It’s the last day of January 2018, the month where many of us take on New Year’s Resolutions. In the past, I’ve tried to take on the standard resolutions (eat better, exercise more, don’t holler at my kids so much…), but I’ve realized taking on BIG things are my goals of 2018. Success shows up in many ways. Last weekend, I graduated and became certified as a Life Coach from Seattle Life Coach Training. I’ve worked on developing an alopecia education program for nursing schools that is ready to be launched, and I’m looking forward to still continuing to eat well, exercise more, and holler much less at my kids. May this year be one filled with BIG goals for you too.
I met a woman last week who shared her experience of losing her leg in an auto accident. She is an artist, and it is important to be known for her art vs. the loss of her leg. She was wearing jeans at the time, but says wearing a skirt when she is promoting her work is important because she doesn’t want to spend the entire time talking about her missing leg. She has decided what works best for her, and that is using a wheelchair and not a prosthetic. Her amputation is from the knee down. She tried wearing a prosthetic because that was expected of her. It never quite fit right and even caused lymph edema in her other leg, resulting in the near-loss of that one. I was shocked to hear that other amputees told her she didn’t try hard enough, that she was weak and needed to wear one for her own sake. I appreciate her sharing her story, and I also realize the importance of not pushing an agenda when supporting one another. Whether you are an amputee or someone experiencing hair loss, the decision to wear a prosthetic is ultimately up to you and no one else. Let’s continue to support each other in our choice.
“You must know her. She has alopecia too.”
I attend a lot of different writing events where I live. During these events, we each talk about our writing experience – what we’ve written, how we published it… As I spoke about Head-On, Stories of Alopecia, a woman interrupted saying, “I know someone with alopecia. She’s from LA, red hair…well red wig (as she motioned a long flowing head of hair). You must know her.”
I almost laughed out loud. Certainly we all must know each other, right? As she continued talking, I wasn’t able to educate her, , but if I had been able to get a word in edgewise, I would have informed her that over 147 million people have alopecia and “No. I don’t know all of them.”
As she continued talking, I realized I actually did know exactly who she was talking about and made the next mistake of identifying her – which in essence is like saying “Yes. I do know everyone with alopecia.”
I was getting more and more comfortable with my bald head out in public, when suddenly the cold weather kicked in. We don’t live where it gets especially cold, but I’ve now found that I am comfortable in my hat as the rain comes down and the wet-cold sticks around. I wonder how easy it will be to “go back” to being outwardly bald when the weather warms up, and I am a bit disappointed that I allowed myself to be uncomfortably hot the other day in the local Starbucks, when all I had to do was take my hat off. I’ve had more and more opportunities to have teaching moments about alopecia, and am excited about the future impact I can make on those around me. I have a big educational talk in late March where I look forward to raising alopecia awareness to a whole new level. Maybe that will be my jump-start back into bald comfort.
I was feeling pretty confident as I left Washington, DC and made my way across the country to the “other” Washington where I live. No-one was picking me up at the airport, and I had made a reservation for the airport shuttle to take me home. I was cutting it close as I grabbed my bag from the overhead compartment. I had aggressively shoved it in there when I boarded the plane, and I knew it was going to be just as difficult to dislodge it when I was in a hurry to get to the shuttle. I finally extricated it, and I realized if I wanted to catch the last shuttle of the night, I would need to run to catch the train to take me to the shuttle area. The escalator was too slow, and when I picked my bag up to start running down the stairs, I was confident I could beat the train doors that were slowly closing. I was almost there when I felt my flipflops slip on the dusty linoleum. I managed to clumsily slide/dive almost doing the splits into the train (suitcase first) through the doors as they met, just barely able to grab the cursed flipflop that remained outside. All was silent as I untangled myself from the heap of disaster that was now me. A bald woman sweating profusely as she nervously grabs her smartphone to type a message to her husband in the guise of looking nonchalant. I am embarrassed, but I’m also shocked that not one person even offered to help me. I think I may have heard an “Oh my God” as I made my landing, but not one person said, “Are you okay?” or “Can I help you?” No one would look at me, and I wanted to disappear. At the same time, I wish I would have wittingly said something like, “How’s that for an entrance?” I’m keeping that for next time because I know there will always be a next time for me to trip over something, show my confidence, and rise above my experience. I know there will always be another chance to fix it, and I will!
I remember one of the first times I felt able to dip my toe into the world without any head-covering. I had just spent an empowering weekend at a NAAF conference surrounded by friends and other folks who looked like me. I made a decision, and I made it my own. I didn’t tell my friends, mostly because I have always felt that if I needed to do something – I would make it happen for myself without outside influence, and a little bit because I wasn’t 100% positive I could do it,
I woke up at 5am and took more effort than usual while getting ready. I needed to feel “extra” feminine, extra confident with my looks. All weekend I had shared elevators and space with others who were bald, and now I rode that elevator alone to the lobby. I decided to make my way to the Starbucks for morning coffee and try my hand at speaking with strangers, even if it was just a barista. My confidence waned, and my head felt heavy as I stood there looking at my feet – just waiting. I heard a man’s intake of breath and looked up to see an attractive businessman looking at me. Initially, I wondered if he was offended by my bald head, but I quickly realized it wasn’t that at all. With a knowing smile, I made my way back to the hotel where I could see Capitol Hill lit up in the distance as I stood in the street waiting for a cab. Liberation shows itself in many forms, and that day I felt empowered, liberated, and able to to see myself in a world that I had often felt was unwelcoming. It seemed fitting that the setting was in our nations capitol, a place where freedom is at its core.