Because sometimes the inspiration to rise from the ashes, squeeze lemonade and soar like eagles comes from the unlikeliest of people and places.
I posted on Facebook this morning about my “bad hair day.”
I did it mostly because I don’t mind making fun of myself. In fact, that is one thing I can say I am good enough at doing I should be earning a professional paycheck for it.
We must try not to take ourselves too seriously.
I was given a boost from some construction workers this morning. Keep in mind those guys were working in Tulsa, where they have so many potholes to fill, they likely won’t have time to look at women for the next 25 years.
The potholes basically worked as beer goggles as I went by, my hair a nest under my disguise of a ball cap.
I sat at the traffic light and they made sure I knew they were there.
Cat calls usually make me feel creepy, but today they made me feel human and not like so much of a mess.
The men weren’t vulgar, just flattering, but I still couldn’t figure out why it didn’t bother me.
On the way home from work, I realized.
I realized this week marked the anniversary to the beginning of my worst bad hair days ever. In early September 2011, I got incredibly ill due to an infection in my stomach. I almost died from its severity. I was hospitalized for a month, and it was the beginning of a lot of turmoil and uncertainty in my life. I refer to it as my “personal Vietnam” days. It was the lowest I ever have felt.
My body was so sick that by December, I began to lose my hair. Long, thick, beautiful blonde hair. It fell out in less than two weeks. My head was sore from how fast it fell. My scalp hurt so badly. My heart hurt. Because as much as it was “only hair,” it was a big portion of my femininity. I had to wear a wig for almost two years until my hair reached my chin and made me feel comfortable again.
Yes, I had a bad hair day today. But I am thankful to have hair now, even when it is humid or my hair dryer breaks or I wake up too late to wash it.
That was the good thing about wigs, no one knew when I slept in because my wig always looked like I just stepped out of the salon.
So today, as I was driving home from work, I remembered an instance from my wig days. It made me feel the feels all over again.
I cried just thinking about it. It was a healthy cry.
And, as any good story is, this one is set in Walmart?
I walked in Walmart one day after work. I got my groceries, then headed back across to the front of the store.
The older man who was working as the greeter stood there, stared at me and smiled as I continued to walk a good 100 feet more toward him.
I thought, “oh no. I hope my wig isn’t sideways or backwards or something.” I started to get a little self conscious. I was nervous and clutching the handle on the cart as he stared with this goofy smile. I wheeled my cart closer to him and he stepped in to intercept my forward progress.
Then, the random old man I had never met before leaned in and said to me, “Your hair is really beautiful.”
I stood in shock, not sure if my wig really was sideways and he was mocking me or if he meant it.
He meant it.
“I saw you walking and smiling and I just wanted to tell you how refreshing you are,” I remember him saying. “These days, it’s nice to see a young woman who acts like a woman.”
I’ll never forget it.
Now, I’m no Gloria Steinem, but normally that might rub me the wrong way. However, I could tell he was using utmost sincerity. It was like the old man was looking at me and remembering someone else from his past.
“Some women walk around like they don’t care and their hair isn’t even combed,” he said. “Some women don’t act like women anymore. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate that you act like a woman.”
It didn’t sound sexist to me in that moment. It was medicine.
For someone who hadn’t felt like much of a woman around that time, it was as if he had handed me a winning lottery ticket.
I beamed. Then I barely made it away from him before I couldn’t hold the tears in my eyes any longer. Five more steps and my whole face was wet.
Little did that man know, underneath the coiffed ‘do with beautiful curls courtesy of the Korean wig lady on 21st Street, there were small rungs of hair sticking out every which way. It had been blonde, but it grew back almost chocolate. I didn’t even look like me and I hated looking in the mirror without my head covered.
I choose to believe that man, the greeter at Walmart, had God’s nudge and the angels’ request. Someone knew I needed to try on a pair of wings so I would have the confidence to grow my own. Someone knew I needed to hear an old man’s sweet compliments.
Yes, a stark contrast to the cat calls of construction workers, but it was uplifting the same.
Because in those moments, both of them, I was a vulnerable soul who needed those opposite reactions so I could go somewhere more profound with my thoughts.
I am thankful to be able to say my hair grew back. It has taken a few years, but it is long and thick once again. And with the help of a stylist, it is blonde again.
But these photos below, of one brave day in 2012 when I shed the wig and went to work with a scarf, represent that our best moments can be born from our weakest ones.
In our grief and confusion we learn our own power. We learn that hair most likely will grow back.
We learn that during trials, we have to stay grounded in positive thoughts balanced with realism. We learn to carry on anyway, because God’s intended purpose for our lives is far greater than a self-assigned existence of worry and fear.
Most importantly, we learn to make our fear tremble in the presence of our strength. Let our fear wonder why it didn’t do its homework on its biggest opponent — our determination.
Take another look at the scars all over your body. Run your fingers over them and remember the euphoric feeling of shedding doubts and beginning an ascension.
Then stand tall, fluff your broken wings and learn to fly like that again.
Soar like an eagle, my darling.