“Did you forget your teeth?”
“No dear. They’re in my back pocket.”
-overheard in my head
Your teeth are your tools. You use them to chomp your food. If you have the removable kind and you forget to put them in your mouth where they belong and instead you shove them into your back pocket, what good are they? Unless you’re eating through your ass.
Your teeth are your tools.
Like the other tools we have. Our brains. Our breath. Our sense of smell. Touch.
Deep breathing is calming. That’s a tool. Positive thinking. That’s a tool. Taking a walk under the redwood trees and inhaling the moist gooey needles. Another tool. Singing in the shower, eating a chocolate truffle, rolling down a hillside, walking barefoot on the beach, clasping the hand of your grandfather as you watch the fireworks from the tailgate of his red pickup…these are all tools. Tools to stash in your emergency kit so the next time you’re visited by the brittle critic, or the anxious cowering panic-stricken one, or you’re stepping into the coiled snake of your dysfunctional thinking, you can reach for a tool to lift you up.
This past week, when my car was totaled by a big rig, I spiraled from shock to anger to frustration to loss, negotiating with insurance agents, agonizing over the financial burden, scouring websites and dealerships for something I could afford—until today, when I felt that I, too, had been hit by a big rig.
My energy left me.
My brain froze.
My heart sank.
I needed my emergency toolkit.
I needed to take those teeth out of my back pocket, stick ‘em in, clack ‘em together a few times, open wide and chomp down on something nourishing, something oozing goodness. I needed to take it in.
As Rick Hanson says in Buddha’s Brain, take in the good. That sunset on the beach—take it in. That conversation with your sweetheart on the porch—take it in. That hike to the peak of Mount Whatchamacallit—take it in, the whole 360-degree view.
And when darkness seems to descend, if those good feelings don’t sustain you, then draw on your other tools: family, friends, meditation, prayer, writing, jogging, old movies, Earthing, an uplifting book, relaxing music, a priest, rabbi, therapist, a nap. Whatever your tools are, know them. List them. Refer to the list when you’re blindsided, and use them.
Because some day the hurricane will hit. Some day. And you want to be prepared.
Now it’s your turn: What’s in your emergency toolkit?