Hejira

 

clench: a meditation on stress

September 5. 2000

more pictures of the mosaic'ed buildings:

wide angle

wide angle

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South Street is a garden

you can't see it, but near the top of this building, it says "South Street is a garden" backwards

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how cool is that

I might go to this

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looking up

looking up

The dentist peered into my mouth. The white light was blinding me, sharp implements were being inserted into my mouth, my nose was filled with the smell of antiseptic and latex gloves, yet I felt strangely calm, almost euphoric. I stared at the poster hung on the ceiling above me. The cute little kitten on it was still "hanging in there", and would continue to do so for a long time after.

"Do you grind your teeth at night?"

I was startled out of my self-imposed dental stupor. "Um....not to my knowledge."

"Well, your teeth are a little worn down in the back. You also have a cavity in one your molars. It's small, so we're going to get that filled over your winter break, ok?"

"Great. Sure."

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I remembered his offhand comment a couple of days ago, when I realized that there was definitely some connection with stress and my jaw. Since I've been in Philadelphia, I've been clenching my jaw. I used to only do it in the car while I was driving, but now I'm doing it all the time, until my jaw aches and talking and chewing feels painful. I think I am grinding my teeth at night as well, because when I wake up in the morning my jaw is sore.

The stress in my life always manifests itself in really strange ways. And it's not even a constant thing, it changes every so often, you know, to keep me on my toes. I've bitten my nails for the longest time, managed to stop intermitently, but as soon as a stressful thing comes up, like finals or a new job, I start up again. In bright sunlight, I squint my eyes until I get a headache. Then different parts of my body inexplicably tense up, like this jaw thing. The point is, I can't relax. I can't remember the last time I've relaxed. And it's not like I haven't tried. I used to meditate on a fairly regular basis a couple years ago. I tried again recently, and it just didn't work. My mind races, my leg aches, my nose itches. Zen and all eastern philosophy puzzles me to no end. I am not one to live and let live, to be and let be, or whatever pseudo-Taoist catchphrases that are being thrown around right now. Emptying your mind of all thought when you're me is a nearly impossible task.

I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that I am leading a really unhealthy life, both physically and mentally. I'm out of shape. I'm trying to eat better, but have a long way to go. So many things that I liked about myself a few years ago are gone. I don't read anymore. I don't cut myself enough slack. I am, as always, just too hard on myself. I need to relax, or I'm going to kill myself.

One Year Ago:
idealistic ruminations on friendship