“Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy." James 4:9
A month and a half ago, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in several months asked me why I decided to cut my hair so short. We were engaged in an early morning mission to move me out of my then condo and as we carried boxes from my gate to her car, I told her my ready reasons: I wanted to start over with my hair, I wanted to stop hiding who I really was, I was ready for a change in my life and this symbolized a fresh start—the reasons I already had in my head, the reasons I’d already been telling other people, the reasons I knew I was still trying to figure out. Then Delia said something that made me momentarily forget all of those reasons. She said something that rang so true that I recognized it immediately as the unnamed one, the reason I felt but didn’t know how to express. Mourning. She mentioned that in some ancient religions people shaved their heads as a sign of mourning. And I thought without a doubt, “Yes… that’s what I did! That’s what I’m doing.”
I was in a lot of pain when I decided to do this big chop. I’d been struggling with various things for a while and hadn’t had the time to work them out. And then something happened, one particular incident that brought too much of my pain to the surface. I know it’s cliché but I truly felt like my heart was bleeding out. And I remember thinking “I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get over this one.”
After a couple of days I began to feel frantic. I couldn’t get away from what happened and I desperately needed to. I also needed a way to deal with the issues that this one incident had stirred up. For some reason I ended up listening to a teaching that a friend had sent me a few days before, not having any idea what the teaching would be about. Well it was very timely—It focused on the damage that we do to ourselves and others when we hide the truth of our struggles. It added to my inner mess the burning desire to do something to make things right. That’s when I had the idea of shaving my head. It popped up and I thought “Yes. Then I’ll be new, and everything from here on out will be new like the hair growing out of my head.” I then came up with a set of life changes that I would implement with the haircut and I felt such relief.
A few weeks into my new do I realized that cutting my hair hadn’t made anything but my hair new. I had not begun an immediate, dramatic change in my life; less hair did not mean less struggles; and not only did I not experience the instant relief I’d been after, I’d also given myself an extra dose of self-consciousness to bear.
But that was all fine because from the day I moved out of my condo to the moment you are reading this post, I’ve been realizing how right Delia was about this mourning thing. Every time I run my hands over and through my short kinks I’m reminded that [3 weeks ago, 1 month ago, 6 weeks ago] 2 and a half months ago there was something that I wanted to cut off, something about which I was very sorry. I’m reminded that a long time ago, even before that particular incident, there was a way I lived that I deeply regretted—a life involving a great deal of hiding, a life lacking integrity.
At the time I cut my hair I wanted to take these things away, I wanted to start over, I wanted to be a new person. But solely cutting my hair could not make me new. At the time I cut my hair, I didn’t realize that what I was truly seeking was a way to express grief, to offer up an “I’m sorry,” to mourn. I didn’t realize it then, but I do now.
Thank you so much Delia for helping me understand.