I really hate going to the dentist. I hate it so much, in fact, that I’ve managed to successfully avoid making a trip to his office for the last four or five years.
I know that’s a statement of which I shouldn’t be proud. And I admit to being embarrassed by my dental hygiene negligence enough that I made an appointment with a new dentist, one I’d never seen before but the one who treats my husband. He goes all the time, my husband does, and I make sure to take my kids to all of their dental appointments as well, but I chose not to do the same for myself.
I could have gone to the dentist. I should have gone. I would have gone, but I didn’t. Until last week when I chipped my front tooth while doing an overhead split jerk at the gym and I knew the gig was up.
So today I went and the new dentist fixed my top right central incisor, sanding its enamel until the tiny missing chip was barely visible anymore. But before he started sanding my tooth the dentist wanted to know how I’d chipped it.
“While training,” I mumbled, my mouth filled with fingers.
“While training?” the dentist repeated loudly, as if hadn’t heard me correctly.
I anticipated the question pertaining to how I chipped my tooth before arriving at the dentist’s office, and I’d planned to keep my answer simple. I’ve learned that very few people care to hear the details of my training regime. I assume most people believe I’m totally ridiculous in the way I walk around most days in P. T. gear and goofy-looking shoes, my Ray-Ban’s pushed up and perched atop my forehead, the wires that hold the glass’s nose pads tangled in my sweat-soaked hair. People I know well are used to seeing me this way, people I’ve just met usually look me up and down incredulously, but both sets of people have eyes that kind of glaze over when I start talking about any sort of anaerobic endurance strength and conditioning program. To this dentist I’d offer a cursory answer, I’d decided, one that would be accurate but also concise. In short, I’d spare him the details.
But this doctor defied my expectations. He wanted to know more. So I continued to answer his questions, first briefly and then more specifically until I was talking about Olympic lifts and on-season versus off-season running and nutrition and power lifts. This dentist told me about another patient of his, an older man who is now a long-retired distance runner, and he mused aloud that in his next life he’d like to come back as a psychologist who specializes in treating athletes who pursue such extreme endeavors.
“See, I think people like you have some sort of issue you may not even be aware of that makes you want to do this,” he spoke softly, touching my shoulder as he did. He intended no offense and I took none. Instead I just smiled and shook my head in agreement as I offered my reply.
“Oh, I have issues,” I assured him, nearly laughing. But I left out the other part, the serious and lengthy explanation, about how I’m able to transcend those issues by enduring the duress induced by pushing myself to my physical and psychological limits.
Later this morning, after I left the dentist’s office and while I sat waiting in my car in the parking lot outside Kit and Jack’s school, I paged through my facebook news feed on my iPhone. That’s where I came across this quotation by Gail Kislevitz, runner and cancer survivor, and when I read it I breathed aloud, “Yes. Definitely yes:”
I had to do something to shake up my life and get back some sense of control and trust in the world and along the way fill the hollow space. I needed to rebel against those negative forces, to scream so loud and for so long that the anger living inside me would evacuate forever. But instead of screaming, I ran.
I’ve written before about why I began running in the first place, and I ‘ve written about how training enables me to forgive myself, but I don’t speak much about how training also empowers me, how it often alleviates the anger I carry around inside, offering me clarity and perspective. But it’s true, it does all those thing. I know that my accomplishments, they’re fueled by my search of the truth, by my pursuit of transcendence.
Before I close here I also want to say that I am closer to both truth and transcendence than I was a year ago, than I was the year before that. I don’t believe either are things I’ll eventually reach with any sort of finality, but I intend to run them both down for the rest of my life. And I’m going to see how close I can get.