I hope you dance

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Whatever today holds for you – a cup of tea or a night out with friends – I hope you see it with beauty. I hope you cherish each moment. I hope, wherever life finds you, you choose to dance.

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

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Tolerance (n., v., a way of life)

I never saw Tolerance as a word on my spelling tests in elementary school. I don’t recall it even being a topic of discussion until I was a teen. And that is a shame, because it’s a word we often forget.

Every time someone has a different opinion. Every time someone lives by a different belief. Every time our world view comes into conflict with another’s.

The human instinct is to abandon tolerance. No longer are we in conflict with someone else’s idea. No, it’s that person, that other with whom we are in battle. And when the battle is between two people, we lose focus on the topic. We start to throw knives at the individual. We start to become, quite simply, intolerant.

And, especially now, in 2017, with all that we see in the news each day, we as a civilization must remember that intolerance is not okay. It is something to never support in words or behaviors.

Yet, we still see intolerance, in many forms – intolerance for gender equality, intolerance for racial and religious groups, even intolerance for one’s scientific stance. Every time a medical professional makes mention of fluoride, for instance, intolerance sweeps the internet. Anti-fluoridation groups find their way to the most minimally accessed webpages, and they drop articles claiming dangers of a tool the medical profession has lauded – with scientific basis – as one of the greatest and most accessible public health reforms in modern history. Based on evidence, the benefits are undeniable.

And yet, there are opponents.  As there are opponents to vaccinations. As there are opponents to the reigning political party at any given time in history.

Wherever there is a belief or a theory or a fact, there will be alternative options. And that’s okay. We each have a right and a duty to share our positions. We each have a responsibility to support our beliefs.

AND we each have a duty to respect that another may still choose an alternate belief. That’s what makes life so colorful! In a show of that respect, our debates must start and end with evidence. The minute the attack becomes personal, the minute our arguments become a means of belittling another person, the topic of debate grows irrelevant.

The new topic of focus becomes, quite simply, tolerance.

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In response to the attacks I have received over my life – for my gender, for my religion, even for my beliefs on the dental benefits of fluoride – I often choose to not answer. I often choose to not engage. There is no useful response to an argument that starts with a personal assault and ends with malicious name, except to preach tolerance. Except to remind everyone of a time when some part of who they were or what they believed was under attack. For no reason but religion or gender or the color of your skin, you were deemed to be less than. You were treated as an object. And that wasn’t okay. That is never okay.

In Jewish tradition, holidays commemorating the victory of battle are always bittersweet. We praise the grace of Hashem to guide the Jewish people to freedom, but still, we mourn all that was lost. Even if the loss was to the other group, we take a moment of silence. They, too, are people. They, too, have value in this world. And though our ideas and objectives can come into conflict, our shared humanity is something that will never change.

Start each day with tolerance, and you will see that the world is a radiant place.

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

 

Just LOLA [Laugh Out Loud Already!]

Improv comedy has nothing to do with being funny.  No joke!  In fact, if you try to be funny, chances are you’ll fail.  Really, improv is about welcoming the moment.  In this instant, in this context, how can we find humor?  In this scene, in this story, where can we spread joy?  If we are really listening, there is always joy.

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Improv is about noticing what is around us and choosing to see it in a way that lifts our spirits (and the spirits of our audience members).  And in no way is this philosophy limited to the stage!

Notice the world around you.  Take it in.  And now, as if out of nowhere, start laughing.  Hysterically!  Start chuckling and belly-jiggling.  Start smiling as though your favorite comedian took center-stage.  I’ll join in!

And observe.  Was there actual humor in the moment?  A joke that came to mind or a story you recalled?  Perhaps you were laughing at me telling you to laugh at nothing.  Maybe you found humor in the fact that you actually listened to this crazy advice, or you rejoiced in the juxtaposition of your laughter with absolute silence.

Whatever the reason, keep laughing.  Keep smiling.  And you will never see that room or that moment without joy again.

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

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.

The 3 Things in Life that are Certain

Three things are certain in life:

  1. You will never have enough time to read that list of the 40 best ____ – what fills in the blank doesn’t matter. The list is still four times too long.
  2. Your earbuds will always become tangled in your pocket or purse or backpack.

And

  1. Your life will be a journey of discovery.

The focus of that discovery: Well, first off, the end of those tangled ear buds. But, more importantly, you. (You know, just something kind of completely fantastic.)

No matter where we are in life – our mid-life crises or our eighteenth birthdays; our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs or our twelfth Hillel Shabbat dinners – we are continuously blooming. Every person we meet, every experience we have, every sunset we witness becomes a part of us.

The conversation you had with a neighbor last night opens your mind to something more that you are. The journal entry you wrote last week touches a part of you that you hadn’t yet seen. The new flavor you tried at brunch widens your senses to a world and culture you can’t wait to know.

Every moment of presence is a moment of growth – if we allow it to be.

Which also means, at any moment, we are imperfect. We have yet to experience every aspect of life and we have yet to interact with every person who is to cross our paths. Rather, we are open, our hidden parts simply awaiting the right moment and encounter to emerge.

But what does this mean for today?

Everything.

Because, in accepting the journey, we open our minds to the possibility of each moment. And, we start to live our lives with three vital changes:

  1. We take no moment for granted.

If every moment and every interaction becomes a part of us and blesses us with growth, then, logically, every moment is of value. We have all heard the advice to ‘live in the moment,’ but it’s time we do more than just that. It’s time we appreciate the moment, no matter how small, and allow that moment to fill our hearts. Because that moment is now a part of us, it’s ability to help us grow only limited by our own resistance to change.

  1. We open ourselves to the world.

We grow from experience. Which means, if we avoid experience, we limit our own potential. So instead of accepting the comfort of a couch and Netflix show, or following the routine of taking the 5:10 bus and sitting in the window seat of row 12, let’s challenge ourselves. Go outside your comfort zone. Try something new. Welcome new friends and new experiences, and soon you will find, in each day, you discover a little more of the fantastic person that is you.

  1. We live and breathe authenticity.

Something magical happens when we realize we are forever growing: we start to let go. If we understand that we are never quite perfect, we can never fall short of what we think we ‘should’ be.  If we recognize that, in error we learn, we start to embrace those errors. In embracing the truth that our interactions with others can help others grow, too, we start to give ourselves more fully to the world. We can’t be perfect, but we can make a difference and welcome growth just by living each moment as our truest selves.

And, yes, if your truest self is still untangling those ear buds or working through number 26 on the list of 40 best books of 2017, you are, in that moment’s way, still experiencing growth.

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Congratulations. Another moment has passed, and you have beautifully grown!

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

Take That Back: A simple game to refresh your life

I come to life

on a comedy stage, with a suggestion, and a promise of a good laugh. I come to life on a dance floor, with country music, and a group of new or old friends. I come to life at home, with a pen and a paper, and too many words to decide on just one to come next. I come to life in a clinic, with a child, a few stickers, and a toothbrush in hand.

But do I have to be in those specific situations to feel alive, to feel energized by life? Am I less alive through the rest of my days?

No way! 

Because it’s not the place or the situation that brings light to our eyes. It’s our own mindsets. It’s our willingness to free ourselves from restraints and to gift ourselves the joy of life in every moment. It’s the decision to let the worry, stress, and clutter of life pause so that we can just be, and just breathe.

And it’s the forgiveness we offer ourselves when we choose the wrong path and end up locked in a challenging moment.

There’s a game we play in improv comedy called ‘Take that back.’ Essentially, when you say a statement, the coach, at any moment, can demand that you ‘take that back.’ Say you just exclaimed your love for fried fish. Well, take back that love … so now you commit to a love of rolling chairs. Say you just whined about your character’s lost keys. Well, take back that emotion … and now you are overjoyed about your character’s lost keys. Standing in an objective position, the coach can see what helps and hurts the scene, and can guide you to success with just a touch of ‘take that back.’

And with practice, you can do the same in your own life!

Start noticing how you feel throughout the day. Check in with yourself when you wake up, when you are on the bus. Check in with yourself when you have work sitting before you. Pay attention to those moments when time just feels like it is dragging through mundane and tiresome tasks, or when time is lost to ‘spacing out’ of the moment. Pay attention to each moment.

After noticing for awhile, letting the awareness grow more natural, start to ‘take back’ your experience. Say you woke up with the thought, “It’s Monday morning. Ugh. The early alarm, the trudge through traffic, the full week of work ahead.” You feel tired and weary. You’re already counting down the days of the week. Sure, you could try to let that thought pass, but your body has already responded to the negativity. You’re already feeling weak.

Which is the perfect time to tell yourself, ‘Take that back!’

So you start again, opening your eyes, thinking, ‘It’s Monday morning! Yes! An early start, a productive day, and so much I can accomplish. This will be great!’

Already, you feel energized. Already, you feel hopeful. Already, you are wondering what great things will come of the week instead of reminiscing about the past weekend or anticipating the next. Already, you are more alive and free of your thoughts in the moment.

It’s not an easy exercise to use on yourself. (There’s a reason improv teams use a coach!) But it’s an exercise you can learn and build into your life, and, if you try it right now, just for kicks and giggles, I guarantee* you will experience a momentary transformation in the experience of your day.

*Restrictions apply. Must have your own capacity to set back time in order to complete the guarantee refund of reading this post. And if you have that capacity, YOU JUST INVENTED TIME TRAVEL. DO SHARE, PLEASE!

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