I dyed my hair bright pink a week ago. And I don’t give a hoot what you think about it.
For a long time I’ve been trying to go unnoticed. For a long time I’ve tried to be what everyone else needed me to be (and to hell with what *I* needed me to be… or wanted me to be for that matter). For a long time I’ve felt I needed to justify my actions, reactions, choices, & feelings. And then my husband’s PET scan revealed a potential recurrence of cancer & I just stopped giving a FUCK what anyone else thought. Priorities can shift so seismically in a single moment. Life is funny like that.
Well actually, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. I’ve spent 18 months or so slowly divesting myself of a whole mess of things I *thought* were my identity. As it turns out, at my core – my most raw & unfiltered, I already had a pretty good handle on who I was & that has stayed solid despite the sandy foundation upon which the rest of my “identity” was apparently built. I’m a lot more simple & a lot more complex than I believed myself to be. I bet you are too. But the PET scan revealed more than a potential cancer, it revealed how I felt about my life, the people in it, myself, & my priorities.
Here’s some of what I learned:
1) I really like my “stuff”. I have cool things & pretty clothes. But I am not my stuff. Would I be sad to see it all burn to ashes, you bet’cha, but I don’t need it. Once the lesson has been learned or the mark has been made it’s indelible. I like the seashell garishly carved to denote our honeymoon in the Caribbean but if it were crushed to dust it wouldn’t undo anything. The memory wouldn’t unravel. The time wouldn’t be wasted. I wouldn’t lose all those moments & lessons & emotions. What I would lose is a seashell. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.
2) I decided to literally move on. As soon as circumstances allow we will be looking to relocate, not to run away, but to clear the slate. I’ve learned everything I can from Here. The only way for me to continue to learn & grow is to go someplace else where we can be the people we are Now instead of the people we were 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years ago.
3) I forgave myself. I realized that I was still dragging around a lot of baggage about shit that simply hadn’t mattered in a very long time. That time I got busted in college using a program I wasn’t supposed to have? Gone. That amazingly bad relationship I put myself though? Done. That moment in high school when I was utterly horrible to someone I cared for? Let go.
None of it is forgotten. I really did all those things. I made those choices. I caused that hurt. And it’s done. It happened, but it happened back There. Hell, some of it happened WAY back There. I am not the same person. If presented with the same circumstance now I wouldn’t react the same way or make the same choices or feel the same emotions… so why continue to feel badly when the lesson has been learned? That’s just silly.
4) I accepted where I am. It could be better, but it could be worse. It varies day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute… and it should. Life doesn’t stop just because I’m feeling bad about myself or my current circumstance. We decided to actively choose happiness & love & light whenever we could. So if all we can manage in the day is to enjoy the drive to/from the doctor’s office or to eat breakfast on the porch & listen to the birds, that’s what we do.
5) I was uncomfortable being noticed because I felt undeserving of praise & attention. Instead of continuing to feel that way I examined why I felt that way. A lot of it was coming from how I felt others saw me. But I liked who I was & that was in conflict with feeling bad about myself so I took stock of the people who really matter to me (and I to them). I tallied up the relationships in my life that made me feel good & I decided to celebrate them and to see myself through the eyes of the people who love me best. I also decided to disengage from the relationships where I was not loved or valued and any where I didn’t love or value the other person. This was a hard one for me. I, as a rule, do not ever ever ever give up on anyone… until I do & then you may as well not exist (I’m stubborn on both ends of holding on AND letting go).
Part of the reason this was hard was because it included my parents, my sister, & most of my friends… which sounds a lot more tragic than it was. The truth is that I disengaged, I didn’t “cut anybody off”. I consciously decided not to let how these people saw me alter how I saw myself. So my father thinks I’m not enough (his words, not mine), so what? I know better. I am more than enough. I am plenty. And a cool thing happened – I let it go. I stopped being hurt & angry about the way he’s treated me. Looking at him now I have empathy & compassion but no attachment. I got in touch with my Zen and I realized that how he saw me was a reflection of how he saw himself – not enough, never enough – and my heart hurt for him a bit. And then I let it go. Poof! Out into the Universe to sort itself out. Such a cool feeling.
The best thing that happened, by far the coolest shift to come from all this shifting was that I stated to truly love myself – as I am – for the first time. I am still focused on my husband’s health & well-being but now I’m focused on mine too. I eat better food in more appropriate quantities. I drink more water. I took my phobias & issues, shoved them in a broom closet, locked the door behind them, & found a doctor I can successfully work with. I’m doing better for the people I love (which was always my focus before) only now I’m more intent on doing better for myself. I deserve to be here. I deserve to feel joy. I deserve to grow & change… Which brings me to last week when I let my kid (who needed the practice as she’s in cosmetology school) dye my hair bright pink. Neat, huh?
*On a side note I use “we” a lot here where I could use “I”. I do that because part of my strength, resolve, & outlook comes from my relationship with my husband. I use “we” often times because I don’t feel it’s authentic to pretend I am in this alone. We are together. We share a life. My decisions affect him & his affect me. So I use “we”. In case you were wondering.