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Changing Your Ways

Dear Readers:

Because it is the end of January, the month during which many of us make vast resolutions to change our lives for the better, I have received several emails from people who have fallen off track from those promises made to themselves.

I’ve covered this territory before, so rather than reinvent the wheel I’m going to do two things today:

  1. Repost a good blog on this subject; and
  2. Tell you about a recent experience I had regarding making a new habit stick.

Here is the blog I wrote some time ago on how to stick with fitness resolutions: Losing Weight Ain’t Easy!

It’s a good one so don’t miss it!

As for the story, I am struggling with writing it because it seems so obvious as to be a silly topic, but I’ll give it a go.

Robin Deserves a Placque

I have never practiced the best dental health.  We aren’t just talking about neglect (I refused to floss regularly until 4 months ago) but also downright aggressive behavior towards my gums and teeth.

How does one purposefully hurt their gums?  Please avert your eyes if you aren’t interested in Robin TMI this morning.

I suffered from bulimia for over 20 years, wreaking havoc on my mouth, esophagus, and my sister’s nostrils during the time we lived at home and shared a bathroom.

Wait, I take that back.

I didn’t “suffer” from bulimia.  I purposefully chose to binge and purge to satisfy both my gluttonous appetite and my aversion to exercise.  Let’s say I “practiced” bulimia, although I needed little practice because I was very, very good at it.

My ability to vomit on demand without inserting a finger in my mouth became a party trick, albeit an unpopular one.  This may be why people stopped inviting me to parties.

My bulimia stayed with me from the age of 12 to my early 30s, when I finally realized bulimia (and its superior sister anorexia) was not a grown-up problem to have.  I focused my efforts on creating more adult dilemmas in my life, such as making fast friends with lunatics and screwing up good jobs.

In 2013 I was placed on a humiliating special schedule – the dental version of the short bus – that had me in the chair every 3-4 months instead of the usual twice a year enjoyed by those who didn’t regurgitate to impress partygoers and who also knew their way around a piece of dental floss.

Again, I have never flossed on any sort of a regular basis, unless I am eating lamb with blackberry sauce more than I should.  I do love me some lamb with blackberry sauce, but one must have a ready supply of dental string to free those pesky clinging remnants after the meal. 

Four months ago this is what happened during my visit to the dentist.  

Robin and the Dental Hygienist:

DH:

“You know, you really should floss more often.  Your gums are getting worse every time you come here and the plaque buildup is more than we should be seeing every four months.”

Me:

“Sigh.  I’ve never heard that one before, thanks.  Are you new here or what?  I don’t know what to tell you but I just can’t bring myself to floss.  It’s messy and boring and it hurts.”

DH:

“Well, you know it hurts because you don’t do it often enough.  If you flossed a few times per week it wouldn’t hurt at all.”

Me:

“Are you trying to start a fight?  Because I am at a real disadvantage lying prone in this chair with these ugly sunglasses on.”

DH:

“No, I’m just trying to help you improve your life.”

Me:

“Get in line, sister.  Mr. Patience and Understanding has been working that job for nearly 10 years.  I’m a lost cause.  But hey, I don’t puke after eating anymore! I’ve made great strides you clearly cannot appreciate.  I’m going to negative-Yelp the shit out of this place when I leave.  I may even blog about it, and you really don’t want that.  I’m very influential in this town, not to mention Europe.”

DH:

“Can I give you one simple piece of advice?”

Me:

“Now you are moving in on my job?  Wow – you are a terrible person.  That must be why you chose a profession in which you could inflict pain on a regular basis. I’ll bite (ha!): what is it?”

DH: (hands me a long wand-type thing with floss on it)

“Keep this in your shower and use it there.  Make it part of your shower routine, maybe in-between shampoo and conditioner?  I think you can make this a habit if you try.  Also, please stop being mean to me.”

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Me:

“Whatever.”

Robin Takes Professional Advice for Once 

I got home and tossed the wand in the shower with a laugh.  And then it hit me:

I could end up needing gum surgery someday – and soon.  I hate dental procedures and I’d heard gum surgery is no fun, so I vowed to give it a go.

Every morning in the shower, I did as DH suggested and made it my routine “after shampoo but before conditioner” step.  

It wasn’t easy.  It’s hard to start a new habit, and a painful one at that. When you don’t floss for 46 years your gums hate you and will rebel in a very bloody and painful way when you decide to get with the program.

I stuck with it and as the weeks and months went by, I began looking forward to my next dental appointment.  When I announced Monday morning how thrilled I was to be going to the dentist on Wednesday, Mr. Patience and Understanding was understandably worried and checked my breath to see if I started Happy Hour early.  I usually cancel my appointments several times before finally capitulating to their calls.

Guess what?

After four mere months of this new behavior, my gums and teeth had improved so much that the DH said I probably didn’t need to ride the dental short bus any longer.  My dentist proclaimed I was the most-improved patient in the shortest time he had ever seen in his entire career.  

I win!  Where’s my placque?

As I skipped out of his office yesterday filled with pride I was struck with wonder:

Really?  It was that easy?  

I could suddenly do something I had believed I couldn’t merely because I decided to?  I could experience a massive change in my health simply because I decided to?

I could quit lawyering and start writing for a living, simply because I decided to?

I could “take meetings” with important people in Los Angeles and take my new career even further than I thought, simply because I decided to?

I could have the number one radio show in America, simply because I decided to?

I could decide instead to go the television route and entertain and help millions, simply because I decided to?

I know it’s not that simple, but here’s the thing:

Goal achievement is impossible if you don’t work on it every single day.

So what is your dental wand in the shower?  

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