Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hair Days

"I have very short hair. It's the only cute haircut I think I've ever had. "
Jamie Lee Curtis

When I'm depressed I often turn my attention to my hair. With the hope of feeling less sad, I look to a new hair style to enliven my dragging spirit. In all actuality, however, when you have straight, lifeless, gray hair like I do there's not much you can do to it. I've tried coloring and perming over the years, and learned (the hard way) that dyed hair has to be continually re-dyed and curly hair looks good on a poodle not me.

Regardless, when I find myself feeling blue one of the first things I do is call my friend Charles*. He not only has great hair styling expertise, he is a compassionate listener. We've had the same conversation several times over the course of our relationship. He knows when to nod his head, when to smile like he agrees with me, and when to walk me over to the shampoo bowl, which in essence puts an end to the conversation.

A few years ago there was a TV commercial where a Jeep-driving family made their way over rugged hills and roads to get to Grandmother's house - a log cabin surrounded by trees overlooking a mountain vista. Instead of paying attention to the Jeep, I coveted the cabin. It was the epitome of my dream getaway home. But more than that the Grandmother standing in the doorway anxiously awaiting the visiting children piled in the all-terrain vehicle, was not only wearing my kind of LLBean jacket, her hair was plaited in long, silver braids. I believe I was an Indian princess in an earlier life. I knew, or thought I knew, I would look good with braids. I told Charles this was the look my inner mountain girl would like to have.

To his credit, this diplomatic hair impresario, so experienced in handling women who do not have a clue as to what they want, did not laugh at me outright. Instead, he kept his guffaws muffled as he did his best to tame my hair as it began to grow. At the point where I needed to constantly tuck stray locks behind my ears, I realized what Charles already suspected. At this stage, in this life, I am really not the braid wearing-type. We each breathed sighs of relief as we put that hair adventure behind us.

Last month Jamie Lee Curtis was on the cover of the AARP magazine. Her very short, salt and pepper coiffure spoke to me. In a perfect world, I would be just like this thin, confident, mature yet sassy woman. I'd wear little red glasses and write children's books. I'd develop a taste for yogurt. I handed the picture to Charles and asked him to work his magic.

"Sure," he said with more enthusiasm than I expected. I'm not used to him taking me seriously. After exchanging a few pleasantries he sat me in a chair, pumped it up to its maximum height and went to work.

Out came the tiny pointed shears which Charles employs with great artistry. Like Michelangelo sizing up a virgin block of stone, Charles cut a little here, chiseled a little there. Tiny silver hairs dropped onto the plastic cape and inside the cotton band around my neck causing me to squirm like a little kid. The growing pile of hair on the floor made me wonder if there would be any hair left on my head. I blabbered of inconsequential things; the artist concentrated on his masterpiece. After the initial cuts the shape was there, but apparently this style which looks free and easy still needed more work.

Texturizing, Charles called it, thinning out the bulk. Bulk? In all honesty, I never thought of my hair as bulky. That is why I depend on Charles; he isn't afraid to tell me the cold hard truth. There are some things only a hairdresser knows, and bulk is apparently one of them. Without hesitation, Charles picked up his thinning shears. I felt a little like a sheep facing a de-fleecing. I held my breath and watched as Charles decided where to put the scissors, then pared the unsightly thickness, by removing every fourth hair. Don’t as me how he does it, my job is to sit quietly and not move. When he's done, I've got less bulk, and dramatically styled hair. I don’t say anything, but I think I’m still looking a lot more like me than Jamie Lee.

Charles advises that he is not quite finished. He has yet to apply the "product." I don't know when stylists started using product instead of shampoo. For that matter, when did hair people become stylists rather than beauticians, and beauty parlors become salons? Do I date myself by admitting I'm of an age when girls went to sleep with their hair soaked in Dippity Doo and wrapped around orange juice cans hoping for the perfect “no fuss” look in the morning? Sadly, I was one of those girls who went to school looking like she slept on orange juice cans. My eyes were red from lack of sleep and my head was covered with big puffy spots (where was the de-bulker when I needed him) that hardly ever smoothed over, even if I brushed, teased, and sprayed it with ozone-killing aerosols. I have long suspected that a root cause for my early bouts of depression had more to do with my hair issues than brain synapses.

I'm not much of a product buyer or user. Charles knows this and tries to make things easier for me by giving me a no-nonsense cut that requires little help - the kind where the hair just falls into place as I go running out the door. Yet, to get the Jamie Lee look he assured me I needed the "boost" that only came from a yellow spray bottle sitting his table of magic potions. Apparently ThermaFuse, a thickening spray, would fill in the spots that Charles just thinned. Huh?

Here's what the product information says: "flat limp hair? ThermaFuse it! Stand up for your hair and it will stand up for you!"

This leads me to an obvious question. If I use this miraculous product and get my locks standing up just so, will it be my hair that comes to my rescue if I am suddenly struck dumb and cannot speak for myself? How could I refuse to purchase this all-in-one hair product? At only twenty dollars, it's a bargain!
After using ThermaFuse to add lift and volume to my hair, Charles smeared a glob of White Tea velvet molding gloss between his fingers. He then combed his glossy fingers through my hair lifting it some more. Somehow all this detailing was supposed to make me look "natural." Topped off with a spritz of Caviar Rapid repair spray for immediate vitality and more shine, I think I did somewhat resemble Jamie Lee, but probably more like her older, less sassy cousin!

I've learned over the years that my hair fantasies run a certain course. I'm a sucker for fads. Yet when I try new things, I'm usually sorry I did. I go back to Charles with tears running down my cheeks until he fixes the mess with his professional expertise. The man is part stylist, part therapist, part miracle worker.

Hair, I've discovered, is kind of like life. Just when you think you've got it licked, bulk happens! Thank goodness there is always some new product on the market to help thin out the rough spots.

Merry Me

* His name has been changed to protect his identity, but just a little!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gone Underground

Hi, faithful readers. Did you think I got lost. Perhaps I did.

I wrote the following almost a month ago. But I stopped before I actually posted it. And the days have passed. My mood has not lifted much but I've followed the recovery prescription. I've taken a lot of naps. I've pulled a lot of weeds. I think there is a connection somewhere in the way creeping vines wind their way around perfectly good and beautiful azalea bushes, sucking up their sunshine and the way depression can wind its way into one's soul. I'm just not sure yet how to put the words together.

Once upon a time, I thought I'd write a book about depression. I've read many, kept some with yellow highlighted paragraphs of descriptions of dark places I never thought anyone else but me knew about. I'm not sure why. If you live it, why read about it? Because the truth is, books about depression are depressing. When I write a book I want it to be happy. I want it to tell stories that make people smile, not cry. Or if they cry, they are tears of laughter, not sadness.

As I write, John Denver serenades with songs I've heard so many times before. Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. Bring it on, John!

Don't worry, I'll bounce back. If nothing else, I've learned I'm a trooper. I'm a fighter. I've licked it before and I can lick it again. Saying that - knowing that - helps me feel better. Still, I wish this new medicine would kick in.
- - - -

Lately I haven't been able to keep a healthy perspective about things going on in the world. What's happening in Mynamar, China and Darfur feels like it's happening in my heart. I'm tired of hearing about war, people dying in disasters that are anything but natural, babies starving, and mothers crying.

My sweetie thinks my "water works" have sprung a leak; seems like all I do is weep.

Even though all the signs are usually there, depression has a way of sneaking up on me. It's nothing new, a demon I've wrestled with for most of my life. In this life all of us get stressed. Most of us have known the blues; some of us can't shake them. When my life gets complicated, I usually get depressed.

There are a variety of causes and probably as many cures. I know most of them by heart, so I no longer have to wring my hands and wonder what's happening to me. Still, even with all this experience under my belt, my chest gets tight, my stomach cramps and my pulse races when I discover I've lost (or just misplaced) my joy. That leads to an overwhelming desire to take a nap, which leads to fitful dreams which leads to a Merry Me without the merry which leads to confrontation - with others, with myself.

Anyone who knows anything about depression knows it can eat you up from the inside out. While outside occurances undoubtedly add to a person's sadness, what puts the real "D" in depression is the negative self talk that runs amok in one's head. Shoulda-coulda-woulda tapes that have little affect on normal thinking begin to take a toll on one's emotional stability when combined with bio-chemical imbalances and mis-firing brain synapses.

What to do about it? All the regular things: rest, exercise, see the doctor. A few of the things that have worked for me in the past include a walk on the beach, listening to music, blow bubbles, call someone, sew something, write something, bake something, pet the cat. And when feeling at a particularly low point, I'm pretty sure it cannot hurt and will most likely help to check out pictures like these:
Ivy Jane - yum!

Wendy and Ivy Jane - yum! yum!

Molly the horse with a prosthetic leg. How cool is that?

Mermaid and starfish