I had a hair appointment today.
I have always heard that you should never change your hair when you are stressed out. (Think Britney Spears.) I knew this wasn’t going to go well. I am still reeling from my recent health diagnosis.
This week has been challenging.
My check was returned from my insurance company again—another policy number change. Then, I find that my policy was canceled for nonpayment. I decided to run some errands. I spent 30 minutes in line at the pharmacy only to find out my prescription expired three days ago. A bit too much procrastination on my part. I pulled up my big girl pants and immediately called for a refill. But, last month was my last refill—I’d have to do lab work and make an appointment to get a new script.
Yep, it’s been that kind of a week.
So, having my hair done today was definitely not a good idea—I knew that. Still, I had an appointment. I put on my clothes and began to head out to the car.
But before I could get myself into the automobile, the mass of all of life’s sh*t hit me like a jackhammer.
I had the urge to stomp my feet and scream bloody murder. This sucks! Life sucks! I was standing in my driveway deciding if I could muster the sanity to go anywhere. There is no way, I realized, as my last shred of coping skills became a blubbering mess. I can’t do it. I cannot do hair or any other thing today. I am flying the white flag. You win, life.
This is when self-care becomes necessary. I had reached the end of my coping ability. Everything just felt like too damn much.
Back up the stairs into the house I went, with clothes and shoes flying off my body. I dove into the closet with my tissue box—heading for the quiet solitude of my “conference room” to sort out this life drama. After a bit of impromptu restorative yoga and a mild crying jag, I texted my hair lady that I had succumbed to a mental breakdown.
“Hair will have to wait. I am a stressed out wreck. Can we reschedule?”
I tell you this not to gain your sympathy. I am sharing my dreary day to shed a light of hope into the world. In the throes of my stormy emotions, I received a text back. Colleen, the sweetest hair lady in the world, was reaching out to the crazy woman in the closet: “Are you okay?”
Taken aback, I realized that I had not asked myself that question once.
While pushing myself to do one more thing, to try again, to keep on going, I had not offered myself the tiniest shred of compassion. I had never even considered taking off my shoes and crawling back into the bed. Through a text, this person had connected with me on a human level and helped me realize, yes, I am having a crisis. People go through crisis! I am not the only person in the world who has ever had to take a break in the midst of a personal catastrophe. It is not unheard of to give up for an afternoon and be kind to one’s self.
Her simple sentence jolted me awake and gave me the reassurance I needed to cry it out and let that release of control wash it away.
“Nope! I am definitely not okay, but I am already better than I was a few minutes ago.”
The truth echoed through me—these emotions and weary days are fleeting. They come in, seeming too big and too strong to handle at that moment, and they can seem so dark. They suffocate us, threatening to take over our entire lives. It was time to offer myself some breathing space. To stop pushing myself to pretend I was fine, that I could make it through one more thing before I keeled over.
I acknowledged it and felt it—my compassion for all that upset—and then I released it. There was immediate relief.
Sure, by then I had cried myself into an awful headache, with puffy red eyes and cloudy contacts. But I had come to a moment of clarity. I had weathered the storm, and I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll be damned. Why the hell didn’t I do that earlier?”
Nope, I did not get my hair done today.
Instead of hair maintenance, I fell apart.
It wasn’t a cute little damsel-in-distress kind of falling apart. It was an ugly, sobbing scene. A bleeding out of unbecoming self-pity, sadness, anger, unfairness, and bitter angst.
And it was also a gorgeous display of self-compassion that has gotten me through—I am still feeling pretty darn fine.
The next time Mercury goes into retrograde and the whole world seems to have gone to sh*t, I know what to do: relax.
I might hop into bed or soak in the bath. I could do yoga and breathe myself calm. I very possibly will throw another ginormous, walleyed fit. Whichever occurs, I intend to feel it deeply with abandon, to be frustrated, defeated, and upset for my suffering.
I will have absolute compassion for myself as I go through this life and its most difficult times. And then, I will let that stupid life-sh*t go. (I’ll just be sure to cancel any hair appointments!)
Author: Traci Burnam
Image: Charles Williams/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman