shat·ter  [shat-er]

–verb (used with object)


to break (something) into pieces, as by a blow.


to damage, as by breaking or crushing: ships shattered by storms.


to impair or destroy (health, nerves, etc.): The incident shattered his composure.


to weaken, destroy, or refute (ideas, opinions, etc.): He wanted to shatter her illusions

For several years I have had this recurring almost paranoid delusion, although it only happens while I am awake.

My teeth shatter.

There’s usually no warning, I’m not eating anything. In reality nothing major is going on. They just shatter. I’m always awake as the fantasy sets in. I often imagine that I am riding in a car when this happens. Sometimes I hit a pothole or rear end the car in front of me. Other times I imagine that I end up in a catastrophic car wreck and broken teeth is the extent of the damage. The nerve wracking part is the physical manifestations of this delusion. Loss of breath, blurry vision, teeth and body humming and in searing pain. I know at any second it will happen, they will simply shatter. I can feel the millions of tiny shards ripping through my mouth, gums bleeding, and then I begin to choke on the tiny fragments.

I Googled teeth shattering dreams and found that they are actually quite common, well dreams of teeth, tooth loss and breakage are. It seems that the most common interpretations are:

  • Symbol of Powerlessness
  • Fear of Failure or Embarrassment
  • Fear of Death and Growing Old
  • Poor Health and Financial Instability

Okay. Let’s start with the bottom of the list, as I’m not one that’s known for doing things in any natural order other than my own.

Poor Health and Financial Instability:

Well, I’m exhibiting classic symptoms of diabetes, poor circulation, and making the minimum payments on my bills or avoiding random 800 numbers that call my cell phone. Who isn’t on those last two? I’m still enjoying all the fun things this city and any neighboring ones within a four-hour radius has/have to offer around my ridiculous work schedule. As for the health “issues” they aren’t stopping me from enjoying beer, key lime pie, sex or smoking. So all in all I would say these are clearly non issues for me.

Fear of Death and Growing Old:

I want to live forever. I’m sure that’s purely out of spite. I love to pretend I’m a 450 year old Time Lord, The Highlander, a vampire, or a Sin Eater. However these fantasies are not impeding my ability to function in reality, and I’ve got the ultimate death plan lined up and hope to be cremated and have my ashes spread across the globe. Yet again, a non issue.  For posterity’s sake, let’s just combine the last two.

Fear of Failure and Embarrassment/Symbol of Powerlessness:

According to several dream interpretation sites that I have looked at, the gist of these two are that your teeth reflect your anxieties about how others view you and that you may be experiencing feelings of inferiority and a lack self confidence.

Okay. This could get interesting. Given previous posts, I think we can all begin to imagine several ways in which those interpretations could apply, and still not see the iceberg before we crash. Since I seem to be action packed with issues, trying to find the single most earth shattering one is a bit difficult. After looking through a few more interpretations on teeth dreams, I also found them to be symbolism associated with a of a fear of change.

Change has a been a constant in my life. With military parents we moved constantly. Due to horrific circumstances at the age of thirteen, my mother put me on a plane from Hawai’i to Texas to live with folks that I had only known 6 months. The arrangement was to be temporary, I haven’t seen her since. We talked on the phone a few times for the first few months, but due to my inability to fully process and understand the circumstances of the time, we got into an argument that lead to our not speaking again for nearly 14 years.

I spent years despising my mother. I would go from one extreme to another, blaming her, then blaming me. After a while I just stopped thinking about it. Or so I thought. Then one day something happened that shook me down to the very core of my being. Something so small, it could not be seen by the naked eye, nor could it be seen by anyone other than me.

I was sitting at our dining room table, eating a bowl of cereal. At one point I looked down and saw my hand holding the spoon, and that was it. I could feel myself begin to crack. In that moment I was no longer looking at my hand, it was hers. The way my fingers curled around the spoon. The wrinkles in the skin. The muscle structure. All of it was her. I was in shock, completely paralyzed, and then the final blow struck.

I could feel her.

The way the muscles in my hand held the spoon, loosely, but firm. Every time I would try to fully extend my fingers and they couldn’t, and simply return to their natural closed fist position. I could feel her running her course through my muscles, blood, and veins. I could feel her in every heartbeat.

That experience shattered every bit of my reality. I had tried for so long to cut the ties that bound me to my pains thinking they were because of my mother. I spent so long pretending that she wasn’t real. I realized at that moment she had never left me. She couldn’t. There are simply just some ties that can’t unbind.

I’ve recently got back in touch with my mother, turns out Facebook is both a blessing, and as I discovered vicariously through a friend at work, a curse. I can tell she still doesn’t know what to say. She knows about my transitioning, my wife, and that I am as stubborn as ever. She makes attempts to engage in meaningful conversations, even asks me if I remember so and so, or that time we… It’s painfully obvious that she is uncomfortable trying to get to know me and make up for lost time through an electronic box controlled by towers, satellites, and invisible signals. It too is painfully obvious to her that I am guarded, that I trust no one and am always 3 steps ahead watching, waiting, scrutinizing every move and for the other shoe to drop.

I can’t dance, I have two left feet and don’t have the time to learn to Tango. Despite this I’m willing to change. I just want to rip off the band-aid. Whatever it is you may be wondering, just say it. Just ask. I don’t care. I can’t be hurt any more than I already have. I’m not invincible, but I’m not a child. I won’t shatter. Since neither of us are good at talking and expressing things, I’ll start first because I’m still angry, but not over the things you think.

  • I’m angry that you taught me how to ignore things and pretend nothing’s wrong when everything’s falling apart.
  • I’m angry that I’m short. Yeah, go ahead and make jokes, that’s your fault too.
  • I’m angry that I’m smart. So smart it’s almost a disability. I have to analyze, scrutinize and find the least common denominator in everything and I blame you for that. I know no other parent that taught their kids fractions in kindergarten, and made them do their math homework with an abacus. I know no other kid born in the US to an English speaking parent but spoke a foreign language before they learned English. I know no other kid who’s mom let them read The Count of Monte Cristo, A Tale of Two Cities, and Bram Stroker’s Dracula at age 8. I didn’t stand a chance in hell of ever being able to relate to children my own age, we had absolutely nothing in common.
  • I’m angry that I can’t stay in one spot for too long, or I become bored and irritable. That’s all you too. We moved around a lot, even before Ed, yes I remember. I have to rearrange the furniture in the living room every 6 months to pretend I’m somewhere new and it drives my wife and blind ailing dog absolutely crazy.
  • I’m angry that you didn’t tell the truth. You didn’t tell me I wasn’t what you wanted. I imagine after the denial wears off, you will be saying that I was too young to understand. I wasn’t. I knew when you weren’t there anymore. I knew when you bought me all of those books that night, and we sat in the Samurai in the rain. I knew when I said “thanks for the books mom” and you ignored me. I waited for an eternity for a response. Nothing. So I said it again, “thanks for the books mom.” Another eternity passes in each rain drop. The only response you could manage to give is one I still hear loud and clear to this day: “don’t call me mom.”
  • I’m angry that you let Ed teach me about God in all the wrong ways. How could you not know? How could you let your kid have the Holy Snot beat out of them in every way, and not know.
  • I’m angry that all the other kid’s celebrated birthdays and Christmas’ but me. We are Roman Catholic, not Jehovah’s Witnesses, so what the hell was that all about?
  • I’m mad that I look absolutely nothing like you. Other than what I can feel coursing it’s way through my veins, and my hands… there isn’t a single shred of visual evidence that links us. As far as I know I have never met my biological father, and you never made it a point to tell me anything about him, or what he looked like other than to say he was shorter than you. So that leaves me, dumpster baby.
  • I’m angry that you instilled in me an insatiable habit that I really can’t afford. Fashion. While everyone else’s parents dressed them in K-Mart and hand-me-downs, I was the only kid I new with name brand clothes and all the latest fashions. Even as I’m older I still have to look good. I will admit part of this is due to the fact that I am 5’2, 115 lbs, and have a 28″ waist, therefore finding adult clothes that fit and look good require money. None the less the drive to stand apart from those around me, to never fit fit in, and to not look like anyone else was created by you. In a week from now I will tell you this and your response will be: “do you remember the movie Steel Magnolias?” I’ll say, “yeah mom, I love that movie, I’ve seen it a hundred times.” You’ll say “the only thing that separates us from the animals is the ability to accessorize.”  Way to go mom.

I’m sure this list seems absolutely ridiculous to anyone that reads it. I don’t care. There is plenty more that I’ve carried for over 20 years, and no longer wish to.

“To reform means to shatter one form and to create another; but the two sides of this act are not always equally intended nor equally successful.” –  George Santayana

I’m going to shatter this glass house, raze it to the ground with my bare hands if I have to, whatever it takes. I’m letting go. I don’t know what that means just yet. I don’t know to what measure of success this endeavor will turn out to be, but it doesn’t matter. I’m going to give it my all, and maybe, just maybe this will be the one time that my obstinance and fearless nature will serve me well.

I now know for the first time “in my sad little blip of an existence” to shatter one’s self is a necessary means to life. And for the first time ever I am undoubtedly, unequivocally, and unabashedly unafraid to shatter.


About Lucian D. Grey

I'll try anything once, maybe twice if I wasn't convinced I hated it the first time. I'm open for interpretation and you'll never get to the center of this Tootsie Pop. Otherwise just ask. View all posts by Lucian D. Grey

2 responses to “shat·ter

  • badguinevere

    I have a VERY similar dream, but it is while sleeping, and my teeth…crumble more than shatter. Just sort of turn to dust.

    Your list did not seem ridiculous to me. It’s as honest a thing as I’ve ever read. My voice aches to say similar things.

    You are amazing. The more I learn about you, the more I admire you.

  • jessi959

    I offer no cheerful platitudes about change making the world go ’round… or some bullshit like that. Change happens. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it doesn’t… but we’ll face it head on. I’m proud of you.

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