NOTE: I specifically asked my daughter if it was okay to write these words and share them. I generally do that for anything I post on social media that has her image or words. I have not done that much with my blog. But this felt like permission was needed. She graciously granted it, adding, “I mean, it’s fascinating, Mama–someone else might think so too!”
The Curly Girl was born with ankyloglossia (aka, “tied tongue”) which is essentially a congenital anomaly in which her tongue is quite literally tied to the floor of her mouth by a piece of tissue. It restricts range of motion, along with other issues, and in her case, the tie is severe, and that means she has never 1) stuck her tongue out at anyone, or 2) actually licked an ice cream cone (she nibbles). Such ties as hers often cause speech impediments, and a decade ago, when we were seeking advice about hers, the general counsel was “don’t worry about it unless it affects her speech.” If you know my girl at all, you know that her voice has not–in any way, shape or form–been impeded. And so her tongue has remained as it was at her birth.
Fast forward to the present and a couple things have changed–her tongue tie is now affecting potential orthodontic work, how she eats and digests food, even how she breathes and how her posture is held. I know–it sounds like it can’t possibly be, but over the last decade, research has grown leaps and bounds in this field, and it turns out, our tongues, and the way they function, are pretty darn important and have impact on our bodies and overall well-being. We’ve been in the care of three excellent professionals for the last year as we’ve tried to figure out best steps, and the short version of the story is that this Friday, Curly Girl is having a frenectomy–the fancy medical term for getting that extra tissue cut out (via laser) and cleaned out which will release her tongue. This will be followed by several months of what’s called myofunctional therapy–a form of PT, in essence, that will teach her how to use her tongue and all that it affects properly.
Two days ago, I was reading an email from the doctor who will perform the surgery about what to expect post-procedure. I expected her to mention soreness–I did not expect her to say that soreness will manifest itself in M’s ears and throat. I expected some fatigue–I did not expect her to say that for several days, M will probably sleep more soundly and need more rest as her body adjusts. I expected that things will be different–I did not expect these words: “Some patients feel a brief wave or release of emotion… after [tongue] release [especially in] folks who move from being very restricted to suddenly free. It’s natural and important to allow her time and space to let that out should it occur…. Her body had a lot wound up in the old patterns and has to find new ways to be.”
Her body had a lot wound up in the old patterns and has to find new ways to be.
Y’all? I’ve never heard more sage words from a doctor. And also y’all? That ain’t just about ankyloglossia.
As you might imagine, I have some thoughts…
First, I’m thinking this: The soreness post-procedure will manifest in her ears and throat because that’s just how our bodies work–everything is connected, something that affects one thing, will affect others. These bones and muscles and organs we have–they all work together, and when one is injured, or out of whack, well…the others feel it too (…But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. –excerpt from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
We have completely forgotten what it means to be of one body. To be of one community. To be of one life, together, the things that happen to one of us affecting the rest of us. We are isolated, and sad, and alone–more so than we have ever been as a people–and the suffering of our neighbors goes unheard far too often because we’re so caught in our own lives, often even in our own suffering.
There are any number of examples I could pick from here, but because this particular example has completely shattered my heart, I’ll use it: When our children continue to gun one another down inside the walls of their schools, and we cannot listen long enough or well enough to each other to find a way to keep them safe, we have forgotten that we belong to each other. The image of a terrified grade schooler, being walked out of her school in Colorado because the high school next door has a shooter in it, should bring us to our knees, begging for forgiveness as a people, and willing to set aside any personal interest in the name of keeping our children safe. Full stop.
Second, I’m thinking this: We’ve all got “a lot wound up in the old patterns….” In our personal lives. In our workplaces. In our communities. In our country. In the world.
Somewhere along the way, M taught herself how to work with the body system she was handed. She has been comfortable in it because it is what she knows. It feels fine to her. But what we know now is that the system she was handed has not been in her best interest, even if she’s learned how to navigate it effectively. Even if it feels perfectly fine to her. And truthfully, if I had chosen not to run down the rabbit hole of research related to tied tongues, she would, in all probability, be fine. For the most part.
And there was a time in my life when “fine,” was OK–as good as it gets was, well, as good as gets, you know? But no more. My girl deserves better.
And so do YOU. So do WE.
I’m going to spell this metaphor out for you, just in case you’re wondering why I’m still harping on my kid’s oral surgery…
- We deserve better than politicians who are primarily interested in their own election campaigns and bank accounts (and this is a widespread, bipartisan problem, so don’t point fingers, y’all, unless you want them pointing back at you).
- We deserve better than underfunded public schools.
- We deserve better than tax liability designed to make those of great wealth even wealthier.
- We deserve better than a contrived overarching narrative that divides us along economic, social, ethnic, religious and political party lines.
- And dear, sweet, baby Jesus (and I say that in full reverence, y’all) our children deserve better than all this and more. They deserve safe shelter and excellent education and nutritious food and warm clothing and a chance..a freaking CHANCE…at not just survival, but pure thriving into the gorgeous, incredible, creative children of God they were born to be.
Our system, our body together, is broken. At least in part. And the broken parts make it harder for the functioning parts to do their job. And even if we are still comfortable in it, still trying to find our place in it, still trying to navigate it so that we can make do, because, after all, it is what we know…it is not functioning properly. And our refusal to reach down deep into the depths of our souls and find new ways of being, even if with painful steps and harsh breath…it is making us less than we were created to be. As individuals and as communities.
We have a lot wound up in who we have been. And finding a new way of being, a way that fosters community and gives everyone a fair shake and that also still values freedom and individual expression and truly welcomes diverse cultures…it seems impossible. I know. Believe me. I. Know. Every day I fight back hopelessness with my dogged belief that somehow God is at work in the madness I see around us every day, and hope for the strength to take my place in that God-work when and where I am able.
It’s hard to find a new way to be. Anyone who has gone through significant life transition (voluntarily or involuntarily) knows this. We’re stubborn and fickle, both, us humans, and sometimes we give ourselves far too much credit and take ourselves far too seriously. And moving from one way of being to the next takes a whole lot of emotional and mental muscle–pure grit, actually (an ingredient we’re sorely lacking in our life together these days if you ask me…).
But time and time again, we’ve proved its possible to rise up against that which should not be any more and lead the way into something better. Something more whole. Something more like what we were created to be.
I don’t know…maybe I’m pushing the metaphor too far…but it seems to me we can learn a whole lot about the communal body by paying attention to our own bodies. Especially if you believe, as I do, that what happens to you, matters to my own well-being.
We’ve got a lot wound up in our current way of being…my great hope (and, tbh, some days desperate prayer) is that we’ll have the courage to unwind…and so live into everything that’s so beautifully possible and good and full of grace.
Dear, sweet, baby Jesus. May it be so.
(PS: And yes, at this house, we’re having lickable ice cream cones for dinner Friday night! New ways of being are best begun this way….)