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  1. Gratitude: The View Ain’t So Bad From Here

    March 31, 2019 by Diane

    Root canal.

    Just hearing those words makes me jumpy.

    Obama jokingly referred to the bank bailout as being as popular as a root canal, which pissed off those who do it, but illustrated perfectly how the rest of us feel about having it done.

    So when my dentist told me I’d need the dreaded procedure, and gave me a referral to an endodontist, my hand shook as I signed the form.

    Who to believe?

    My previous dentist, the hypochondriac, never mentioned root canals.

    No, it was my new dentist who opened the can of worms. I switched to him, because:

    • My previous dentist no longer accepted my cheap insurance.
    • I had a limited pool of dentists from which to choose.
    • The new guy, Dr. A, got rave reviews on Yelp. Well, two. But there were only two.
    • He seemed friendly when we met, although I could have done away with the handshake.
    • He was downright handsome.

    After his initial examination, Dr. A told me, “The good news: your oral hygiene is excellent. The bad news: your crowns need replacing.”

    My previous dentist never mentioned that scenario, either.

    “Good News, Bad News”

    I soon learned, this handsome fellow liked those phrases. He also relished the word “extreme.”

    In my next visit, while I waited for the Novocain to kick in, he scurried across the hall to examine another patient.

    “The good news: there’s no problem with your teeth. The bad news: your gums are receding. It’s extreme.”

    While I waited for the squishy stuff to harden into a mold of my teeth, he scurried next door to consult with a third patient.

    “The good news: your gums are in great shape. The bad news: you have extreme cavities and you’ll probably need to mortgage your home to pay for the dental work.” (I may have misheard that last part, but the subtext was loud and clear.)

    Off with the Crowns!

    Replacing my first crown went without a glitch, although I shivered in the chair, having a deep fear of dentists. Had my dentist also been a clown, I may have been scarred for life.

    After the procedure, Dr. A said, “You might elect to have a root canal,” then shoved his hand out to shake.

    Why would anyone elect to have a root canal?

    Replacing my second crown, Dr. A ran into a snag. During the procedure, the nerve was exposed. It was “extreme.” He didn’t offer good news, just the bad.

    “There’s a ninety-nine-percent chance you’ll need a root canal,” he said, and shoved out his hand.

    Oh, how I hated this man.

    I wondered if he was getting kickbacks from the endodontist.

    I refused to take the bait. Or his hand.

    A second opinion

    The pain began. Heat, cold, chewing…everything hurt. With dread, I visualized enduring a root canal, of something going horribly wrong, of ending up in the hospital.

    I googled “holistic dentists,” called one, and asked her opinion.

    “If the nerve was mechanically-exposed, ozone treatments MIGHT work,” she said, “but I can’t guarantee it. If it was cavity-exposed, you’ll need an extraction or a root canal.”

    What!? I thought those words didn’t exist in the vocabulary of holistic dentistry.

    The lesson begins

    I was in week five of the LIFE XT program, which I began blogging about here.

    The instructions for the week:

    Add Gratitude. Use sitting down to meals as the cue to Notice-Shift-Rewire the habit of Gratitude.

    Since eating involved heat, cold, and chewing, this proved to be a challenge. Still, I told myself I was grateful to have teeth, and to have a credit card to pay for the fixing of those teeth.

    On Sunday, in desperation, I called my dentist on his cell to find out how the nerve was exposed.

    His brother answered.

    His brother didn’t know.

    Dr. A, he told me, was “extremely” ill and in the hospital.

    “I’m so sorry!” I said, metaphorically backing out the door, grateful for my health.

    Root canal? Or no root canal?

    I didn’t need a neon sign to tell me I’d need to deal with the problem tooth. So I scheduled a visit with endo-guy. I convinced myself that after performing whatever tests endodontists perform, he’d straighten and announce, “You don’t need a root canal!”

    I was willing to take the gamble.

    The day came. I had a plan. If I needed the procedure, I’d visualize lying on the beach. I’d visualize Dave waiting for me in the waiting room. I’d remind myself it would be over in an hour. I’d remind myself of the line I’d recently heard on a tv show: no matter what happens, I’ll get through it. I’d count my breaths: two hundred and twelve of them, the length of time, I was told, a root canal would take. (I ‘d worked out the math in the shower when I should have been practicing Awareness.)

    The test

    I’d read the reviews about endo-guy on Yelp.

    • He had a lousy bedside manner.
    • He’d do the work without telling the patient what he was doing, then disappear.

    I considered those good reviews. I prefer not knowing what a dentist is doing. I don’t want to be that involved. My new dentist is far too chatty. He even offers a mirror so I can watch.

    Endo-guy ran through a list of questions, then performed the “ice” test, applying an ice-cold instrument to one of my regular teeth. As soon as I felt the pain, I raised my hand. He tested the crowned tooth. No pain, then, after several long seconds, I raised my hand. He tested a regular tooth. Up went the hand.

    “It took longer for the crowned tooth,” he said, “which could be a problem. Is the pain gone?”

    “Yes.”

    “If it goes away quickly, that’s good. Let’s try again.”

    He applied the ice to the back of the crown and my hand shot up, followed by the rest of me.

    “That’s a good sign,” he said, and straightened. “You don’t need a root canal.”

    Oh, the joy! The relief! I was ready to dance down the hallway.

    “Is the pain still there?” he said.

    “Well, yes,” I admitted.

    “That’s bad. You need a root canal.”

    The sun went behind the clouds. I stared at him.

    “You can think about it,” he said, “decide later.”

    I didn’t want to think about it. My anxiety would shoot through the roof. I’d lose twenty pounds. I’d end up in the hospital, like my dentist.

    “What do you advise?”

    “A root canal.”

    There it was. I could either go home and worry myself sick, or I could suck it up and get it over.

    I sucked it up.

    After all, I had a plan, right?

    The plan goes awry

    Endo-guy sprang into action. I didn’t have a chance to back out. He shoved a rubber dam in my mouth and went to work. Other than the shot he jammed through the roof of my mouth, nothing hurt. But the whole experience was so overwhelming, my ability to visualize anything vanished. I couldn’t remember my reminders. Counting breaths didn’t occur to me. All I could do was clench my toes so my focus would be on my feet instead of my mouth. He barked orders. “Open wider!” “Resist against me!” At one point I reached up to brush something from my cheek and he barked, “Don’t touch anything! There’s a lot of sharp instruments here!”

    It was all a blur. And then, it was over. Faster than I thought it would be.

    And endo-guy disappeared.

    The view ain’t so bad from here

    I was grateful it was behind me.

    I was grateful I’d had the nerve to get through it.

    If the alternative had been an infection that reached my bone, I could even say I was grateful to have the root canal.

    Gratitude shifted my outlook.

    I had a choice. I could be fearful of the bad or grateful for the good. Anxious of what scared me, or thankful for what gave me strength. Leery of the germs on my dentist’s hand, or comforted he was trying to put me at ease.

    By adopting an attitude of gratitude, I saw all that was right in my life.

    Above the dark clouds, the sun was always shining.


  2. How to Procrastinate Like a Pro and Still Get Stuff Done

    February 3, 2019 by Diane

    I’m an expert procrastinator.

    I should be awarded a PhD in procrastination, but I’m too busy procrastinating to graduate.

    Which means I’ve earned the degree by default.

    To make use of this unappreciated skill, I thought I’d share my expertise on how to procrastinate with purpose so you can follow along.

    Here are my top ten tips:

    1. If you’re going to procrastinate, don’t get an early start. Lie about in bed until 10:00 at the earliest, preferably noon.

    2. Check your Twitter timeline, not for the purpose of engaging with anyone or marketing your product or service, but just to see what Trump has been up to in the wee small hours. (The man is clearly not a procrastinator.)

    3. Rummage around in the refrigerator until you remember what you’re rummaging for, then cease this activity.

    4. Pause from rummaging to look at the sky for a good twenty minutes. Sometimes the answers we seek are written there.

    5. Make a list of things you need to get done.

    6. Find the least productive task on that list, and make a halfhearted attempt to do it. Something along the lines of: file nails.

    7. Go to the library and check out three more books to add to the stack of books you don’t have time to read because you’re too busy procrastinating.

    8. Rearrange your in-box. If you feel too productive doing so, just give it a light dusting.

    9. Consider tackling that rewrite and head to the lawn instead with a blanket and book. But don’t read the book. Just close your eyes and ponder how well you’ve procrastinated for a whole day.

    10. Do all of the above whenever you have a project to complete or a deadline to meet.

    Before you judge me as a slug who never gets anything done (except procrastinating) you should know: I’ve managed to write four-and-a-half novels, get a new job, start a freelance copywriting business, submit my short story to ten literary journals (okay, I’m still working on this one) and feed myself five times a day. How did I manage to accomplish so much with a full schedule of procrastinating?

    Here are my top five secrets:

    1. Decide on what you can commit to doing that will help you reach your goals.

    Even procrastinators have goals. Usually big ones.

    • Get a new job.
    • Start a successful freelance copywriting business.
    • Do both. While rewriting your novel.

    The bigger the goal, the greater the itch to procrastinate, so your list of what you can honestly commit to doing looks like this:

    • I can commit to procrastinating
    • I can commit to being lazy
    • I can commit to procrastinating on being lazy, which means I’m actually being active, but in a sneaky way

    Clearly, this list won’t generate much in the way of accomplishing your goals.

    If you’re a procrastinator, you need to stop thinking in terms of PROJECTS, and think in terms of steps. A project, like GET A NEW JOB, may seem so overwhelming you’ll head for the couch.

    Instead, ask yourself: what can I commit to doing that will help me reach my goals?

    If you’re like me, your inner voice might say:

    “There’s no way I can commit to getting a new job. But I can commit to looking on Craigslist for one hour on Monday. I can’t wrap my head around starting a new freelance business. But I can spend one hour on Saturday reading the first chapter of Start and Run a Copywriting Business. I don’t have time to rewrite a novel. But I can rewrite one page a day.”

    One step at a time, baby. That’s the key.

    2. If all that list-making eats into your procrastination time, schedule time to procrastinate.

    Seriously.

    Block out time on your calendar. Make it sacred. Nothing else must encroach upon that time. Not chores, not exercise, not rewriting that novel. This is YOUR time to KICK BACK and do NOTHING.

    It’s okay. Really.

    3. Find a balance between procrastinating and getting things done

    After all, if you want a paycheck, you need to work. If you want to eat, you need to shop for groceries. If you want to sleep, you need to smash those itty bitty insects that fly inside during the winter months and buzz your ears. You can delay those activities only so long before you end up starving in a cardboard box under the freeway overpass where flying insects are the least of your troubles.

    Think of getting things done as interval training. In interval training, you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity periods. You walk for three minutes then jog for one, then walk for three and jog for one, and so on. You can get things done in a similar manner: work on those baby steps in bursts, then stretch out in a hammock and ponder the universe.

    4. When tackling something big, allow buffer time for procrastinating.

    Got a project looming? Estimate the amount of time it will take to complete. If it’s a week, then schedule a week and two days. That way you can loaf around for 48 of those hours and not feel a twinge of guilt.

    Because let’s face it: guilt takes all the fun out of procrastinating.

    5. Put off procrastination for your future self.

    If you’re like me, you’ve put everything else off for your future self. Why not procrastination, too?

    (Don’t try to figure that one out. It’ll make your head explode.)

    Now it’s your turn. Are you a procrastinator who manages to get things done? What are your secrets? Come on, spill!