01/17/21

“You have two cavities,” the dentist says, and I feel a catch behind my ribs.

My dental habits this year were the most dedicated and disciplined I’ve ever managed. Even though I avoided flossing most of my life, I haven’t skipped a single night in a solid year and counting. I worked really hard to build healthy habits this year, and this was one I thought I’d nailed. If not 100%, then at least 99%.

I ask the dentist if the cavities are big or small. She just reminds me where they are, and I’m still too stunned to push it. I leave the dentist office in a disappointed daze. I want to know: crap happens, especially with soft, cavity-prone teeth like mine, but didn’t my efforts make any difference at all?

After the kind of week I’d had leading up to this appointment, with heart-shattering relationship implosions ending in denial of progress or closure, I just wanted a perfect reward in at least one area of my life. Wasn’t partial perfection too much to ask?

But life isn’t like that. It is filled with imperfection and disappointment as much as reward and fulfillment. The significance of the one can’t be felt without the pain of the other.

So I’ll pick myself back up, adjust expectations and strategy based on new data, take comfort in how my mental health progress this year proved strong and healthy under pressure, and take myself back to the dentist to get my dental caries filled.

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