Oh, so Vain

Recently I stepped out on a limb and gave what I could to a cause which I am pleased to support.  I teamed up with other members from across the region and shaved my head bald for St. Baldrick’s kids cancer research.  I am pleased with the results of monies brought in, but I admit that there was some reservation as I climbed into the chair of a good friend and heard the clippers hum their buzz.

I work for a non-profit in the midwest and I have learned something about community and giving back that I was not aware of previously.  I do not give back because of an altruistic idea or because I am hoping for kudos….I give back because I must.  Like breathing, the desire to do my part to make a difference or an impact is as necessary as air is to my lungs.  I give because I HAVE to.

You see, I have 2 children who are healthy and full of life.  I look at them each day and wonder who thought it was a good idea to place them in MY care!  In my mind, I feel little older than a typical college student.  In body, I feel much older.  😉  I watch these two balls of energy and intellect and I am so grateful for what they teach me each day.  They are healthy and I am so thankful, because I understand that in a matter of moments, that lulled feeling of security could be shattered by unexpected news or events.  I do not live in a state of fear, I live in a moment of truth.

I also work hard for a non-profit which focuses on community development and building on assets that exist, rather than a concentration on deficits.  I see real life outside my office window each day, I am humbled.  I gave because I know intimately people who have fought and passed on, and others still fighting.  I have no large bank account, no promises of a cure, or restored health.  I can’t even promise that tomorrow will be better than today.  I gave the only thing I have in my possession to give, I gave myself.

This decision was met with mixed reactions, and I did not make it for the reactions it has brought.  I wrestled myself with whether or not to go through with my decision.  As early as last Monday, I waffled, asking my colleague whether he felt it was an appropriate and professional.  His comment was that his family had already donated to the cause, why was I questioning?  Why indeed?

I am not a classically beautiful woman, like many of us, there are many items of my physique that I would like to change.  Some I can work on each day, some I have to look past and accept them as they are.  One of 2 assets which I have always claimed was my hair.  I have always had good hair, and even my mother would agree I was blessed.  I rarely go a day with it styled the way it was the day before, and if truth be told….I am a bit of a hair whore.  One of my good friends called me that a couple years ago, and the description fits.  Others can tell the state of my emotions by the length or color of my hair.  My dear, sweet, Uncle Walt, who passed of pancreatic cancer some 11 years ago declared my maroon hair a flop and made me promise never to dye it that color again.  My aunt Charlotte still reminds me of that and scolds me if I begin to talk of something drastic.  I loved my Uncle Walt and there are times I miss him dearly, he was good to me in many ways.

Sniffles aside at that last comment, I decided to do this not out of vanity, but I am learning something about myself in the process.  Stripped of something so basic, there is a vulnerability and a nakedness that I see when I glance in the mirror.  I asked one person if I was as pretty like this as I might be with hair.  Their reply was, no I am not as pretty.  Now I do not believe that I am any great beauty, but the comment lodged in my mind and I continue to mull it over in thought.  It has been almost a week and I have been present at speaking engagements over the weekend and had to interact with strangers and friends alike.  There was no way to hide what I had done, and no amount of funky head scarf could conceal the fact that something was different.  I have a major presentation at a local college tomorrow and there is a part of me that is scared.  “Will they judge me?  Will they refuse to listen because something is out of the ordinary?  What will they say of me?”

I have to work to put those comments aside and stand firm in the naked truth of who I am and what I do.  Shorn of dark locks does not make me anymore a woman or any less capable than I was last week.  That is some hard truth to endure.  I think of my women friends, sisters in gender who have fought valiantly and lost….they lost parts of their bodies, their ability to carry children–losing life here and transitioning to a different definition of healing.  As they fought and sometimes lost they also gave up a hallmark (by social standards) of their femininity.  There is something about hair and either its abundance or lack of it that commands attention.  Stripped of that by choice or by necessity places one in an interesting battle with self.

I am lucky to have made the choice this time.  There have been moments where I have endured procedures only to reveal to me that I had cancerous and pre cancerous polyps.  I have had more colonoscopies than I can count.  I have struggled through a head MRI and felt my sanity screaming at me as I lay in the howling machine.  Each time, I waited with bated breath to hear the death sentence.  It has not come.  In this moment, at this stage, I am whole.  The relief of that realization washes over me as softly as my hair drifted to the floor last week.  I remain lucky to have had the chance to make the choice.  Others are not so lucky and I stand in solidarity with them.

I have more I am contemplating, but I will let this suffice for now.  Blessings of Shalom, Health, and Wellness to all.



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