I eat only mushy foods. I sense a small pinch in my gums every time I swallow. My smile is lopsided. I feel undesirable.

In the course of 3 days, I have been swept off my usually cheery disposition and dropped into a ditch of despair. All because of a minor toothache and swelling in the left side of my mouth. And also a cavity. How does a small malfunction in my body undermine my confidence in such a significant way?

I usually avoid vocalizing discontent with my physical appearance, but every day I have experienced this inconvenient swelling, I’ve mentioned it within the first 2 minutes of almost every conversation I’ve had. Just so they won’t be staring at my face (although most people didn’t notice until I said something). I see myself shrinking away from ambition as anxiety about my body and insurance fees consumes me. Everything within me cries out against my affliction:

I’ve always been healthy! Why must my schedule now be dictated by the pills I take?

I wish to return to my extroverted, energetic, adventurous self. I wish this irritation would disappear. I wish to eat a burger.

Yet with every exasperated sigh and angry tear, I realize more and more the depth of my superficiality and brokenness. My idea of perfection is unattainable by human standards. I have imposed my desire for flawlessness onto myself and others. Now I don’t have an excuse to appear perfect.

Living with a swollen cheek has knocked me off my pedestal. It’s reminding me of the immense suffering that countless others endure on daily basis. If such a small area of my body affects my emotional and physical well-being in such a noticeable way…

what is it like to be a parent battling cancer? a child playing soccer on crutches in a refugee camp? a young woman forced to sell sex to provide for her family? a single, teenage mother trying to feed her kids on her own?

Maybe this physical affliction is my form of awakening: a little nuisance to remind me that my life (and my time and capability) is a fragile gift and that BEAUTY sometimes looks lopsided.


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