Your Story Matters

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© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

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This One Story Will Transform Your Day, if not your life

Hey there!

Whatever you are doing right now, stop. Pull up a chair; put on those reading glasses. Maybe grab a cup of tea. Let’s just have a chat, friend-to-friend.

I know; I know. We barely know one another. I’m a dental student typing from Boston, Massachusetts, you’re a blogger off on the other side of the country, if not the world. But trust me. This moment matters.

Because I want to tell you a story from not too long ago; in fact, this was just a few days over a week ago. Iarrived in clinic ready to meet a new patient; we’ll call her Lailah. She was 5’7 and calm, and really just wanting relief from her pain. When she sat down beside me, so much was going wrong – in her medical condition, in her dental health – but she was just so optimistic.

 

“I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving,” she told me, describing her large family. “I don’t want to be in pain on the holiday.”

 

“I don’t want you in pain, either,” I answered, reading her radiographs. “Let’s see what we can do together before then.”

 

Lailah let me know about a few of her medical conditions, the cancer for which she was receiving treatment, the congenital heart disease that didn’t seem to worry her cardiologist any longer, the hypothyroidism that seemed to be under control. Through her full story, she was radiating with the warmth of a smile.

 

“I promise,” I told Lailah, “to do what I can to move your treatment forward in time for the holidays. We can’t do everything by then, but we’ll work together here.”

 

The minute Lailah left my office, the work began.

 

I called every doctor she named, spoke to every dental advisor I could reach. I carefully, and with haste, developed her treatment plan, and prepared for the next stages of her care. And when I spoke with her oncologist, my heart sank.

 

“Lailah has 6 months to live,” her oncologist boldly introduced. “One year at most. Unless we find the cure for her type of cancer in the next year, I want you to understand, we are not doing normal dentistry here. Extract the infected teeth. We start chemo on the first.”

Now take a deep breath for me, perhaps a moment pause. I’m not telling you this story to catch your breath. And my intention is certainly not educational, though I can’t help but notice just how impactfully this story demonstrates the intersection of medicine and dentistry.

But I am sharing this story with a goal.

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When Lailah and I met, I knew her care was important. I knew her healthy smile mattered. It’s the same approach I have with each and every patient in my chair. Even if my job is to simply guide the patient to a specialist or someone who can offer the needed attention, I give my time, heart, and growing knowledge and experience to that patient. Every patient matters.

Knowing Lailah was going to die didn’t make her matter any more or any less. She was still a patient. She was always important.

And, in so many ways, she reminded me of what really matters:

  • The opportunity to share the warmth of your smile with everyone around you, even the dental student you just met.
  • The gift of spending the holidays out of pain and in the embrace of family.
  • The hope that our actions today will make for a better world tomorrow.
  • The faith that everything will be okay.
  • The courage to move forward no matter what weight follows us from our pasts.
  • And the joy of knowing we have made an impact in this world, whether within our own families and communities or on a larger scale. We have mattered.

In Kabbalah, in Jewish tradition, Lailahel is an angel, one who comes to the world with a message to share. My patent, Lailah, is just that, sharing with us, each day, her beautiful messages of hope, faith, and gratitude. This holiday season, let us all try to have a touch of an angel – a touch of gratitude and optimism – in our hearts and minds. No matter what has happened today or this year, all that matters is now, and how, even with a simple smile, we can choose to make a true difference,

All names, characters, business, places, events, and incidents have been changed for privacy. As a compilation of many patient experiences, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.  

© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

Because You Deserve a Healthy Smile

Chances are, every single one of us reading this post either has or knows someone who has dental anxiety. The fear is real!

More importantly, the fear is manageable.

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Working with your dentist and these five simple tips, you can start to bring that anxiety under control, because nothing should come between you and the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve.

CLICK HERE to read my latest dental article on The Huffington Post, and be sure to share it with that dentist or anxious family member/friend in your life!

© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

 

Just one realization could change your life.

Let’s try something new…

Let go

of your worries and fears. For just this moment. Let go of your to-do lists and your experience of chaos. Let go of that feeling that you are so tired and life is so busy. Simply choose, right now, for a moment, to let go, and take a deep breath. Simply choose, for a moment, to be still.

And allow the moment to pass.

Now, don’t jump straight back to the tension you carry. I know, your boss/teacher/child/neighbor isn’t going to let go of his/her request. Your landlord and electricity company aren’t about to let go of their owed pay. The world isn’t going to stop because you need a break.

Except, think back to the last moment: it just did.

In the moment you chose to be still and feel free, the world stopped. In the moment you chose to take a deep inhale, the demands paused and waited for you. Nobody felt slighted. None of your obligations ballooned into insurmountable tasks. In that moment of silence, nothing bad happened.

You just were, and the world simply waited.

And doesn’t it feel nice

to know that you are in control – of how you feel, of how you respond, of the tension you carry? Doesn’t it feel freeing to realize that you are empowered by the simplicity of your breath?

Today, the Jewish people are eating in a Sukkah, a three-walled ‘shack,’ if you will, lined with a roofing of palm branches. As one of three pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish faith, Sukkot reinforces the simplicity of eating, the temporary in life. Our shelters can blow away. Our food is simply what grows in the field. In the Sukkah, we are separated from the material possessions of the modern world, and brought back to a zeman simchateynu, a season of joy, when our ancestors’ fields shared their yields. We can choose to worry about the challenging climate outside or the burden of carrying out our food, but instead, we empower ourselves. We rejoice in the beauty of what we do have, and leave the worry behind.

Yet, in our day-to-day lives, outside the holiday season, we all tend to forget our own power. We tend to clutter our world with interpretations of what we see.

She has a curled brow – that must mean she’s frustrated with how slow I’m working. He’s looking away; did I do something wrong? And the guy across the room is just sitting and smiling; if only I could be more like him.

We see ourselves as our weaknesses, the time as a deficit, our neighbors as a measure of compare. We place meaning in the wind when really, the wind just is. That woman just was. Our stories are just a product of our minds’ creation.

They aren’t reality.

And neither is our anxiety or tension or fear that we feel. Neither is that draining thought that we have so much to do in so little time.

I was reading a book, crossing out the words that ‘didn’t matter.’ And, in erasing the clutter, I found the gist of the story: “Beneath a tall man stood a shorter man and the two were surrounded by others.”

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Now, that wouldn’t be the Blockbuster slogan on the back of a cover, but the simplicity of the ‘true’ story – and how I came to find it – carries important lessons:

(1) Change is hard – especially when, through the choice to change, we lose the option to go back. For the longest time, I would ‘cross-out’ words in a book with pencil, drawing only a line so I could see what used to be there, erase the marks and ‘go back.’ For the longest time, I wouldn’t even mark a book, ruin the perfection of the page. But then, I irreversibly marked the page, and I found my next lesson …

(2) In making a choice, we allow ourselves power. So much in life is out of our control. So much simply happens, and, in return, we respond. The response can be instinctual and follow our natural patterns of behavior – like not writing in a book, or only writing in the margins in pencil – OR the response can be daring, that choice we always wanted to make but were simply too timid to try. In fact, the choice that doesn’t meet expectations often challenges us most to exceed those expectations.

And, of course, in removing the extraneous detail of a story, I came to the most important insight of all:

(3) Life, at its core, is simple. 

It’s not a stressful experience or a tiring string of days. It’s not a journey of working to live, or a challenge to experience the craziest and most beautiful parts of the world. Those expectations, like the author’s ‘clutter’ of words, are simply interpretations of what is really happening: there is a man, and a shorter man, and a lot of other people around them. What everyone is thinking or feeling, what emotion fills the air and what color paints the grass – those are choices that we can each make in the moment. Today, I choose rest to fill the air. I choose softness to paint the grass. I don’t recall what the author chose, but I am certain his world was much different from mine. I don’t know what you will choose, but I am certain your world, too, will be unique.

So think back to that thought of ‘having so much to do in so little time.’ What’s the gist of the story?

You have things to do. And you have time.

The adjectives you choose to paint that reality can either lead to simplicity and freedom or clutter and stress, but the choice and the power is all yours.

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Reality is a funny thing

because no one reality actually exists. We place interpretations on interpretations on interpretations of the world, and somewhere in that mess, we find ourselves overwhelmed and toxically stressed.

So take a step back, return to the simplicity of your life, and make the interpretive choice that will suit your health and wellness best. After all, you are the author of your world.

© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

 

 

 

We are as powerful as…

We are as powerless as our weakest thought.

When we believe we can’t succeed. When we decide a task is too hard. When we put ourselves down for all the chaos around us.

We are much too good at this self-defeating spiral. We’re only human, after all.

And if we choose to let this spiral become us…

the world can seem dark, we can feel victim, and, much too easily, we lose touch with the reality that THESE BELIEFS SIMPLY ARE NOT TRUE!

What is true?

The beauty of the sunrise over the Charles River.

The gift of sharing a smile with a woman you just met.

YOUR POWER to let the world happen around you, and YOUR WISDOM to react in a way that builds from your inner strength.

Sure, there is a lot in this world that lies beyond our control. There is a lot in this world that could bring us to tears or envy, heartbreak or annoyance. AND, just the same, there is a lot in this world that can bring us back to ourselves.

In frustration, we have the power to imagine the most beautiful possibilities. In sorrow, we have the power to dream the most inspiring of dreams. In each day of our lives, we have the power to look out to others with curiosity, admiration, appreciation, and gratitude, and to reflect on this world and the chaos in it as opportunity. Imagine, if we are our truest selves, what inspiring change our lives can bring!

What if I told you, YOU ARE INCREDIBLE JUST BEING YOU?

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© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

Harness Your Power To Heal

A woman sat beside me at the doctor’s office. “I’m in pain,” she said, cradling her knee. Under the flow of her skirt, I couldn’t see what was wrong. Was it swollen? Was it bruised? Was she bleeding and bandaged? All I knew were her words: ‘I’m in pain.’

 

As we humans tend to do, my first instinct was sympathy. Phrases like, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that,’ and ‘Can I do anything for you?’ came to mind. Thoughts of fetching an ice pack and consoling a stranger claimed my brain.

 

But I didn’t even know if she needed ice!

And as a medical provider trained in empathy, I could hear how distancing these words really were. ‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ is nice, but it doesn’t mean I share in your pain. ‘Can I do anything for you’ is generous, but it still makes this pain your problem, not mine. In a world of personal boundaries, sympathy is the safest of routes, but it’s far from the most healing.

 

But the empathetic route, the option to turn to her and say, ‘That must be hard’ or ‘I can’t even imagine what you are experiencing,’ just didn’t seem right either. Because her knee hurt – I could imagine that much. And, as I have learned in my years of improv comedy, never assume another person is thinking the same as you. Maybe this pain is something that excites her – though, that would feel odd. Or, maybe her experience is anger, not sorrow. Maybe she’s angry because her kid left a toy in the hallway and that led to her trip and fall. I hear an improvised ‘Yes, and…’ in the distance. Maybe her kid is a teenager and the game was a video game console that he was supposed to put away hours ago! The real pain is having to deal with that son of hers when she gets home.

 

Who am I to assume another’s story?

And who am I to intrude on her experience? Sure, I could ask how she feels. I could ask her to tell me more, but I wasn’t her doctor. I wasn’t even an acquaintance. I was a neighbor, a fellow patient in waiting. I was a woman sitting in the same position as her with the only difference being our chief complaints.

 

And even as a complete stranger, I carried the power to help.

 

“Have you heard of biofeedback?” I asked, speaking as though I was simply starting a casual conversation. With a neurological illness as a child, biofeedback was one of the many tools at my disposal. With patients in the dental chair, biofeedback was one of the most powerful techniques for alleviating the anxious mind. And in the absence of technology, I knew meditation could be just as complete. “Your mind is a powerful thing.”

 

I closed my eyes and rested my hands. I softened my shoulders, and let my head fall. I felt the chair beneath my body, and the floor beneath my feet. I asked her to do the same. I took a deep breath in, tasting the air of my surroundings, smelling the plastic of the waiting room chairs. I took a deep breath out, purifying my body of that doctor office smell. I pictured what kind of room the smell came from. I let that image go. I pictured the paintings on the walls. I let those paintings go.

 

“My hands feel heavy,” I whispered, letting their weight fall into my lap. She repeated. She felt the same.

 

“My arms feel heavy,” I whispered, letting my shoulders sag against their weight. She repeated. She did the same.

 

“My arms feel warm,” I smiled, embracing the air around me. My eyes were closed, but I like to imagine she felt the same.

 

“I feel calm and relaxed,” I inhaled, dropping expression from my face. “I feel calm and relaxed,” I exhaled, dropping pain from my mind. “I feel calm and relaxed,” I finished, nearly falling asleep.

 

“Rosa, Rosa Sorencio!” A nurse called a name in the distance, opening our eyes to attention. “Rosa!”

 

And just as quickly as we met, we parted ways, but we weren’t strangers any more. We weren’t women in passing. We were neighbors, or slightly more, united by a moment of calm, gathered in the strength of our own beautiful minds.

 

And if you think this is just a story, think again! Because your mind is just as powerful. Your strength is just as beautiful.

 

Each and every one of us carries such an incredible power of healing. Our only true barrier to calm is our noisy selves.

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I close my eyes. I relax.

I am at peace.

© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.