Good job,” my husband said, when I hopped back into the warm SUV.

We’d just finished eating yet another pandemic Friday night dinner in the car and had driven to a CVS Pharmacy to dispose of the leftovers. I’d made the quick dash from car to outside trash receptacle and back to throw away the bag full of carryout containers, paper napkins, and plastic dinnerware.

“Throwing away garbage isn’t something I want to be good at,” I told Steve, pulling the door closed and rebuckling myself into the car.

“Sorry,” he said, as he shrugged, backed out of the parking spot, and headed for home.

My response might have been more gracious if I wasn’t still thinking about the time just a couple of weeks earlier when a dental assistant told me I was good at dental hygiene.

“Thanks?” I said, more as a question than a response.

“During your last cleaning, Courtney wrote down that it took only four units … that’s how we measure it,” she explained. “Most people have way more. Four is really great.”

“Well, that’s good, I guess.”

For a second, the compliment gave me that puffed-up feeling of pride. I’m good at something, I thought. But as the dentist continued fitting a crown on my tooth, taking it on and off to shave it down and be sure it fit correctly, I wondered why it mattered. Would I really be sitting here now if I was that good at dental hygiene? And what kind of compliment was that anyway?


Originally published at Awake Our Hearts Journal on March, 2021.