results. This? This is like wearing those whitener strips. It makes my nerves jangly. It’s not just uncomfortable, it is at times downright painful, in a way that is hard for me to say “oh but it’s worth it.” Intellectually I know that it’s worth it to push myself. Emotionally it’s “Gimme my damn Sensodyne and stop the pain!”
I have built a nice life for myself. A good life. I am strong and capable and I make good decisions. The previous however many years haven’t all been filled with perfection, though, and—like my teeth-grinding—the past has left me a little weakened when it comes to straying from where I’m comfortable. And—like the whitening strips—a little discomfort can have an acceptable payoff, but for the most part there are good reasons to do what already works.
So I’ve done the dares, and I’ve surprised myself, and I lived to tell the tale, but I am totally ready for this challenge to be over. I’m okay with my enamel—and my tolerance for change—being a little worn. Boring, I know, but it’s the truth. 100% cavity-free.