What She Used To Be

She used to see faces and magical creatures and wondrous shapes in shades of gray and white.

Now she just sees clouds.

She used to find the mystic in the woods.

Now she just sees trees.

She used to find the holy in the mountains.

Now she just sees stone.

She used to find the hallowed in music.

Now she just hears silence.

She used to see hope in the future.

Now she just sees the next step.

She used to find meaning in the past.

Now she just sees loss.

She used to find power in the stories.

Now she just sees words.

Being a Beautician

One of the results of COVID was letting my hairstyling license lapse. I only had one customer and I couldn’t safely be around her with her age and my inability to wear masks. It was kind of a relief because I never liked doing hair anyway. I was the only girl in beauty school who had never used a blow dryer or curling iron.

Back in the late 1970s there was a cusp between what hair salons had been and what they were becoming. Picture women in rollers under big hair dryers. Perms where the rods were connected by snake-like cables to a machine that cooked the hair (and sometimes caught on fire). And the transition to young men wearing their hair longer and not wanting to go to barbers anymore for crew cuts and flat tops.

That was my clientele – little old ladies with pin curls and finger waves and rollers. And young men who wanted their hair long and designs shaved into the sides, and tails. I didn’t have a clientele of women who styled their hair and highlighted it and got facials and manicures and their makeup done.

I couldn’t relate to those women somehow.

There was this one tiny, very old lady. Her hair was short and steel gray, except for an inch-wide white stripe she’d been born with that ran front to back down the center of her head. Instead of hiding it, she wore her hair curled up into the stripe to emphasize it. Can you imagine the kind of woman she was just from that one tiny piece of her personality?

Two elderly twin sisters came in together. Gladys died her hair carrot red and had so many stories to tell about her wild days and the mischief she still managed to find. She loved beer and hated her hot flashes and loved chatting up the young men waiting for haircuts. Her sister, on the other hand, rarely spoke and spent most of her time glowering at Gladys and shaking her head. She was the proper one, and when Gladys passed away she never got her hair done again. Can you imagine what they must have been like as young women?

I worked with a woman named Denise who wanted to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. But she didn’t want to rely on a man to help her if she dropped it. So she started bodybuilding in order to be able to lift the bike by herself. She ate raw liver at lunchtime and went on to compete in bodybuilding. And to own a Harley. I lost touch with her when she met a guy and they moved to Alaska to homestead. I imagine her tossing logs as they built a cabin.

There was a young woman who had been through a horrific trauma as a teenager and carried the scars hidden under her shirt, rarely shown to anyone. She was tall and lean and tattooed (shocking in the 1970s) and smoked and drank and had snakes for pets. She always carried a knife and said she would never, ever, be a victim again. One night after a Journey concert in Seattle, she and her boyfriend went in to a 7-11 store and ran in to Steve Perry playing the pinball machine. They played pinball for an hour or so and it was a story that always made her happy when she told it.

Oddly, there was a woman named Linda who told people I was psychic and could clear bad vibes in the air. I never knew where that came from.

I can cast spells on cats though.

I see this post is rambling and getting too long. Thinking about giving up that license and how much I really did not like doing hair, I realize now that the stories were what I actually did like.

How funny that it’s taken me so many years to realize something so obvious.

Our Narratives

I’m sure you’ve all heard that question asking what you would tell your younger self if you could go back in time. The assumption being that you are older and wiser and able to give that younger self advice.

The thing is, even if something like that was possible, that younger self probably wouldn’t believe you. Think about it. Whatever was going on in that younger life was real and true and certain at that point in time. I doubt your older self would have been able to convince the younger self that the narrative they held was false.

But for the sake of discussion, what if you did listen? What is the one thing that you have never been able to let go? The one thing that you have always been hard on yourself about, that, even now, you still listen to, and believe, those old refrains? And what is the one thing someone could have told you, that you would have made you listen? Is there anything that could have been said, or done, that would have allowed you to let go?

More importantly, if you can think of one thing that might have made a difference, that you might have listened to back then, why don’t you listen to it now? After all, you’re older and wiser, right?

If my older self went back in time and told my younger self that cruel and unkind words were simply someone else’s insecurities and not my truth, I certainly wouldn’t believe that. Those spoken words were my truth and in many ways still are.

Which makes me wonder why we hang on to false narratives, so strongly that they are true narratives. What do they give us that make us cling to them? What would we have to change or give up, if the narratives were proven false? Conversely, what would it change if we found out those narratives were actually true? Would we still be able to let go of them?

So many questions.

What would I tell my younger self, you ask?

That fear was the underlying cause of all those words, and my god, just go out and life your life in spite of them.

Would I have believed that advice, you ask?

Oh heck, of course not.