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  • Marquez Woods

Battling Bruxism

Marquez T Woods April 3rd, 2023

There’s a constant pressure building in my face. It shows itself through a furrowed brow, a cigarette with embers sharpened through a desperate vacuum of inhalation, beads of sweat running down pulsating temples doing their best to cool the steaming aches.

As my tether grows thicker and more demanding to the reality of adulthood, responsibilities grow more wearisome. Decisions are more costly. The unavoidable maintenance of life fights for the same seconds of the day.

But that’s just age. That’s just growing pains. I expect stress because I want a life worth living. I want to be a pillar of strength for my unlikely yet inevitable spiritual descendants.

And I’ve found some ways to subvert the tension. Namely, A bike ride through Prospect Park. A cold chai tea. A to-do list with some of the chaos organized.

It can work. It has gotten me to a good place. Then…

My shitty unconscious childhood habit started to worsen - now with even more of an implication on my health and an even tighter grip on my coping mechanisms.

There seem to be more and more moments when my jaw is clenched, and I notice myself eroding molars against each other - squeezing to the point of muscle cramps.

But it isn’t the same stress I described before. This action doesn’t come from my fight for a good life. It comes from the fear of losing it.

I crunch my gums to avoid defeat. In anticipation of the incoming. Bracing for impact with no missile in sight.

Things going good can feel like hydroplaning - I am the only threat, and I am in control, very loosely in control.

I never grind my teeth in bad times. I have other shit habits for that. Only the good. Only when things could get worse.

Like when I ride my motorcycle through the congestion of NYC, slipping through the narrow cracks in traffic, dodging potholes and food carriers. At any moment, things could go awry. I’ve slid out of all the sticky situations so far, but what if 2-3-4 for unexpected obstacles happen consecutively?

I even grind my teeth in what’s meant to be a respite from the chaos - my sleep. I dream of amalgamated fears and randomly compiled situations where things erode into entropy, and chaos overtakes all logic. I’m washed in a darkness that knows no bounds, ignorantly searching for a way out. But there ain’t no damn way out.

In every instance, I am inching closer to death. To a hell of painful pandemonium.

Each positive stride in my life, unfortunately, denotes the equal and opposite. It’s a matter of balance. Physics. Karmic pessimism.

I grit my teeth and ask myself, when will it all come tumbling down?

In those moments, I have to reflect.

Am I manifesting failure?

Do I have some secret wish for it all to go sour?

Is clenching my jaw some hint of self-sabotage?

Then I realized.

Yeah, clenching my jaw is a manifestation of fear. But it ain’t the type of fear that’s paralyzing.

It’s keeping my eyes peeled.

It’s caution.

It’s not getting comfortable.

But it’s also bravery.

It’s pushing regardless of whether things fall apart.

It’s knowing I can get it all back and do it even better.

It’s self-belief regardless of failure.

So fuck it, I’ll lean it. I’ll stick a mouthguard in and let both the bad times and the good times roll.


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