Saying thank you to one’s teeth

Every now and again I go and see a wonderful osteopath, Avni. Last week was one such time – my back had been a bit clicky – and amidst massaging, adjustments and gentle probing she talked to me a bit about the importance of paying attention.

It all tied in rather serendipitously with a book I’m reading – Deep Work – which alongside pointing out some of the consequences of today’s Internet-crazy-instant-message-addicted-constantly-connected world, encourages one to be present and seek work and activities that are more deeply satisfying (deep work, learning a new skill, blocks of uninterrupted creativity).

The underlying messaging from Avni and my book feel urgent. And this on a backdrop of having been social media free for over a month for Lent. I signed up for Avni’s 5-part mail series with tips for self-care, here was day 1:

“Today, we start with a look at turning your everyday tasks into rituals for wellness. In the course of your day there will be a number of tasks that you perform regularly. You brush your teeth, shower, apply body lotion and remove your makeup.

Instead of racing through these tasks whilst multi-tasking, give your full attention to whatever you are doing. Tune in to the sensation of the water on your skin. Take a moment to be aware as you apply lotion to your skin. Let yourself enjoy the sensation of massaging cleanser into your skin.

By giving your full attention, you can connect with the deep stillness that resides beneath the chaos of the day. It’s a mini moment just for you, without having to create more time in your day. The simplest tasks can easily be turned into rituals to improve your wellness.”

I liked the sound of this. And so. Last night I had a dreamy candlelit bath with some dreamy music and a dreamy new peach soap from Italy. And afterwards, when it was time to brush my teeth, instead of zoning out while my smart electric toothbrush did it’s thing – I turned my focus onto what I was doing. And I began to think about my teeth.

When was the last time you thought about your teeth? Maybe it was pre-dentist in a panic figuring out a fresh way to explain why you haven’t been flossing everyday but will absolutely somehow find the resolve to start doing it religiously this time. Maybe it was when you bit over-enthusiastically into some ice cream, or an ice block slid suddenly during a sip and collided in just the wrong way.

I thought about my teeth: two rows of silent stones that have been with me so many years, and seen me through so much. How many smiles (some of them breaking wide and true some of them pained and thin), how many clenches (some of them whilst fast asleep with mind racing, some of them as a disappointment hit and I tried to be brave)? These enamel fellows, that have accompanied me faithfully on travels to Turkey for dondurma, Spain for crisp tomato tostis and a wedding feast, Syria for my first proper falafel, and South Korea for Kimchi and curious rice cakes.

These little teeth, these inadvertent witnesses, sticking around and serving me quietly everyday for decades.

As I brushed I thought on these things. I thought of my teeth as a tiny army and suddenly they came alive to me, like faithful sentries, each with opinions on my choices that given half a chance would whisper fierce advice based on their reams of experience and proximity to my heart and mind. Almost unbreakable.

As toothbrush buzzed and Sensodyne foamed, I thanked each of my teeth, and all of them together, with a few final purposeful glides, and then went gently to bed.

When was the last time you thought about your teeth? The next time you brush yours, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

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