I am a recovered food addict and binge-eater. Through a lot of laughing, weeping, therapy, and spiritual seeking, I was finally relieved of my addiction and 30 pounds.
But a girl’s brain can be cunning. Once one issue has been lifted, more “crazy” takes its place. The adrenaline of new weight loss started to wear off. And instead of feeling blessed about my binge-free, skinny-jeans-wearing life, I worried that I still wasn’t pretty.
So I began to turn my crazy on other things. And I’m embarrassed to say the thing that I fixated was on my teeth—or tooth, to be more exact
I have one crooked tooth that my mom lovingly refers to as a snaggletooth. It’s just slightly turned, barely noticeable. And, after I did all that hard inner work to feel better and look better, me and my snaggletooth, we walked around for a while feeling quite self-satisfied. Then, I turned on myself, thinking:
You may have lost weight, but look at your snaggletooth.
For weeks, I looked into things like Invisalign with a hefty pricetag of $3,000. I almost threw down the money to equip my mouth with plastic hardware for a year, over one wayward tooth. I even began to smile differently after all the obsessing. Letting that small crooked thing dominate my thoughts.
And then something divinely humbling happened. While I was home for my nephew and niece’s baptism, I was able to escort my Grandma from the Alzheimer’s wing to the hospital chapel for the service. I hadn’t seen Grandma in a while, and it’s heartbreaking to see her there, confused and scared because of her illness.
But when I walked into the room, she was smiling. Even through her trembling and fear, she smiled big. And then I saw it: the snaggletooth. My grandma has the same snaggletooth that I have, slightly twisted, a bit crooked. I felt like crying because Grandma Carroll is so beautiful and full of dignity. Her soul is so light that it’s almost floated completely away, but she is hanging on for things like baptisms of her great grandchildren. She was there for the event, bravely smiling in a world that doesn't make sense anymore.
In that moment, I felt so selfish for all the hours and days I spent thinking about that ridiculous tooth. That tooth actually means that I am made of the same strong stuff as my grandma. That was a big slap-in-the-face of a lesson for me.
I am not just on my own. I am a big puzzle of pieces from my grandmothers, grandfathers, mom and dad. Those horrible things I say to myself in the mirror—do they echo their way into my grandmother’s ears? Would I tell her that her tooth is ugly? Would I tell her she is un-pretty?
It makes me sick to think of myself saying those things to my grandma. I am so lucky to be here. To have been made in the likeness of the beautiful women before me. And somehow, that realization has made me smile so much wider.
So Grandma Carroll, thank you for the snaggletooth, and for teaching me how to really smile.