Monday, April 7, 2014

On Becoming Andrea.... Or, Crowning Glory

I cut off 13 inches of hair.

While I didn't cut off all 13 inches in one sitting, over the course of two months and two hair appointments, I cut off over a foot of hair.  I feel free and sassy and light - and completely naked and exposed.  Needless to say, I'm confronting some feelings that I had no idea existed within.

My hair was short in my early 20's and I began growing it out to spite my ex.  The result of my spite was a beautiful head of hair - it was long, nearly to my butt, straight, thick and shiny.  I received a lot of attention because of my hair and I was proud of it.  I trimmed it twice a year and stopped dying it about three years ago.  I planned to have long hair for the rest of my life.  I pictured myself as a refined elder with a long braid or hair in a bun.  I liked my long hair and never thought of it as a burden.  What I didn't realize was that my hair was carrying a lot of the past into my present.

In January, I began a novena to Saint Anthony.  I was very specific in my prayer - I wanted to find a good, healthy, strong relationship.  I felt like it was time to buckle down and pray to find my "one."  Three weeks into my novena, my dear friend L. was visiting from San Diego and we had several very deep, soulful discussions about my journey and I realized that I was carrying a lot of energy in my hair - old energy that I no longer needed.  I made a hair appointment for the day of the new moon (and lunar new year) and my stylist cut off eight inches of hair.  I really loved the feeling of my hair being shorter but it was still just below my shoulders and essentially looked the same - if one wasn't paying attention, one didn't notice that my hair was shorter.

Over the course of my novena, three very important things happened.  First, I met a man (we'll call him Ojos Verdes) that took my breath away upon meeting.  He was so beautiful that I literally gasped when I saw him - I felt like I had been hit by a thunderbolt.  Our very short experience lasted about three weeks and I learned that he was battling some demons that were not mine to deal with.  As quickly as we began, it was over.  I ended things with him and didn't feel the usual feelings of devastation and rejection that I used to feel after a break up (hence he only gets a paragraph and not a whole blog post - this is what we call progress).  While I had high hopes upon meeting him, the reality of him was all wrong for me and I was able to move on without much thought and no regret.

Second, I was in my first stage production called Hembras de Pluma.  Hembras translates to woman or feminine, and pluma is a feather or a pen, hence Women of the Pen.  The play was comprised of nine short plays and monologues written by a collective of women of color (myself included) who also starred in our own pieces.  The eight women I worked with taught me so much about what it means to bare my soul in front of an audience.  While I've been performing poetry for 20 years and was in a band for four years, I always have had something or someone to hide behind.  When I perform poetry I can focus on the words on the page and shut out the audience.  My poetry book is a security blanket of sorts, and it was intimidating to memorize a ten minute piece and stage it using movement and props. I was telling a story that included my body as much as it did my voice.

I was terrified when we began rehearsals.  Writing the piece was a great experience, but acting it out was another story.  My director, who is a gifted and seasoned actress and director, very gently guided me through the process and created a safe space for me to explore my character.  While the piece I wrote is my true story, I had to step outside of myself and become a character.  I never thought I would be able to memorize my piece and deliver it, but before I knew it, it was opening night and there I was on stage, performing in front of family, friends and complete strangers.  I had no anchor; there was no piece of paper to hide behind.  I didn't get to stand behind a podium and there was no mic stand to steady myself.  I wasn't hiding behind the band and all their loud instruments.  There was a stage, a few props and me.

I loved it.

Being a part of Hembras pulled me into the light.  Stepping outside of myself allowed me to finally see myself through a clear lens and not through the shroud of insecurity and trauma that I have been trying to get out of for years.  What I saw is a woman who is whole and complete and loved and capable of loving.  I saw a woman who leads a full life and isn't defined by her relationship status or whether or not she is desired.  After all these years, the concept just be finally made sense - just be Andrea.  I come with battle scars, heart break, books full of poems, tattoos and a big laugh.  More often than not, I speak without thinking and even when I do think I rarely sugarcoat anything; I cry when I hear sad love songs; I tell my mom almost everything and I love to dance.  I geek out on music.  I'm intense and direct and when it comes to crushes, I freeze up.  I almost never can tell if someone is interested in me and am always surprised when someone asks me out.  I hate making the first move but will do it if I'm interested enough in someone.

I am learning to just be all of those things and so much more.  I finally see who I am, and I am so happy to be getting to know Andrea and better yet, happy to love her.

Which leads us to the third big thing that happened over the course of my novena.  I began the novena with the hopes of finding a relationship, but what I found at the end was so much more profound.  The novena lasted 13 weeks and I prayed it every Tuesday.  I prayed to find a good, solid, loving relationship.  When I met Ojos Verdes in February, I thought "yes!  This is what I opened up the novena for!" and I had high hopes.  When things didn't work out, I kept praying my novena but my intention changed.  Rather than ask for a good, solid relationship I began to ask for guidance on my path.  One afternoon, I came across an intention that really spoke to me: "I relinquish all regret, trauma and resentment.  I choose the miracle."  I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk at work; I repeated this mantra during hot yoga.  I repeated it during my novena.  I made up my mind that I was going to choose the miracle, even though I had no idea what the miracle entailed.

On the last day of my novena, I let out a big sigh and I felt a sense of peace.  My journey began with seeking a relationship and ended with a peaceful sense of self.  Later that day I had a hair appointment.  While I meant to go in and trim my bangs and clean up my layers, I realized I needed to cut the rest of my hair off.  I asked my stylist (whom I have been with for 14 years now - he is the person who helped me grow my hair out) to cut it all off and he cut another five inches.  We were both so excited and exhilarated and I felt completely free!

The next day in the shower, when I washed my hair, I was thrilled that there wasn't much to wash.  Blow drying was a bit of an adventure (I had no idea how to blow dry my short locks) and the reaction I received was mostly positive (except for a few friends who were less than thrilled that my long hair was gone).  I didn't regret my hair cut, but I wasn't prepared for the feelings that came up as a result of cutting my hair...

To be continued...

Next time:  Naked Miracles  

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