After my yoga class the other day, a friend of mine approached me with a surprised look on her face.
“This is so weird, I was just thinking the other day, I wonder what her hair really looks without the ponytail? Now I know.”
“Now you know.” I said with a smile and a nod. My curls nodded right along with me.
Nobody except for my family and childhood friends know who my hair really is, because I’ve hid it for almost two decades.
My life and my hair have shared something in common all these years—they were both wrapped up in my control.
Every morning, I tied them both back with a ponytail holder and straightened my bangs into a coiffed side-swipe over my right eye.
I secured every strand in place. If I flipped my head upside down, nothing would move and I liked it that way. I liked my life that way too—predictable, with no surprises.
I knew I couldn’t keep it this way forever, but I was willing to try because the fear of losing control was unconscionable. Just in case my band broke, I kept a stash of them in my car, in my purse and in my yoga studio.
A few months ago, I realized I didn’t have any back ups left—I used my last spare, so I braced myself for the day it would lose its elasticity and break. It did. In June, my life tumbled free and I hit rock bottom.
I tried to pull it up, smooth it over, hold it back with my hands, but it was too exhausting. I had no choice but to let go.
A few weeks ago, my hair broke free too.
I finished swimming my laps and realized I forgot my brush and hair band at home. I searched frantically in my bag for them but they weren’t there. I reluctantly flipped my hair upside down, shook it a few times and went about my day. When I got home, my hair had dried.
I didn’t recognize myself at first. I’d forgotten what I really look like. Then, I saw someone I thought I’d lost forever—me.
The four year old with the wild, wispy curls and rainbow suspenders I lived in every day. Creating lyrics and singing songs to the dolphins who swam along side the bow of our sailboat as we explored the Pacific coast.
The 16 year old, driving in her car for the first time alone, hair blowing, Dave Matthews blaring on the radio, batting my ringlets away as they hooked themselves inside my smile.
Then, I saw the 19 year old who sat in the stylist’s chair and asked her to cut it all off after discovering my family was broken for good and my parents were divorcing.
My hair grew back, but I didn’t. I hid behind a hair band and so has my life—pulled into a tight little chignon.
Although my life has shifted drastically over the past four years, I’ve still kept it bound. I continued to straighten it with the heat of my fear, my fear of being who I really am and allowing myself to be seen by everyone else.
I’ve been afraid of living my life alone without the security of a ponytail holder (or a person to lean on).
Recently, I started feeling uncomfortable and constricted by my style of life. My hairstyle and lifestyle no longer suited my heart.
A (curly haired) student overheard my friend mention my new look. As she picked up her mat to leave, she chimed in,
“I never knew how to take care of my hair. For years, I tried to brush it, but that only made it worse. I realized I was fighting it and I gave up. There’s one rule: never brush the curls.”
Never brush the curls. Let them be. This is the action of letting go and giving up control over something that is uncontrollable.
This is my work in life, to let go of that control. Control has caused every ounce of struggle I’ve experienced. I have created it—not my hair, not my life, me.
We are who we are and the more we try to be someone we are not, the more we will suffer. I can’t hide who I really am and neither can you. Eventually the band will break and we will have no choice but to wear our real hair and wear it with confidence.
Our lives will unravel the same way—as they are meant to, regardless of how hard we try to tie it all together. Life is too curly to be straightened or restrained. The less we brush our lives, pull it taught and try to tame it, the more it will fall into place without struggle.
I’m going to leave my brush in the drawer for a while, maybe forever. Wearing my hair down feels good, no matter how messy it gets. I like how it feels blowing in the wind.
Maybe you’ll let your hair down, too.
Don’t brush it and see what happens.
You might recognize someone you haven’t seen in a while.