The laughter of a dozen children splashing in the water was like background music to my mother soul. As I sat on the back deck that overlooked the lake, I could keep an eye on my kids and talk with the other parents—a perfect way to relax on a humid summer evening.
The shout of “Marco” and the responding “Polo” wafted over the water. And I smiled as my four year old daughter attempted to join the big kids in their game.
Suddenly, quiet descended over the group of children, and their water tag came to a halt.
My body tensed, and I did a quick head count, making sure I could see all five of my children. One of my 11 year old twins stood with a hand over her mouth. The other kids quickly surrounded her. When she pushed her way through them and waded to the shore, my heart stuttered with a silent uh-oh.
I jumped up and raced to her, cringing with each step. Did she have a busted lip? A cut? A bruise?
Her big brown eyes gazed at me with confusion and horror.
“What happened?” I asked, not sure I really wanted to know.
She took her hand away and that’s when I saw it.
Half of her top front tooth was missing.
I could only stare, speechless. Her permanent tooth. Cracked. Missing.
One thought reverberated through my head, “She’ll have to live the rest of her life, all 80 plus years, with a broken tooth. The rest of her life. The rest of her life.” My beautiful daughter, on the brink of her insecure teenage years, would have a glaring black gap in her pretty smile.
I was devastated. Later at home, after the kids were in bed, I sat with my husband in stunned silence and wanted to cry. Why her? And why a tooth? Why couldn’t it have been a split lip instead? At least that would have healed.
Gravely, my husband finally said, “At least the dentist will be able to fix it. And we can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”
And that’s when I realized how easy it is to lose perspective. Through a tight throat I said, “If I’m a basket-case with a broken tooth, I’d hate to see myself if something worse happened to one of the kids.”
We’re bound to have those broken-tooth moments in life and in writing—those times when it feels like the world is ending, but in reality we’ve just hit a bump in the road. Usually, after we’ve had the chance to put the situation in perspective, we realize that the problem isn’t so big, that maybe it’s fixable, and that it could have been so much worse . . . after all what’s a broken tooth compared to a drowning?
I’m a passionate person. I feel things deeply. It’s a great quality to have as a writer because I can transfuse those emotions into my stories. It’s only healthy and right for all of us to experience our emotions, not to ignore them or gloss over them. We can embrace our disappointments, fears, and frustrations.
But . . . I’m learning that it’s also healthy to keep things in perspective. When we face another rejection, harsh criticism, or difficult situation, we can allow ourselves to feel the pain. But then we should eventually tell ourselves, “I can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”
Perspective.When we keep things in perspective, we learn to be more grateful for what we’re given, instead of focusing on what we’re missing.
How about you? Have you had any broken-tooth moments, when at the situation looked horrible, but in hindsight it wasn’t so bad? And what are you most grateful for?
(For all my American readers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Due to the holiday, there will be no Friday post this week.)