Bald is Beautiful

On Monday evening I was lucky to be a part of my mother’s annual Tennis Team Christmas party. I love this tradition. Every year her tennis team (and some who used to be members and are no longer) get together for drinks and food and a fun gift exchange, white elephant style. It’s so cool to see the women that have been such a huge part of my mom’s life and to watch them laugh and party and have a good time. I usually participate in the gift exchange, but mostly I’m just there to help in any way I can so that my mom can relax and enjoy her company. 

Many of these women I only see once a year, and while many of them follow me on Facebook, some of them do not. This past year I’ve had a lot of changes, one of them being my bald head. I expected there would be some questions. Everyone was kind and mostly just a bit curious as to why I cut my hair. It caused me to realize that I haven’t yet written a proper blog post about my hair journey and why I choose bald.

There are many photos of me as a young child. My mom was pretty good at capturing the important moments in my life. One thing that is incredibly clear as you look back over the faded images, is my hair was a firey red. I was born a red head. My hair had a wave to it and my mother used to say it reminded her of the shade of a penny. Sort of a rusty red I suppose. Brown eyes, red hair, freckles. I hated them as a child because it was the most obvious go to for kids who wanted to tease me. I wasn’t the norm. I didn’t have the blue eyes and blonde hair like most of the kids my age.

As I got older I grew to love it. At lease I thought I did. I grew to love the way it made me feel. It turned into a bit of a security blanket. It made me fit in where I thought people wanted me. See, I was overweight…BUT… I had such beautiful red hair. Or, I didn’t fit in with the other girls…BUT…boy I was sure blessed to have such beautiful hair. It became something that defined me. Boys I would meet on dating apps seemed more inclined to date me because they “had a thing for red heads”. I loved it because it sort of over shadowed the things I hated about myself and thought others might hate as well. It somehow kept me from feeling vulnerable about my appearance.

As a teenager I would dye my hair from time to time (like most rebellious teens do) and my mothers response was always

“Oh…but your beautiful red hair!”

To her credit, as a mom I probably would feel the same way about my son dying his hair. I get it. But I just wanted her to see why it was something I needed to do to discover myself. When I met my husband Rob, he encouraged me to really discover who I was and embrace it. For the first time in my life I felt like I could get the tattoos I’d always wanted and dye my hair any color I liked and not have to answer to anyone about it.

I started by shaving a small part of my hair and dying it some funky colors. I wish I could say I just woke up one day and shaved my head cause I’m a bad ass… but sadly it didn’t quite happen that way.

My baldness, was sort of an accident. 

My husband and I went on a dying spree and decided to do some fun rainbow colors. First, I had to bleach my hair. I will never forget the way it felt. I leaned over the sink to rinse my hair, and instead of hair I felt mush. It was falling out in clumps at the front of my head. My long hair just falling away. 

I was devastated. I cried and freaked out and panicked and every other emotion you could imagine. I refused to go to work. I felt sick. We decided it had to at the very least be clipped with the clippers to make it even. I remember sitting on the stool in the bathroom, sobbing as my husband took the clippers to my hair. When we finished it was no more than a few inches long. I tried so hard to rock it, to embrace it… and my husband, who loved the idea of a bald wife, felt so sad that the process of clipping my hair had been so devastating. It was gone. My blanket, my safety, my beautiful hair. Gone.

That is when it hit me. 

Why on earth had this ravaged my heart so greatly? Why did I feel like a part of me had died when I was sitting there, clearly still very much alive? Had I really spent 37 years letting something so trivial define who I was? Was this what I wanted to be remembered for? 

When I die someday, some people will remember me as Claire, some as Bird. Some people might remember my voice or my heart or my spirit or how I loved others. Some may remember my laughter or the art I created or how I gave to others when I could. Some may even remember the dumb shit I did. But my hair? Was that really what I was letting define me?

I knew right then what I had to do. I looked at my husband and simply stated

“Let’s just shave it. Let’s do it right now.”

We walked upstairs together and it was the last time I saw more than a smidge of my hair. I rid myself of something that didn’t really matter in the grand picture. It was the best decision I have ever made.

I’ve discovered so many things about myself since that fateful decision was made. I realized that without my hair, I am still funny and kind and giving and beautiful. My husband LOVES me bald and tells me every single day. I feel free and sometimes incredibly vulnerable, which as it turns out, is ok and healthy and therapeutic. Being vulnerable is so important to discovering who we are. I am learning to look in the mirror and see other things besides my hair. My smile, my freckles, the beautiful art on my skin, the handsome man standing behind me admiring me as well. I’ve also learned that the mirror is kinda overrated.

Ultimately, what I want to leave behind in this world is something much bigger than what I see in the mirror. I don’t know what that is yet. I don’t know if I’ll do something important to many or something important to few. As long as it’s SOMETHING. Bald is beautiful. I am beautiful. And I am free. 

Bird

Fragile Flowers

I wasn’t exactly nice to my husband this morning as I sat in our driveway leaving for work. I was irritated that my window was covered in frost and I was running late and I hate mornings and I hadn’t had coffee and I am the devil in the morning and he had the nerve to come outside and rub his hand over the windshield, trying to help, but all I could think was how smudgy that would make it and I yelled at him. Did I mention I am the devil in the morning?

I immediately felt horrible and anxious and panicky, as I normally do after I’m a big jerk. I called and cried and apologized profusely and sent another sorry via text as I arrived to work. It was then that he posed a question that really got me thinking.

“You think my devotion to you is a pretty fragile flower, don’t you?”

That simple question has caused all sorts of thinking today. That simple question prompted me to write.

See, what some of you may not know about me, is that I suffer from severe abandonment issues. I think that fear of being abandoned started at a very young age and progressed from there. I am an adopted child, which by the way is a huge blessing. I love adoption and what it does for children who need a home. That being said, it personally affected me in some negative ways as well. Something about the knowledge of being given up for adoption, causes you to have this fear of abandonment as part of your makeup. 

**Please note that I am aware that not all adopted children experience this.

That fear at such a young age, caused me to poison a lot of relationships. I always just assumed that people left. Everyone leaves, no one stays. But after my husband presented that question this morning it got me thinking.

Did everyone leave, or did I push everyone away by always being paranoid that they would leave?

Thank goodness I’ve been blessed with a husband who wouldn’t ever leave over some silly mean morning in the driveway, but honestly it really got me thinking about the past. How many times did I ruin a good thing or bruise a friendship by holding on too tightly? 

How does one wake up after years of believing she’s not worthy of healthy, unconditional love, and magically realize that she deserves it as much as the next person? How does a girl who has been hurt and left behind so many times, grow to understand that real love is forever and contains no fine print. 

One of my favorite quotes is

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

I love this quote, and yet I don’t seem to take it to heart. My whole life, not only have I been afraid of losing people, but a lot of the people I was afraid of losing were toxic people. Year after year, boyfriend after boyfriend and friend after friend. I accepted harmful and conditional love from people simply because I didn’t want to be abandoned and I didn’t think I deserved any better.

So this is the point in my blog post where I say something deep and inspirational about how I figured it all out. The thing is, I haven’t. I still cling to my husband for dear life. I still sometimes cling to friends and family for dear life. I still, sometimes, am not completely aware of what I deserve. The point is, I’m growing and I have been lucky enough to at least realize what is healthy and what is toxic.

My husband, he is good and healthy. But do I deserve him? For now… I’ll go with “some days”. It’s a start. I am daily working on treating myself better and realizing my potential and growing into my body that I’m learning to love. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m a step closer every morning. Even when it’s a devil morning and I haven’t had my coffee.

 Bird

Unfinished: A tattoo love story

The familiar smell of latex and clean, sort of like the smell you might encounter in a doctor’s office, floats in the air. I can hear music playing, usually some kind of folk rock, but it often depends on who is in charge of the genre that day. I climb into my familiar chair and wait patiently while Nick prepares for this two hour long trek.

Rob is almost always there. He takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. The stress and anxiety of the day or the week or the month is heavy on my shoulders, so heavy by now that it’s hard to catch my breath. Some of it Rob is aware of it. Some of it he is not. I keep a lot of things hidden still even though I know I shouldn’t.

If you have never had a tattoo you may not be aware that there are different types of machines, but a lot of tattoo artists these days use machines that are very quiet. Rotary machines are much more fluid and silent, while coil machines (from my limited understanding) are a bit harder to use and are incredibly loud. Think, I don’t know… Dentist’s office loud.

Nick uses a coil machine. He’s incredibly skilled with it, but it is loud. There is this jolting clack it makes when he first turns it on that tells me it’s time to begin. That clack sound gives me goose bumps. Every single time.

Anyone you ask that says that tattoos don’t hurt is either a bigger badass than I’ve ever met, or he is lying. They hurt. Now some hurt worse than others, sure. But they all have some sort of pain attached to them. My most recent tattoos have been my hands and fingers, and I’m here to tell you it hurts. Badly. It’s a pain like I’ve never felt before. It burns and stings, sometimes it feels like there may be nothing left of my knuckles when he is done and there have been a couple of times I’ve looked at my husband with a panic in my eyes and given him an “I can’t take any more” look. Every time, without fail, he nods and says “You got this”.

Some of you reading this get it. Ink therapy is a very real thing.

For those of you who don’t get it, it may be hard to explain, but I will try.

Tattoos, for me, are healing in two very specific ways. I remember the moment in middle school when I realized I hated my body. I was part of the Eaglettes Dance Squad which was a huge accomplishment for me. I was by far the biggest girl on the team, but it didn’t bother me because I had passed tryouts which meant that I was worthy. I let go the fact that my cheerleading type outfit was the largest one and was still pretty snug on me. It didn’t matter because I was a good dancer and I had earned my spot. 

None of this mattered until one Friday, I was sitting in the hallway in full uniform for game day taking a makeup test. An older boy was walking down the hall, and he looked at me and stated with a smirk, “Aren’t you too big to be a cheerleader?” then laughed and proceeded down the hall. 

I understand that kids are mean, but this simple statement changed my life forever. All of a sudden I became incredibly aware of what people said and thought about me. This is definitely a topic I’ll explore at great length in another post. But just know that I spent a good portion of my life hating what I saw in the mirror.

So what does that have to do with tattoos? Every single piece of art that Nick puts on my body, changes what I see in the mirror. I see intricate details and artistic design and people stop me and ask me about them and tell me how beautiful they are. It takes the focus away from what people used to see about me, and puts the focus on something I want them to see. Now please don’t get things confused. I don’t use the tattoos to hide anything. I’m still a big girl, that can’t be hidden with ink. What it does is it changes the way I see myself, which in turn changes how others see me. I love me, and so they see a light rather than someone who is just dying inside her skin. Each tattoo represents change.

The pain, believe it or not, is the other portion of the process that heals me. It keeps my focus pinpoint. All the stress, all the anxiety goes away. I have one goal and one goal only and that is to complete the sitting time and not tap out. When it’s done, the pain is a reminder of something I did that isn’t easy. You don’t see a lot of people with solid black work tattoos on their hands for good reason. It SUCKS. Badly. In the end I’m more powerful because I did it, I accomplished it, I chose this skin and I had control over the outcome. 

Look, I get that even now some of you will still not understand. I get that some of you may not understand why I would cover scars and pain with more scars and pain. That’s ok. This isn’t some sort of pitch to sell tattoos to you, it’s merely an attempt to help you understand why I’m taking this journey. There will be many, many, more tattoos. There is a lot more growth for me that needs to happen. Ink growth, heart growth, self-love growth, anxiety free growth, personal growth, professional growth. Growth of all kinds. 

I’m not anywhere close to done. 

I’m just unfinished.

Bird