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16 November 2002

I have clean teeth and a clear conscience. What better way to end the day?

Cindy and I went out for our bike ride at 5 a.m., as usual (we cut 2 minutes off our time, doing the 8 miles in 39 minutes instead of 41, with an average speed of 12 mph instead of 11.)  During the ride, she told me that things in her office were relaxed today and it would be a good day to come in for my teeth cleaning (my regular appointment is for next Friday).

Gleep. I wasn't ready.

This hadn't been a good 4 months, dental hygiene-wise, and I was planning to spend the next week flossing like mad and getting those gums tightened up. But I had to admit that today would be a more convenient day for me too, so I decided to grit my teeth...or open them...and take my lumps.

The philosophy of Cindy's practice is to be encouraging, not judgemental. I left dental care for 20 years because a dentist yelled at me. None of that at Cindy's. The hygienist was noncomittal--but scraped for a long time. The message was very clear without her having to say a word.  Cindy commented that all the problem was between the teeth--I had already admitted that I'd been lax in the flossing department--and that was it. I left with gleaming, clean, de-plaqued teeth, and a resolve to do better before my next appointment.

Then I came home to get my e-mail.

The negative events of yesterday were threatening to explode into a very big deal. I received some not very nice e-mail and I wasn't sure whether to respond or not.

Then I got the e-mail I was the most nervous about, from the person who would have been most affected by the things that were discovered in my journal.

To my very pleasant surprise, the tone was not angry, but hurt and confused, talking about the history we had between us and hurt that I would say such hurtful things.

In point of fact, I had reviewed everything that was at issue this morning and with the exception of one ill-advised bit, everything was, at its heart, positive, if those who took offense could step back and rationally review it to see why I wrote it.

But anyway, the person with whom I have the history read my explanation for what I'd said and my take on it, which was quite different from the way it was taken. It was decided that we could settle things, and get things out into the air better if we spoke in person rather than trying to do it via e-mail.

Now, I am a person who hates confrontation. The thing I hate more than anything else is the thought of making someone angry, or of deliberately hurting someone. There have been times in my life where major life decisions were made solely because to do otherwise would have hurt someone's feelings.

My entire brief college career came about because I was unable to speak my mind. My father, who had reluctantly agreed to permit me to enter the convent, decided to take charge of my life after I decided not to enter the convent after all. "OK, I did it your way, now you'll do it mine," he said.

If I had had the personality of my sister, I would have been a participant in the decision-making process, but I was, and always have been, basically a wimp. I "suffer in silence," as has been pointed out to me more than once.

My father declared that I would go to UC Berkeley (it was easier to get in in those days), and I would become a teacher, a career which he assured me was a good way to earn a lot of money for not a lot of work--only work a few hours a day and have three months off in the summer, he said. (Even I laugh at that naive view of teaching now!)

So I went to Cal and I began studying to be something that I knew I hated and at which I would be terrible, solely because I couldn't face the confrontation. As a result, I had no incentive to study, didn't, and in a year flunked out gloriously, giving me the opportunity to do what I loved doing--and was very good at--office work. I chose passive non-resistance (it was the 60s, after all!)

And so, I made my telephone call today somewhat apprehensive. It was very unusual of me to confront something like this head-on. But in the end, it was the best thing that I could have done. We were able to share feelings, to clear the air, even to bring up past misunderstandings, and to close the conversation as friends, and friends with a better understanding of how things truly were between us.

I don't know if this will clear the air with the others, but I don't care. It cleared the air where it mattered most, and I'm very happy about that.

So as the day ends, I sit here with my gleaming teeth and my clear conscience and I'm feeling pretty good. A heck of a lot better than I was feeling last night about this time.

Quote of the Day

The only people who never make mistakes are the people who never do anything.

~Teddy Roosevelt

Photo of the Day

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One Year Ago
The Master at Work
As he got more and more into his story, more and more people began to look up, their food turning cold on their plate.

Two Years Ago
Do You Still Love Me?
I approach friendships tentatively and am always hyper-alert to hints that abandonment, whether temporary or permanent, maybe imminent. I want to be in charge of the situation so I’m not hurt. Sometimes I may create situations to test the validity of a friendship. This puts me in control. If the friend “fails” the test, it doesn’t hurt as much because I “knew” that the friend wouldn’t really be there for me and the failure of the test just proved what I’d already known.

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