Toothache

My teeth hurt last night. Not from cavities or an injury, but from grinding my teeth. Today, I have been extra careful to keep my teeth from touching as the right side of my mouth still echoes yesterday’s pains.

I grind my teeth when I’m stressed or frustrated. Lately, my stress level has been worse due largely in part to work (I’ve come to really dislike my 9-to-5 job) and because I’ve stupidly compared myself, my body and my beauty to other women. (By other women I mean Scarlett Johannson, Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker.)

It seems to me that when stress begins to manifest itself in physical ways attention needs to be paid and changes need to be made. Whenever I find myself becoming mired in an unhealthy pattern, I imagine myself standing still and taking two or three steps backward from my body. In essence, I’m visualizing myself becoming more objective. It’s very difficult– at least for me– to not be subjective or not to take things personally when I’m frustrated. It’s like telling a lit fuse not to burn.

This morning as the alarm sounded I laid in bed for a few minutes thinking about the past four days. I cringed; I thought back to my bedtime tears on Monday night and how I let my emotions get the best of me. It’s astonishing how indulging in our frustrations allows them to fester much like a scrape that we regret to swipe with rubbing alcohol. Sometimes, our own natural systems will combat the bad juju. At other times, the infection inflames the surrounding would-be normal flesh. It’s amazing how our thought patterns possess such power. Sometimes our own natural optimism catches us from falling deep into a pit of negativity; sometimes, we fall anyway.

I’ve grown to really dislike my job. So much so that walking into the office most mornings feels like the moment before you’re carted off to jail.

In the beginning, I liked my job. I felt challenged, stimulated and like I was making a difference, at the very least for the company that employed me. Now, I feel as though I’ve got work to do but nothing to learn. There’s no passion behind my actions. I’ve distracted myself with an additional internship, freelance clients and volunteer work, all of which bring me greater joy than my 9-to-5 position.

My second issue, which is my body, has arisen because it’s summertime. I’m not quite as bikini ready as I’d like to be and instead of committing to hitting the gym more or running a few extra minutes during my half-marathon training runs, this past Monday evening I indulged in hideous self-flagellation and despair. My boyfriend made an excellent point– although I hated him at the time for it– that I have way too much going for me to engage in such terrible behavior.

God love him.

Women, including me, have been force fed by the media that if we don’t belong on Maxim’s Hot 100 list (or some equivalent) then we don’t deserve appreciation, love or respect. We’ve created an illusion that these things are contingent upon some achievement outside of just being ourselves.

Many women also focus on the past or the future. As I’ve said before, when I was in college I was in great shape. During my mental self-abuse this past Monday, I noticed I kept saying to myself, “You were so beautiful,” and “You used to be so in shape.” Focusing on the past has no affect on the present except exhausting your mental and emotional faculties on something that’s over and done with. Some women focus on the future, “I won’t buy that dress until I’ve lost 20 pounds,” or, “I’ll be so much happier when I land that promotion.” If you can’t be happy now you probably won’t be happy when those 20 pounds are gone and your job title has changed.

One of my favorite quotes comes courtesy of an interview with Salma Hayek. Hayek, when complaining at one point about her body type was met by a fabulous quote from her mother, “You think you know better than God?”

As far as my life is concerned, I have to find a way to stop being so hard on myself because I’m not this or I don’t look like that. I have to find a way to find joy in my work until I can find another position. I have to do these things or I fear I’ll lose my mind and my way.

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