“You wash your hair every day?” my hairdresser said kindly, but clearly surprised.
“Um, yes,” I said. I instantly felt I’d been caught in the act, though I’d no idea there was an act to be caught in.
In that moment, we suddenly realized that, even though she had been cutting my hair for 14 years, we had somehow not talked about this really important topic before. I had been working for years to imbue my fine hair with body and volume, something that all people with fine hair have to work at and that, apparently, some manage by not washing their hair every day.
After we laughed at ourselves and recovered from our surprise, we talked about a no-washing schedule to try. I had this image in my mind of walking around looking awful with obviously greasy hair, but I understood the logic of letting my hair be dirtier and was actually excited to give it a try. I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now (just to be clear, I rinse my hair every day and only wash it every three days), and the difference has been pretty miraculous.
I’ve also been thinking about what I have learned from this seemingly ordinary experience. Well, not so much learned because I already knew these things in some ways, but it feels like I integrated them in a whole new and profound way because they surprised me by emerging out of the most mundane situation.
- Sometimes we have to go against what we have learned is “right”—I know women who don’t wash their hair daily, but it had never occurred to me as something I could do. Something that could be helpful to me. I just assumed it was something other people did and that it wouldn’t work for me. It was just a given in my mind that I had to wash my hair every day or it would look awful. Lo and behold, the thing that I thought would be terrible is the very thing that I needed to do. It required a big mental shift (including breaking the habit of grabbing the shampoo bottle when taking a shower), but my hair is much happier and healthier for it.
- Sometimes simple is better—It is so easy to get caught up in thinking you need all these fancy hair products and techniques to make your hair look good. While I have always tried to keep my hair situation really simple, I’d been struggling for years, as I’ve been letting my hair get longer, to figure out how to give it body and volume. While most of the products and tricks I’d tried worked pretty well, I’d had to work at it more than I wanted to and still felt a bit dissatisfied. I didn’t realize how forced it all was until I just let my hair be dirty and do its natural thing. Isn’t that how we are in life sometimes? We think something has to be really complicated, and we suddenly discover that we can do something more simple or just let it be and all will be well.
- Sometimes dirty is better— has a purpose. It is useful. Plants grow out of dirt. It has nutrients and all kinds of good stuff in it. And yet we shun it so much. Sometimes dirt (or in the case of hair, oil) is the very thing we need. Sometimes in life we just need to be in the mud (metaphorically speaking)—in the messiness, in the darkness—and let things grow and incubate in that place. The image of the lotus flower blooming out of the mud is powerful for people for a reason.
- Sometimes you can do what you need to do for you, and no one else has to know—Okay, so I’ve put this out here in a public forum where people will see it (and I can imagine my hair will be getting some extra scrutiny as a result), but really, no one had to know. If I felt not okay sharing it, I didn’t have to. But I could still do it for myself. Maybe there is something you do (or need to do) to take care of yourself or help yourself in some way and maybe you feel weird about it. You can keep it a secret. There is no rule that says you have to share all aspects of yourself with others. Trust your sense of what feels right to share and what doesn’t. And you can find delicious satisfaction and self-efficacy in knowing you can do what you need to do for yourself without anyone else’s opinion or approval.
- Our selves (body and mind) can be trusted to let us know what we need—To me, this feels like the most profound lesson from my hair experience. We too often dismiss signals from our body or mind that something is amiss or needed. We can’t always immediately recognize the signals or know how to respond to them, but our bodies and minds are incredibly good at functioning and signaling when there is an inefficiency or problem. My hair, by tending to be limp and flat, was telling me for YEARS that it needed to be dirtier – I even realized that it looked better at the end of the day, when it was good and dirty (and when no one else could see it, darn it) – and yet I didn’t absorb the message until a month ago. It is miraculous and funny to me that the answer to my hair problem was right there, right in front of me, all along. So even when you don’t recognize the messages from your body or mind about what is needed (or you do, but you don’t know how to respond), it is still important to remember that the messages are always being conveyed, that they have significance, and that the answers will come. You just have to remain open and curious. And ready to be surprised.
© Amanda Norcross and Learning to Listen to Soul, 2013.