A Toothy Subject

by Bella Rum

Last night, I dreamed that my teeth fell out. So, I looked it up. I put an asterisk before the ones that apply to me.

Negative meanings
Insecurities, especially about a personal loss
Anxiety about sexual experience
A compromise that is costly to you
*Life changes and “growing pains”
*Fear of becoming older
Positive meanings
Signs of personal expansion
*Wish or need to nurture yourself more carefully
An invitation to explore feelings of loss and personal growth
*A call to look at your support system
The Jungian interpretation: Times of renewal and “rebirth”

You can knock those first three off immediately. I haven’t had a personal loss recently (thank goodness), and no anxiety about sexual experience (whew!), and I haven’t had to compromise about much of anything over the past year. So fortunate am I.

As for life changes and growing pains. Maybe? We are thinking about moving and all that entails.

Fear of becoming older? Not exactly, but I do sometimes give consideration to loss: loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of independence, etc. But after a certain age, you’d be in denial if you didn’t consider and prepare for such events.

Wish or need to nurture yourself more carefully? This one rings true for me. H and I talked about it yesterday. He thinks, for a number of reasons, that I’m not as good at it as I should be, but specifically because I have a problem when I don’t eat on time. It’s been a problem for some time, but it’s become more noticeable since fall. I’m not diabetic, but I become very irritable and even unreasonably angry (low blood sugar?) when I haven’t eaten for awhile. I start to shake and feel jumpy. It happens most often when I’m shopping or running errands. I want to finish the job before going home or stopping for food. I’m very task oriented, and also have a tendency to delay going to the bathroom until I finish what I’m doing. I’ve put some snacks in the car and always take water in my car mug now. It works perfectly. But it took me a while to do this simple thing. So foolish.

And a call to look at my support system? It’s pretty thin, but what do you do about that? My experience is that you can have tons of people in your life, but often the ones you think will step up for you do not, and vice versa. You often find kindness and willingness to sacrifice in those you never expected.

So you get insurance if you can afford it, and hope that those you love will do the right thing, make the best decisions and give serious consideration before stripping your autonomy away. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I believe it’s the biggest concern of those who reach that moment when they can no longer care for themselves. I saw it with Dad.

Our children and those who will make those decisions want us to be safe, and long-term care facilities are all about safety over personal autonomy. They have to worry about litigation. We all have our own priorities when it comes to end-of-life issues. They may not be the priorities of our children or facilities. I don’t know about you, but I care more about quality and the right to make my own choices than longevity. If they suck every ounce of joy out of life, what’s the point?

A friend of Dad’s and a very independent woman once told me, “I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’ve figured out what I’m going to do if I have to go to a nursing home. I’m going to stop eating.” This was not a silly woman, a woman given to emotion or hyperbole. She  had made her own decisions from the time she left her parent’s home. After 97 years, she wasn’t ready to hand over the reins. Thankfully, she died with her boots on.

I’m in the camp that believes longevity is not everything, and it is definitely not the most important thing. A lot of us have been on one side of this worrisome and complicated issue, and eventually will be on the other side. Hopefully I will still have my teeth so I can eat chocolate chip cookies… if they will only let me have them.

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