It’s Not Just Hair
An I-didn’t-see-that-coming, very real, very raw post about weight loss and a long, winding wellness journey
I had an epiphany tonight. One that seems pretty shallow, but one that is, for me, so very deep: it’s time to lose a significant amount of weight. No, not Biggest Loser style. But about 25 pounds, a significant amount for me.
Here’s the toughest and worst part to realize, the epiphany: It's not about losing the weight, it's about letting go of the heavy baggage that no longer serves me. I don’t need to lose the weight because someone else thinks so or because I want to feel more attractive. I need to lose the weight because of the common link it represents in my life: feeling indifferent, untethered, imbalanced, out of control and at the bottom of it all, unhappy. Every time my lowest points emotionally have met my highest points on the scales, the common denominator is a long period of unhappiness.
And every time I hit wellness rock bottom, I realize it via photograph. Even if a scale has already delivered the bad news, it's not until a photograph of myself makes me think, “wait a minute. That can’t be right, nah, bad angle,” that I truly pay attention.
Then another photo comes along with another bad angle. And another. And I start doing the thing where I look for the photo where I look the least fat. But one photo, one magic photo, finally breaks the camel's back as quickly and as lightly as a feather.
This time, it was a photo from my best friend’s wedding. I saw it and my heart sunk. “Oh no,” I thought. “It’s not the angles. It’s really time to start climbing up this mountain with intention."
And it’s okay for me to say all this. I don’t say it in self-hatred. I say it, finally, out of love. I say it very positively. I say it to invite reality to the party, and to dismiss denial and thank her for her visit as I show her to the door.
I've already seen reality in the faces of those closest to me, but resistant rebellion resented that fact. Feeling external judgment made the situation much worse as I allowed the hurt it caused me to anxiously fuel bad habits.
Now I'm motivated to say I officially commit. It's finally time to get back to (or move forward into) the best me possible. I met the best me once and she was unstoppable. She got me to where I am today. But as I climbed to where I am today, I slowly but surely let go of her hand. I let go of everything she worked very hard for. I lost it all, but only temporarily.
Only temporarily because this trip has ignited a spark. Ever the smallest spark, but ever an important spark of true carefree happiness. I am with my family and we are without distractions. I am detached from things and space and places. I am creating, even if only a fraction of a day, whether it’s taking photographs or writing, I am expressing myself, using my voice and honing my eye. Things that are so important, but things that we sometimes stop making time for when we are distracted by our careers or new motherhood or relationship stress or a combination thereof. I may feel like I lost the best me, but I only slipped and lost my footing on this ever-moving, ever-morphing mountain. Now I begin to climb again on a solid foundation I finally laid for myself.
You know how I know I’m really ready? Because I cut my hair. I’ve had beautiful long blonde hair at varying lengths between the bottom of my shoulder blades and my butt (i.e. between super long and ridiculously long) for five years. It’s become part of me, who I am. My Love never saw me any differently (as I, until very recently, had never seen him without a beard), nor had my daughter, who has used my hair as a security blanket since she was such a small baby I was convinced that wasn’t what she was doing. In short, my family was equally, if not more, attached to it my hair than I was.
Which makes it more symbolic that I cut it, because I did it for me. And I needed to do something for me to jump start this engine. I’ve been flirting with the idea of cutting my hair for close to a year now. Maybe only six months. A long time, any way. But I always rejected the idea because so much of my identity was wrapped around those strands and I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with it, anyway.
But there was another reason, too. I was telling myself that I could cut it when I lost “the baby weight” (as I’ve come to affectionately call the weight that, yes, I gained while pregnant, but have willfully maintained as a not-pregnant woman for two and a half years now) because short hair looks better on slimmer girls. Just like I’ve told myself that I can get new designer jeans (yes, there is a difference) as soon as I lose the baby weight. There’s a whole host of things attached to, or that are supposed to happen once I lose this weight. Which puts a lot of life on hold until I lose weight, and a lot of the wrong kind of pressure on losing it with the wrong kind of motivation pushing me.
So I woke up. What a fucking ridiculous game to play. It sets me up for an effort-reward cycle where I have a track record of failing. Then feeling bad about it. Then feeling worse because I didn’t earn/don’t deserve the “reward” I wanted in the first place. Then linking getting things I want to losing weight. Then hating the whole process, and myself, and making a new deal with the devil to begin the cycle again. Rinse. Repeat. My God, what a mess.
Instead, I’m trying a new game on for size this time: reward myself first. Feel good. Use the momentum of feeling good to take another positive step forward. Let the web of positive, feel good accomplishments grow and the rewards be delivered when they are needed. Rinse. Repeat. Progress.
In the case of my hair, I simply needed a change. A new start. Fresh energy. And, if I look back throughout my life, a drastically new haircut — once I’m ready for such a thing — has always symbolically achieved all of that. And it’s done it again.
My hair was here:
And now it’s here:
And I love it! I absolutely love it. It’s even shorter than I thought I wanted. But that’s like getting another haircut for free in the mix. I get this one for a few months, then the one I thought I wanted for a few months. Then the decision to do it again, or keep it growing. Oh, the possibilities.
I’ve had fun styling and playing with it. Spending time on myself, to make myself feel attractive even if it’s just ten minutes in the morning and even if it’s only my hair, feels good. It’s the smallest of actions with the largest significance about the road ahead. It shows me that I’m ready to move forward, to love myself, to allow myself what I need, to give myself what I deserve and to be happy.
Those feelings — feeling indifferent, untethered, imbalanced, out of control and unhappy — had their moment in the spotlight, but they aren’t needed here anymore. I have everything I need, I am everything I need and it’s time to let go of what does not serve me. Including the extra weight.
It will be hard. Tomorrow I will wish I had not put this out into the universe (and the public interwebs) because it’s so damn hard, and I will think to myself, “If you hadn’t gone and made yourself accountable, we could have started this tomorrow.” Always tomorrow. But today’s a good time. This climb ahead is worth it. I’m worth it. This time I will see the process as growth, with steps forward and steps back, instead of a fight with a winner and a loser (me vs. me, mind you). The point is to keep taking a step each day, and I take the first one today.
If you have any words of encouragement or empathy to offer, or want to share your own such journey, I’d be grateful to hear it all in the comments below. I need it. Lord knows I'd appreciate it. (Also, is it hard/annoying to leave comments on this new site? Let me know, so I can attempt to remedy that and you can easily chime in). Thanks for reading.