hair cuts

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

“One’s unbirthday should not be confused with one’s half-birthday, which only occurs once a year.” – Wikipedia – Unbirthday

I had a roommate in college who cut hair. She wore dark clothes and lots of boots and was able to rock short hair in a way that would make my round head look, well, rounder. She dreamed of dropping out of our university to attend beauty school. Instead of studying she would spend nights in our co-ed house dying the hair of the boys who lived down the hall.

The boys would emerge from narrow hallways smelling of bleach. They’d strut towards us, proud of their new, burnt orange do’s while swooping their freshly cut bangs over their eyes with a vicious tilt of the head. Smooth.

I was dating one of those boys. He later became my husband.

I’d watch from the worn, scratchy couch across the way as this roommate would confidently wield her scissors, tucking clips in her layers of black, kind and sure of herself in a way I wished I could be. I was not sure of myself in college.

This roommate was also sure of celebrations and firmly believed in celebrating her half-birthday. ONLY her half-birthday. She and her mom would give halves of gifts and eat halves of cakes and celebrate making it another tilted trip around the sun. She hated her real birthday.

I liked this premise and tried to make it my own.

Over the next four years, I started acknowledging my half birthday too. I wasn’t ready to renounce my real birthday and chose to adopt another day of recognizing me. I’d shout to myself as my half-birthday approached and remind people I loved with text messages and emails. My loved ones didn’t get my obsessive need for celebration. Most ignored my cries for recognition – I’d survived another six months, so what? In most minds, my half-birthday was just another day. As Alice in Wonderland would say, just another un-birthday. We have 364 of them.

Not in my dad’s mind though. He was one of the only people who would follow my whims, get onboard my excited text message chains and holler “woo woo!” throwing a fist pump in the air as I urged others to come along.

Sometimes, I really just wanted to be seen.

He didn’t have to understand the why of my absurd claims, he would just start to play along.

Sunday was my half-birthday.

I texted my loved ones and whooped quietly in the morning and they responded limply. I ate half a muffin and would have tucked a candle in my homemade banana cake, but the waxy old sticks rolled missing in my drawers.

This year, in his absence, my half-birthday felt like an un-birthday and perhaps that’s ok.

I’ve been working on a running list of the many things we don’t do anymore as his bubble of absence grows and pops.

Half-birthdays turn to un-birthdays. Move air. Blow bubbles. Pop.

Vacation traditions fall flat.

Car caravans leave without our vehicles.

Lines fill at taco stands with feet in Chacos, not ours.

They’ll sleep in the valley, under the stars while we keep mending here instead.

Move air. Blow bubbles. Pop.

We no longer eat small bowls of vanilla ice cream.

I was in my garden this evening and saw this giant snail, carrying its home on its shoulders. My dog sniffed and sniffed, her breath blowing the cobwebs and dirt on this creature’s muddied shell.

I paused and I thought, “What is this snail carrying that protects, but no longer serves? What debris of home follows you, little snail, wherever you go? And what of me? The things I carry, my dirt, my dust, my joy turned to wispy webs of systems and traditions no longer serving a beautiful, bubble-filled heart.

A very merry unbirthday.

To me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cut It Off

Have you heard of the guy who speaks to water molecules?

Dr. Masaru Emoto works on examining how the substance of water is intricately connected to our human consciousness. He has spent time studying the way language affects water’s chemical make up – its structure changes depending on the words used to title, label, or spiritually connect with the substance. Watch this video.

I find this research fascinating. It makes me question how I am choosing to label myself, what words I use to describe my experience. I wonder how snips of self-loathing are perhaps urging the little cells and molecules that make up me to morph and change.

I’m not sure if the same is true with hair follicles, but hang with me here.

As a hard-on-oneself perfectionist, I have been known to beat myself up a little bit on this bumpy road called life. My husband, mom and friends keep encouraging me to calm down, take it easy, rest. Friends send texts and magnets with euphemisms and articles like this one to remind me that life is a journey, not some point of arrival.

I think instead, maybe death is a point of arrival, but thats another exploration into something else entirely. The point is, I’m not the greatest at being kind to myself in my own little noggin. Pair that with learning to cope with grief, and the picture hasn’t been the prettiest.

I know that life can’t be pretty all the time. But over the past few weeks I kept thinking about that doctor, and those ice crystals, and the cells in my body and how they are reacting to my own self talk. And I got a little bit scared.

Now I do this thing in transitions – it’s an effort to have some semblance of control in this mad, mad world – where I chop off all my hair. It is not uncommon for females to go through spurts of rediscovery with their look, changing up length, color, cut for a renewed sense of self-love every once in awhile. My latest attempt at recreation though, was linked to something else entirely.

My hair has been getting long, really long. Over the past 13 months, I trimmed my hair once, instead appreciating the ease of pony tails, braids, simple buns. But I kept thinking to myself, what is happening in those hair follicles of mine? The ones that have endured a bit of suffering and stress? What do the little guys look like on a microscope? Can I transform their cellular sadness into something fresh?

No.

No, I thought. I cannot. And so I made an appointment with my hair stylist who has known me for years. Who, through God’s mysterious ways, has also lost a parent. On Saturday I sat down in her chair and she asked the standard question, “What are we doing with your hair today?”

I responded, “We are chopping the grief off Rachel,” and she smiled. Maybe, just maybe she knew what I meant.

With strong hands, silver scissors, and a loving heart she restyled my hair leaving a pile of messy, hurting cells on the floor as I wiped a few tears from my eyes. She blessed me with conversation, asking about my heart, and my family, and how it feels to be a year out from loss. She encouraged me knowing that the journey is long, but there are friends and beautiful people to walk through this process with you.

Another woman in the salon came along and swept up my hair from the floor, swiftly moving those nasty dead cells away from me. I could leave them behind and begin to grow fresh cells that morph beautifully in structure because I am going to be better to myself in how I talk, think, and process these challenging times.

She cut it off and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.