100 Days: Losing My Teeth

Let me just begin by saying that this morning I woke up feeling fully rested for the first time I can remember in years. I went to bed late after hosting some of my best friends and having a blast, and I finally awoke at noon. NOON. I cannot remember the last time I slept so much without having drank or smoked the night before! Amazed by how rested I felt, I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror. The very dark circles that have persistently shadowed my eyes for as long as I can recently remembered had even faded. I can’t say how grateful I am for such a restorative night of sleep.

Restful, however, did not equal easy. I had such a vivid, emotional, troubling dream that when I awoke it was prominently impressed onto my conscious mind. It was so affective that I immediately Googled the meaning of it, resulting in multiple interpretations, none of which felt applicable to me.

I called my mom from bed, having missed her call during the morning portion of my epic night of rest, and I told her about my dream. It had felt so bizarre that I couldn’t let go of it.

Being my ever-wise mother, she told me about a dream interpretation class she had once taken and the tips she had learned about self-interpretation. She told me that in truth, we are every person and every thing in our dream, and that if I got particularly stuck on identifying the meaning of one part or thing, I could ask that part what it meant and I might be surprised at how quickly and easily the answer came. Before she had even finished talking, without a single moment of meditative thinking, the dream made complete sense. And my god, was it spot on.

In my dream, I am going to see a healer, someone who can assess my health and tell me how to fix it, but someone not officially authorized by the medical field.

She tells me I have an imbalance, and that it can be easily remedied with a single dose of chemotherapy. (I know, bear with me, this is dream logic here.) I hesitate and question the decision, wondering if I should get a second opinion and go to a “real doctor” for such an extreme treatment. But she makes me feel embarrassed to be questioning her advice, and I buckle under the pressure and assume she knows what she is doing and that it’s not that big of a deal. I allow her to give me the injection, and I leave.

Hours later, one of my teeth falls out. I attribute this to past dental work, and I keep the tooth and make an appointment with my dentist right away. It will be a day or so until he can see me, but it is a back  molar so I am not too concerned. I carry the tooth with me and continue on my day. Soon, another tooth and another have come loose, and without much prodding they also fall out. I add these teeth to my collection, and wonder what is going on with my mouth. Now I have lost one of my more forward-facing teeth, and I am afraid that people will see. I start holding a hand in front of my mouth when I talk or laugh, hiding what are clear imperfections from the people around me.

As the dream progresses, I begin to feel sick, and the sickness takes hold quickly. As my health declines, more teeth fall out, now in groups, all together, without warning. They fall out as I am talking, as I am walking, and I tip my head forward and open my mouth to catch them in my hands.

Alarmed, I go immediately to a health center and see a specialist. The doctor tells me that the healer has accidentally given me too much chemotherapy, and instead of curing me she has poisoned me. I am dying, and it is not reversible.

By now I am very sick and very upset. I am weak, I cry all the time, and my teeth are nearly gone. I have taken to carrying around a small cup and am collecting my teeth as they come loose. I have given up the feeling of embarrassment, so desperate to find help that I am begging through my tears, with my lone-gummed mouth, to anyone who will listen. And yet, I won’t get rid of the teeth. I am holding out hope that there is someone, somewhere, who can put me back together.

It’s hard to imagine now that the meaning of this dream was ever unclear to me. As soon as my mom told me that I was each person and part of the dream, I knew instinctively what it represented.

I was myself, of course, unbalanced and looking for healing.

I was the healer, who without proper training had decided to medicate with strong drugs. I had given myself too much, and instead of healing, had ended up poisoning my body.

I was ashamed to let people see that I was literally falling apart. I continued to talk, to smile, to laugh, but I hid the parts that weren’t right.

Unable to reverse what I had started, I deteriorated until I was in a state of desperation. Until I had gone so far past embarrassment that I would do anything, show anyone, just to find a solution.

And yet, even while I was told there was no going back, I wouldn’t give up on the parts of me that had fallen out. I was carrying them with me, separate but still close, in hopes that someday someone would be able to help rejoin them to myself.

The hardest part of this to figure out was the teeth. So I asked myself, I asked my dream teeth, what they were. And, as my mom had suggested, the answer was immediate and clear: “We are the parts of you that you so neglected that there was nothing left to keep us around.”

Well, if that’s not a come-to-Jesus moment, I don’t know what is.

And yet, despite the overwhelming hopelessness of the dream, I find it inspiring. Because unlike the me of a week ago, I no longer have my head stuck in the sand. Despite the frightening possibility of what would I would find once I really opened my eyes, I have taken the first step to greeting the world — and myself — untainted by the things I had long used to avoid that very greeting.

I have spent the last ten years thinking I was helping myself in a fumbling, blinded way. And I have finally accepted that instead I have been allowing myself to slowly fall more and more apart.

I kept the teeth in my dream with the hope that one day they would be a part of me again.

Now I know that I will also be the person who puts them back.


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