Most of them are spread out evenly throughout a sea of auburn-brown. Every once in a while, however, a few will spring up off the surface. They look like little, silver bamboo shoots, defying gravity as they spin up toward the sky. These feisty creatures are the ones that catch my attention. They refuse to be like the rest of their kind. Most of them are tame, content to blend in, behave, never demanding a second glance. The majority are not interested in a beaches-of-Normandy type of attack. They are satisfied with a death-by-a-thousand-papers-cuts approach.
So I stare at the mirror, negotiating with the class clowns, the wild ones who won’t be silenced. I know they are in the midst of a takeover, one I cannot stop. It’s inevitable because, after all, I am getting older. But I have ammunition. For eight bucks and an hour’s time I can have any range of hair colors from the lightest of blondes to the blackest of blacks. On the other hand I can go all Northrop Grumman on my gray hair and get one of the best colorists around to do a base color, high lights, and low lights for around $140…..giving me a completely natural look.
But here’s the secret. I kind of like my gray hair. I know, I know. That sentiment is utterly crazy in our youth-obsessed culture. It’s akin to saying I’d rather make it first to the K&W Cafeteria line with my walker than finish first in the New York City Marathon. But that’s not me. I’m not some weird octogenarian apologist. I want to act young, feel young, and live young. I’m just not convinced my time is well-spent trying to convince everyone else that I actually am young.
So what am I going to do? From four feet away no one would know I have gray hair. It’s only when you get close that you see them here and there. Of course when I look in the mirror I can see…..no, wait a minute! Everything is blurry! By the time I back up enough for my eyes to focus properly I can’t see any gray hair at all.
I have decided that I am not going to age gracefully but graciously. I believe my eyes and my hair combine to tell the story of life on the brink of something precious. Because of unspeakable Grace showered down on me I pray daily for further grace to be imputed into my heart. As much as those gray hairs emanate from my scalp, I want my eyes to continue to get blurry to the faults in others as I am all too keenly aware of my own. I want a heart emanating with grace.
Aging graciously is welcoming each fresh gray hair onto this planet of my head. Each one is a testament to an experience, a trial, a test I’ve been through and ended up on the other side smiling. And hopefully packing just a tiny bit more wisdom. Gray hair number 322, welcome! You were born the day we rushed our son to the emergency room after a horrible scooter jumping another scooter accident. Gray hair number 67, the one over my left ear, welcome! You were born as I sat crying with my friend over the struggles in her marriage. Hello, two-foot area in front of my face! I can no longer see you clearly, but it’s all good. It just so happens I’m not taking it so personally when an ornery neighbor is a little short with me. After all, I’ve behaved much more atrociously. Hello, two-and-a-half-foot area in front of my face. Now I can no longer see you clearly either, but that’s cool. It’s helping me see mankind at a comfortable distance knowing we all have the same basic problem.
I am officially declaring this mop of mostly brown hair a sanctuary for gray. Feel free to live here, silver bamboo shoots.
And for friends and strangers alike, feel free to step into the blurry zone around me. We work so industriously for decades to remove the specks from our neighbors’ eyes. Maybe it’s the realization that we’ve been carrying logs in our own eyes for so long that causes our vision to blur in the end.