Toothbrush by Rick Paul

My head is full, lots of thoughts, flashes of things that I want to write about. I’m fortunate to have two dogs which provide a welcome distraction from this productive but relentless thought trail. During my trips out with them, I take myself to the local woods, and my walks are inspiring. After a few minutes, my head will settle, and thoughts become sharper and focussed strategies are formed on how to take the steps from theory to action, and meaningless stuff is cast aside. There is no focus on things that aren’t working.

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I believe that spirit and energies are with me continually: inspiring guiding, and supporting me to write, entertain, help, and guide others. Also, I think that spirit keeps me on task because I am, at times, somewhat woolly-headed. If the focus is not where it should be, I am guided to stop and be in the moment. While walking, I’ll focus on a robin, watch the water flowing and breathe, there are no worries at this moment. I am now free.

On the day this article was conceived, I was nearing the end of my walk. As I walked past a park bench, nothing unusual or standout about it: just a bench with a little brass plaque, a tribute to someone who had no doubt spent time contemplating life while sitting on the bench admiring the view. I was lost in my thoughts for a moment and then noticed something out of place under the seat. It was a toothbrush, white with pink stripes; the bristles well worn and not a cheap make either: why was it there?

The narrative in my head started to piece together a story. By its conclusion, I had learnt a valuable life lesson. I like this sort of outcome because Aesop’s fables very much influence my writing style. A story describing a moral. Stay with me while I explain my thought processes.

The toothbrush has the function of being an aid to clean one’s teeth. But why would it be under a park bench and not in a cup holder in a bathroom? Why would something that is so well used and important to somebody just be discarded here? 

Here is my interpretation of the scene:

The park bench is situated in front of a large clump of bushes. It could provide shelter if somebody chose to sleep on the bench and to use it as a bed for the night. This person could be somebody who had minimal possessions. Material things and comforts would likely be in short supply. I imagined for a moment how difficult it would be to sleep soundly with the elements hitting you hard. Also, there would be people passing, and the noise of the road running alongside would not help with finding rest. I shivered while thinking about the snatched moments of rest while waiting for the dawn of a new day. 

A strange feeling started to build around me. I began to see myself through another’s eyes, and my thoughts began to reflect somebody’s else’s values. I saw myself sitting on the bench or was it me? My thoughts wandered. I didn’t have a lot to look forward to today, but I am part of life. I reach into a carrier bag of meagre possessions.  I find my toothbrush, it is well worn, but it’s great because it’s mine and of high quality.  My inner voice tells me: one day all the work that it has done will pay off: and my smile might encourage someone to stop and say hello, or better still, offer me an opportunity to leave this bench. I tidy myself as much as my clothes will allow and I stand up and walk away.

I snap back into my version of reality. Remembering the person’s thoughts as he left my energies. His ideas were simple: get through the day and survive. His thoughts were both enemy and friend, and his prize possession was a toothbrush, inexpensive but essential to him. He left it behind, by accident or design who knows? The point is something he treasured, and necessary was left behind because he was thinking, he was not in the now moment.

In my work perspective is essential. The point is don’t get lost in having “things” and the “best of” because it can be lost in an instant. Victims of overthinking means we can lose sight of what is essential and leave the critical “thing” behind. 

Further examination of my thoughts posed another question: if the person sleeping on the park bench whose toothbrush was his prize possession visited my home: would consider me a rich man, or somebody to aspire to? 

I wonder if it provides insight into my struggles? If I am stuck in a rut or my thinking progress has stalled. Something like this man’s journey would be worthy of consideration. And should we consider each day’s experience is a fragment or piece of the whole life story? Today I place immense value on material security, keeping the home secure. And the next priority is to consider ways to move to a home more practical for the families needs. The man on the bench focusses on clean teeth and surviving. All is perspective: However, the question is this: ‘How do we know this man is unhappy? Would the loss of his toothbrush catastrophic? I sometimes think a setback is worse than the reality: there would be no concern if a toothbrush needed replacement: although to the stranger, it could be a severe setback.

I often get lost in thought. Like most people, I desire to be successful. But how do you define success? My definition of success will differ from yours. Yet mine will be most relevant in my way of thinking but does it align with reality, is my thinking flawed? My realigned way of describing success is this: Success has a healthy level of self-respect, a loving family to share my thoughts and feelings, a warm home, ample food and maybe a cup for my toothbrush 😉.

In closing, thoughts go out to the homeless people in the world and people within the horror of war. Watching others plights is humbling and helps realise how lucky I am, and maybe, just maybe, I am already a success. 

As always, these are provoking thoughts. Many thanks for reading these words: One last thing, don’t forget your toothbrush.

Cheers, Rick.

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