Fear is a place that I know too well. I am afraid all the time of reality, my future, deep water and so much more. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day when we as Christians remember that we are sinners and death is a reality for each of us. It is a time of coming together as a community in knowledge that we are frail human beings.
I have been afraid for so long, I didn't think that I knew anything else. I didn't realize until yesterday that so much of my fear was tied up in my hair...so I shaved it.
When my hair changed from straight to curly at puberty I found that I didn't understand how to deal with this strange new hair. I spent years finding products, asking questions and looking frizzy. Yet what also came with the curly hair was for me, a physical distinction that I was Mexican. My mother's family didn't have curly hair, so this was definitely from my father's side. In my mind, that was what made me Mexican...my hair. This identity piece was crucial because when I didn't want to be seen as Mexican I would straighten it. I would straighten the frizzy curls that I didn't want to embrace and I was envious of my friends who had beautifully straight hair. Then when I was finally living into my heritage I put the straighten down and turned off the blow dryer and my curls were a statement. Curly hair was a liberation and a statement of freedom; freedom from a long relationship, freedom from fitting in and the freedom to be naturally me. I have poems that I wrote about my hair, in one line or another. My identity was completely caught up in my curls.
Another aspect of my fear is in the fact that for a long time now my hair has been thinning. No longer was my hair thick, but now I had to deal with being in my twenties with visibly thinning hair. I had no one to go to who had gone through this and it was so terrifying that I barely talked about it myself. When one of my family members would say something I would stop them and even start crying. It was as if my hair was rebelling against me and I didn't know why or how to stop it. (Since then I have been to a doctor to see what is happening with my thinning hair.)
I have visibly thinning hair at the age of 24. As I began to really acknowledge this about myself, more fear was creeping into my mind. I was afraid that no man would want to be with me because my hair was thinning and that I should just accept a life alone. I was afraid that I would no longer feel beautiful or be beautiful. I was afraid of bright light in pictures because it was easier to see. I was afraid of certain angles that would show my lack of hair. I was so afraid that my femininity would be questioned. I was so afraid that I would no longer be E.
When I was considering how to deal with this (cosmetically) I began to consider options like locks, short hair, hats and then I began to think about shaving my hair.
I barely talked about my fear with my hair and so when I would open up my mouth about it, I would either cry or try to laugh about it. In both instances I would say "I could just shave it off" and it was either seen as a joke or part of a fit of hysterics. Yet part of me wanted to be serious about shaving my hair off. Then yesterday a friend of mind came into chapel with a Mohawk and said she was going to shave the rest of her head later because she didn't like it. When I saw her I said, "maybe I should shave mine." It was a statement I had in my heart and head for a long time, but saying it aloud without laughing or crying was to terrifying. I was supported by friends and took the day to consider it. I called my mother and found that after the shock passed I would be supported by my family and getting rid of my hair would not change how much I am loved.
Now I sit here in the morning light with a shaved head and I couldn't be happier. I finally decided to shave my hair off because I wanted freedom from my fear. I am in a place where I know my Mexican identity does not reside in my hair, it is who I am in my heart and in my blood. I decided that I didn't want to live in fear of thinning hair, so instead of being afraid I decided to claim that fear. Embrace the fear and free myself from it. In shaving my hair I have embraced my fear and been liberated from it! I was reminded in chapel yesterday when the ashes were touched to my forehead that I am a beloved child of God and that no matter what I fear Christ holds me in his crucified hands and says, "You are mine."
I am still afraid of many things, what my future holds, open water, the dark and of disappointing those who I love the most. Some of this fear has been lifted from my shoulders with my hair because no matter what I remember that I am loved by Christ and I am shown that love in the faces of my friends and family who support me, stand next to me and even take the clippers in their hands as they help me shave my way to a new freedom.
This post is dedicated to them.