• terry-lynn hemmerling

Grey hair, trying not to care.

Recently I began to transition my hair to the natural grey that it actually is and has been for some time now (hint: years). Witnessing my reaction to this choice has been interesting and uncomfortable. My mind is looping cruel stories of suddenly being less attractive, less relevant, of aging out with the appearance of the grey. Accompanying these stories is a background feeling of unease spiralling into outright fear in some moments, of suddenly becoming invisible (*poof* she's gone).  All of this drama resulting from this very obvious symbol announcing to the world where I am at in my current stage of life as if the world didn’t already know. This reaction has led me to ponder what all the fuss and mental gymnastics are really about. Hear me when I say that I am well aware that there are waaaaay more important issues to get tripped up over in our current geo-politcal climate. But still, this reaction begs a closer look. Why the discomfort? Why so much effort in the way of time spent sitting monthly in the hairdresser’s chair, not to mention the considerable financial expense to cover this blatant sign of the passage of time in my life? What is under the fear and disappointment with the decision and now the outcome? Recently, I have begun a writing practice when I encounter disappointment: I try to put my finger on what would be happening in a perfect world according to moi... If I woke up tomorrow morning and everything was going exactly how I would love it to go, what would it look like, sound like, feel like? Sometimes a pathway around the disappointment emerges as a result of this envisioning. So here goes: The appearance of grey hair in a perfect world would be experienced like this:

In this world grey hair actually signifies a certain wisdom, clarity, steadiness and strength. Rather than covering or hiding grey hair, it is worn proudly as a hard earned badge of honour for having walked the planet for a significant amount of time. Covering it up with chemicals that are harsh on the environment and the scalp would be considered preposterous. Fear of suddenly becoming invisible in a youth-obsessed culture is non-existent as the age behind the grey provides the honour of perhaps being labeled as an elder by the community. A label to be proud of for sure. This crown of grey marks one as a steadying force in an uncertain world. There is assumption present that a grey haired woman has been through some things, seen some things, done some things, most importantly, learned some things. It assumes an understanding, a clarity that what the world needs right now is a slowing down from the frantic pace we keep, a fullness of presence to the moment unfolding before each of us and a witness to the pain of disconnection we are experiencing despite our collective technological "connectedness." Rather than carrying herself with fear of being ignored or of having "aged out,” her spine is strong, straight and proud. Her shoulders are back. Her heart is wide open. She is absolutely approachable to those around her, especially the youth, who have inherited a very complicated world to navigate. Confidence. Resilience. Experience. Comfortable in her own skin. Most of all, she exudes an assuredness that comes with having been here for a while and of knowing deep down in her bones what is of true value in this life...

In this perfect world the energy to “age-defy”or to “anti-wrinkle” is ludicrous. The youthful look is left to the young as it is understood and accepted that it rightfully belongs to them in their time. Women are free to be the age they are without any pressure to fight it, hide it or pretend to be another age. Women of this age are valued and appreciated for their spirit of embracing every stage of life in all of its fullness.

When I have the honour of meeting, interacting or hanging out with women who embody this kind of carefree, confident spirit, I am inspired. I attended a meditation retreat last spring and met a woman there who was beautiful. Grey hair to her shoulders. Her calm presence was contagious. It seemed that it would never occur to her to be anything but exactly who she was in this moment of her life. I want to do this middle aged stage well. Deep down there is a truth that cannot be ignored and that is this: my hair is grey and I am very much middle aged. I want to find a way to fully celebrate that. I want to be an example to my daughters coming up behind me on how to age well, not how to stay young forever. I don’t want to look like I am a sister of theirs and trust me I don’t and never have… Rather, I am honoured to look like their mother. I can feel this truth reveal itself (in some moments) through the peace I feel of not clinging to a colour that is no longer mine (although sometimes I am clinging). Examining this through a mindfulness lens, I need to consider what I have been missing out on that my present moment has to offer. And if the truth of present moment awareness practice transfers as truth tends to do, than I am missing out on something huge in this moment of my life by not embracing it by clinging to a younger version of myself. In so many other areas in my life I LOVE the colour grey. We drive a grey vehicle. My couch is grey. My walls are grey. My newest chair? You guessed it. So why when I look in the mirror and see grey does it churn up so much turmoil. I will continue to grapple with these questions and continue hanging out with women who are brave enough to let their grey all hang out because I deeply admire them. Will the grey hair stay? Not sure. The jury is still out on that one. But for now I have grey hair and I am trying not to care....

*photo NOT my hair - taken from the internet:

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