Hair: My First-World NON-Problem

When you think about it, there’s something uniquely banal about complaining about our hair, and yet we (with hair) can all do it. Even if we don’t complain incessantly about our hair, we still have stories to tell when the subject comes up. This week at work, a few of us stood around one morning sharing our hair-related woes. We probably could have talked about it longer than we did. We took turns trading hair horror stories, and we weren’t running out of material.

Hair.

It’s going to seem like I’m complaining about my hair right now. But I’m not.

Here’s a selfie I took in the car the other morning:

 

No matter how it starts out, this is how my hair always ends up. In my face.

No matter how it starts out, this is how my hair always ends up. In my face.

 

That big chunk of hair hanging down the center sums up the general state of my hair. It’s in my face, or it’s stuck to my lips or eyelashes, or it’s windblown, even when there’s no wind. My hair strands are thin. I don’t just have fly-aways… every hair on my head is a fly-away. The strands fall out easily and copiously. Callaghan is always having to detangle my hair from the vacuum cleaner roller brush thing, and my fallen hairs collect in the corners of the bathroom faster than I can think to gather them up. After I wash my hair, I have to remove a solid mass of clumped hair from the shower drain hair-catcher.

If I don’t pull my hair back before I eat, a loose strand might find its way into my mouth, where it’ll tangle up with food I’m trying to chew, leaving me to attempt an inconspicuous fishing expedition. When I catch the hair, I have to pull it out of my throat, because it’s partially swallowed.

It takes skill to do that without hacking and gagging like a cat with a fur ball on its way out, because that’s what the strand is at that point. It’s a fur ball, and it’s gross. I’ve written about this before; truth be told, it’s probably only happened a few times in my life, but each time was the equivalent of a thousand because of the mortification factor. (Of course, this kind of mishap usually happens in a restaurant, when I’m eating lunch with, say, people from work.) I’m a cat mom, but my own cats never even hack up fur balls!

I’m always pinching at my face in attempts to remove a loose hair that’s bothering me, or I’m reaching under my arm to grab at the bottom of the outside of my t-shirt sleeve to capture the loose hair that I know is hanging there, since I can feel it brushing against my skin. This is my plight… pawing at myself in pursuit of the loose strand of hair that can be felt, but not seen.

Weightless, fine strands of hair. It’s unmanageable no matter what I do.

If there’s one kind of envy I have, it’s hair envy. I’m always admiring the thick and glossy hair on other peoples’ heads. (I have long leg envy, too, but my hair envy surpasses it by far.) I’m fascinated by hairlines that are uniformly dense and beautifully shaped from ear to ear. My own hairline is uneven, a little high, and it’s always been thin on the sides, up by my temples.

Some people have lovely straight hair. Some people have gorgeous curly hair. Mine is wavy, but not in a nice way. The strands go in conflicting directions. It’s wayward and fly-away and runaway and every other kind of a way you can think of. I have cowlicks, too, and those little, fine baby hairs springing out of my hairline in the front.

When it’s humid, forget about it.

Despite numerous articles on the subject, there’s no “best hairstyle” for my hair or face, because my hair defies reason regardless of the cut. Any style I’d want to achieve would involve painstaking effort, and I’ve never been a person who enjoys “doing” her hair. I fail at having super short hair, because it has to be manipulated into looking the way it’s supposed to, and who has the time or the patience for that? (A lot of people do, it seems, but I’ve never been one of them.) Neither can I seem to get myself into the salon regularly to maintain the cut. Every time I attempt short hair, I end up growing it out again, and then I complain about how long it’s taking.

If I did have a “best hairstyle,” it would involve having bangs, I think… but with my fine hair, bangs just look scraggly on me.

There’s no perfect product for my hair, either, though I’ve found a few things that kind of alleviate the frustration. Most “weightless” hair oils and serums do end up weighing my hair down, and they don’t miraculously tame it. I’ve totally accepted that I’ll never have a lush, satiny mane of hair, but I’ll take smooth hair. Every once in a while, I’ll unearth my hair-straightener, which helps with the texture somewhat… but even that consumes more time than I care to spend. It’s been months since the last time I did it.

Having said all of this, I insist that I’m not complaining. My point is that I’m thankful for my hair. When I catch myself staring wistfully at other peoples’ hair, I think of how lucky I am to have any. Since the Gulf War, I’ve said many times that I could never have a bad hair day, and that is absolutely true. I’ve never had a day that was actually ruined by my hair.

Dwelling on my hair and wishing it was different or more like someone else’s always makes me feel guilty.

My hair is my biggest first-world non-problem. It is what it is, and I’m lucky to have it.

I’m lucky to have access to a shower, and shampoo and conditioner and other products.

I’m lucky to have the means to get my hair cut, and I’m lucky to have found a fabulous hair stylist who’s an awesome person, too.

I’m lucky to be in good health now, because when I had active autoimmune diseases back in the 2000’s, my hair told the tale of those struggles. (That was when I shedded the most.)

I’m lucky to be in my late 40’s and still have brownish-black roots that grow in darker than the deep golden brown color I put in.

My hair is a good reminder to be grateful for what I have, and that makes it one of my favorite features.

The Darkest Hour, Part 2

I’ve been wanting to continue on the theme of my Darkest Hour post, and I have to confess that I didn’t give it as much thought as I would have liked – but even as I finish writing this, sitting here on my lunch hour at work, I realize that it’s useless to try to compact the mysteries of nebulous life problems away into neat little lines of text. So this is just me, not being a psychologist or a counselor of any kind – there’s my disclaimer! – rambling a little about life and crises and regret and goals and action.

Mainly what I want to say is, things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

You know how when you stare at something really hard, your vision blurs until the thing becomes obscured? Or how, after searching frantically for something, you give up, only to later realize that it was sitting out in plain sight all along… it was right there, but you couldn’t find it? The answers to the biggest questions in life are often like that, I think. They’re maddeningly invisible in their obviousness.

In fact, it seems that quite often, issues arise the more we try to see, look for, search for or find things. When using variations on the sense of vision doesn’t help us to figure things out, it might be time to change strategy.

Furthermore, when searching for “what I want,” that (whatever it is) often turns out to be a mythical beast, and why waste time and energy chasing something that may not even exist? Our hearts’ desires are often illusory in the sense that sometimes, we think we know what we want, but when we get it, we realize that we want something different!

For me, the more worthwhile challenge is to open my mind to knowing what I want – more in a process of discovery, rather than a searching for. If I (at least) believe that I know what I want, I can take steps toward getting it. I can set goals and strive to make things happen. Motivated by the ambition to reach my goals, I’m exempt from the struggle to find the answer to ultimately meaningless questions like “what do I want to be when I grow up?” and the tedious preoccupation with “finding myself” that I’ve seen bog people down until they’re lost in the confusion they’ve made of their existences. I try not to overthink my life and myself.

And as much as I like to joke about it, I don’t think I actually believe in the concepts of “mid-life crisis” or “identity crisis” or “existential crisis.” There’s just crisis, and the practice of labeling it and applying definitions to it only gives us more tools of procrastination we don’t need.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-merriam-webster-crisis

 

A difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.

Of course we all experience crisis, but everything can’t be a crisis. Just because we’re dissatisfied doesn’t mean that we’re “in a crisis.” There are degrees of difficulty and danger, for sure, and it’s always good to be aware (stay alert to stay alive!), but funneling our energies into taking the situation apart from the inside out usually doesn’t lead to anything but mental and emotional fatigue and frustration. We end up building apathy into the self-defeating cycle we’ve created, and that’s where we get stuck.

It’s blissfully liberating to realize that we can use that same energy to fuel our own productivity… and on our own terms.

It’s worth endeavoring to become a creator and collector of goals, both long-term and short-term. It’s worth trying to become a dedicated collector and keep those goals in sight, lined up all nice and neat.

Success, victory and triumph are personal, even intimate degrees of measure we construct for ourselves. It’s not just the day you win at a competitive event wherein everyone can witness your badassery. It’s more meaningful the day you can say, “Hey! I’ve finally stopped making that one mistake.” It doesn’t matter if you had to make that mistake five or ten or a hundred times before that. The growth still happened. You developed as a person. YOU did that for yourself, and in doing that, you gained freedom from old restraints.

Regardless of where I am at any given moment, as long as I can look back at my own life and note progress happening somewhere, in some realm of my being and existence, I feel successful.

And what of regret? I want to address this briefly, too, because it’s another thing that can drag us down.

Regret doesn’t have to be a spirit-crushing specter overshadowing our lives. Aside from the inevitable random moments of thoughtlessness in which we speak or behave carelessly (if we’re human, there’s no avoiding these moments – all we can do is learn how to handle our blunders with grace), there are difficult times during which we’re likely operating in “survival” mode, meaning that our thinking is foggy, or we aren’t thinking, at all. We’re distracted and worn-down by an onslaught of challenges that causes us to see everything as a threat. We’re propelled to action, and sometimes, in the urgency of the situation, we misdirect that action, making decisions we might later wish we hadn’t. We can make bad judgment calls regardless of the goodness of our intent. It just happens sometimes.

But it’s easy – too easy – to look back on these moments years later and feel regret, guilt or shame when we’re no longer under duress. Berating ourselves from that detached standpoint isn’t fair to our past or current selves. We can wallow in regret, or we can grow from our experiences by taking away lessons offered through them.

Regret is something we can manage by recognizing any mistakes that may have caused it and accepting that we made them, with gracious allowance for the external factors that comprise “circumstances.” Then we can gather our hard-won nuggets of wisdom and relish the satisfaction of a more mindful moving-forward. We can proceed with a purposeful energy infused with something akin to defiance and rebelliousness, that revitalizing energy that allows you to be the surfer standing on two feet at the crest of the wave not only with determination, but with joy, as well. We can commit acts of joyful courageousness on our quest to attain our goals. There’s a sense of liberation there, and the view is stunning. 

This brings me to the subject of balance, but I’ll save that for another day.

I’m Your Secretary! (Not)

Identity is a spiky thing, a sacred thing, and it’s interesting how profoundly we realize it when our own identities are challenged, threatened or compromised in some way, or when our reputations are sullied, reputation being a facet of identity. We feel protective about our identities like we do about practically nothing else. We know who we are, and we want others to know who we are. (Even more than that, we want others to take the next step and accept who we are, but that’s a subject for a separate post.)

A few weeks ago, there was a muddle about something at work that led to an error and an inaccuracy in someone’s “brief bio” on our website. The person in question made the discovery when he went to check out his entry, and he promptly let me know about the issues in an email.

Now, I don’t usually beat myself up when something goes wrong, but this time I felt a good twinge. Incorrect information about the guy was out there, in public, and that kind of freaked me out because I know how I feel when biographical information about me comes out wrong, or not how I intended it. Not only that, but regardless of the circumstances, I was the one responsible for the snafu. I felt pretty craptastic about the whole thing even though the errors arose from confusion rather than negligence. (And this is why I’m not a surgeon, folks. If I’m going to be involved in mistakes at work, I’d rather they be fixable mistakes. I would rather accidentally butcher someone’s online “brief bio” than amputate the wrong leg. I mean, in that case, you could still save the patient’s life by going back and amputating the correct leg, but then he’d have no legs at all, and that would be an unspeakable, atrocious consequence. Not to come across as flippant about tragic medical errors that actually do occur… just to point out that there are mistakes, and then there are Mistakes).

Perspective cannot be overrated.

I got the guy’s WTF email at the very end of the day. After running here and there doing whatever  damage control was possible at the time, I went home, retrieved a small package from the mail, opened it, and found that, in a bizarre coincidence of timing, the same thing had just happened to me! In my case, however, the errors in my “brief bio” were in print, so they were indelible. I did not have the luxury of being able to zip off an email expressing my displeasure and commanding someone to fix the mistakes.

Unlike electronic errors, printed errors can’t be yanked from public view and corrected with a few keystrokes. There are no such magical disappearing acts in print. If your “brief bio” is incorrect and the text goes to press and the ink dries on the paper and the copies are distributed, you will be erroneously represented until the end of time, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. That is how poor Dr. Sanford Couch came to be Dr. Snaford Couch.

Click the image below to see the publication in question (or to purchase it, if you’re so inclined):

 

Two of my poems are in here.

Two of my poems are in here.

 

 

The last sentence of my “brief bio” at the end of the book says that I live in Chandler (which I don’t), and that I’m a community college secretary (which I’m not). These things were true when I first submitted the text three years ago, though. I lived in Chandler at the time, and I worked as the Department Secretary for World Languages at MCC for a short while before moving to France.

When the Clackamas Literary Review confirmed that Volume XV would finally be published, I wasted no time in sending them an updated “brief bio” along with the revised poems both physically (to their mailing address), and electronically (to not one, but two different email addresses). Despite this effort and the Editor’s emailed acknowledgement of receipt (Hi Kristi, I received your info and work–thank you!  We plan to have all back issues out by June…) the volume somehow went to press with the outdated “brief bio.”

 

Hello, three years ago me!

Hello, three years ago me!

 

It says “2011” on the cover, but the copyright date inside is May 14, 2014.

I wasn’t angry or upset, mind you… I just noted the oversight with the odd flavor of vexation and wry amusement swirled together on my tongue. I was vexed because this was not my first, but second time experiencing this kind of thing (no doubt this happens to poets, writers and other creative professionals all the time), and amused because of the irony and timing of it, having just come from trying to fix mistakes in someone else’s “brief bio.”

I did not email the Editor to point out the error, or to ask about it, or to air consternation… there was no reason to expend negative energy, and nothing could have been done, anyway. Moreover, to err is human, and who am I to go around acting like people are supposed to be perfect when I often feel more fallible than the average person (whether that’s true or not)? I was just happy to see that the volume made it to press, period… and grateful that my work appeared in it, as always. In the end, it really doesn’t matter that I don’t live there anymore or don’t have that job anymore. People who know me know the deal, and if people who don’t know me pick up the book and think that I live somewhere I don’t and do something I don’t, so what?

Again, perspective. It’s a wonderful thing.

Happy Friday, All!