One of the privileges of being a hairstylist is having the opportunity to care for my clients during times of distress. On any given day, you just never know what could be suffering the heart of a woman. In my eight years of hairstyling, I have observed that when crisis strikes, many women ask to get their hair done immediately. And while that might come across as vain in light of the weight of the world, I COMPLETELY get it.
Why would a woman come to the salon when her father has just passed away? Why would a woman come to the salon when her sister is battling cancer, and losing?
Well, at a time when everything feels like it’s spiraling down around you and you’ve lost all footing, the one thing you can still control is your hair. There is a sense of comfort in following a routine that is predictable. On a much smaller scale, I can remember times back in my school days when hours of homework and essays were before me; first, I’d plop down in front of my mirror and curl every hair on my head. This was how I braced myself. For some of us, controlling appearances is how we put off a burden just long enough to catch our breath before going under. Maybe that’s not your style. But the need to grapple for control doesn’t just manifest itself through grooming. Sometimes it’s housecleaning (ha! I WISH!). Sometimes it’s gardening. Sometimes it’s shopping. Sometimes it’s exercising (another good one!).
So what did I do before running out the door to be with my family yesterday? Well, I put on a hat (because yesterday was supposed to be a hair-washing day), I put on my favorite ripped jeans (which was like inviting an old friend to join me), I made a mental check list of the lip gloss that was in my purse, I fed my dogs and rubbed their bellies, I updated my Facebook status and I briefly caught everyone up on Square Piece. Funny, the things we do…
Another observation that I’ve made is that grieving women tend to fall into a few different categories:
- The ones who want to talk about it.
- The ones who want to sit in silence.
- The ones who want to be distracted.
Sometimes it’s possible to be all three, bouncing back and forth between the lesser of the evils. Not to toot my own horn, but considering the array of stories that I always have in my back pocket, I’m especially gifted at distracting my clients. But I do love the silence. And I count it a privilege to be the listener. For instance, do you know how many of my clients have had to put their pets down? SO. MANY. And do you know that on a regular basis I – the hairstylist – get to help them process the sorrow of that moment by listening to the intimate details of that day? (Of course, it’s never on a day when I’m wearing waterproof mascara.) What a deep joy it is to share in the suffering of these women that I love so much. It is an honor to cry beside them.
I am no exception to these three categories. When my mom told me that Charley was being taken by ambulance to the emergency room and that he didn’t know where he was… Phew. I got off the phone and I did not want to talk about it. Rather, I couldn’t. It’s quite challenging to talk and cry at the same time. Quite squeaky. Once I calmed down, I did want to talk about it to Brian. He knows every member of my family and can really understand how this is affecting all of us differently. And finally, while sitting and waiting for Charley to be transferred to the Winchester Medical Center, I wanted to be distracted. I set up my laptop and began clicking away:
Yesterday’s notes: Positive news: the waiting room does not play any radio stations. I’m an incredible music snob. There’s a decent chance that if I had to tolerate the 80’s station right now, a few more of us in here might be in need of the emergency room services.
And, yes, I put on lip gloss before coming in. Lip gloss never develops ear infections or pneumonia. It might as well be my blankey.
Presently Charley has bacterial meningitis. Not once yesterday did he utter a word or seem to understand where he was. He’s very lethargic. Every now and then he’ll open his eyes for a second or two. It was especially sweet when he looked at me and grinned. That grin could have come from me beaming a smile at him or from him noticing my colorful, floppy knit hat. Either way, I’ll take it right now.
Your continued prayers are coveted.