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.

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Here’s what really matters…

Comedy can be rather simple. Really! Because the key to success in almost any scene is to define a relationship. Who are you to the other person? How does the other person make you feel? How do you feel about him/her?

And how are you going to COMMUNICATE all of that so that your partner on stage and your audience in the crowd know what’s going through your head?

You could use body language, action, perhaps simply words. The choice is yours, and the choice lets the other person know that this moment really matters.

Just today, in fact, my partner in crime and I exchanged our excitement for working together by smashing the top-secret computers in our spy headquarters. We knew right then and there how much we each valued this precious moment. (Granted, this was all in an improvised world, and smashing computers isn’t exactly what I have in mind for the day-to-day, but you get the idea).

And the truth of this lesson doesn’t end on the comedy stage.

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Imagine if, passing your neighbor, you stopped and told that person how much it means to see her smile on the stairs. Imagine if, while sitting on the bus, the man whose name you can’t recall tells you how much he enjoys these 6 a.m. conversations over speed bumps. Imagine if we told the people who impact our lives just that: you make a difference in my day. Imagine if we reminded others why this moment with them is important.

It only takes a second to pause and reflect on the relationship. It only takes the truth to make an impact. It only takes you to make a difference on another person’s day.

For more improv comedy lessons, take your turn on stage with classes. Might I recommend ImprovBoston in Cambridge, MA? Or, if you live in Colorado, check out Voodoo Comedy and Grafenberg Productions. You’re in for a great time!

© 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.

What makes you happy?

Whatever makes you happy, be it

– a dance party

– a night in

– a night with friends

– comedy

– faith

– a good book or even just a selfie

Share it. Love it. Embrace it.

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That joy is what brings a smile to your eyes and light to your life.

What makes you happy? Think about some sources of joy in your life and share them with the world! You might just inspire joy in another’s life.

© 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.

 

I approve of this message

It’s tempting to look out for approval.

We were taught to do so ever since the first grade. We studied for good grades, sat with arms folded for respect from our teachers, and eagerly awaited that next star-shaped sticker for our prize boards.

We did everything we were supposed to do, and looked out for the praise. In a context of operant conditioning, we learned how to behave and how to garner respect. And when we made mistakes, we looked in apology to those supporting us, and tried again.

But we were never similarly untrained.

No one ever gave out star-shaped stickers for NOT seeking approval. No one ever handed out extra candy for letting our self-drive and self-acceptance be enough. Few dared to tell a teenager that the only opinion that mattered was from the reflection in the mirror, not when it came to the day-to-day choices in life. It is much easier and so much more predictable as a caregiver, after all, to stay in control of the world and the people around us.

It’s not that we don’t all want our friends and family to grow strong and independent. On the contrary, we couldn’t imagine a better outcome for our loved ones.

Yet, it’s easy to forget

we as humans don’t naturally know how to look to ourselves for approval. We as humans don’t readily break the patterns by which we were trained. Have you ever tried to break a burdensome habit? It’s hard work! And it takes a lot of time, attention, and awareness of the problem. Not too many of us will turn to that hard work without some external factor pointing out with a big flashing arrow that how we are operating is no longer working.

But with so many resources out there – quotes and the like – reminding us of the value of self-approval and self-direction, you can be sure you are not alone in carrying this trained habit to adulthood. The market simply doesn’t spew out supply without a proportional demand.

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Of course, self-approval has its risks.

When you start to give yourself the approval you seek, you may make some mistakes. And you may have to own up to those mistakes – there is no longer someone to hide behind. The mistakes are softened, of course, because you are aware of the hard day you are having and you understand the sources of that choice. You are responsible for and understanding of your actions.

AND you are empowered by the freedom to choose what comes next. No one can push your head to a slump, and no one can take from you the pride of your smile. At a beautiful level, you are in control of the positive and negative outcomes. Everything you need comes from within, and everything you are is imperfectly perfect.

Everything you are is good.

And everything you can become is stunning, because only you can set the limits on your potential.

But don’t think I expect that you change this trained habit in one day. Instead, let’s try for one minute to make choices without approval, and to applaud those choices on our own. If it’s hard, that’s okay. We can try again in a later moment. Little by little, day by day, you can build to a life where you rejoice at the smile of another, yet garner pride from the approval you give to yourself.

In this moment and moving forward, you are your own greatest advocate.

© 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.

30 Simple Somethings That Matter Most in Life

Only the perfect among us have lived a life without worry. Good news for the rest of us – I haven’t met anyone claiming perfection. What I have met, though, are beautiful dreamers – dozens of them. I’ve met men and women and children experiencing pain and searching for joy. I’ve met families who have faced such hardship you would be at a loss for where to find hope, and I have seen them still radiate with joy. I have seen marvelous individuals come to face obstacles. I have faced obstacles. And I have seen these same people choose to sit back, reflect, and regain the strength to move forward.

 

Yet I know, in the midst of a struggle, it’s hard to find hope. I understand, when everything seems so overwhelming and the future so uncertain, it’s hard to carry enough faith to move forward. It’s hard to see past the now, to feel past the worry.

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It’s hard to experience the little moments that matter.

 

But the thing is, in ten, fifteen, fifty years, what is going to matter more: the fear that captured your breath or the future that swept you away? I’m guessing the latter. In fact, take that back. I know it’s the latter! When you look back on your life, and flip through your memories, what is going to matter most is not how much anxiety you felt before that next interview or how much sorrow you carried with the loss of a friend. No way!

 

What will matter – what does matter – are the choices you made, and the incredible possibilities your choices create. What you will remember are the simple somethings that made each moment of each day an authentic touch more complete.

 

In fifty years, my friend, what will matter most are these thirty moments:

 

  1. The day you decided to move out of your comfort zone. You made a pro/con list. You asked a dozen people you knew. And you ignored all the data – didn’t even tally the votes – and just went for it.
  2. The moment you decided to stay there – outside your comfort zone. And live there. Even when things got hard.
  3. Every morning you woke up in time to see the sun rise – the colors of angels lighting up the sky. And especially those mornings when you decided to stop. When you did nothing but breathe in and simply stare.
  4. Each afternoon when you chose to walk home. When you smiled at strangers and made friends with the dogs.
  5. That one cab ride when you climbed in the backseat of a Honda, smiled to the driver, and decided to ask much more than ‘how long have you driven for uber?’
  6. That conversation when someone asked, “How are you doing?” and you answered, instead, as though you had just said, ‘I’m fine,’ and, in exchange, she pushed, “No really, how are you?”
  7. The time you laughed without holding your smile together. You were just happy. Your emotion was pure.
  8. The moments you smiled for no reason at all. It was truly incredible how the smile filled you, filled the room, filled the world with such joy.
  9. Those dozens of moments when you realized you were happy. So you didn’t say anything. You didn’t fear anything.
  10. The dozens more moments when you felt truly proud. I can still see how high your graceful shoulders were rising.
  11. The night you undressed just to sing in the shower. Joy finally made sense, and lifted your heart.
  12. When you jumped in a crowd and spoke without thinking. Sarcasm flew through your tone, spontaneity brought you to life.
  13. That feeling of a pen and a paper and words falling to a page. That feeling of having something to share.
  14. The morning you awoke and smiled in the mirror. You didn’t need a reason more than the reflection being you.
  15. Summer days when the sun glazed your back with its warmth, as you walked through the city, a friend at your side.
  16. That squeeze of his arms around your back. The beautiful tension of you hugging back.
  17. Being a deer in the headlights, a novice at life. But still trying, and stumbling. And having a moment when things again made some sense.
  18. Watching a child’s eyes overflow with pure light. Being part of the magic of that child growing self-love.
  19. Deciding to be responsible for a woman in pain, so you steadied your focus and restored her to a smile.
  20. Sitting in a dark room, surrounded by people, you felt so alone, so you chose to say, ‘Hi.’
  21. Sitting in a loud room, you saw a girl all alone, so you walked past the others, and reached out to say, ‘Hi.’
  22. The day you recognized your weakness, and you didn’t ignore it. You didn’t deny it. You didn’t even reach for it. Instead, you asked why.
  23. Making the choice to come out from hiding. With one word, one action, one click of the mouse, your voice suddenly became an authentic agent of change.
  24. The first time someone complemented you, and you chose to say thank you. It was simple and still just oh so very hard.
  25. That conversation you had where you did nothing but listen. You smiled, you nodded, and you were purely there for a friend.
  26. The evening you two sat on a park bench. You waded through sprinklers, watched cyclists in tutus, and laughed all the way through Pharrell William’s “Happy Song.”
  27. The moment you fell in love with your body. You forgot from time to time, but you always returned home to yourself.
  28. The day you just couldn’t breathe, looking at how much time had passed. Guess what? You’re still reading this. You still chose a breath.
  29. The tears you shed for a loss, and the choice to sit in the pain. Yes, it was hard. And for that, you grew.
  30. The butterflies you felt for the uncertain future, and the choice to live now with the energy of pure faith.

 

If you stop and just remember, in a series of moments, your life hasn’t been perfect. And it’s sure far from over. But, my friend, your life’s beautiful

It’s everything perfection never could bring.

 

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