A few months ago, I boldly declared to all my friends and family that I was going to let my copper golden brown hair return to its natural color: gray.
My partner and friends cheered me on, but my mother asked, “Why?”
I told her that I was sick of expending energy, time, and resources to avoid a natural process that, like it or not, was fully underway.
At the salon, my hairdresser, Nancy and I gazed in the mirror. Nancy gracefully and optimistically mapped out the year-long plan, using the word “silver” instead of gray to describe the color, should I choose to continue in that direction.
She noticed the struggle in my eyes and suggested that lowlights could be added to gray hair. It was obvious that my initial enthusiasm was waning. Yes, maybe I could get lowlights, highlights, or add color streaks? Would I start to wear more makeup? Buy cool earrings?
I watched myself as panic set in. From all angles, this decision was a struggle with my self-image and identity.
In this culture, youthfulness is one of our highest values and the potential consequences for going against the grain are clear. Maybe I’ll become invisible or ignored and never be called “Miss” again. And yet, there is a genuine movement to just let it go. I’m grateful that life has gently worn down my need to look a particular way.
Truly, I am at a crossroads. An elder I have trained with calls this internal swirling a “dynamic choice point.” This occurs when the internal movement from our heart and intuition goes against the unspoken rules of our culture.
As I continue to unpack this ongoing process, I see that there are multiple dynamics churning within my psyche. The bold warrior woman within me would like to knock the blonde Barbie doll head off of the cultural pedestal. Then there is my mind: so excited to have something new to chew on. Yet, this could also be a potent practice to drop my youthful identity.
I went for a hike and stood at the top of a ridge. The wind was blowing so fiercely that I could barely keep my feet rooted to the earth. But something in my being forbade me to cower. It was as if the wind and trees were teaching me that it was time to stand tall to the reality that my life was most likely half over.
In that moment, it became clear that I had to step into the second half of my life with greater willingness and greater gray.
And, even as I contemplate letting go of this younger identity, another one is waiting in the wings. The identity of the courageous, wild crone wants to emerge. My ego further chimes in and says, maybe I would receive recognition for being an au naturel role model. Damn—is there any way out?
Maybe. When I pay attention to my eternal essence that witnesses the unfolding drama, it is willing, available, loving, spacious, and present. This one reminds me not to identify with anything that the ego and mind throw out.
At the end of the day, I can see that what I choose to do with my hair doesn’t matter one bit. The key is not to identify with any of it. I’m neither better nor worse for either choice.
I’m seeing that it is a blessing to be grappling with my image, a.k.a. “princess problem” (as my L.A. actress friend Jane would say), as opposed to wondering how I will find my next meal or survive.
Many of us fail to remember that aging is a gift. We all know the alternative.
As my hair color, identity, and this form continue to change, my eternal essence might be smiling in the mirror; even if I am tangled in my own vanity and self-image. This too will pass.