Monday, April 22, 2013

School Zone – Slow Down

I live within a 10-minute walk of a university campus and treat its grounds the way others treat their backyards or a spa. Less crowded (particularly when most of the students clear out for summer recess) than the city parks, it’s become one of my nice-weather, daytime decompression spots. Passersby assume I go there (enrollment-wise) and the reading I’m engrossed in is my schoolwork. Parents on the guided tours glance over and smile approvingly. “That could be our little Natalie in a couple of years,” they’re thinking. I lead some of my overnight guests through the quads and we might take our morning coffee and the Sunday Times to a table outside of what could very well be the fine arts building.  

I was on campus the other day, tanning, texting, and reading the Times on my phone, behind a professorial-looking man and his young daughter. There were several open tables on that empty patio, thus it beats me why they chose the one closest to the ledge I sprawled out on. Maybe it’s because I looked so scholar-chic with the unassuming canvas bag, sensible shoes, and unopened library book at my side. I was role-model material for this guy’s growing girl, which put an added pressure on me to do everything I could to shield her from seeing me pop ibuprofen tablets like they were Skittles.

If I’m even considering the idea of swallowing an over-the-counter pill, it means I’m melting. I’ve reached last-resort row, where it’s swallow or be swallowed. When I’d been writhing in toothache pain the night before, I thought about the first time (and one of the only times) a similar 5-alarm fire broke out across my jaw. It was years ago, when I lived in Boston, a metro area that had been on my mind all day. After monitoring my mouth and asking all the right questions to size me up as a compulsive gum-chomping, teeth-clenching Type A personality, the late-night Emergency Room examiner advised me to cut back on stress and periodically toss back ibuprofen tablets like they’re Skittles until the symptoms sail away. No problem. 


  1. I don't think the Emergency Room examiner gave very good advice. Granted, I'm not a medical person, but it does seem to me that the better advice is, "Go to a good dentist." Best of luck with all this.

    1. I don't think dentists can do very much for infrequent TMJ attacks once they've already begun.

  2. As a fellow TMJ sufferer (only very rarely, I'm glad to say) I love the advice to 'cut back on stress'. That's so easy. Like just lie back... Duh! Sadly, I agree that popping painkillers is the only answer. I hope it is as short-lived as mine usually are.

  3. Speaking of dentists, I have to go to one soon - one of my molars is missing its filling and as you can imagine, it's a tad painful.

    Anyway, I like picturing you sitting in the warmth of the sun or under the shade of a tree. Those images of summer are all I have left in the cold blistering wind of JHB.