I sat in the waiting room of the dentists’ office, my eyes closed against the commotion from the other patients. Jolly holiday music wafted over me from speakers I never bothered to find. My eyes opened in response to the sound of the office door. Before me I could see CNN on the TV. The tech called a different patient. I read the closed caption on CNN’s coverage of a Newtown fireman talking about receiving 26 wreaths at the station house. Somewhere Bing Crosby dreamed of a White Christmas.
It was a little after 3:00 PM on Monday, December 17. I realized that three worlds mixed uncomfortably around me.
The first world came in over the speakers. It was a happy world, where people went on sleigh rides and gave each other presents. There was snow and romance, and the biggest troubles could be handled by taking them to Santa Claus.
The second world was the silent horror of the television. Unrelenting fear and misery, projecting over us — always questioning our safety.
In between lay the third world. This was where we sat. It wasn’t eternally cheery. It wasn’t constant anguish. It had a bit of each, but only rarely. Mostly it was a lot of anticipation of one or the other. We could focus on the good fantasy or the bad fantasy and live to see them realized.
They never would be real, though. Not really. You could live that way and be always disappointed or distraught, but they still wouldn’t be real. Better, you can live for the moments in between. Learn to enjoy every sandwich. It’s easier to bear the bad times, if you don’t count only the very best times as good.
Then the door opened for me, and I went back to get a filling in a wisdom tooth.