Nine years ago, I cracked my tooth on a snack of chips and guacamole. Yesterday, I had it pulled.

I have my reasons.

First, I’ve lived half of my life as a working, charismatic, uninsured actor. I’ve always had food to eat and a roof over my head because I learned to be more conservative in my medical self-diagnoses. A really bad cold just meant more ibuprofen and fluids. Ace bandages were wrapped around ankles that should have seen an osteopath. With that kind of blind resolve, you can imagine what kind of priority I gave to a cracked molar. I mean, it didn’t even show up when I smiled, y’all. Every few months I would endure a few days of pain that would flow deep into my head and my shoulders before ebbing back to a dull ache at the bottom of my jaw that I chose to call “better.”

Secondly, I hate going to the dentist. Also the doctor. And hospitals. I don’t think that anyone really loves going to any of these places, but most reasonable humans have a threshold of discomfort or concern that pushes them out the door and towards people that can fix the problem. I wish I were more like them.

I have been guided by these two truths of mine – stubbornness and fear – until 50 hours ago. That’s when the tooth staged a 4am coup and took my ego by surprise. When my wife used her “the answer better be yes” voice when she asked if I wanted to go to a dental ER, I could only watch myself agree. The tooth knew that it was time to go, and it wasn’t taking no for an answer.

From the front door and back again, the whole process took about 4 hours. Reception, billing, assistants, and dentists all worked quickly and with great care, and I walked away sore, sleepy, and healthier. As I wrap up my second day of having only 31 teeth, the relief of not worrying about which side of my mouth to chew with is really freeing me up to think about other things. Maybe I’ll finally be able to paint. Or sew. Or eat popcorn with reckless abandon. The sky’s the fucking limit, people.

I think you and I live with a lot. We confuse the necessary friction of life with the pain that we choose to carry, as if the human condition is a weight we bear on our life’s path. Like my rotten tooth, we deal because we think we have to.

We’re wrong. Stop dealing. Pull it.