Sunday, 14 April 2013

TMJ, Braces, and Dreams Come True

My jaw first locked up when I was 21 on the eve of the first major program I had ever run.  I was advised to see a dentist but was also advised that registered massage therapy and time could heal the pain.  I opted for the latter since I didn't have coverage then and didn't want to go broke fixing a problem that time could potentially heal.  Unfortunately, time loosened my jaw but it never stopped the pain.

Three years later, I awakened one morning to find myself with limited range of motion for my head; any move I made put my neck into spasm.  It was constant whiplash.  I was diagnosed with torticolis and was told that it was my posture while sleeping, and stress.  I was told to get registered massage therapy and to destress.  The clicking worsened and I noticed a physical change in the position of my lower jaw.  It had shifted to the right.

Later that year, the migraines started.  I couldn't find the trigger.  Accordingly, I could not determine a treatment.  I stumbled upon the diagnosis really by accident.  My mom suggested that I go see a Filipino dentist whose office was downtown.  I visited to discuss dental and orthodontic work, but what I stepped out with was a set of x-rays, explanations for failed motor skill tests and a diagnosis for TMJ.  It turned out that I had a rare overbite and tooth rotation combination that was creating and worsening my TMJ.  In layman's, my tooth alignment progressively caused my jaw joint displacement.  Registered massage therapy and time were never going to heal this problem.

Treatment entailed wearing a daytime and a nighttime mouthguard.  They were designed to prevent the pinching of the nerves that run through my jaw joints.  The idea was that wearing them would reopen the space that should exist between the upper and lower mandible, and that slowly being weaned off them would create a stable jaw that didn't require a prosthetic to prevent the pinched nerve.  Once that happened, I could get orthodontics not for aesthetic purposes, but to help to realign my bite so as to prevent this going forward.

Anyway, years of pain, discomfort, planning and execution have brought me here: 30 years old with braces! To boot, I have these things called biteturbos affixed to the back of my top front teeth which is preventing my upper jaw from touching my lower...  Until my jaw begins to realign, I will not be able to chew anything.  My orthodontist said that the average length of time required to wear the braces is 2 years.  Here. We. Go.

My nightguard was molded around my teeth.  When I wore it, I would dream that they were braces, and that my teeth were realigning, so that every morning, I awakened disappointed by the reality that they were instead being carefully held in place. Yes, braces hurt and being unable to chew anything puts a damper on my dining habits, but now when I dream my teeth are realigning, it's because they are.  2 years?  5 years?  More?  It doesn't matter.  I'll take it over unending migraines, and compromised motor skills any day.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Randoms Cuss at My Gus

I recently purchased a Smart Car.  I named him Gus. Something about it made me want to call it Gus.  (There are pictures of Gus in my Instagram gallery.)

The view from Gus' passenger seat.

We are all creatures of habit, I think, to some extent.  (I don't know, off-hand, how true this is.  I am not a neuroscientist, and where normally, I would take a moment to look up some documentation to support such a statement, on this, I will just go by anecdotal evidence.)  As much as I do spontaneously, there are just some strange things that I am very consistent about.  One such thing is where I go to tank up.  There is an independent, full service shop near my place that has very low rates.  Unless I'm in another city, or there are unmitigated circumstances, this is where I go to tank up.

The other day, I had my window rolled down while I was tanking up, and I overheard a gentleman say "Fucking Smart Car" under his breath, as he walked past.  He didn't look at me, or the car.  He wasn't looking to instigate anything.  He just ... said it as he passed, and I just happened to hear it because I had my window rolled down.

What's interesting is that since this little incident, I've noticed that this actually occurs often.  If I'm sitting parked in my car, and people walk by, I can see at least one person mouth the words "Fucking Smart Car."

I shouldn't be surprised.  This purchase has polarized my friends, and been a source of amusement for my co-workers.  I just wanted an inexpensive vehicle that was good on gas in a traffic-heavy city where I prefer to drive, and am often alone when I do so.  I didn't think anyone (or everyone) would care so much about this purchase.

In a city plagued by traffic and unreliable transit, I find it remarkable how much hate there is for the Smart Car.

Monday, 4 February 2013

On Getting Trapped In A Stairwell

The other day, I was trapped in a stairwell.  It is the one that leads to street-level from the off-campus, privately-owned lot that I would occasionally use.  Whoever was managing the grounds that day just failed to unlock the street-level exit, and I was trapped until another patron tried to exit. (This was, of course, because of all possible days to have left my cell phone in my car, this was it.)  I was trapped for almost an hour before that happened.

I still remember the moment when I pushed on the door to exit to street-level, and it wouldn't open. It wasn't quite panic that I felt, but it did hit me pretty instantly that without my phone, I had no choice but to be patient.  I couldn't waste energy on pounding on the doors with opaque windows, or on calling out to every car that passed.  For one thing, any passerby should/would be wary of helping a person on the other side of an opaque door. For another, if the passersby were in vehicles, it was likely that they wouldn't hear me as they drove by.  This is why I imagine none of the people, or passing vehicles helped me when I tried to call out to them for help.

After the first half hour of being trapped, I thought idly about how long it would take before anyone would notice something were the matter.  Would anyone in my office notice?  Would they know who to contact?  How to contact them?  The answer is my sister.  But would she even know how to locate me?  Would she remember that she has access to my Google Latitude location?  And if not, would she know that she has all of my passwords so that she could look up my latest Google Latitude location?  I set this up so that if I were ever in trouble on one of my miserably long solo road trips and I didn't get to notify anyone, at least the handful of people who have access to my Latitude would be able to locate me.  In my case, it really was just a matter of time until someone else parked and tried to exit.

Not all of us are so lucky.  Some of us get permanently trapped behind metaphorical opaque windows, not knowing how to woo the next passerby for help, should there even be one to pass by.  Some have similarly as encrypted methods for being found so that even when it is determined that you're in need of help, and that somebody wants to, no one knows how to get to you.  Some of us will die in our stairwells.  Sometimes, help never comes.

Until I don't, I feel like I let him down.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dream Parts

When I was in my O.A.C year, I was cast in one of the lead roles in the high school production of Grease. I felt like my singing, and public speaking had come a long way over the years, and I felt so humbled, and honoured to be cast in the role that would best fit my personality and skills after so many years of going through the grind in other roles to just get experience.  It was a bit of a dream come true for me at the time.

I spent the weeks leading up to opening night feeling like it wasn`t really happening. I felt as though, at any second, I would be yanked from the show, and my part recast. It didn`t feel real until the show actually went on.  And when it all ended, it especially felt unreal when I got a standing ovation at curtain call on closing night. I can still hear the cheers.

That was when I was eighteen.  I haven`t felt that way since.  I went back into the grind, without knowing what I was grinding for.  There have been `roles` that I`ve played, and `reviews` would tell me that I did quite well, and though I may have earned a `standing ovation` or few, it was not the same.  They weren`t `dream roles`. ...not until now.

It`s almost `showtime`, and I plan to earn that standing ovation all over again.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Solo Travel: La Habana

I went on a last-minute solo vacation to Havana over the holidays.  I have been asked why.  I will answer in parts.

As regards the location, I was looking for something (1) affordable that (2) had a rich and interesting history, and that was (3) safe.  Havana was an obvious answer.  Cuba is an affordable destination with flight + hotel + meal packages as low as $100/day year-round, and the local dining and entertainment costs at pennies compared to any Canadian/America/European city.  Cuba is known for its low crime rates.  (For the time being, I will pass on sharing my thoughts on why this is .)  Finally, Havana is a city with a rich history, and its current state reflects it.  Although I spent the peak of each day on the beach, I didn't stay on the resort.  That would have been a bore to someone like me.  [Aside: The weekend prior to departing, I caught a documentary entitled Last Chance to See Castro's Cuba.  This gave me a current snapshot of Havana, and what exactly to expect when I walked through the streets.]

As regards the reason why I went solo...  Ask any solo traveller why they do it, and the answer will always be because of the freedom.  Solo travellers naturally gravitate towards each other.  At least, this is my experience.  When I meet a new one, I like to ask him/her why he/she does it, and I always get the same answer.  No one to please.  No one to plan for.  You do everything at your own pace.  You are neither dragging, nor being dragged along to places.

Finally, as for why I went last-minute, well, let's just say that there were a number of things that I had to celebrate this year, and I decided that it was important that I oblige.  Also, I find it generally exhilarating to test my planning skills as a reminder to myself of what I am capable of pulling together on the fly.  Between work, school, and family, so much of our lives are planned.  I try to squeeze as much spontaneity out of my personal life as possible.  I don't advise having no preparation, because that's foolish.  However, with proper preparation, I can walk into any city, and, day-by-day, meet people, and do local research to discover and determine the most interesting path to take.  It never fails.

Alright, back to my trip.  There is a lot to discuss, so I will be breaking it down into smaller topics in the weeks to come:

Coin-Sorters, Their Opposites, and New Year's Resolutions

The story of a homeless man who was given $100,000 by a film director was recently related to me.  The fellow was offered free counsel from a financial advisor, but he turned it down.  In a nutshell, he blew the money and is back on the streets.

Not everyone is a coin-sorter.  Some people are the opposite.  I'm tempted to call them poisonous, but maybe that's just because that's what they are to coin-sorters like me: they jam me up, and leave me unable to function optimally.  In isolation, they exist without opposition.  Imagine swamplands, with weeds, and wildlife: organic, natural "disarray".  Who am I to say what is best?  But what I can say with utmost certainty is that they are dangerous for me.

I've been "sorting coins" lately.  I fear the repercussions of what will happen when I get jammed up with the return of my "swampy" personal associates.

It's the start of 2013.  One of my New Year's Resolutions is to tackle this issue.  I can't turn everyone into coin-sorters, no, but can I find a way for us to happily coexist?  Oh, more than that - can I find a way for our lives to intermingle?  Can we mediate a solution whereby I can feel productive and enjoy a sense of accomplishment and growth, and they do not have to change?  This is the question.

Advice welcome.  Please submit.
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