I’ve used highlights for many years now; my main reason has been to cover the numerous grey hairs that I’ve had since my early 20s. I blame the parents 😉 (Sorry Dad!) When genes from both sides of the family include grey hair from a relatively early age, what hope is there for the offspring?! For some time, however, I’ve found that I haven’t needed to redo the highlights all that often. The roots no longer scream “grey hair” unless someone decides to search through my hair and discover them.
So, why am I writing about highlights and grey hair when this isn’t a blog about hairdressing or fashion? Because something that my hairdresser said to me this morning got me thinking. She told me that my grey hair has now become beautiful natural highlights and that most people wouldn’t believe that it were possible to have such a colour naturally. She said that people would pay to have the natural colour that has now re-emerged and that she suggests that I don’t cover up the grey hair anymore, as it just appears to be highlights.
Sharing the Highlights
I see that conversation with my hairdresser as being an analogy for what it can be like sharing about painful life experiences. For many years, I’ve chosen not to talk about my experience with infertility, apart from with those that I’m particularly close to. I’ve hidden away from the potential for insensitive comments. I’ve not wanted to share the depth of my pain. I haven’t lied, but I haven’t spoken out. When I started blogging about my life experience, it wasn’t because I was looking for pity. Rather, in the midst of the “grey hair”, I’ve found beautiful highlights. I’ve made discoveries and found joy, hope and strength that I would not otherwise have had if it hadn’t been for the tough times. I cannot share those highlights without talking about the painful process that has led me towards them. In order to show the natural highlights, the treasure and the lessons that I’ve learned, I have to talk about the grey hair that I would never have chosen but which has affected the person that I am today. I always say that neither infertility nor Multiple Sclerosis are part of my identity. It’s true; they’re not. However, the person that we become is inevitably affected by our life circumstances. It’s our response to those circumstances and our perspective of them that can change us and grow us.
Where is my Focus?
It’s not that I view all bad things as being actually good and the best thing for me. I’ve had people say things like that to me, usually with a Bible verse or two taken out of context, and I can’t tell you how much it frustrates me. I do think, however, that the focus that we choose as we face such circumstances can greatly affect how we view their impact on our lives. I have grey hair. There are so many things in my life that are not how I would have chosen them to be. Can I face that and grieve it, but also hold on to the amazing blessings that I have gained in the midst of the journey? Most of all I’ve met some amazing and inspirational people, who I wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for this journey. For several years, I was part of an online group for women trying to conceive. I even led the group for about two years. It was a privilege to share with so many. The engagement was deep and authentic, and in the case of those that I’m still engaging with, it still is. Now, I’m part of an MS association where in all honesty I can say, I meet some wonderful people and we spend a lot of time laughing! Ok that’s not the whole story. You know, we’re allowed to cry too. I’ve already written a post about that. But the point is, it’s not all bad. The circumstances are bad, but the community that I’ve found through them is good.
I could focus solely on the grey hairs of illness and lack of children, or I could choose to see the highlights of the journey too. I remember after I was diagnosed with MS; I spent the night in emotional torment crying out to God, but I also had a powerful encounter with Him that night. I wouldn’t lose that for the world. It has given me the strength to keep going. I am testimony to the fact that it is not only through physical healing that one can have a powerful, life impacting encounter with God. God did heal me that night, but I still have Multiple Sclerosis. I could choose to focus on the grey hairs of continued disappointment and chronic illness, or I could say once again, I’m so grateful that I’m not in this alone. I’m grateful that God met with me in a special way that night and that He walks with me through this journey every day. I’m grateful for the community of walking alongside others who know my pain and face the same battles. I’m grateful that my life experience is valuable as I seek to walk alongside others and to engage with them in their place of pain. I’m grateful that my battles are not my identity but that I have grown in who I am in the midst of them.
Scandalous Grey Hair or Beautiful Highlights?
Blogging feels like removing the hair dye. It’s vulnerable. It’s raw. It’s natural. It’s me, as I am. I could hide the grey hairs. They could be viewed as ugly. Sometimes the pain isn’t pretty. Have you ever experienced breaking down in tears in public when you would rather have done anything but cry? I have, and take it from me, the cry of a woman going through infertility may be considered almost “scandalous” in its intensity at times. I remember wondering on one occasion if that horrendous sound could really be coming from deep within ME. Society often dictates that grey hair should be covered up as it also dictates that pain should not be talked about or that platitudes should be offered to cover it back up again. But maybe if we strip the dye off, we’ll find that along with the pain, there are also beautiful highlights to be discovered. That’s why I’m excited about blogging and about being vulnerable and open. I’m not seeking to be scandalous or to make a horrendous noise, but perhaps there are times when it would be good to challenge our preconceptions of what is appropriate. Inhibitions can be a necessary protection at times, but they can also be damaging and prevent authentic relationships from taking place.
Perhaps if we all felt free to be authentic, without the fear of judgement and platitudes, then our journeys would also be less lonely. If nothing is hidden then there’s no fear of discovery, no need to worry about what people will think if my roots show. I’m excited because although I fear that some may be repulsed by the raw emotion, I know that for others it’s refreshing. Opening up about my life to the World Wide Web (or at least the bit of it that will make its way here!), is scary at times, but also incredibly freeing. I’m challenged to look for the highlights amongst the grey, both in my life and in that of those that I engage with. It can be tempting to try and cover up the pain, but then I believe that both we, and those around us, will also miss out on some of those beautiful highlights.