Going With the Flow

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I’ve got gray hair.  There, I’ve said it.

I’ve got gray hair.

There was a time when I wouldn’t admit that.  I’m sure people knew.  We all get gray, but I deluded myself into thinking that no one could tell. .

Both my parents had gray hair in their 20’s.  Mom’s was more salt and pepper; Dad’s went to fully white by his early 40’s.  My hair was this pretty toe-head color when I was a toddler. Some of my favorite pictures of me have that pale blonde hair color in a mop of soft curls. I loved how it looked back then. A simple carefree style and color that suited me.

It didn’t stay that way. It began to darken in elementary school.  By high school, it was a dishwater blonde. I thought the color was horrible, so I used a lightener called Sun- In, to brighten it up. When I couldn’t afford that, I used lemon juice, and sat out in the sun. It was okay, but I never really loved it.

Most of my adult life, I colored my hair blonde. After a week, it was brassy and starting to fade. People would say I had interesting red hair. I tried coloring it more often. My hair turned thin and dull. I would try different products to give my hair shine, or body. They always seemed to work for awhile, then my hair would go back to being brassy and dull.  I thought the blonde color made me look younger.  Every time the color faded I would curse my hair and complain about how it betrayed me. I also tried grow my hair long. In my mind, longer meant younger.   I used a curling iron regularly, which added brittleness to my dull, thin hair.

Last fall,  I turned 60.  That was a hard adjustment.  I mentally prepared for months as that date loomed large on the calendar.  Again, I thought about how old I was and how old I looked. But after a couple of weeks I realized that no one really cared how old I was.  And better yet, I started not to care, as well.

Winter set in.  I had just done laps at the pool. I looked in the mirror and gasped.  My newly colored hair was washed out from the chlorine.

“Enough!”  I thought. “I’m so tired of this! Maybe if it just goes gray, I’ll save some money.”

Over the next three months, I let it grow out.  Each time I swam, the colored part faded a bit more.  When I went out, I wore this sweater type headband which covered most of my hair. I stuck it out. Well, I did have this one moment of madness when I wanted to grab a bottle of dye and pour it over my head, but my friend / hairdresser talked me down.  And I’ve stuck with it. No more hair coloring for me.

A strange thing has happened; a  miracle, actually. My hair has gotten better.  When I say better,  I really mean awesome.  I noticed the change in the 2nd month.  First, it became shinier; I mean really shiny. Then it got thicker.  Then I noticed that the gray that I was so sure was going to be hideous was turning out to silver, with very subtle pale blonde highlights. It’s soft. It has body.  It’s beautiful.  It also looks very similar to the hair I had when I was a child.  I have come full circle and I am loving it. Now I just get it cut every couple of months, wash it  every couple of days, and it’s perfect.  I don’t even curl it anymore.

My big take away from this experience is this: Don’t force things to change, they may be absolutely perfect as they are.

I look back at all of the times I tried to force change: my garden, my job, my  dreams.  The times things went the best, was when I just went with the flow.  Every time I tried to force something to change, the end results weren’t great.  I wanted a pretty garden, but I live in the desert. I planted things that were more suited to an English country garden.  They would struggle in the heat, and I would struggle to keep them shaded and watered. It took 10  years of trying and not succeeding before I smartened up and planted native plants. When I let go and let the plants lead the way, things got easier. The garden got prettier, too.

When I was getting ready to head to college, I lost my funding. Instead of trying to find new ways of paying to go to the school I dreamed of, I went the “easier” route and changed my goals to fit in with a scholarship that was available to me. I ended up hating the school and the courses.  I left before I finished and never went back to my dream of forestry and horticulture.  This March, a chance came up for me to take classes at the Arboretum in Reno.  I enrolled and had a blast. I’m scheduled now to help guide tours through the gardens at the park.  Because I opted to follow what I loved, some new doors opened for me.

I like this new me.   I like not struggling so much.  I like loving life.

And I really like going with the flow.


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