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.