I am on the first floor by the faculty lounge in school. I am walking to class with my laptop in my arm, the text books piled on top and my coffee mug in my right hand. A student calls my name from behind, "Miss G, Miss G!" I turn around and seemingly begin to solve the world's most recent crisis. As I speak with the student, I feel one of my upper right teeth begin to wiggle so with my tongue, I push it back into place. But before I can get it to stay, it falls out in the middle of my conversation. The student seems not phased by this personally mortifying experience and continues speaking at a rapid pace. I bend down to pick up the tooth off the floor and try to make my way to the faculty lounge to get a cup. The student finishes explaining her crisis and leaves.
The next thing I know, a few of my colleagues are talking to me, all from different places in the room about different things. All I am trying to do is get a cup with some milk in it - I need to put my tooth there so I can get it put back into my mouth after school. As I stand up after getting the milk, I realize that more of my teeth are loose and wiggly. I'm trying not to speak as much so I can keep my teeth in my mouth, but colleagues keep asking me questions. Each time I open my mouth, more teeth fall out. I'm getting good at catching them all in the cup of milk I've replaced my coffee mug with.
Finally, I get to class. Late, of course, since I was busy catching all my falling-out teeth. Then a student comments something about my dress, in front of the class. Trying not to be mortified that part of my dress has been stuck in my nylons all day, I put my things down on the desk and adjust my dress. When I open my mouth to say thank you, the rest of my teeth fall out and I no longer have a single tooth in my mouth. The worst part about this whole thing is that not a single person noticed my teeth falling out and I am mortified thinking about how terrifying I must look with my teeth in cup and not in my mouth. I start to sweat and get nervous and before I can say another thing, I wake up.
It's about 4 am now and I'm worried about whether or not I closed the windows in my office before I left, knowing for well that even if I did, Sharon would have closed them after she took the trash from my room that day. At about 4:30 am, I'll roll over and start worrying about whether or not I emailed the priest a confirmation email about coming to say Mass five months into the school year. It's August. And around 5 am, I'll flip onto my stomach in hopes that a different position will help me sleep but instead I can only think about what people would say about me if I actually didn't have any teeth and what they already say about me for any type of reason. About 5:30 am I'll have exhausted myself from thinking too much and I'll start dreaming again. But if the tooth dream comes back, I'm up for good.
The amount of times I have a dream about losing my teeth is astronomical. Would I say once a week? Depends on the time of year. But honestly, I've had the tooth dream more times than I can count. While it may sound strange, this tooth dream is one of the most commonly recorded dreams that people have. So I know I'm not the only one waking up feeling like a weirdo having dreamt about teeth. But there's two important factors of my reoccurring dream that I'd like to point out. First, no one in my dream ever notices my teeth falling out; only me. While I think that watching someone's teeth fall out might be extremely traumatizing, it never seems to be the case in my dream. I'm the only one worried about it. Second, I cannot control my teeth. As much as I try to keep them all in my mouth, I fail over and over again. And this is what it means to me: when I'm worried about something, usually I'm the only one worried about it. And what I'm worried about, I usually can't control. Yet, time and time again, I lose hours of sleep over worrying about things I really can't control.
Last week, I went to Mass and then coffee with a dear Sister friend of mine who has been a part of my life for about ten years now. We always have beautiful conversation that is sometimes light-hearted and other times we try to tackle our understanding of the woes of the world. This time, while telling great stories, laughing loudly and catching up (though I feel, we always pick up where we left off despite the time!), we also began talking about a lot of the latest news stories and the empathetic sadness we feel. That conversation transitioned into a conversation about worrying and our inability to trust at times, despite great faith in God. Why do we worry? What makes us anxious? Why do we let so many things, out of our control, bother us so greatly? We didn't reach a conclusion. But it did lead me down a small road of reflection on trust. How do I actually surrender my anxieties to God and be free of worry?
A few nights after I saw Sister, I had the darn tooth dream again. But instead of waking up and laying in my bed freaking out for hours, I start praying. I've been having the tooth dream for years and I learned that praying was the best way for me to relieve my worry (and also get back to sleep). I was worried about something huge, something I won't share here, but I remembered back to the conversation I had with Sister a few days prior. We reminded ourselves then that in our moments of weakness and worry, we need to discern what is truly from God. We agreed that sometimes God puts worry in our heart for a good reason, perhaps to keep us from doing something that might bring harm. But God would never wish us to worry ourselves into exhaustion and so this anxiety that wakes me up at night can't be from God. So I began to pray, "Jesus, Your will be done. Not mine. And please, show me Your will."
Another Sister I know used to tell me to be specific when praying to Jesus. It's not testing God as in saying, "Jesus send me a blue butterfly at 12:15 today to show me your listening." But rather, "Jesus, I am doubting and I need you to be overwhelmingly obvious today. And let me know it's you." That's what I prayed when I woke up. I did not go out of my way to make anything different about my day. I simply woke up, got dressed and ready to go, drove to Joe's house and we went to Mass together.
Whenever we can, we join each other for Mass at our parishes. That being said, our parish families have really gotten to know us as a couple. So when we walked in, one of the ushers asked Joe and I to bring up the gifts. We accepted this gift and went to find a pew after passing the pastor on our way. He simply nodded a hello as Mass was going to begin soon. We prayed together and when we sat down, I told Joe that I needed him to pray for my heart; I was anxious. I also told him, I was waiting for Jesus to make his will obvious to me to reassure me. Joe simply said, "I know you worry. It will be okay."
As Mass began, I remember thinking about how Jesus has so clearly made himself and his plan known to me recently. I haven't experienced this worry until now. All of my prayers have pointed me in this direction. And I knew that this was the devil really abusing my worrisome heart. This worry was not of God. This I knew. But my humanity needed reassurance. I received that reassurance when Father began his homily talking about a couple who had just celebrated their 50th anniversary yesterday in the church. We applauded them and father spoke a bit about how a marriage stays successful. Prayer. I admit, I was letting my mind wander in prayer a bit when I felt Joe gently tapping my leg. He was getting up and I was confused. Father had invited a newly engaged parishioner to the altar with his future bride. That newly engaged parishioner was Joe and I was his future bride. Immediately, happy tears starting falling down my face as I thanked Jesus in my heart for truly outdoing himself this time.
Father talked with us a bit on the altar and then invited the entire congregation to pray over us. He prayed through Mary's intercession, another God-wink for me, and I simply held Joe's hand feeling a wave of grace wash over me. When we went back to our pew, I quickly whispered to Joe, "Jesus answered my prayers." He squeezed my hand and responded, "I know."
The truth is, human beings worry. We worry about a ton of things we can't control. We doubt despite the fact that everything in life has pointed us this way. We get anxious about little things like how people perceive us, what they think about our actions and more. But this is not of God. While I think it's safe to assume I'll most likely be woken up by the tooth dream again, I know that Jesus can calm my spirit. I know that no matter how big or little my worry, Jesus will make himself overwhelmingly known to me. He will constantly reassure me in my doubts. And to have a fiance that believes this, too, is beyond blessing.