Tuesday, July 30, 2019

No Thanks to Nitrous

Recently I needed a filling at the dentist for a wee little cavity. The dental assistant offered nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas. I politely declined. The dental assistant assured me that I'd be able to drive myself home, but still I said, "no thanks." She looked puzzled.

I answered that I had a weird reaction to nitrous oxide as an eight year old child. The dental assistant asked if the experience made me scared of dentists. No, just wary of having nitrous oxide ever again. I kept my explanation brief and polite. I got my filling without incident and without pain.

Here's the full, dramatic tale of how my bad nitrous trip went down at the tender age of eight. Up to that point, my trips to the dentist had been fine and dandy. No cavities, and rewarded with a sugar-free lollipop for my troubles. BUT, at age eight, I had my first cavity. To hear my mother tell it, this cavity was a doozy of dental decay, almost a root canal. Mom shrieked at me most shrilly about my terrible failure to properly care for my teeth. She warned me this filling would be painful and awful. I cried and apologized to my mom. I was such a little people-pleaser, and hated to disappoint people. I worked myself up into an anxious, fearful state on the way to the dentist. My mom and I were both red-faced hot messes upon arrival.

At the dentist, I remember them putting the little mask on my face to give me the laughing gas, then my memory gets really fuzzy, with just scary glimpses. The first glimpse featured the dentist and dental hygienist both imploring me to keep my mouth open. The edges of my field of vision were fuzzy like television static. The next glimpse had the hygienist trying to keep my mouth pried open with her fingers as the dentist hissed at her angrily. The next glimpse showed my mom trying to drag my limp weight to the car. The next glimpse I awoke in the back of our car alone and cold in our closed garage, too exhausted and loopy to get myself out of the car and into the house. I'm told that my dad had to lift me out of the car and carry me up to my room after he got home from work. I slept through the night with no dinner and no bath. I slept through my alarm the next morning and through my parents' attempts to get me up for school. The next afternoon, I finally stumbled myself to the bathroom and vomited bile. That's all I remember.

I did not get another cavity for twenty two years.

I'm not scared of my current dentist. The older male dentist tells silly dad jokes. The younger female dentist and I talk about books and fashion. The hygienists and assistants there are all really nice. They offer hot neck wraps. A massage therapist makes the rounds giving hand massages to patients while we get our teeth checked and cleaned.  The lobby is decorated in a bold late 1990s style featuring lots of purple and clashing jewel-tones. Easy-listening music plays out of the speakers. No drama there.

Still, I always refuse the nitrous oxide.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Why I Left Twitter

I deleted my Facebook account years ago. I loved Facebook in the early days, but it changed. I noticed more people on Facebook that I felt obligated to "friend" such as far-flung family members, once upon a time coworkers, former classmates from my giant high school that I never really knew. Most of these people weren't truly my friends, but they were free to interact with each other via my page. *shudder* What's worse is that I caught myself viewing the pages/posts of actual friends, and thinking "that's not how it happened", or "that photo makes it look much better than it was".  I was looking at highly curated, well edited, filtered lies. I was judging my actual friends harshly. So, I left.

But I still loved Twitter, and told people to find me there.

At first, I loved the "shout into the void" aspect of Twitter. I could quip, quote, share a silly secret with little repercussion or interaction. And I honestly liked that. Occasionally a friend would ask about a Twitter post when we met in real life, and it was welcome conversation. Mixed in with the cute quips was a lot of really ugly stuff, but I could avoid that stuff pretty easily in the early days of Twitter.

I started having really mixed feelings about Twitter a few years ago. I would check Twitter to see what kind of cleverness my writer and actor friends might offer, but also saw more ugliness. My pulse would quicken in a bad way, like I was getting angry about things I had zero control over. Twitter turned into a way to hurl abuse, insults, lies, hurtful "jokes" and essentially start a campaign of ugliness against someone, a cause, a group of people or a belief system. Of course there were still the much retweeted uplifting, sweet or politely funny posts, BUT, those nicely clever tweets don't set the virtual world on fire the way the hateful tweets do.

I deleted Twitter from my phone entirely and turned off notifications on my laptop, but still kept my account active. I still looked at Twitter a few times a day. I was mildly addicted to the gamble of possibly seeing fun, clever, happy tweets from friends. I was mildly addicted to getting engagement on my own tweets in the form of likes, retweets and responses.

I tried to stick it out on Twitter by blocking certain accounts, muting words, muting hashtags. Frankly, it didn't work. For example: I didn't like the show Game of Thrones. As fervor built during the final season of Game of Thrones, I muted #GoT, #GameofThrones, #gameofthrones, #got, Game of Thrones, GoT, Mother of Dragons and all sorts of other Game of Thrones buzzwords and permutations thereof. My Twitter feed then started getting lots of Twitter sponsored posts for all things Game of Thrones. Twitter, just duh, the exact opposite of what I want. So imagine what happened with all of the truly triggering hashtags, phrases, words and accounts that I tried to block and mute. My Twitter feed turned into a bunch of mess that I didn't want to see.

Two months ago, I hit my breaking point with Twitter. I noticed that I was only getting angry and feeling discouraged each time I looked at Twitter. The gamble was raising my blood pressure, but it wasn't paying off with nearly enough feel good moments any longer. So I deleted my Twitter account.

Here's the really awesome thing: I don't miss Twitter. I feel better without that noise. I have more free time, which I use to read books, look at news sources I trust, and text directly with people I actually know and like.

I'm not telling you to delete your social media accounts. You do what works for you. Be mindful of how social media makes you feel.

I still love Instagram... for the time being. I love making "Squirrel Time" videos almost daily for my Instagram stories. I like that quick creative exercise. When I see friends in real life, they tell me that they love the squirrel videos. That makes me happy. I still love posting photos of my silly dog, my terribly lovable cats, travel moments, stuff I bake or just odd little scenes that I observe to Instagram. There may come a time when I don't love Instagram anymore though.