Next week is the 4 month mark for my silver hair journey. April has been quite a month of upheaval: we sold our house, moved in with family, and have looked at 3 different homes for possible rental. I don’t have a home of my own and there is an ungrounded feeling with it. All of our belongings are in storage, I don’t have an art or yoga studio or a kitchen of my own. Honestly, I would not recommend two major changes at the same time. While changing the color of one’s hair may not seem like a “major” change, it actually does present some deep rooted personal challenges: acceptance of self, confidence, peer pressure, etc… Combining that with selling and then moving in with parents can be a bit of a personal challenge! I remind myself that all is impermanent anyway, and we can choose to navigate the unknown with grace and acceptance. I am grateful to be spending this time with my family, for large family meals each night, and constant companionship with my parents.
At four months of no dye, my hair is at a stage where it is actually very silver. I have cut it a few more times to a very short pixie, and now it appears that yes indeed, I do have silver hair. It is actually a salt and pepper sort of silver. It feels thick and full of body. It is soft and easy to manage. I think the constant dyeing of my hair over the years made it limp and lifeless. The silver has a newness to it, and it sparkles in the sun.
This month is the month of my birth as well. I turned 41. For some that is old, for some it is young. It is a right in the middle sort of age. I don’t personally feel very old. My yoga, meditation practice, and my healthy plant based diet makes me feel sprightly. My body moves with ease, and I try to accept life’s challenges with grace. That is not to say I don’t struggle, I simply struggle less than I did in my younger years. One thing going gray has made me realize is that I should be proud of each year I gain, each struggle I approach. Every birthday marks another wonderful year of living, almost like a badge of honor. Many people die young so it feels like an honor and a gift to grow older. I don’t think the color of my hair marks my age- I was gray in my 20’s. Instead, letting the true color of my hair helps me to feel I am expressing myself with truth and authenticity, growing more silver with each year I age. I am no longer trying to hide the color of my hair. I am happy to let it sparkle.
For The Love of Stuff
Over the past month, Josh and I spent nearly every day either packing up every item we own into a box, or deciding it was no longer needed and was to be recycled or junked. Every single item in our house. Luckily we had been downsizing and decluttering since we returned from India in March of 2014. We had reduced our book collection by 3/4, our clothes by about the same, and had removed many furniture items, children’s toys, and so much more. We thought we wouldn’t have too much to move and we didn’t have that many “things” left. Well, nothing brings the reality of your belongings right up in your face as much as having to pack them all up and move them.
After we packed, over the course of just under two weeks, we moved 98% of our possessions into a 16′ x 17′ storage unit. We are staying with family while we continue our house hunt. Moving your belongings into storage is a humbling, and very tiring, experience. Most of our belongings are sitting in a quiet and lonely storage facility. At least there is central air. Josh has said he has dreams of taking everything out of the unit and reorganizing it so it is packed more neatly. That is about the last thing I want to do! But I do think about certain items that would be better served by moving them on than by continuing to store them. I think when we finally get to taking them out of the unit, I might have two piles: one to keep, one to get rid of.
Why do we love our stuff so much? What drives us to purchase and keep so many things, from big furniture and appliances to little trinkets and items that we never use or don’t really need? What are we really holding onto? When I think about the energy and resources that go into making all these items, creating facilities to sell them, and then moving them about, I wonder what we are really trying to do. There are about 400 storage units in the facility we are using, and 90% of them are full. Our society is drowning in its own stuff, and we are stripping the earth of its resources just to spend more money on more things that we do not really need.
Sure, I recognize that we do actually use some of these items, and that some items may improve our quality of life or even be very necessary. But then I think about other countries where they make do with very little resources and seem to get by just fine. Maybe there is a middle ground out there? Maybe we could find a way to manage with just a little of what we need — think of all the time we would save by not purchasing, fixing, storing, and moving all of those unnecessary items. Maybe we could start examining what it is we own, what it really costs us, other cultures, and the planet to have those items, and perhaps start to envision a new way?
Let me ask you: When was the last time you went through every item you owned and questioned its true need and value?
I finally went with the pixie hair cut. Unfortunately, I still have dyed ends as the gray hasn’t had a chance to grow out very long. I might do a few more hair cuts, or I might let it be as it is. I am a bit impulsive I haven’t yet decided. Eventually, I would like to grow out my hair long again but I don’t want the two toned dyed and gray look. I would rather go for the all silver mane of hair. Meanwhile, I have taken to wearing a hat or head band most of the time. I guess that is my own insecurities showing through.
Josh told me the other day that he can finally see my gray. I wasn’t sure what he meant, and he clarified that he couldn’t really see the gray before and now he can tell that it is gray. I think this was simply an honest observation. But it did make me realize that at the 8 week mark, I am moving into new territory. It will be much more obvious to others that I am letting those gray hairs grow. Most people in my circles know what I am doing, and they either are in total agreement and encouraging, or they are staying quiet about it. But I realize that there are plenty of folks, mostly other women, who have strong feelings about their own gray hair. I have not yet experienced rude comments and criticism, but from the various gray hair groups that I am in, I see that sometimes other people are not as supportive as my own family and friends. Going gray brings up all kinds of insecurities for ourselves and for some folks around us. The comments others seem to get from their unsupportive loved ones are: “you look unkept and unwell with gray hair” and “your gray hair makes you look so much older,” and “you look like shit.”
How sad that people feel the need to say unsupportive and negative words to people they supposedly care about. To me, this is like going up to a pregnant woman and saying ” geesh, you know that baby you are growing makes you look so awful and fat.” We know that pregnant women gain weight, it is a necessary and healthy transition step. Ditching the dye and going gray can be done in several different ways, but at some point it will be obvious that those gray hairs are coming in and something different is happening. Seeing the “line of demarcation” or those gray hairs coming through, is a necessary and healthy transition step. Ditching the dye is essentially ditching the poisoning of our own bodies and of the earth. This is a healthy step and to me it is one of beauty.
Old is a perspective of the mind. If we feel old, we project old. Guess what? We are all older than we used to be! Getting older is a healthy and necessary transition. “Old” is not about your age or years, gray hair or wrinkles, those are inevitable and you can’t control the years you gain. You do have control over your vitality. You can eat healthy, exercise, practice mindfulness like yoga and meditation, and feel good about yourself. Let’s stop pretending to be what we are not, let’s stop harming each other, the environment, and our own selves to meet some marketing standards, and let’s start being real. Gray hair means being free. It means thinking for yourself, letting go of false standards and superficiality, and embracing what is real and true and good. Nothing is more beautiful than that.
Going Gray: Inspiration
*photo credit: http://waytofamous.com/22043-marian-seldes.html
I find it important to stay inspired while pursuing any new endeavor. By learning about the journey of others and how they have navigated a path, I find new ideas to test out and new thoughts to consider. As an artist and creator, I also find inspiration in the artistic expression of others.
My yoga students often give me thoughtful and inspiring surprise gifts. About a year ago, a dear student gave me the book “Wise Woman, ” by photographer Joyce Tenneson. What a treasure of a book. It is a collection of photographs of women over 40, combined with inspiring quotes and thoughts on their life. It was a fitting gift considering my website title of “Powerful Woman Yoga,” but it is even more fitting now on my going gray journey as many women in the book reflect on the idea of dyeing hair.
Here are the words of the late actress Marian Seldes:
“My grandmother always used to say, ‘If you know your part and you know where you have to go, why do you rehearse?’ I always remember this, and it’s true. You have to start each day again- you can’t repeat what you did. When I let my hair go gray I felt an enormous freedom. All those years of having my hair dyed- why do we do that?”
Are you dyeing your hair, or thinking of going gray? Let me know your thoughts and inspiration in the comments below.
Going Gray and Ditching the Dye, Journal Entry 2
I had a moment this weekend where I felt like shaving my head. I only have about a half an inch of gray/white roots coming in, but I felt ready to get all that dyed hair off my head and let my silvers shine. I sent a picture of what I was thinking of doing to my mom, and within minutes she was calling me with an intervention. Mom and I are doing this gray thing together, and we started at the same time (she is a week ahead of me). Josh was standing by with his shiny and sharp electric razor in hand. After I got off the phone with mom, I trimmed a tiny bit off the ends, and we put the razor away.
I have done a great deal of self work with my yoga and meditation practice to become a patient person, and I feel I have come a long way. But there are still moments where impatience can run high. It is not that I don’t like the way my hair looks, that doesn’t feel like an issue right now. Instead, I feel ready to be silver. Usually when I make a decision, when I announce it and I accept it mentally, I take it on right away. Indecision is not my work. My inner work over time has been to sit still and wait for better timing or to let things take their natural course. I am struggling with that in a big way with trying to sell our house, but that is a whole other blogging category…
Mom told me to wait a few more weeks or months, if I possibly could, and then to do that pixie cut. She said I would regret shaving my head, big time, and there would be no way to change it if I didn’t like it. Before I decided to go gray, I thought I might let my hair grow out to my shoulders. But since deciding to go gray, I feel that for me it would be better to go back to short hair and then to let it grow out all silver. I like that idea quite a bit, so now I feel committed.
I am in a few Facebook groups about going gray. If you are on Facebook and are thinking about going gray, I recommend joining one of these support groups: Silver Foxy, Going Gorgeously Gray, and Gray and Proud. These groups offer support and community for those times when you wonder “am I doing the right thing”, or “how do I handle the transition”, and “should I keep my hair long or go pixie?” Sometimes, we need to see or know that someone else is going through the same thing, or that they have the same doubts or questions, and it makes us feel connected. These groups have been positive, supportive, and full of joy. I see in these groups that women, and even a few men, struggle with this process as it brings up many insecurities. Should I cut my long hair? What will people think of those white roots, will they think I am letting myself go? What if they call me granny? While these groups do offer support to people, the truth is, that bigger work has to be done on your own.
One of the things that has helped me decide to go gray is my yoga practice. Yoga encourages us to love ourselves where we are at, and to embrace our inner goodness. Yoga encourages us to question our thoughts and to investigate why we might hold a particular belief that might not be serving us. My deep investigation of Yoga philosophy has helped me to understand that there are many options and ways to approach a situation and to feel less attached to outcome and expectations.
So for now, I will not shave my head. While writing this post, my mom called to check in and see if I had shaved my head after all. I reassured her that no, I had not. “Good,” she said. “I didn’t shave mine either.”