The difference is that when I am reading the book, I can cheer with full faith for Meg Murraythat she will find the inner strength to get through to the next chapter of the book along with her very different little brother Charles Wallace, or know that in my heart that the children will be able to conquer their fears and their insecurities to help beat the White Witch of the woods. But when it's just me as the character - fighting my own battles, having my character tested - it's much harder to be the third person reading the novel that is cheering me on. I had lost faith a long time ago. I don't have the full feeling in my heart that I can make it through this. Not immediately, anyway.
But I realize now that that is what is going to pull me through this. Number One. Numero Uno. The person in my mirror every morning. Myself. Me.
Today I went to go get my haircut after work. But I was nervous. Terrified, even. So I had made the decision to go to the salon (since it's in the same building as my office) during my lunch hour and take a look at some of the haircut books. I wanted to try and at least have an idea of what I wanted even though I was still so depressed about the subject. I kept thinking all last night that there was no hope for me - that any haircut would be terrible because what I had to work with was so little compared to my thick hair that I used to style. I felt no matter what route I went on - that I would ultimately end up looking like a freak. I had nightmares throughout of me getting my hair cut in a Pixie looking style, and then all of a sudden bald spot after bald spot would emerge, until I eventually lost all of my hair. I woke up in a sweat and panic, wondering if this haircut thing was such a good idea or not.
Just like Meg Murray, I went to face my fears. Walking through those big glass doors of About Faces was a lot harder than I imagined it would be. I was hit with the familiar scent of shampoos and conditioners. I saw the pretty girls walking in in front of me with their long thick wavy hair, their new color and highlights, their perms...I just kept walking towards the front desk and pulled my black cap tighter down my forehead.
"Can I help you?" the girl dressed in black behind the front desk asked.
"Yes, actually. I have an appointment with Tiki today at 5:30 but I wanted to take a look at some of the books first."
"Of course, just follow me..."
Just as I walked past the front desk with the girl, Tiki came from around the corner.
"HEYYY!! Aren't you a bit early?" she asked, all smiles.
"Yeah, I figured I would come and take a look at some books to get an idea for what I want."
"Oh yeah? Do you have an idea of how you want it to look?"
I looked at her enthusiastic face and tried to choke back the tears as I shook my head. Wow, I didn't think talking about it with her was going to be this difficult.
"I don't have a clue, Tiki. I can't even begin to think of possibilities right now. I keep looking at it and see nothing but a hopeless ugly look," I said, pulling my cap off with an exasperated sigh.
She like everyone else only saw the first two.
"It doesn't look so bad..." I pulled aside my hair to part it all the way over to reveal the larger bald spot, "Oh," she continued, "you grew more spots. I don't know what this could be. This is truly puzzling me that it happened so sudden to you," she commented like a mother would.
She guided me over to her chair and offered me some short hair style books that she had. As I sat in her chair, she started to play around with my hair, trying to visualize the possibilities. That's when the tears came.
I couldn't stop them. I felt the tears building up, and saw the rims of my eyes turning red.
"Oh, please don't cry, babe. You'll make me cry."
And that's just what I did. We were both just sitting there crying as I explained to her how difficult this was. She told me she couldn't even imagine.
But then something magical happens. Do you ever feel like sometimes you're in the right place at the right time?That's how I felt at that exact moment. We sat there in high hairdresser chairs, facing each other, teary eyed - and then Tiki said the most empowering things.
"You know, Em...I think that you should just say fuck it and stop wearing the hats. I know that you still have a while to go yet until you feel comfortable with everything. But once you do, I challenge you to remove the hat and just wear it with pride. Accept it, own it, embrace it full throttle. I am a firm believer that thoughts and feelings and physical things connect at some point. That once you set your foot down and decide not to allow this to rule your life, that hair is going to grow back faster than ever. Fuck what people think. You've already let this consume you. It rules your life now...you think about it constantly. This is a sign for you to take the time and really dig deep into yourself to find you...to be comfortable with yourself. To look in the mirror and not just see the hair - but see that inner beauty that everyone else sees. To see all of the inner qualities that make you such a gorgeous person. Finally, you'll be able to take off that hat and relieve the burden off of your shoulders and put it on other people's. Let them stare if they want to stare. Let them say "eww" as they walk by. If they have a problem with it, that's okay, because you know you won't. You'll be perfectly fine with how you are. Why should you continue to wear hats to help other people feel comfortable? Let them take some of the burden from you...you are a very powerful person. And with great power comes great responsibility. This is your legacy, your thing to leave behind. That no matter what came your way, you were you. You were strong."
At this point, I had stopped crying. I felt so empowered by her words. I don't think I will ever be able to thank her enough. As I left to go back to work, I placed the cap back on my head, but with a new resilence. Knowing that one day, as I mend inner self slowly and gradually day by day, I will take this hat off, and I will proudly accept myself for everything that I am. I did with the Cerebral Palsy. I did with the limp. I learned to be myself despite what other people said or how they treated me. And this is nothing different.
I couldn't wait to get off work to go down and get the haircut started. Tiki had said that my ponytail was long enough to send off to Locks of Love. I made the decision to have my hair donated there. I hope that my hair can help to provide a wig for a cancer patient. Someone who really needs that wig and must be going through an extremely overwhelming amount of pain. Someone I look up to with so much respect and awe.
This is what I walked away with (hopefully it'll go to a good home):
As for me, I can't tell you how liberating it felt to cut my hair off. Tiki stood to the side with her scissors and stared at me in the mirror with a smile on her face.
"Are you ready?" she asked.
"I'm ready," I said. I was more ready than I ever thought I'd be and I think she did a fantastic job. You can't see any of the bald spots!