A Monumental Grey Hair

I just found my first grey hair; it's white actually, a sparkling silver in bright light, about an inch and a half long. In a quick moment of horror, I grabbed a pair of tweezers and plucked it from the top of my head, securing it between my thumb and index finger with careful disdain, the way I hold a tick burrowed into the thicket of Lily's coat, terrified of what could happen if it escaped my fingers, of where I might find it next time, all the while cringing at the thought of it's rotund blood-belly splattering between my fingertips.

In my early twenties, I'd roll my eyes when people worried over growing old because I was above all of that. I embraced the process of getting older, of becoming wiser and calmer, of growing into myself. I pictured myself with a thick braid of white hair, my face creased with years of sun and hard work, sitting in my grand-mother's rocking chair on the front porch of my cottage-like home with my friends--the ones I'd made so readily in my early years of college, they would be with me, their hair a silvery white, their hands sun-spotted and thick with veins.

What I didn't picture, in this utopian vision of womanhood, was the loss built into these years of growing into myself. I didn't realize somehow that the white hair and calm eyes wouldn't happen over night, but that it'd creep up slow, sneaking stealthily from behind that mask of time, a stretch mark here, a sun-pot there, yesterday a missed phone call, today a white hair, tomorrow new wrinkles and yet another forgotten birthday of a once dear friend whose middle name I can no longer remember.

It was too easy back then, to judge the people who seemed so afraid of time, to call their world plastic and them superficial. I would never find myself spending a week's paycheck on a tube of eye cream the size of my thumb or find myself in the check-out line with a package of hair-dye in just my shade of brown...right? Besides, I was invincible, walking the streets arm-in-arm with friends who promised to grow old with me; these were the same friends who'd be sitting on that front porch with their white hair, wrapped in the patch-work quilts they'd made themselves and giggling over a bottle of cheap red wine. It was easy to judge the seemingly trivial concerns and worries of others, not knowing who or what they'd lost, not knowing how much I had to be grateful for, and how much I had to lose.

Of course, with the facing of each loss, there has been some new growth, some shift of being. And it's these moments in between: pausing to notice some new stretch mark or deepening wrinkle, some new cluster of sun-spots or gray hair: that push at and against me, mocking this utterly vulnerable human state I face and my futile grasp for something that feels like control. But these moments of in between (each of us tottering that fine line between life and death), they are what we have; they are the gifts we have been called to receive graciously and with love.

This is what I realized today as I twisted my monumental first grey hair between my finger-tips, watching it catch the light. It sparkled a glittery silverish white and I must admit, for something I'm not supposed to want, it was really quite stunning. I found myself wanting some celebratory ritual, some form to follow that would help me to make sense of these changes, to see them for what they are and to be grateful.
After a few moments of silent appreciation, I tucked the beauty of a hair between the pages of The Gift, a collection of Hafiz poems given to me by one of those dear friends with whom I hope to grow old, then I fixed myself a cup of Lemon Ginger Tea and came into my closet of an office to share my treasure with you.

3 comments:

herhimnbryn said...

Grey hair is our 'badge of courage'. It is part of or story, our path, our journey. You are right to honour the first one!:)

Lizabeth said...

Yes indeed, I must say that I was pretty excited! Though I wonder how i'll feel with the next and the next and the next....

Susannah said...

yesterday morning i discovered that my first grey hair actually has some friends with him, and there is a small party of grey hair happening in a square centimetre of my hairline! I think it's my closeness to 40 that makes me want to freak out about this, but instead, i'm planning to cultivate a white streak in my hair that's incredibly glamorous... that's the plan, anyway ;)