Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

A Filling Made Me Consider Ukraine

What’s my problem, compared to war?

The dentist’s office is one of my favorite places to ruminate. The chair is comfy, tilted back just so. A window in front of the chair overlooks a landscaped hillside.

As I wait for Dr. Weimer to appear, my mind takes a stroll. What’s wrong with me this month? This inability to stay out of bed for longer than an hour. All these headaches? Thought I was done with headaches. Weird, how I can’t think in a straight line lately. Oh, well, I’ll just call it COVID.

Two squirrels race down the hill.

Wait a minute. Maybe it is COVID.

I remember my dentist, like me, recently recovered from the latest iteration of the plague.

“Morning, Dawn.” Dr. Weimer’s disembodied voice just behind my right shoulder.

I sit up and twist around to face her. “Dr. Weimer, have you had any lingering symptoms of COVID?”

Her face sags, resigned. She nods. “Headaches. Exhaustion.”

I ease back into the chair, freed from the burden of figuring things out.

Dr. Weimer and the hygienist go to work. I have an answer. I’m content.

Well, as content as you can be, mouth pried open to fit twenty fingers and a crane.

My mind is a worry wort. The Dali Lama calls it the second arrow. First arrow is the actual situation: aches and pains. Second arrow is my mind’s endless fretting about the aches and pains.

By the time I get home from the dentist, my contentment has dissolved, replaced by sadness. Was this it? The rest of my life, feeling like a balloon with a slow leak? Taking a hundred naps every day? And what about the writing?

The news is filled with images of Ukrainian mothers carrying their babies onto crowded trains, escaping from one nightmare into another. That’s a real problem, Dawn. What’s your problem, compared to that?

Breonna Taylor’s family smacked in the gut by a not guilty verdict connected with Breonna’s killing by police. And even a “guilty” won’t bring her back. What’s your problem, Dawn, compared to that?

The other night we watched a documentary about high-tech prosthetics. A man with both legs amputated learns to walk with his mechanical limbs. At every step, his face is contorted from the effort. What is your problem, Dawn, compared to that?

My problem is the second arrow, which won’t allow me to grieve the loss of the body I used to live in.

I toss my keys onto the kitchen counter.

There’s the loss of my downward facing dog. Goodbye.

I sit on the bed and take off my shoes. This is the shape of my grief. I lay a mental flower on the grave of downward facing dog. I blow a kiss to days of zipping around full of get-up-and-go. Goodbye to a pain-free head.

In my grief, there is an opening. Grief takes in everyone my mind was comparing me to. I see Dr. Weimer’s face, sagging. The whole sad world crawls into bed with me. I hold the world close. There’s room for all of us.

And then I take a nap.



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Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes about love and pain. Her latest book is Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room.