I was having a good hair day. I was about to brush my hair one more time for one more extra fluff when the light that made my dark strands sheen suddenly zoned in on a silver strand of hair.
I gasped and my eyes widened with horror. My first white hair? Gray hair? How could this be? I was only 29-years-old! I nearly dropped my brush as I frantically opened up the drawers to find tweezers to pluck my first silver strand. The white thin string of of hair fell into the palm of my hand. I wanted to burst into tears. How could I be going gray? Do people actually go gray at 29-years-oldold? Yikes!
The second silver strand came to light when I was in the company of my sister. She was ready to take a picture of me when she slowly put her iPhone down and whispered, “You have a white hair sticking up.”
Shock filled me again as she rummaged through her purse to find tweezers and pull the cowlick bad boy gray hair from my scalp. My sister and I stared at the silver strand in silent sadness together after she plucked it out. She said to me, “I heard that hair turns white when the hair follicle dies. Isn’t that sad?”
Most recently, another silver strand appeared for the third time when I was fixing my hair. I stared at the silver strand. Then, I stared at myself. People say that I look young for my age, but I’ve been seeing aging in and on me from the all that has happened in my life and to the lives of the people I love the most. And, I’m now slowly seeing and even slower to understand how everyone around me is aging and getting older, but how aging is not embraced and is warded off like a bad plague. That third silver strand stared back at me in the reflection of the mirror with a gaping question mark as to what I would do next. Pluck it? Pull it out? Or, maybe, just let it be?
Growing up, I remember that my dad had more white hair than I could count until he met and started dating my stepmom. To me, I admired and respected these white hairs that signified my father’s wiser beyond imaginable and scientific professor selves.
He once said to me about silver strands, “They just mean that you think a lot and are gaining wisdom and smarts in life.”
Before I saw the third silver strand most recently, I had asked my father how it could be that his hair darkened only when he met my stepmom. My father let out a jolly laugh and said, “I dyed it, of course!”
I thought to myself at the time of the interaction with my father and I thought again with that third-time silver strand just glinting in the light and staring back at me, “Well, if silver strands mean wisdom gained from life and living, then why would anyone try to hide that wisdom through dying their hair? Don’t we all get old anyway? Why are we denying and defying the natural progression of aging? Why was the aging process feared, rather than embraced? How come ‘growing old’ is the plague in comparison to ‘growing up’?”
Nearly everyone I know dyes their hair, and more so women than men. We spend our days pruning and preening ourselves as we get older and older to look and appear younger and younger. We spend the time that ticks relentlessly to hide and mask our biological and chronological clocks. For all of us who were once cute and chubby babies and innocent children, our goal was to grow up. We measured our heights with scratched pencil markings on the wall to say that we were taller and soon growing up. We dreamt big and let out booming announcements of what we wanted to be when we grew up, but not and never old. There was never the goal, talk, or hope to ‘grow old’, or ‘older.’
I’ve heard people say that there is nothing good about growing old and older because everything seems to be falling apart: Bones turn brittle, aches and pains kick in and become the daily norm, once elastic skin sags, getting out of bed is the painful struggle, and sleep is a dire need that cannot be fully fulfilled. And, isn’t it intriguing that just when everything is falling apart is when everything seems to fall into place with a great understanding that with all that is lost with the body in growing old is all the more gained in mind, soul, and spirit? The body is just a temporary and external shell and vessel, but not the very internal and core of who we actually are that subtly and beautifully grows as we grow older.
The silver strands appear and catch the lights reminding us of our lives that we live, our experiences, our stories, and, most of all, the absolute privilege it is to age. For, the older we age and grow, the more we gain in wisdom of our soul, spirit, and mind from our experiences. For, we can proudly say that we are alive and have lived through the worst to be the best we can possibly be as we grow older. I am now more aware than ever of the aging process all from my silver strands, but also the silver strands of my family and friends. We are all growing older and aging with a certain and silent sense of dignity that is slow and subtle and effervescently beautiful.
I fluffed my hair to try to hide this third silver strand. But, as my mirrored reflection stared back at me, I caught the brightness in my eyes that was the child-like spirit in me and the silver strands that represented the old soul in me. I did not want to pluck or pull out the silver strand that stood out in my head of dark strands. I left it alone with the knowledge and the comfort that my silver strands were speaking loud and clear that they represented my ever-gaining wisdom, strength, survival, and stories.
More silver strands will be appearing as I age and it will only be my privilege to be a part of the aging process most gratefully and gracefully.
Miss Mary ;-)