Brushing My Teeth to Healing

I put some toothpaste on my toothbrush, and raised the brush to my mouth.

“Oh Gawd,” I thought to myself. “Again with brushing my teeth?”

And that’s how it was. Everyday things were such a struggle that it had become a thing. At one point, I had to start my day by brushing my teeth, then lie down for a while, then wash my face. Showers were carefully timed for days when nothing else was imperative. This was better than when I couldn’t get out of bed but it was hard to feel any gratitude. 

Once, I pushed myself through brushing my teeth and washing my face in one standing by the bathroom sink. “I did it!” I thought triumphantly. Except I was useless for the rest of the day.

Of course, one could think of this as an opportunity. I wasn’t useless lying on the sofa. I was be-ing. An opportunity to be.

One coping strategy became showering at night. That way, I was wiped out afterwards but all I had to do was go to bed. But amidst all the strategy and effort it took to accomplish the things that were supposed to be what happened on the way to doing the truly important, it was hard to feel any sense of worth. Who am I if I have to think so hard about doing small inconsequential things?

One day I had my brush in my hand again. I had reached the point where I was regularly brushing my teeth and washing my face in one fell swoop, without ruining the entire day. But the whole thing was still a challenge. It seemed like I had just faced it down, only to have to face it again. Then my eyes met those of my mirror image.

“This, is my spiritual practice.”

I smiled, because my little inconsequential, esteem-diminishing challenges had become my joy. So I brushed my teeth without resentment.

Then I got dressed. And I started to feel a little resentment at how hard it was. I stopped myself. “This, is my spiritual practice.”

I wasn’t useless, I was here! My whole day was my meditation. The pain and resentment only came in when I allowed myself to be separated from that. Even the pain and resentment became mere triggers to remind myself of my true worth, the value of my very presence. My breath was in and of itself an accomplishment.

This, is my spiritual practice.

8 thoughts on “Brushing My Teeth to Healing

  1. Pingback: Brushing My Teeth to Healing | Simple Stupid Blogging on WordPress 3

  2. Thank you. I feel like I am reading my own story. Thank you for helping me think differently about my own CFS. Thank you for giving me a place to find comfort and understanding. It has been a long lonely journey, too long that I don’t know what normal feels like.

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  5. I ,too, am recovering from ME and reading this has pierced my heart. I, too, have had times when I didn’t have the strength to brush my teeth. I felt such despair, horror and shame. I felt sub-human. I felt I had nothing to give the world, no love, as I was so broken. But now, now I understand: This is my spiritual practice. Every day, through all the small victories and joys of times with energy- of pottering in the garden, cooking, driving- and all the challenges- not being able to walk, not being able to manage the stairs, not being able to think clearly- this is my spiritual practice. My life, and my spiritual life, is not out there, it is in here-in me, in my heart. Thank you Bola . I wish you continued insight, courage and support on your healing journey. What a road we are travelling, with such hidden gifts!

    • Julie… You’ve pierced my heart right back. I am still amazed when I write something so personal and it resonates with someone else. That’s half the trouble with ME. Most patients don’t have someone in their immediate community who’s had the same experience and it’s easy to forget that you’re normal too.

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