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Life Can Be More Than “Fine”

Each time I go to the dentist, I’m reminded of an article I wrote in 2015. As an aside, perhaps that is one of my favorite things about writing. Whether a blog post or a Happiness is, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard solidifies these memories and sends my mind on a very intense inner monologue at the dentist chair… all because of a reflection I had 6 years ago.


Six years ago, I wrote about being offered a variety of tooth polish options (mint, cinnamon, orange) at the dentist and always half-heartedly responding with “mint is fine” when in reality, I’m hoping they’ll offer the same bubble gum, wild berry, watermelon flavors that I know they reserve for the patients who don’t have bills and a job and an “adult” life. I wrote about not settling for mint when you really want key lime pie surprise.


So this morning, as I sat in the dentist chair and the dental hygienist read me the big 3 (mint, cinnamon, orange), I found myself mumbling “mint is fine.” And then the blog from 6 years ago popped into my head. Mint is good for first date kissing, before bed brushing, or upset stomach tea sipping. But this morning? When I said “mint is fine?” Nah. When have you ever said something “is fine” and been excited about it?


And so the inner monologue began. Me wondering if it was too late to request a different polish; her probably wondering how poor my quarantine self haircut had been that I still had an unruly wisp of hair dangling in front of my nose. Finally, when she’d stopped cleaning my teeth for a moment, I spoke up.


Hey, would it be possible to do a different flavor instead of mint?


Of course she said yes. More than that, she told me I could change my mind as many times as I wanted before we got to that part of the exam. Mission accomplished.


When she finally got to the teeth polish part, she rattled off a few more flavors (cookie dough, bubble gum..). I knew there was a secret menu!


I’ve been thinking about this all day—not because cookie dough toothpaste polish is particularly inspiring, but because there are a lot of times in life when we settle for what is given to us because we are afraid to ask for more. A whole “we accept the love we think we deserve” kind of deal. Sure, the toothpaste flavor doesn’t really matter. But let’s look on a larger scale.


Is there some aspect of your relationship that “is fine?” You know it could be better. You want it to be better. But you’re just kind of gliding through because “it’s fine.” What about your career? Your living situation? Your friendships? What are you settling on because you’re too afraid of speaking up? What compromises do you make every day because you haven’t found the voice to campaign for more than what you are getting?


The dental hygienist couldn’t read my mind—a true blessing given the inner back and forth happening over toothpaste polish this morning. But neither can your partner. Your sister. Your boss. Your roommate. I told her “mint is fine.” How could she know I wanted anything more? Don’t keep telling someone you’re “fine” with the way something is if you’re desperate for an alternative. And at the same time, don’t expect them to understand until you are willing to let them in and share.


Life can be more than fine. You can do more than skim by. Figure out what you want and then be brave enough to voice it. You deserve a life that brings you as much joy as cookie dough toothpaste. I hope you find the courage to step into it.


Love always,

Liz