The Existential Haircut: You Say Therefore I Am

posted in: Parenting | 0

It was supposed to be just a quick haircut.

A few weeks ago, I spontaneously swung into Great Clips to get a trim because I 1) was passing by, 2) only ever remember to get haircuts when I’m either passing a Great Clips or I see someone on television with a cute short hairdo, and 3) am cheap.

As the stylist began snipping away, she started hitting all the typical small talk topics. The weather today. The weather for tomorrow. How effed up the weather has been and can’t we just have Spring already. Your hair feels kind of dry and we have this really great product I can sell you that won’t actually work and will sit in your cabinet for years because dammit you paid good money for it and maybe it will work better for you after you go through menopause or something.

Once she realized I wasn’t going to buy her leave-in conditioner, she transitioned to the next conversation. “So, are you off work today?”

I could feel my insides tense up.

“No. I’m just out running errands. I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

But, that didn’t really feel like the right answer. At least, not the WHOLE right answer. In the past, I would have had a much easier time answering that question. Fifteen years ago, I would have said I was a teacher. Ten years ago, I would have definitively owned stay-at-home mom, and added that I made cakes on the side. Five years ago, I would have said I was a writer. But now? I’m a little bit of all those things still, but not enough to wholeheartedly claim most of them. Yet this also didn’t really feel like the place to explore my mid-life conundrum of what I am.

More and more I’m finding that mundane bits of my life are prompting me to get existential about what the hell I’m doing with my time here. And I don’t mean that in an “I feel lost” kind of way. Because by most standards, I’ve never felt more comfortable in my skin or more grounded in my capabilities.

Ironically, I see a wider world of possibilities than I did when I was just beginning adulthood, when everyone tells you any path is for the taking. Back then, I too easily let self-imposed limits cast enough shadows so that only one or two paths seemed safe enough to travel, even if deep down I desired knowing where the others led. There were all these things I wanted to do and try, but I couldn’t actually see that I wanted them. You know, because of the shadows.

And that’s the thing about traveling. It can be scary to do on your own. But when you find the right travel companions, you suddenly have the courage to explore. You know that song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle? It’s my jam. Well, I have a LOT of jams, but this is one I try to listen to everyday. I use it as a reminder to myself, as a meditation, as a matra. Daigle is addressing God, acknowledging Him as the source of all she is, even when she doesn’t recognize it in herself. But her lyrics remind me to not only recenter my faith (which needs daily recentering…maybe hourly sometimes), but they also help me reflect with gratitude about the people God works through in my life. The people who have helped lift a lot of shadows for me. I can name at least one person, if not dozens, who fit each line she sings:

You say I am loved, when I don’t feel a thing
You say I am strong, when I feel I am weak
You say I am held, when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, You say I am yours

And here’s the part that always strikes that deepest, most essential chord:

I believe what You say of me

You know, we all like to think we know ourselves. Yet sometimes, we are the least likely ones to see our true capabilities. We’re too close. We’re the one standing just a nose length in front of a Monet painting, where it all just looks like muddled colors. But if we’re lucky, we have friends and loved ones behind us with just enough distance to see what is created when those colors come together, but also close enough to appreciate the complexities of the individual brush strokes.

I’ve been tremendously lucky. Lucky to have people in my life who believed and saw things in me I wasn’t able to. People who saw me as a writer. As an artist. As a leader. As a good parent. As a friend who could be trusted. As an athlete who could do a box jump. As someone who could successfully paint her kitchen cabinets without screwing it up. And because I love and respect those people, I believed them.

They are people perceptive enough to recognize what is in my heart and my mind. They are people who love me enough to give me the encouragement, the grace, and the swift kick in the ass that lift the shadows to unveil paths I wanted to take but could never find. And then they travel the paths with me so I don’t get lost. Because fact: I will get lost. I have a terrible sense of direction. Never rely on me if we’re camping in the woods together. Also, don’t take me camping because I hate it.

I feel like that’s where I am right now…wanting to know where all the paths lead. Because I have these amazing people in my life who have seen in me the person I actually want to be, and they have helped lead me in those directions. As it turns out, I’m not having an existential crisis after all. Not only is it not super existential, it’s also not a crisis. It’s an exploration.

But back to that haircut. I’m pretty sure the stylist hasn’t given another thought to our conversation, while I’m over here hyper-analyzing the fact that I branded myself as a stay-at-home mom. When she asked if I had the day off of work, perhaps I should have responded, “No. This is just a stop along my travels.”

…Actually, that would have been really weird. On second thought, I think my first answer was just fine.

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