After about a year of awakening every morning with a throbbing headache and my jaw clenched tight like a coiled spring, I finally made an appointment with my dentist to be fitted for an occlusal guard. This is a fancy way of saying I now wear a custom-molded piece of plastic in my mouth at night to prevent jaw clenching while I sleep.
I dreaded the fitting appointment for weeks prior. I have a teeny throw-up phobia and nightmarish memories of the gag-inducing Styrofoam fluoride treatment from my childhood, so the thought of a metal tray oozing with gunk had me Lamazing and visualizing the ocean before I’d even plunked into the dentist chair.
Miraculously, I survived the fitting procedure with nary a gag, and when I returned to the office two weeks later to pick up my custom-made guard, I discovered it wasn’t the linebacker-style apparatus I’d envisioned, but instead, a slim, dainty piece of plastic that slid almost unnoticeably over my bottom teeth.
“So, this is it?” I lisped to my dentist, running my tongue over the smooth mold. “This little piece of plastic is going to solve the whole jaw clenching headache problem?”
Apparently so. As my dentist explained, the plastic creates just enough space to keep my teeth slightly apart, thus relieving tension between my upper and lower jaw muscles.
“It’s a small amount of space,” she admitted, pinching her thumb and index finger together, “but it’s enough to make a difference.”
She was right. The morning after my first night with the occlusal guard, I lay in bed and wiggled my jaw from left to right and right to left. The movement felt fluid and supple. The stiffness was gone, the ache alleviated, the springs gently uncoiled. And my head didn’t hurt.
Last Sunday I thought about that conversation with my dentist, as I settled into my favorite spot in the sunroom with my bible, a slice of homemade orange spice bread and a cup of coffee on the table next to me.
My Sabbath Sundays aren’t always perfect. We still have basketball games and birthday parties to attend. Sometimes we argue. Occasionally I cheat on my technology fast and peek at my email. But for one hour, sometimes a little more, every Sunday morning, I rest. I carve out a bit of time, a small space in which I let myself unwind and uncoil.
When we get home from church at 10 a.m., I leave the breakfast dishes in the sink and the cereal boxes on the table and the crumbs scattered across the kitchen counters. I ignore the unmade beds and the dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. And while the kids fire up Super Mario Bros. on the Wii, I pull the fleece blanket from the basket, plump a pillow and settle into my spot facing the backyard birdfeeder. I sip my coffee and nibble the bread (which, let’s face it, is dessert masquerading as bread). I read a bit from the bible. Sometimes I scribble in my journal. But mostly, I gaze out the sunroom windows and watch the birds, grateful for the space to rest amid six harried days.
It’s a small space, that hour on Sunday mornings — just a sliver of time. You’d think it wouldn’t be enough. But it is. It’s enough space to unclench, uncoil and breathe; to rest. As my dentist would say, it’s just enough space to make a difference.
How are you finding your small space these days?