The title of this particular blog came to me today as I learned a very valuable lesson at the dentist's office: Don't swallow the numbing gel.
Yes, boys and girls, while it may seem obvious to most, a little accident of this kind can send you into a feelingless panic, take it from me. While my life flashed before my eyes as the sensation left not only my intended mouth, but my throat as well, it occurred to me that this, too, shall pass, and wouldn't it be cool if I could calm down enough to savor the sensation of no sensation at all?
That's when, in that split second of fear, I gleaned a little insight about not feeling. In my numbness, it dawned on me that I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all, because whether it's pain or pleasure, to feel is to know that you're alive. So I decided to savor this brief period of numbness as a chance to be an observer instead of a participant in my life, and I vowed silently to pay attention as bit by bit the feeling returned.
I thought about the things that had hurt me, transferring a sense of feelinglessness to those, too. Nothing could touch me now - no pain, no loss, no failure. They were silenced as if by the same topical magic potion that was on my gums. But so, too, was my joy silenced. I couldn't feel the euphoria I had felt when my four year old niece put her little hand on my cheek and said, "I love you, Aunt Ilene." I couldn't feel the joy of spending time with my dearest friends. I was numb and despite my earlier sense of panic, it was a relief for a moment to step outside myself and take a good look around.
My dental work was done before I was quite ready to give up my out of body experience. The numbness would go away soon, and I was warned that there might be some pain in its place. I could take a pill for that pain if I wanted to later. Oh, if only it was that easy.
As sensation returned, I reveled in it, I noticed it, I was present for it. Even as I became aware of some discomfort, I welcomed that, too. Yes, life is fraught with experiences that challenge our fortitude, but so is it blessed with what builds us up and makes us stronger.
So when it comes to life, or love, or the dentist, these are my words to live by: Don't swallow the numbing gel.
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