I am not my hair ... but I am.

To be happy, we must be true to nature, and carry our age along with us.
— william hazlitt

photos from 2006 - 2015

Back in May, I wrote in my newsletter:

Happy 27th day!

I am wrapping up a year of avoidance. There, I said it. A truth that I was not aware of until recently. Though it may have been an unconscious choice, an involuntary reaction, still, I have been avoiding my life for the past year.

Avoiding life can look very busy. I am good at distracting myself with trivial things. ( case in point, writing this month”s e-letter. Oh the rabbit trails I have chased, the surfing I have done on the web, mindless clicking to avoid the work that I need to do, that I want to do) I am even better at the noble distractions. All the things that no one would argue are not good uses of my time but that keep me from the true work, the deep work, the soul work.

This year has been a year of chipping away the walls of distraction and spending time with myself. I am excavating my soul. It is a tender place and as I have grown closer to the center, my body has been reacting in interesting ways.

Six weeks ago, I stood at my easel, keeping my one hour a day painting appointment with myself. As I began to stroke the paint onto the canvas, the brush fell from my hand. Months of tingling, buzzing, and nighttime pain had begun to manifest during the day and affect the most important practice in my life. My hands had grown so numb that I couldn’t keep hold of the paintbrush.

After six months of trying to ignore this issue, I finally sought help and entered into acupuncture treatments and massage therapy. I can happily report that I am near to pain free, am recovering the full use of my hands, and am receiving relief from a decade long chronically painful shoulder.

My massage therapist is wonderful. She throws in a dose of conversation each session. We have talked quite a bit about how what is going on within a person’s life will manifest in the body. My body has gone into shut down, drawing closely inward, protecting itself. We are working on releasing and opening up my body so that I can be strong and stand firm without having to fight so hard to stand my ground.

I’ve been wrapping many activities and definitions around myself this past year. As I began to focus on excavation in 2015, as I pulled away from as many external voices as I could, I began to unravel, to detangle, to find freedom within. However, my body has been locked down for so long, it took assistance to unfold, to find balance again.

When I left that particular session, after talking with my massage therapist about my twisted up, locked up body, I began to to think about my hair. I was on my third journey toward dreadlocks. At least, that is what I would have told you. The truth is, I hadn’t combed my hair in eighteen months because I had settled into an attitude of self-neglect. I may have wrapped it up in dreadlock talk but that wasn’t the truth. I just didn’t care. I did not have time or energy to deal with my hair, my body, myself. My hair was an indicator of how I was living. Disconnected, distracted, neglected. 

But that is changing. As i have turned toward myself this year, I am noticing the body, the screaming body. It is begging to be healed, to be whole, to be in alignment with what is happening within me. I am ready for that. I am ready to relax, to release, to loosen up, to let go.

With this knowing, with this readiness, I prepared to take a bold step toward owning my next. As my mother’s death date approached, I knew what I had to release as a symbol of stepping into lightness, into openness.

My hair has always been a spiritual meter in my life. It is an artful expression. It is a way to hide. It is also a means of owning freedom, the freedom to show up in the world as no one but my soulful self.

This isn't the first time that I have done this. Back in 2006, I completely shaved my head because I had lice and no amount of treatment was working. So the waist length hair was discarded for the benefit of all. I was shocked by how strongly other people reacted to my choice to shave my head and also to how empowered I felt. It was exhilerating to be unleashed from the confines of making my hair perform. I had forgotten that liberation. It feels pretty grand to be there again, to wipe the slate clean, to begin again. Or maybe, I will just fall in love with being seen for my soul rather than for a mane of hair and stay a shorn woman. 

When I shaved my head in 2006, this anthem was circulating the airwaves. It was true then and is still true today. 

As it is, I will not remain a shorn woman. It's not me. It's not who I am. I am desperately waiting for my hair to grow, for my curls to return, for my wild mane to be with me once more. Every time I see someone for the first time since I shaved all the hair off they comment about how good it looks. "You look SO MUCH younger!" is the common exclamation. Gee. Thanks. I didn't realize that I had started looking SO old. Sigh.

Why do we think that is a compliment? To tell someone that they look younger? ( and for that matter, to say, "You look so good! Have you lost weight?!" again ... gee, thanks, I didn't realize that my weight was making me look bad) 

I am not reaching for looking younger. I just want to look like myself, to feel like myself. I'm not there yet but I will be. If it makes me look older, I don't care. Honestly, I can't see how it can. If I feel like I am inhabiting my skin again then I will be glowing with energy. 

Can we just drop our obsession with how people look? Can we stop assigning positive comments to looking younger or thinner? When we do that, by default, that means that being older and fatter is not attractive. When is the last time you heard someone say, "Your hair cut is awesome! It makes you look so much older!" or "You look so good! Have you gained weight?!" 

When it comes to loving me and my body, I have come a long way but I have a long way to go. Messages from my youth haunt me and as I am currently at my heaviest weight ever, I am feeling particularly less than. End of sentence. I simply feel less than. The body positivity movement is important to me not because I want fat people to be loved more than thin people but because I don't think weight should matter at all. One is not beautiful or not based on weight. Or hairstyle.

Can we just grow up and find another way to communicate love and acceptance?