new hair, new year, new me

I was proud of my long hair; it was the longest it had ever been. Many people commented on how nice it was. But it was starting to break down. The ends were horrible, fried and split. I was bored with it. We are on the cusp of a new year.

Time for a haircut.

While I love what a haircut symbolizes – cutting away the old, making way for the new, a fast and easy transformation from one version of yourself to a slightly different one – I often approach them with a feeling of dread. Not because I have had bad hair experiences – though I’ve had a few of those; I once came out of a dye job with straight-up orange hair – but because I dread the small talk. I don’t know what it is about hairstylists, but they all seem to love small talk, which, as an introvert, I loathe. Talking about the weather or the song on the radio or what your favorite color is kind of makes me want to shoot myself in the face. So this hairstylist that I went to this time won my (probably) undying devotion through the simple fact that she seemed as averse to small talk as I am.

She asked me what I wanted to do to my hair. She asked me if I was from Edmonton. She made an allusion to having a child, so I asked her about that. I asked her how long she had been cutting hair. And then, gloriously, miraculously, we lapsed into a beautiful, convivial silence for much of the rest of my time in that chair. She apologized for poking me with the scissors, she conspiratorially confessed that she likes to listen to the other clients’ conversations (hey, me too!), she asked me if I liked the cut. That was it. Otherwise, I sat in the chair and stared into space and composed blog posts in my head, letting her gently pull my head this way and that as she cut, occasionally correcting my positioning with a soft touch to either side of my head.

Early on, I got a hair in my face and went to move it. She scolded me soundly, telling me that if I was going to touch my hair, then she was going to just leave it half-done. She was obviously kidding, but maybe only half-kidding. I decided not to test it. I have been reaffirming my commitment to meditation lately, and it seemed like a good opportunity to practice.

There is an episode in Eat Pray Love when Liz Gilbert is practicing a radical form of meditation that requires one to sit perfectly still and not move a muscle, no matter what discomforts may be doing their utmost to disrupt. She sits for two hours on a bench, with mosquitoes basically eating her alive, and she does not move. My experience was not that intense, but it did feel like it required Herculean amounts of effort to let the hair fall into my face however it wanted to and to not touch it. No, don’t touch it. Just leave it. I know it’s tickling your nose, and there’s a strand stuck to your eyeball, but leave it. Keep your hands in your lap. Just close your eyes and forget about it.

And slowly, I did. I forgot all about it and then, suddenly, I’d realize that whatever annoying piece of hair had been plaguing me was now gone, had been moved aside without me even noticing. That what had seemed aggravating to the point of distraction had righted itself without my having to do anything but let it ride. I have a hard time relaxing and letting life happen as it will; I want to always feel like I’m in control. Perhaps this was a tiny lesson that I could carry forward with me.

Life has been buffeting me around a lot lately, or at least it feels that way. Simply existing has felt like a monumental effort, like getting through each day should be enough to earn me a medal for extraordinary valor. Part of the reason that I wanted a haircut and was so desperate to make sure that it happened before the dying light of December 31, 2015, was because I wanted a new beginning. I needed to cut away 2015, to see it laying on the floor in a bunch of blond, crispy clumps, and to bid it adieu. I needed to start fresh.

I got up out of that chair, my new hair swishing over my shoulders, and I felt transformed.

So here we are, in the final hours of 2015, and I feel about ten thousand times lighter. All the agony and frustration and confusion of 2015 is in a garbage can behind a salon on Jasper Avenue, and 2016 lies before me, sparkling and unbroken and new as fresh fallen snow. I don’t know what will happen this year. I guarantee that there will be some heartache. But now, with six inches of my misery gone, I feel ready to meet it.

 

new hair, new year, new me

Hiatus

I am taking some time over the holidays to unplug, spend time with my loved ones, and appreciate the little things in life. I am hoping to do a bunch of creative stuff, a lot of reading, and writing, and long walks in the snow. I hope that I will come back to you all in the new year rejuvenated and ready to tackle new projects.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in January. 🙂

Hiatus

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

myheartandotherblackholes

Happy December 21! I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Pull up a chair, wrap your mitts around a warm beverage, and let’s chat about our book. Also, make sure you click the link at the bottom of the post to vote for next month’s book club selection!

Third time’s the charm, I guess, because I really, really liked this book, you guys. I wish that all young adult books – scratch that, all books – dealt with depression and suicide in such a real way.

My thoughts to get the discussion going, but I seriously cannot wait to hear what you guys have to say:

  • Like I mentioned above, I appreciated the realness of Aysel’s depression. I recognized gigantic chunks of myself and my own depressive behavior in her thoughts and actions, and the ways in which her mental illness affected all of those around her. We may think that we don’t matter and that nobody cares about what we are going through and no one would understand, but we are wrong. When her sister, Georgia, says, “I just wish you weren’t so sad all the time,” I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It is like Aysel says when Roman comes to her house: “Sometimes it takes watching someone else observe how you live to realize how you live.” Real talk, y’all. Real talk.
  • That being said, I was also frustrated by the fact that both Aysel and Roman had these huge, traumatic events that happened to them that were the impetus for their depression. While traumatic events such as a sibling dying or a parent being incarcerated can, of course, be precipitating factors in the development of mental illness, they don’t have to be, and I wish that Jasmine Warga had chosen to give a huge event like that to only one of them, so that we could also see that depression affects “normal” people, too, whose father never murdered anyone and who didn’t leave their sister to die in a bathtub, which is, honestly, much more often the case. But I did like the fact that Roman was popular and handsome and, from all appearances, not someone that Aysel expected to want to die. Depression doesn’t give a shit how many friends you have or if you are great at basketball.
  • I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed that their relationship took a romantic turn. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and I absolutely agree that love and acceptance are the best antidotes to the cruelty and isolation of the depressed mind, but it would have been so nice to see a friendship do the saving, instead of a romantic relationship.
  • It was interesting to see, as Aysel rediscovered her will to live, how she had to watch everything she said and did in order to keep it from Roman because she didn’t want to disappoint him, and she knew that he would be upset if he found out. He proved that on several occasions, with his emotional reactions to any tiny indication that she might be turning into “a flake.” He wanted to keep her depressed so that he wasn’t alone; he wanted to keep her depressed so that he still had someone who understood him. And Aysel wanted that, too, she just couldn’t stay that way. When he says to her, during their camping trip, “I can’t make you happy. We can’t let each other make each other happy,” he is really saying, ‘We need to cling to our sadness and shun any possibility of hope. Our sadness is what makes us who we are.’ Seeing his shift in perspective at the end was a little bit too much of an about-face for me, but I also felt like it didn’t really stretch credibility. Having found someone who loves him and accepts him for every dark piece of him, I truly believe that he may have had second thoughts about wanting to die. And his proclamation that living is going to be hard as hell? Bang on.
  • The use of physics as a through-line was really cool. I liked that Aysel was a science nerd, and physics was the perfect companion for all the death and depression going on. Alternate universes, string theory, the theory of relativity… Thematically appropriate, yes?

Now. NOW! To the comments, my pretties, so I can hear what you thought!

(Psst. Click here for the January book selection poll.)

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

the long shadow of divorce

Barely a month into my engagement, the relationship that had been the apex of what a relationship should be for the entirety of my life disintegrated in rapid, dramatic fashion. Suddenly, this couple that I had long held up as a paragon for marital competence and success, was no more.

Selfishly, it felt like a punch in the gut. Which made me feel a little guilty; I wasn’t the one whose decades-long marriage was falling apart. I wasn’t the one who needed support (well, I was one of the ones who needed support, but that’s another story). The pain and anger and sadness and general mess of the whole affair were like a bright, blinding spotlight for me, illuminating this thought: did I really want to get married if this was one of the places I could end up?

My whole world had been skewed, tilted on its side. My worldview shifted abruptly, leaving me nauseated and confused. I looked at Bryan, the person I loved more than I ever thought possible, and thought, Can we, should we, do this to ourselves? I watched the slow and bloody process of picking up the shattered pieces of a life that had been built together, and I shied away from the idea of ever having to do that myself. I did not think I would survive it. I did not think that I could bear it.

I was forced to think long and hard about my own relationship and its future. Divorce had always been a possibility, of course, but in an abstract kind of way. It was something that lurked in the shadows, never really showing its face, never really drawing attention itself. I had never experienced the real consequences of divorce, had never had to navigate its trials and tribulations from any side of the equation, and so I had no touchstone for what it would really be like.

Until now.

And suddenly, there was a technicolor, all too real example right in front of me. I had to watch people that I love deeply bend and bow and wave – but not break – in the wake of this familial and familiar tragedy. I had to witness the very real and very painful consequences; the division of a family, the reassignment of allegiances, the rebuilding of identities. And I had to consider the possibility that, if Bryan and I went ahead and got married, this could be our future.

For a while, thinking about it was like trying to touch a fresh wound; I couldn’t do it for longer than a few seconds. Then it became more like pressing on a bruise that was a few days old. Then, eventually, it became like flossing. Annoying, uncomfortable, but necessary and not particularly difficult.

The realization I came to was this:

Tying your life to someone else’s is always going to be an inherently risky endeavour. People are volatile. People are, to an extent, unknowable. People have free will, and the ability to make decisions that will hurt you in myriad ways in the long run. But they also have the capacity for great joy, great connection, and great love. To build a life with Bryan might mean that we one day have to disassemble that life, parse it out in chunks of ownership and custody and who gets to keep what. I hope that if that day ever comes, we will meet it gracefully and exit it as friends, to whatever extent that is possible. But I cannot imagine a life in which I would regret marrying Bryan, in which I would regret the years I have spent with him. Even if, in a decade or two or three, things end bitterly, I hope that that potential bitterness does not overshadow the joy that he and I have shared together.

And so I decided that getting married was worth the risk. So far, I’ve been right.

the long shadow of divorce

starting fresh

photoproject-9803

The last few months have left me feeling pretty shattered. My friend Alex said, “It’s been a rough back half of the year for sure,” and I responded with, “Backhand of the year, more like.” Because I am a comedienne extraordinaire. It has been one thing after another after another, until I find myself cracked and flayed and gasping for breath.

My first instinct is to run. After the latest backhand, I immediately began fantasizing about ways I could get away from everything: find a job in a remote mountain town, drive the car down to Southern California and spend the foreseeable future sleeping on the beach, hole myself up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I want to be away. I want to tuck myself in somewhere where I’ll be all padded and cosy like a fragile crystal vase in a UPS package, where I’ll be protected from anymore of life’s “jokes” so I can just heal.

But I know I can’t just run away. I can’t out run my problems or run them out (though sweating through the issues seems to help a little bit, if only to clear my head). No matter where I go, I bring all my problems with me. All of my problems and all of myself. Wherever you go, there you are. Relocating myself won’t make me any different. And it won’t protect me from anything. There is nowhere in the world I can go where life wouldn’t catch up with me eventually.

And so I must just stay here and fight through it. Face up to my pain every day and go on living my life while I do it. I open my eyes every morning and for a few seconds, I feel as fresh and new as new-fallen snow, like nothing bad or painful has ever happened to me and there are infinite possibilities awaiting me in the hours to come.

When those few seconds pass, and the world and the past and my pain crash down on me once more, I try to hold onto those few seconds I was free, to carry them with me like a talisman. A reminder that, no matter what happens, for a few seconds every day, I get to start fresh.

starting fresh