Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Fracture My Jaw

What has finally driven me back to the blog is this: My jaw is wired shut and two things I most enjoy doing most (yes, deliberate use of two "mosts")--talking and eating--have suddenly lost about 3/4 of their attraction for me.

I earn my living by thinking and talking, and I think in part by talking. Since I tripped on a piece of Portland sidewalk 10 days ago, landing squarely on my chin and breaking my mandible, talking is tiring, a little painful, and seriously embarrassing. I have been grateful for all the people who have said to me, "I've tried talking through my teeth to see what that's like for you, and it's awful!" The effort to empathize warms my heart, but I know they know trying it out is nothing like having it imposed on you. I sound slushy and sticky. Apologizing to the few patients I've seen or talked to on the phone is how I start my visits. And the muscles of my face constantly tighten and try to force my teeth, already as close as they can get, closer.

This happened at a time I wouldn't have chosen, at the juncture of two jobs. While I'm thankful for COBRA (health care portability law), and a new employer who is willing to give me a light schedule and several more days off than I'm sure she wishes I had to take, some of my anxiety is that I am now dealing with people who don't know me, who don't know that I never take sick time, and who don't know how much I really want to dive in and learn the new job. (Also, at my old clinic, my patients would have patted my hand and said, "There, there, we don't mind that you sound like you're talking through mashed potatoes, we're just glad you're okay". Probably in Spanish. My new ones probably won't. And actually if they did, it'd be weird.)

But you don't get offered choice in this kind of thing, only in how you respond. So I am off on a hopefully brief adventure of character building and ego adjusting and perspective acquiring, trying with very mixed success to use my shamefully frequent self-pity as a trigger to pray for, oh, say, quake victims in Japan, women with rectovaginal fistulas in rural Africa, girls being sold on the street in Portland, and people with real, intractable pain who will come into my office and for whom 2-6 weeks of eating slurry will not make things all right again.

Put up with me if you can, call me if you want to, and remember to give thanks that you can, any time you want to, lick your lips.

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