May 28, 2009


After I had Max and the hurricane hit and my whole life seemed to turn upside down, I started having this really intense ear pain. It actually felt like someone was sticking a toothpick in my ear, or worse, that something was in my ear, like a roach or an ear wig or something disgusting like that.


I went to the ear doctor and he didn’t see anything. He did, however, notice that I was clenching my jaw a lot and surmised that it was this activity that was causing the ear pain. I asked him what I could do about it and he said, “Stop clenching your jaw.”


And so I did.


I made an honest effort every single time my ear hurt to relax my jaw and unclench. I remember once leaning over into Max’s crib and almost going blind from a flash of pain in my ear. Sure enough, my jaws were locked.


After a couple of months of making this effort to relax, I quit having the ear pain and it has never come back.


But, I still notice when I am clenching my jaw and still make the effort to relax. I’ve had to do that a lot over the last couple of weeks and for no good reason. When I was doing it before, I had reason – new baby, deluged city, dying mother, and crumbling marriage – that is the stuff that deserves body-altering stress, you know?


My big stress now is the fear of losing the good things in my life – my job, my child, my husband, my stuff. And, really, isn’t fear of that just a complete waste of time and energy…and jaw strength?


I’m struggling with very simple and worldly nonsense. I feel like I am failing at my job, that I am a fraud and that everything I do is an exercise in futility and nonsense. This is where I usually launch into some speech about wanting to do something more meaningful, but that would take way too much energy and way too big of a pay cut.


Instead, I want to care less about the nonsense, about what people think of me, about my nonsensical need to be liked by people, even people I hate. It is none of my business what other people think of me. I know that my son loves me and thinks that I am the bees’ knees. My husband, hearing me complain about a colleague in California, offered to board a plan and go kick his ass. I declined the offer, but the gesture was oddly sweet.


There is a line from one of my favorite books, (The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello) that sums it up…”What makes you happy or unhappy is not the world or the people around you, but the thinking in your head.”


And so, just like I made the conscious decision to stop clenching my jaw, I need to make the conscious decision to change my thinking. Instead of crying because an old business colleague does not like me, instead, I will be grateful and filled with joy that I am loved by a whole host of wonderful people.


Instead of wrenching my hands in fear about losing my job or failing to impress my boss, I will go to sleep at night knowing I did my best and was honest. I will be myself and not worry whether that is what people want…it is what they get!


Today, my friends, my campaign to do to my head what I did to my jaw begins. Let the wild rumpus start.



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