Transforming trouble into opportunity

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The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Dentist

Before my wisdom tooth extraction, I did a whole bunch of reading to see what I could reasonably expect to happen. I knew going in that this was a chance to reboot. No caffeine, no alcohol, no solid food. Rarely do we get a chance in life with its hectic pace to do this kind of radical reboot; the dental surgery provided a perfect opportunity, a perfect excuse to break a whole bunch of habits all at once and try something new.

One of the key points was that for a while afterwards, I’d be eating mostly non-solid things – soups, broths, puddings, etc. so things like smoothies and soups would be the order of the week. I found out that most processed and refined foods turn into a disgusting sludge when you blend them, as all the binders, fillers, and chemicals separate. Natural foods tend to survive the puree process with flavors intact. Meats also tend not to do too well in a blender, so it’s been a mostly vegetarian diet for me. Most of my meals in the past week have been a mix of rice and vegetables pureed with a broth into a thin gruel, which sounds much worse than it actually is. Today’s lunch, for example, is tomatoes, brown rice, and tomato juice as a sort of thickened soup.

The results have been amazing. In less than a week, I’ve reset my sleep schedule, healed a bunch of minor chronic nagging things like a persistent upset stomach, lost 13 pounds, and generally felt better. The reboot is delivering amazing results. Is there discomfort? Absolutely. You don’t have four teeth yanked out of your head without some level of impact. But the chance to reboot has been worth it, and it’s something I’m going to try to do every 6 or 12 months for a week.

Here’s the interesting part. When I was doing my reading about aftermath and aftereffects of the operation, the vast majority of people were telling stories of endless hunger, of fits of rage and depression at not being able to eat their favorite foods. Some of the commenters and writers were driven to states that I can only describe as near-madness. Instead of embracing the chance for change, they saw it as an unwelcome disruption and the amount of unhappiness they suffered as a result was shocking.

Times of trial and change can either be points of pain and confusion or chances at transformation, at transcendence. So much of life is not good or bad. It just is. How we choose to perceive it, what we choose to do with the opportunity is what determines good or bad, happy or sad, welcome or intrusive. I made the conscious choice beforehand that this would be an experience I could transform into something positive, a way to break habits. When we break our habits, we break a piece of our identities, and that gives us a chance to leave behind the pieces that are unwanted, the pieces that hold us back from moving towards our goals.

Very often, we get so locked into our habits and daily grinds that we don’t even see the chains we’ve imposed on ourselves, and it takes something like dental surgery or another major event to force those habits to break without our consent. Take advantage of those moments! Take advantage of what appear to be problems or troubles and see how you can transform them and yourself into wonderful chances to make needed changes. You’ll be much happier and possibly healthier for it.

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8 responses to “Transforming trouble into opportunity”

  1. Chris,
    Sounds like you’ve read Tony Robbins. That second last paragraph is completely Robbins. Life is 10% what happens, 90% of how you react to it. It can be a triumph or a tragedy – your choice! 

    Nice piece, thanks!

    1. I’ve read so many different motivational authors that they’re all a blur.

  2. Christina Pappas Avatar
    Christina Pappas

    Love your perspective here but I had a rather different experience. Last summer I had my 2 remaining wisdom teeth out. I sought out to take it as a chance to relax with a bag of ice on my face, let my family take care of my and chow down on ice cream (which I never do honestly). But…I developed a large lump growing off the side of my cheek and the surgeon decided to operate again. I went through the entire ordeal of being put to sleep, stitches, not eating… it didnt work. The lump remained and eventually the pain was so bad I went to the emergency room. The took a CT scan and discovered a ‘foreign object’ in my cheek as a result of the surgery. I was devestated that my face would be deformed, the pain would not subside and even after they tried to operate – while I was awake and not numb (the infection was so great, the skin was unable to be pierced by a needle) – and determined they could not in fact remove it, I suffered for 3 months of antibiotics and numerous efforts to free the object (including having a tube sewn into my cheek). I am a person that always finds the silver lining and I love that you found one with the removal of your teeth – I just couldnt get there on this one 😉

    1. Ouch! Holy heck. Well, I’m glad it’s behind you at any rate.

  3. Looking for some sort of diet like this, minus the blending it up, of course. Care to share?

    1. Real simple: rice, frozen vegetables, fresh vegetables, and minor seasonings like salt and papper. Mix and match until you find combos you like!

      1. Would cinnamon be considered a minor spice?

  4. I’m glad your experience is going well, Chris.

    When I got mine taken out at 23 yrs old, all was okay at first. A friend brought me a homemade chocolate shake, and it really soothed the numbness and pain I’d felt. A day or so later, I got some serious pain. Returned to the doc who told me I had dry sockets where my lower ones were. So he put some packing in there to keep it numb while they healed up and upped my pain meds. I was unable to work until they’d healed up.

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