Blind trust. It never came easily to me. I’ve always relied on questions to have a better understanding of any situation. I think: it’s an innate need to be in control of uncertainty and also have a better grip on my anxiety.

Pretty Woman – Shakrisabz, Uzbekistan
The eye of the storm – Cingjing Farm, Taiwan

I was scared of dentists and the dark

I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations

Oh, all my friends are turning green

You’re the magician’s assistant in their dreams

– Vance Joy (Read more here)

I’d been delaying a visit to the dentist for a very long time. I could relate to every word of Vance Joy’s song. In hindsight, I wish I had plucked up the courage to make that appointment sooner. Basil had already spent a good part of the year getting his teeth extracted and treated. I knew I would be running out of excuses to make. By the end of May, I knew it was time.

Mt. Bromo – Indonesia
Honing Culinary Skills – Tokyo, Japan

“When I was a child, adults would tell me not to make things up, warning me of what would happen if I did. As far as I can tell so far, it seems to involve lots of foreign travel and not having to get up too early in the morning.” 

― Neil Gaiman

I’ve never had pleasant experiences (especially as a child) with past dentists. One might argue: who really has a pleasant experience at the dentist? Most used my fear to get the work done rather than treat the fear itself — for future treatment. My last dentist was kind enough to talk to me and that helped me overcome a part of my fear of dentists. I’ve just never liked the sight of injections, the drilling sound, and those sharp objects that are always in your field of view. Waiting in a dentist’s chair is akin to a lab rat waiting to be experimented on.

I wasn’t surprised by my new dentist’s diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. I kind of anticipated the amount of work that I needed. But, I still had to get over my anxiety to sit through those long procedures. It would be hard to give up control and trust someone else’s instinct. Just as it would be hard to sit in the back seat and trust the driver through those winding turns. And that’s why I’m particularly grateful for the mis/adventures that we had on our travels. I’m grateful to the incredible drivers (& some guides) who taught me to have faith (not necessarily blind) on their instinct — based on experience and skill.

We survived AMS on our first high altitude trip in Sikkim and found kindness in a local house — when we skipped the trip back to the city — after discovering the driver had been drinking and driving. Our next adventure in the Himalayas was a crazy 2-day journey from Manali to Leh. The driver was such a rockstar and I knew he’d see us through those high mountain passes. When we got lost in a Mongolian forest, I knew I wanted to ‘survive’ and overcoming my fear was the only way out to the clearing. Over the years, we’ve had drivers, guides, and helpful locals show us how a little ‘trust’ can go a long way. And if I could get by those difficult times; surely a dentist’s drill isn’t that scary.

Pincers – Busan, South Korea
Moody Skies – Busan, South Korea

Just a little pinprick
There’ll be no more, ah
But you may feel a little sick
Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working, good
That’ll keep you going through the show
Come on it’s time to go

– Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd (Read more here & here)

Have you ever wondered why doctors say, “It’s just a pinprick.” Clearly, no one’s really afraid of a pinprick. It’s just the sight of that needle that makes you woozy. Back in the day, when I found my brother’s old cassettes (a magnetic tape) of Pink Floyd; Comfortably Numb was my favourite song. Roger Waters had a different take on it and a simple search will reveal a gazillion different interpretations. I, listened to it, to get over the difficult years of early adulthood. To feel numb to the turbulence around me. But, when the dentist stuck the needle in my jaw, and soon enough, I felt ‘nothing’ — that’s when this song got a whole new meaning.

Sunrise at Hehuan Mountain – Taiwan
Sunrise at Sun Moon Lake – Taiwan

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying

– Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd

My new dentist is pretty chatty when the procedure isn’t technical or too complicated. He also figured that I’m more calm when he talks to me. Honestly, it wasn’t always easy to hear what he was saying through that drilling or reply when my mouth was stuffed with instruments. He had visited my home country and was surprised by how different we were.

It’s never been easy to have roots linked to a religious minority that accounts to approximately 3% of a billion. Within familiar borders, I’ve always found a need to find similarities and ‘prove’ why I belong in those borders. Beyond those borders, I have to prove why I’m different — even if my origins lie within those borders. Acceptance has never been easy on either side of the line. I’ve also realised: people who get scared easily are considered to be the lowest common denominator. Ironically, some of the the brightest minds I have come across, are the ones that let fear get the better of them. I’ve also never understood why should everyone deal with the same situation — in the same way. Isn’t diversity what makes us more interesting as humans and has resulted in the contributions we make?

Madakaripura Falls – Indonesia

During the past 2 months, I’ve felt very lost and that explains my long absence from blogging. I had good days in the ‘chair’ and some very anxious moments too. But, I also knew, that I was the only one who could control what’s in my mind. Sometimes, I tried to visualise the image above, and imagine I was under this gorgeous waterfall — when spurts of water splashed on my face.

Escapism – Jeju, South Korea

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better

– Fast Car, Tracy Chapman (Read more here)
Orkhon Falls – Mongolia
Clouds of Fear – Mongolia

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 

― Neil Gaiman

This year has been difficult for everyone. It wasn’t the best idea or time to get dental work done when I was fighting a rather difficult battle — emotionally and mentally. New rules have made it harder for us to visit ‘home’ unless there’s a vaccine. Friends have had to leave, some returned to Seoul, and the news rarely lifts one’s morale. Basil’s complicated implant surgery had given me many sleepless nights since February. It finally went through a couple of weeks back. The stress, uncertainity, and emotional as well as physical pain was too much. I found myself at breaking point — not knowing how to get back to who I was.

Free hugs anyone? Tokyo, Japan

“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.” 

― Neil Gaiman

Solitude – Mongolia

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” 

― Neil Gaiman

I’m towards the end of my dental treatment plan. I still have to get my wisdom teeth extracted and consider some other treatments. But, I’ve decided to take a break. I want to write. I want to smell flowers and feel the rain. I want to be grateful for what I have rather than dwell on what I don’t have. I want to accept me for who I am and hope (or move on) that others would do the same. I think it’s okay to have weak moments. It’s okay to feel like the world is imploding and life is tightening those nuts and bolts around you. Because that’s when you’ll find the strength within and know that you’d be able to get through anything.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

30 replies on “The View from the Back Seat

  1. When I had to have a significant amount of surgery on my gums, I found that listening to music on headphones helped a lot. I miss you, just yesterday I was looking through some of your older posts and realizing it has been way too long since we talked or wrote! I will send you a note as soon as I’m properly caffeinated today. ❤️

    1. I miss you so much and I have been thinking about you! I wish you were here! I was about to write a mail when you wrote to me. It’s been 3 years since you left Seoul? 😦 I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music lately and it helped. The dentist plays classical music (Yiruma, Ghibli OSTs, Star Wars (not appropriate for dental work) and even Beauty and the Beast). It’s just so good to hear from you! ❤

  2. I used to have dreams that I’d end up with false teeth (like both my parents) and that has always allowed me to get through the dentist experience. The one I now visit, has tv screens on the ceiling. On my last visit I lay back and watched the nature channel and the worst part was keeping my mouth open for so long. The nature channel did the trick!

    1. I used to take such good care of my teeth. My sister’s a dentist and she used to always frighten me — even though we were never in the same city for her to treat me. 🙂 Over the last couple of years I’ve neglected my dental health. 😦
      I told my dental hygienist about your TV screens. 🙂 In Korea, they cover your face with a disposable cloth and only the mouth is open. It’s nice because the blinding lights don’t hurt your eyes and you can think of whatever you want. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing your feelings here, alongside beautiful photographs and quotes.. It always helps to know that others are struggling. I hope things will go more right than wrong for you, but we never know. 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Jo! How have you been? Your words are so true. Uncertainty has been the only constant this year. I really needed to get my feelings out and I feel much better. 🙂 I promise I’ll get back to writing about travel really soon. We’re having a rather wet summer here. Hope you’re having better luck there. xoxo

  4. Wishing you the strength you need as you continue your dental appointments and time to fully recover. I hope Basil is doing well now after his implant surgery? Sending you love and hugs from afar.

    1. Thanks for such a wonderful message, A! My first treatment plan got done last week. I’ve got to muster courage for those wisdom teeth extractions. 😦 Basil has recovered after his implant surgery. Hope you’ve been well too! It’s so good to hear from you. Sending you bear hugs back! xoxo

  5. Although I have had no major dental problems or work done, I still hate going to the dentist even for cleanings and check-ups! For that matter, I am very afraid of all kinds of doctors and put all appointments off because of my fear of being poked and prodded. I found one partial solution. After doing my very difficult endurance event on a mountain last summer, I seem to have learned how to put myself outside my own body and its discomfort for periods of time, so when I went to a doctor and had to get a shot, I channeled that feeling and it (kind of!) worked. Still, I understand your fears and reluctance, and I admire the fact that you’ve gone ahead and done some of the work you wanted to do. Hang in there, and I hope both of you are done or almost done with all this stuff!

    1. I wish I/we had gone to the dentist sooner. 🙂 I’ve come a long way from my first check-up/cleaning to the last appointment last week. I will get my wisdom teeth extracted in a couple of months when I feel more prepared. I don’t like going to doctors too. But I’ve learned a lot from this experience. How to channel fear and get over it. I went for most of my dental work alone and that’s a record for me. I remember your endurance event last year. That’s what I do whenever I have to do anything that takes me out of my comfort zone.
      Shells changed her dentist and started going to our dentist. I met her after a year at the dentist! haha. She stays on the other side (south) of the river and it’s my excuse for not meeting her more often. She just thinks I’m always hiding. Honestly, it was just great seeing her or any friend.
      Hope you’re doing well! Your granddaughter must be a couple of months old now?

  6. Hi Cheryl, I have a thousand words in my mind, but I just want to say I am so happy you are back.

    1. Awww! You’ve been such a support in the past couple months and I can’t think how I’d get by without you. ❤ I can't wait to meet you real soon! I hope I can eat better this time! lol.

  7. Yes – three months old now! Hard to imagine.
    Nice to hear that you still (occasionally) see Shelley! I’m sure that with both COVID and being on opposite sides of the river, it’s nearly impossible to see her very often. Tell her hi from me next time you see her! And good luck with the wisdom teeth whenever you get it done.

    1. They’re so cute when they’re babies. 🙂 It must be a challenge for your daughter given the times we’re living in. My cousin got a baby (in the US) in January and things were quite hard initially (back then) since his wife is a doctor.
      I was supposed to meet her last week (she had a dentist’s appointment). It’s been pouring here and she postponed it. 😦 Will pass on your hi! Take care and hope to read a post on your granddaughter soon.

  8. Glad to see you here again! It’s ok to have weak moments, especially during this uncertain time. Be safe and I wish you successful treatments. I intend to say pain-free, but that would be a lie 🙂

    1. Hi Len! Thanks for stopping by and writing such a wonderful comment. I appreciate your honesty too. 🙂 Pain and dentist go together. 🙂 Hope you’re well! Take care and stay safe.

  9. I’ve spent so much time in a dentist chair over the years I’ve become somewhat inured to it. I remember thinking after a root canal; that wasn’t much different than a filling. Crowns are worse, and…

    Oh, never mind. Let’s focus on the bright and shiny stuff out there. (Somewhere out there…)

    1. I hear you! I was ecstatic after my first root canal. I was wondering what the fuss was about. And then I had my second and third root canal. 😦 The crowns are pretty bad. All the fitting and measurements…
      I’m trying to focus on the bright and shiny stuff out there (wherever that maybe 🙂 )

  10. Visiting the dentist is worse than visiting the doctor. I am always fearful that the dentist will make a mistake and drill in too deep into my gums. We don’t have any music or TV to distract us while our mouths are wide open. I practically have to state at the light directed at my mouth and self – hypnotise. Now that I have seen this post, I am suddenly reminded that my last visit to the dentist was 3 years ago. I received an unexpected call from my dentist that dental services have resumed eversince the Covid lockdown in February. 2020.

    1. Your first line made me smile. Those are my thoughts exactly! 🙂 It was our first experience with a Korean dentist. It took us sometime to find one who speaks English. Thankfully, he’s so close to where we live. Basil had started some of his dental work in January and he took a break during the first wave of the pandemic. He got messages by April to resume his dental work. 🙂 That’s when social distancing was eased in Seoul. By the time I started my dental work, so many other foreigners started taking appointments and that made my work take longer than expected. 😦 Getting appointments was so hard.
      All the best — if you do choose to go to the dentist! Fighting! (as they say in Korea)

  11. Oh Cheryl, I can’t begin to tell you how much I relate to this post. Although I haven’t written about it anywhere I had some extremely stressful visits to the dentist back in late Feb before this business with COVID took hold. It turned into the beginning of a root canal and crown procedure that was only completed a few weeks ago. And it wasn’t straight forward! During that time and on a couple of visits the anxiety of being in the chair for hours at a time took every ounce of inner zen and strength to keep under control. So I totally get you my friend! BUT I discovered that we can get through anything. Our mind IS strong when we have to be, not that it’s always easy. Fear is rampant these days and it’s a constant effort to keep it at bay. But I’m finding solace in nature and I hope you are too Cheryl. Sourcing strength from simple things and allowing ourself some gentleness when we have those bad days. Sending you big hugs and lots of love from a mellow winter here in Melbourne. Xxx 😍💕

    1. I know you would get me, Miriam! I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I remember your post on your visit to the dentist in February. When the dentist explained my treatment plan and said, ‘root canal’; I literally froze! I learned a lot from your post and tried to reason and divert my mind. The first root canal was pretty good. And then they discovered 2 more during the course of the treatment plan. 😦 And there were some other fillings. Sitting for hours in the chair with my mouth open was so painful and I was really tired at the end of it all. Once or twice, I did have severe anxiety. Then, I had to start my reasoning again and I think it’s in the mind. Once I tackled that, it was easier getting work done. I used to take my mum to the dentist quite often and I think I had some bad memories of that. Nature has been such a relief for me. I watch videos on wonderful hikes and people with pets!
      I hope you’re dental treatment is over! We’ve taken a temporary break before those extraction/surgeries. 😦 Sending your warm hugs and lots of love from gloomy Seoul! xoxo

      1. See my friend, you’re much stronger than you think. We all are but sometimes our mind gets hijacked doesn’t it. I can relate to the bad memories from the past which seeps into our present. But we can overcome it.
        My dental treatment is over, thank goodness. And glad you’ve had a break from yours. Stay calm and well and when the time comes you’ll be stronger than you know and ready for whatever comes. Sending you lots of love, hugs and warm wishes from a fairly mild winter Sunday in Melbourne. xx 🥰

      2. You said it! We are stronger than we think we are. I’m so glad you’re done with your dental work. This break is good for me. We’re still having a wet and humid summer. Global warming is affecting weather patterns sooner than we expected. 😦 xoxo

      3. Yes, it’s a strange winter here too. Mild and everything is thriving. My lemon tree has gone berserk with fruit this year! 🥰 xxx

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