I have weird hair right now. It is still dark for the most part, curly, shorter than it has been in years. But there is a haystack of grey, coarse, strange difference at the top of my head, a nearly four month grow out transitioning from dyed hair to natural hair. The threshold between then and now is an untidy line dividing the hair I know and the hair I have been hiding, every day revealing a new personality. This new hair defies layers of product, changes color from light to light, and stands straight up on end if the weather shifts one degree east or west. I am a badger with a bristling mohawk, suddenly fierce, defiant. Someone said to me yesterday, “You can’t see it that much when your bangs are down.” Perhaps they were trying to be helpful. I immediately put my bangs up in barrette. “How about now?” I said, making my intentions clear.
I got three paragraphs into this essay. It was going to meander through aging but not feeling old, appearance and a vague concept of reverse vanity, and somewhere I was going to fold in reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time and determining I was a kindred spirit with Anne in spite of being the age of her aunt Morilla. Then, like going upstairs into a room to retrieve something and getting there and having not a clue what it was … my writing trailed off. What was I embracing again? My concentration dissolved. I really need to clean the spare room before my mother-in-law visits this week.
November is a busy month that I make busier by being me. Every year I think, this year I will slow down and enjoy the season. With my little kids, my big kids, then no kids at home … in every permutation of my life, the only constant seems to be this autumn frenzy and my guilt/frustration at feeling out of control. My work ramps up, I have essays to edit, family and friends visit, I start to line up Christmas projects I may or may not finish, my husband is in a fall production, the house is a canvas waiting to be decorated, the list of to-dos and events and happenings swirl around me as I rake the many colors into piles, feeling exhilarated and exhausted at once. Inevitably I get to the end of the month and my husband looks at me from across a table and asks, “What are you grateful for?” and I stare back weary and blank. “This turkey is awfully good.”
This lack of pause, moving fast without truly acknowledging the rush of joy in the increasing momentum, this is the only real shift I can consider. At this point, fifty years into my seasonal expectations, I am not going to plan less. But I can try and frame it differently. I can imagine I have an advent calendar embedded in my soul and each day from October through December I open a shining door listing new possibilities I want to do and accomplish. I can own it, anticipate it, enjoy it, and most of all, be grateful I can still live it. This year, instead of my faux whining about how this time of year is so, so crazy and I just have no idea how it happens and someday I will be more organized – I will say boldly, “This is how I holiday and it is my choice. Of course I can buy and wrap all the presents for the adopt a family gifting project!” Can I adjust to this mouse-with-a-cookie-overextended-fragmented celebration of glittering chaos with all the risk of losing track of something, somewhere?
I think of my weird hair and the essay that never got written. Six months ago I had a can of spray dye that I carried at the ready. One glimpse of silver roots and I would panic, covering all evidence and immediately calling my salon for an appointment. Now I wake up and rush to the mirror, staring at the three inches of grey hair on each side of my part and think, why is this taking so long? What will it look like when it is grown out? What color is it today? And my hair stares back and frizz pops out where there was no frizz before. I shrug. What was once a worry is now an adventure.
Mindset is everything. The slightest detour drives fresh perspective. Gratitude and anticipation can replace resignation and obligation. This year I have an answer for my husband as he asks expectantly. I am thankful for all the people and all the things, those I served well and those very much in progress.