Only those closest to me know I hate teeth. Hate is a strong word – perhaps despise is better. I despise looking at them, thinking about them, or considering them at all. I especially despise other people’s teeth. I can watch shows with a decapitation, amputation, and disembowelment without issue. But the one episode of Supernatural where a woman begins brushing her teeth only to have them tumble out of her head and into the sink made me sick. I avert my eyes when America’s Funniest Videos shows a tooth-pulling clip. Are we clear?
Ironic then that I’ve become the go-to parent for my daughter’s orthodontic treatments. Lucky me. But I’m the one with a flexible schedule so the choice was obvious (and my wife does 99% of everything). I was lucky enough to never need braces so my level of education on the subject was essentially nil.
Of all the medieval devices available to the Orthodontist, the first thing they installed in my daughter’s tiny, angelic, chicken-devouring mouth was a metallic crab-like thing called the palatal expander. It latches on to her molars on the roof of her mouth and takes a portion of her meals so it has the energy needed to lay its eggs in her gums – or so my wild, Star-Trek-fed imaginings told me.
In the middle of the contraption is a wheel. Every night I had the honor of sticking a long metal rod into my daughter’s face and giving this thing one turn. What did it do? It made that tiny mouth expand. It pushed her face apart until gaps appeared between her teeth. I thought for sure that her skull would eventually split and was shocked to learn that the Orthodontist wanted more space. “I can’t quite fit my head in her mouth yet so you have to keep turning it for a couple more weeks.”
“Great!” I replied as genuinely as a child winning a lifetime supply of Brussels sprouts.
Through two more weeks of turning, my daughter eventually transformed into a little, white girly version of Michael Strahan. She also whistled a little when she spoke — but only all the time. By some miracle of heaven, her head remained in one piece.
She finally had her bottom braces installed this morning so she’s resting and reading another Rick Riordan book and delirious from the intoxicating effects of ibuprofen.
Expand Your Comfort Zone
What does this have to do with being fearless? I’m not going to tell you I faced my fear of teeth. I still run away. But the palatal expander – that food-sucking egg-laying device – gave me a clue.
We go day-to-day through our little routines, get up, get ready, get to work, get home, get fed, and get sleep. In the process, our lives get as small and cramped as the mouth of a twelve-year-old girl. We get used to this comfort-zone and assume that this is the way life is supposed to be. But it’s not. As long as we are living and breathing we have only two choices: grow or die.
Give up on your dreams. Give up on that dunlap (your belly had dun lapped over your belt). Give up on having an excellent relationship and be content you have someone. Plain ole vanilla life guaranteed to have an early expiration date.
Revive your dream or adapt it. Resolve to get in the best shape of your life – forget being 18 again, put that kid to shame! Write that novel, run that marathon, reimagine your relationships.
Sometimes all we need is a virtual palatal expander to bust things in our comfort zone wide open. It doesn’t have to be all at once. It can be finally joining that Meetup (I’m doing my first-ever this weekend), taking an art class, or just walking around the block. The key is to do something – anything. Turn that head-expanding wheel just a little each day and gap-toothed success is right around the bend.
Where will you start?