Friday, July 8, 2011

Hair as Metaphor

I cut a bag-full of hair off my head this week when I was on retreat. Bought scissors at the store and started hacking (fear not, I've cut my own hair for years now, it's not that crazy!). Literally a bag full:

It was well several inches past my shoulder. First I just cut it to my jawline. But I could still feel it's weight on me. So then I cut it shorter. Still, it was on me. So then I took the scissors and did some serious hair-slaying.

You see, my hair has always been metaphor to me, I think, a way of expression other than writing or speaking or dancing. At times deep in my chronic illness in the past, it was the only voice I had available to me. Now I speak and express in many ways, but my hair is still always a way to show on the outside what is going on on the inside.

My hair has been speaking loudly over the past couple months even though I wasn't paying attention. But that was the problem. I wasn't paying attention. I was asleep. I mean, I bleached the front half of it to re-dye the pink and blue, but then just never bothered to finish the process. Not because it looked good. I walked around w/ yellow hair for a month, putting it a ponytail or a bun or ANYTHING to get it freaking OFF me. It was a hassle, not expression. And I found myself hating it. Every heavy ounce of it that I had to wrestle each morning and still feel the weight of every day. Buns are heavy when you have thick hair like mine. You never don't feel the weight.

God, how rich a metaphor for the rest of what was building up in my soul, that I was also bearing-but-ignoring. Joseph Campbell writes:

"When you wander, think of what you want to do that day, not what you told yourself you were going to want to do."

I told myself years ago that I wanted long hair. My hair started much like it is now, about an inch away from my scalp. But I've always wanted long hair, on and off since I was a kid. Like really long hair. Obscenely long. So I've been working for three years now to get long hair. It started to get annoying, but then I thought: Heather, you're moving to Minnesota! You're going to want that long hair for insulation! You can get through this last Texas summer keeping it off you!

Goals are great, commitments are important in life, but not when they are stifling the voice of everything you want today. God, what a squelching of choice, of the present breathing space and depth for change! Alan Watts is helping me to understand, probably for the first time in my life, that what matters in our thought life is not the past, or the future, but to fully live present in this moment now. It's revolutionary to me. It's freeing. It makes everything and anything possible.

I came home and re-dyed the short bleached bits. When I pass a mirror now, I smile every time. I run my fingers over and over through the short choppy hair and I smile wider.


  1. I love this "hair as metaphor" post. In fact, I'm writing a scene right now in my sequel where Emma gets a streak of red in her hair (remember, this one's based on The Scarlet Letter--get it?). For women, especially, hair holds so much symbolic weight. Yours looks free and dynamic and fearless--hope that's how you're feeling lately!

  2. Thanks Eve!! Yep, free, dynamic, fearless!!! At least I'm working on it :) That's how I want to live my life. And squeee, I'm so excited to read your WIP whenever you're ready to show it :)