A couple years ago, my stepson came to visit for Thanksgiving. We were overjoyed to see him, but startled by his appearance. While away at college, he had been very ill and dropped about 35 lbs. He looked so skinny and frail, and his clothes hung loosely about him.
Everywhere we went, he was met with the same concern from friends and family. “Are you okay?” they asked. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
Once, he and I laughed about the fact that the only reason people were worried was because he was a man.
“If you were a woman,” I joked, “everyone would be telling you how amazing you look and asking how you did it!”
Now I am eating my words. Pun intended. Ha!
At this point, our son is thriving. Actually he’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him. Now I am the one who’s chronically ill and shrinking … shrinking … wasting away.
In my case are still waiting for a formal diagnosis. All we know for sure is that I have at least one autoimmune disease. Two doctors are pointing to EDS. My bloodwork also shows a strong marker for Sjogren’s. I’ve been waiting for months to see a rheumatologist, which is finally happening next week. Hoping for answers!
Am I complaining that I’m wearing the same jeans size I did in high school? HECK NO!
Are people telling me I look amazing? YES!
Do I kind of feel like a rockstar? Yeah, kinda. Except that I’m balding and hobbling around like an old lady and have trouble signing my name. But who needs a head full of hair or the ability to walk without a limp or fine motor control??? I’m skinny! Yippee!
No seriously. I really feel that way some days. Isn’t that twisted?
How do I really define “beauty”?
Is it dependent upon how much I weigh?
Or how much hair I have (or don’t have)?
Or how my clothes fit?
Or my complexion? (p.s. Why am I approaching age 40 and still battling acne?! UGH!)
We talk and talk about the “beauty within” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” and all that, but do we walk the walk?
Falling apart has made me think about these things on a whole different level.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be preachy. I’m pointing a finger at myself as much as anyone else.
But something is happening to me that I didn’t quite expect: I’m learning how to chill out when it comes to body image.
A few weeks ago, I took off my hat and let my crazy hair (or what’s left of it) blow in the wind. And people stared. And I didn’t care. Actually, it kind of made me giggle.
I’m not always so footloose and fancy free. I still have good days and bad days. But I’m learning. And I’m laughing.
Life is hard. But life is good.
In that same spirit, I’ve been making a mental list of reasons why losing my hair is AWESOME! I’m always telling my kids that life is what they make of it–that they can choose to look at the positive or the negative. Now it’s my turn to set the example.
WHY LOSING MY HAIR IS AWESOME:
- I have the sweetest bedhead ever. I think Linus and I were pals in a past life. Check it out.
- I can shower whenever I want (even at midnight) and then towel dry my hair in 10 seconds flat.
- I have discovered an amazing world full of hats I would have missed out on.
- After I show the rheumatologist my fabulous hairdo, I’m going to hack it off and try out a short haircut I never would have tried otherwise. Maybe I’ll even shave it! I’ve always wondered what I’d look like bald, and this is a totally legit reason to do it!
- Strangers seem a little intimidated by my new “punk” look. For instance, when I go to the school, both parents and students avoid eye contact. That makes me crack up. I am so NOT intimidating.
- I have realized that I totally take my hair for granted. If/when it grows back (and I’m pretty sure it is filling in … is it just me?) I don’t think I’ll ever look at it the same way.
- Losing my hair has made me look deeper than my outward appearance when evaluating my self-worth.
- I’m saving a ton of money on shampoo, hairspray, mousse, etc.
- Who needs hair ties? Not me! I don’t even have to put my hair up at the gym. Ha!
- I can get ready really fast, and that means I’m actually ON TIME for stuff for once in my life. Go me!
See? It’s all about perspective. This is me on a good day. Ask me tomorrow, and I may just cry. But that’s alright!
The most important thing I’m learning is …
IT’S OK TO BE HUMAN.