No More Hiding: Letting Go At Last
Repost from my blog: Eating My Pain
Prayer is an intricate part of my healing journey. One of the many things I’ve prayed for is the ability to see myself through my own eyes…not the eyes of my parents.
It took some time before I realized that I did not know myself or see myself as I ought to. I only saw what my parents taught me to see. I saw a life not worth living beyond the service I provided. I put all others before myself, fulfilling their needs…my sole priority. I saw ability that would never be recognized and a thirst that would never be quenched. Deprivation was my reward and pain my only inheritance.
It’s also very difficult to see yourself when you are not allowed to make even the most simple decisions for yourself. Hair was one of those things that seemed to be more of an issue than need be.
I used to sit in front of my mirror every evening and cry. My hair was always the same. Two or three ponytails with huge ribbons or bows that matched my outfit. This is how I looked everyday. I hated it and I hated my mother for making me look like this.
When I closed my eyes I could see myself with very long hair, but the hair looked strange to me. It looked like braids but it wasn’t braided. I didn’t know what locks were and had no idea that was the hairstyle I envisioned. I would also see myself with huge hair, wild and curly…unruly. I loved seeing myself like that. Then I’d open my eyes again to see what was still my reality and I retreated further into myself.
One day, I asked my mom if I could wear my hair braided. Absolutely not, she said. I asked, why? Mom turned to me as if to give a life lesson. She said, wearing your hair natural will only make you look ignorant. You must straighten your hair so people will think of you as intelligent. My heart sank and so did my head as I slowly walked back to my room to sit in front of my mirror and cry. I’ve never forgotten her words.
It would not be until I was in my mid 30s that I would be able to stand up to my mother and tell her how I wanted to wear my hair. I guess you may be wondering why it took so long for me to do this. All I can say is if you have to ask then you don’t know what it is to have controlling parents. You can’t begin to fathom what it is to be under such tight control and scrutiny. Every independent decision outside of what my parents wanted was made with great trembling and sacrifice. My parents did not take disobedience kindly and any act of disobedience was met with intense cruelty and degradation…no matter my age.
Finally, I broke free from one of the chains that bound me. I cut off all the permed hair and I wore my hair braided for a few years. A week before my 40th birthday I felt a strong urge to begin twisting my hair. I always knew I was going to lock my hair one day, but wasn’t sure when. The day had come and I gave into the call. I wore my hair locked for 9 years. I loved my hair. The first time I looked in the mirror and saw my locks in their full light I knew I had finally seen the vision of myself that I saw so many years ago. For once, I stood in front of my mirror and smiled.
During the ninth year of my locks a terrible thing happened. My eczema took a turn for the worse spreading over most of my body including my scalp. Having no insurance at the time, I fought with all I had to remedy my skin, paying cash for doctor appointments to get prescriptions for topical ointments. I also used tea tree oil and soap (natural anti-fungal), a probiotic and diphenhydramine to help with itching. There was little I could do to save my hair. My skin is much better, but my hair was lost. Locks fell daily, one sometimes two at a time. There was nothing I could do to save them. Each fallen lock was mourned and put away.
It’s been about a year since loosing the first lock. I stood in front of my mirror looking at the few remaining locks and thought to myself…why are you hiding? I’ve spent the last year trying to hold on to something that cannot stay. All I could see was massive loss. My identity…my beauty…my independence…my strength and everything else my locks represented was gone. I’ve been stripped. There’s no where else to hide.
About a month ago I cut off my remaining locks and placed them in a bag where all fallen locks are kept. I stood there squeezing the bag close to my chest, making peace with my decision. It is time for me to face myself. This time in my most natural state. My prayers were being answered, though I had not realized it yet.
I Am As I Am
One more look in the mirror.
There I stand.
Hair shorter than ever.
I began to cry,
Only this time it wasn’t tears of sadness,
But tears of joy and relief.
I am free, I said.
No more hiding.
I no longer need my locks to be my identity.
Nor do I need my locks to be,
My strength, my beauty,
Or proclamation of indoctrination of my mind and spirit.
I am just as I am,
And ought to be.
For the first time I see me.
I am budding and soon will be in full bloom.
My inner light fills the room.
I lean forward taking a closer look.
I am just as I am,
As I ought to be.
And I’m loving everything I see.
For the first time,
With my own eyes,
I can see me.