On Clearing the Debris

There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.

Douglas H. Everett

Today, I had my first deep cleaning at the dentist. The way my body chemistry works, I am a heavy “tartar and plaque producer,” and I tend to need frequent cleanings or I suffer gum disease. Since I was in Florida the whole summer, I missed my 4 month cleaning and no surprise, at 8 (okay, 10) months out, I was told I had a lot of buildup, receding gum lines, and some bone loss (yikes), enough that I should receive a deep clean in another visit. My motto is to try to be proactive and preventative (try being the operative word..), so this afternoon I had the pleasure of my first aggressive procedure that went smoothly, at least, with numbing gel. As the kind hygienist removed a LOT of debris from the teeth (read leftover food bits from overindulging on more than one filet mignon and NY Strip steak, I am sure), she asked me “does this hurt?” I told her the numbing gel was good, there was some pain but mild, and the more debris she removed, the better it actually felt. When I bit down on my back molars after she was done with those teeth, there was only a dull ache, whereas before there might be a sharp pain. She said that she heard that all the time. While I sat and looked at the ceiling, my mind wandered, as it usually does when my body is at rest and my mind is not focusing on action.

Last night I had a dream. I know we all dream, but for me, I rarely remember them. The ones I do remember are the ones that trigger feelings of fear and anxiety (monsters and demons, images of being trapped and chased, a loved one in trouble that I am trying to protect, usually fill those dreams). I also remember the ones where something that is troubling me in my waking life is “resolved” in my dream state, and I awake refreshed and feeling unburdened. This dream was different. There were not demons or anyone I loved in danger, but it did feature an issue I had been struggling with for some time but I thought was resolved. It was a bit surprising, and in this dream the issue was not resolved, it was still the same. In my dream state I relived many moments, and the moments played out exactly the same as they had happened in life. No changes, like my dreams where I wake up relieved and light. No fresh perspective. I woke up feeling the same things I had felt for many weeks about this issue, and I wondered, why did I remember THIS dream, and why was it making me feel these things I thought were done?

As I reclined in the dental chair, mouth open, more debris being removed, I thought about what this dream could mean. I realized that although the issue that I had been struggling with was resolved, there might still be remnants, leftover feelings, ideas, actions, that were lingering. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing things when I have to function; like everyone, I have a number of responsibilities that I need to be “on” for, and perhaps that was what I had done. Instead of dealing completely with things, I’d done a half-assed job and then moved on before I had really found closure. Perhaps the dream was to release some of these things, like the debris being removed from my gums, and though it hurt to relive them in my dream state, over time the ache would diminish and the places where the debris was removed could truly heal. My heart. My mind. My soul. And though there was loss, like the bone loss in my back molars because I had let things linger too long, I would go on to enjoy more tempting eats once I healed: the medium rare filet mignon, blackened salmon, bacon, and all the delectable treats that would be fattening me up for the holiday season. For the hurt we go through to remove the things that have piled up in our lives, that cause us pain when we perhaps chew on them late at night replaying events in our minds, that we try to numb and ignore by means that are at best temporary, do not go away until we face them. This dream was my red flag. Not dealt with in waking, I was forced to deal with it in my sleeping state, to prompt my conscious mind to do the work it had been running away from, poorly at best. I’m pretty sure I may have more dreams before this is complete, but like my treatment that is only half done (my insurance company won’t pay for the entire treatment in one visit, so I have to go back), being aware is one of the first steps on my journey to finding peace.

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