November 24th, 2014

intense aztec drummer DNC 2008

-4 Wisdom, +2 Intelligence

Despite a long-time hope that my jaw would remain whole, I accepted prudent dental advice and had all four wisdom teeth extracted last Friday. They were all pointing in unhelpful directions, endangering the future of my more useful chompers.

In preparation for this adventure, last weekend I spent $170 at Pacific Ocean Market, mostly on foods that sounded enticingly soft. Six flavors of refrigerated udon and ramen, frozen shrimp balls, miso, dried black fungus, and seaweed for soups, avocados, papaya, plantains, burro bananas, Thai bananas, and red bananas, and frozen jackfruit for smoothies. Small cups of coconut mango jelly for quick snacks and a pile of coconut yogurt and frozen berries from the health food store for times when umami might seem overwhelming.

My most important preparation for healing was planning to take it easy. I tend to deal with injury and illness by doubling down on will and focus. When I'm fighting a cold I often end up staying late at work, my brain determined to get through my inbox or finish all the design and code reviews on my plate. The voice saying "You'll feel better if you go home early" usually loses to the voice that says "If you focus on a single task, you can get it done." Plus, when I feel sick it's a lot easier to stay in a chair and stare at a screen than to get up and leave the building.

I'd been fighting some sort of minor body attack for a couple weeks, somehow managing to survive New York City, a week of cold and snow, and an annual exposure to milk products at Pie Nite with little more than an occasionally queasy stomach and a morning sore throat. I could tell that fighting a cold wouldn't help my face heal, so I focused my Thursday late stay at work on making sure I'd be set up to work from home for several days between painkiller-induced naps and soft meals.

Most importantly, I made sure I didn't have any goals to accomplish anything this weekend. It was dedicated to lying in a hammock, eating soup, and reading National Geographic magazines (with a focus on my current geographic and historic interest in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions), enjoying the intellectual fruits of my summer physical labor schlepping glossy printed material from house to house.

The first few hours after the surgery were pretty surreal. I was prepared for the grogginess of post-general anesthesia but hadn't considered the challenges of a nerve-deprived bottom lip. I could manage tiny spoonfuls of coconut mango jelly and managed to get most of a coconut yogurt in my mouth, though an embarrassing amount ended up on my beard. Hot food was off limits for day one; I was glad that my shopping foresight remembered a tub of fresh-ground peanut butter, a spoonable protein that can reach the roof of the mouth even with minimally cooperative lips and tongue.

Friday was, I believe, my first experience with narcotics. (I think my only prior adventure with prescription painkillers was IV morphine when I broke my arm in middle school.) I really don't see the attraction: reduced coordination followed by a sudden nap onset. It's like the downside of being drunk without the fun of a tasty beverage and boisterous carousing to kick it off. Fortunately, when I woke up on Saturday I was mostly pain-free with a dull sense of soreness in my jaws that I was happy to let relax while I read RSS feeds in bed.

Kelly observed that she doesn't really have to take care of my family so much as remind us to follow doctors' orders. In this case it was "Oh yeah, even if I don't need medication for pain, ibuprofen will reduce inflammation and help healing." I also took this weekend to absorb her energy of home relaxation and media consumption, letting the things sit still and the future details fuzzy.