Sometimes Brushing Your Teeth Isn’t Enough

I think we all get the idea that when you’re sick and feeling really crappy, the simple act of brushing your teeth is enough to make you feel a little alive again–a reminder of when you were a healthy human taking care of yourself.  Brushing one’s teeth is the most basic act of self-care, and the minty-fresh feeling in your mouth afterward is a lingering and tangible reminder of this act (not to mention the fact that it’s an act of care toward others, allowing you to speak to them without them needing to duck or hold their breath!).  I recently wrote about a series of illness that swept through our house.  When I was in the worst parts of being sick (stomach bug + fever) brushing my teeth worked like a magic.  Short-term magic, but still after brushing my teeth I’d kind of bounce back to bed and be able to sit up as opposed to my typical “caveman” walk between the bathroom and bed.  However, once I returned to working, cooking, playing with my kid–life in general, that is–brushing my teeth was just part of the daily routine and didn’t give quite the same boost anymore.

At two weeks out from being sick, I was still moving through the world with pressure in my head and eyes, making me feel tired and logy.  Operating about about 75% of myself felt great (for awhile) in comparison to the five or ten percent of my typical self that I experienced during sickness, but it still meant I wasn’t exercising or getting a whole lot of movement in general.  That workout day I logged into the planner for Thursday of last week–didn’t happen.  I was still dragging myself through each day in desperate search of that finish line we call bed. The effect of all this was that I have been a giant, intolerable, worst-of-the-worst GROUCH.  Impossible to live with; I couldn’t even stand being around myself.

Yesterday morning, I left the house by myself and went to the gym (I was going to write “hit the gym,” but that wouldn’t be quite accurate to describe very low energy re-entrance to working out).  As I drove, I listened to a podcast.  This matters because for more than two weeks I hadn’t even listened to any kind of sound in the car.  Between the pressure in my head and the exhaustion of my brain, I desperately needed silence where I could get it, and that was mostly while driving.  The gym is the land of the living, and when I entered, I too got to share in that kind of energy.  It was the jolt I needed to add about ten percent to my operating level.  I worked out, and it was better than brushing my teeth!  Moving my body is the thing that truly makes me feel human.

Yesterday I was maybe five percent less grouchy and ten percent more human.  The numbers aren’t staggering, but I’m hoping they are representative of a better ratio to come as I continue my “comeback” to me!

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