The Unwise Artist

2016_08_08_the_unwise_artist_Petra_Elster_sketch

A long time ago I had two of my wisdom teeth removed. At that time I asked the dentist if I should have the other two taken out as well. He said it wasn’t necessary because if they hadn’t bothered me up to that point, they might never even fully develop. They did, of course, and so, sixteen years and a doctor’s retirement later, I had to go to another dentist to get the freshly grown pair extracted.

The new doctor explained in anatomic detail how the upper tooth would slide right out. “The lower tooth however, is very likely to give me trouble”, he said, and went on to lecture me on the reasons that made him book and charge an extra hour for the whole procedure. That prediction also went the other way around. Nature, as it seems, seldom follows doctor´s orders.

The doctor pulled and prodded at the upper tooth, panting and moaning from the useless effort. I could hear the tooth crushing under the pressure of the instruments, but it didn’t budge.
The doctor examined the X-rays again. He tried pulling it from several different angles. The thing stayed put. If I didn’t know any better, I could swear it was enjoying the battle. The little warrior wasn’t interested in leaving it’s home. If it had to go, it wouldn’t go without a fight. The tooth stood its ground for more than an hour leaving the doctor sweating and breathless. And then it got sawed in half.

After that the doctor took the saw to the lower tooth right from the beginning. No sir, he wouldn’t take any chances with that little rascal. The lower tooth surrendered quietly, albeit not without having to be divided into several pieces.

So there I was: bloody, numb, and completely unwise. My former wisdom teeth lay shattered on a cold metal tray. As I saw them laying there, defeated, I felt the urge to ask the doctor if I could have the spoils of battle. Puzzled by the request, but unable to find any argument to the contrary, he agreed.

In the car, DH asked me what I would do with them. “I don’t know”, I replied unwisely, “I just want to take them home.” And so I did.

As soon as I got home, I crawled into bed, took my antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor and immediately got nauseated from the stupid pills. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the anesthetic started to wear off and then the pain decided to make its grand entrance.

Oh… My… God… The… Pain!  Incapacitating… all encompassing… pain!

DH rushed in with a glass of water and some painkillers but I was too nauseated to take them. In hindsight, it was a little foolish to take the antibiotics before eating anything, but heck, that’s who I am now: the unwise artist.  There was nothing left for me to do but wait for the nausea to subside on its own. Meanwhile the pain just got worse and worse. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think. It seemed as if I would pass out from the pain and then, something amazing happened: Art kicked in.

Suddenly, the excruciating pain became interesting. The artist in me started to actively pursue the experience. I let the pain overcome me. An Indian Guru would say that I was “one with the pain”. From that moment on, everything became fascinating. The taste of blood, the sting of the stitches, the memories of the sounds I heard while my teeth were being sawed into pieces and crushed into tiny shards.

DH came into the room and found me sitting on the bed with a smile on my face. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Great”, I grunted.
“Oh, good, the pain is better, then.”
“No”, I replied barely able to move my jaw, “It’s worse.”
He looked at me, confused. “That’s odd, you seem better.”
“I am”, I moaned peacefully.

If you ever wondered… this is what it’s like to be an artist. To an artist nothing is lost. Everything is valuable. Every experience counts.
Life is messy and unpredictable and painful and amazing. Life, in short, is Art. And Art is what the artist’s life is all about.

Eventually, the nausea faded away. I was able to take the blessed painkillers and shortly after the pain and the thrill were gone. All that was left of the whole ordeal were the pieces of my broken teeth in a little plastic cup on my bedside table. I took them out one by one and examined the poor things. I was tired and though to myself : “I should probably go to sleep”. However, being the unwise artist that I am, I reached out for my pencil and pad and started sketching.

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