Bald heads and naked souls
My intention is to make this blog a positive place. But if it was just rainbows and unicorns all the time that would be boring and fake. (Well, if I really blogged about unicorns that would be pretty rad, but you get what I'm saying here.)
This post is about something negative that most of you have been affected by in some way.
The C word.
Last year my mother-in-law had surgery to remove that uninvited guest. Like the incredibly rude guest that cancer is, he came back. This time, chemo and radiation are needed, and my MIL is losing her hair.
I know what you're thinking. That there are so many other aspects of chemo and cancer that are more important and less vain than losing some hair.
This is true.
Hair is just hair and it grows back. But it's the most visible sign of cancer and, I gather, very emotional — particularly for women.
My MIL has always been a pretty woman. Her hair always appears freshly cut and colored (and it probably is), her nails are always done, lashes twirled and she always dresses nicely. I've seen her pretty so many times. But last weekend, she was beautiful. More beautiful than I've ever seen her.
After seeing her, I recalled a childhood memory and had kind of an aha moment. Now, 24 years later, I have a better understanding of this memory; it makes sense.
I think children are smarter than we (adults) are in many ways. Some call them "Indigo children." There could be something to that but I believe children have more awareness about themselves and their surroundings. They haven't yet trained their brain to be totally rational — and they see things through non-judgmental and honest eyes with an open mind.
So this memory.
When I was a toddler, that C word showed up at my house, too. My mom was going through chemo, but I was too young to understand what was happening so they didn't tell me. Mom wore wigs, and wouldn't let me see her without one in fear that if she did, I would be scared of my own mom.
One day, she stepped out of the shower to find a little Cara (I was supposed to be sleeping) waiting on the other side of the curtain. She was naked in every sense of the word, bald and terrified about how I would react.
"Mommy's pretty!" I exclaimed. "Mommy took her hair off! I want to take my hair off tooooo!"
I am sure my mom breathed a huge sigh of relief, and she no longer tip-toed around me. She started wearing scarves and baseball hats instead of the constant itchy wig. And I loved it.
In fact, the physical things I loved most about Mom were her bare head and her bare chest (from the mastectomy). I loved that I could snuggle into the flat of her chest as we napped together. I'm only now understanding why I loved my mom's bald head so much, because I had similar feelings to seeing my MIL's.
I'm used to seeing my MIL as a person ornamented with pretty things, and it was as if I was meeting Carolyn, not my pretty MIL Carolyn, but the beautiful and strong woman Carolyn, for the first time.
Without hair, it's clearer to see her. The brush has been cleared to give a better view to her soul. Again: I've never seen her more beautiful. Just like the beauty I saw in my mom that day outside the shower.
I mean that, and it's difficult to describe why.
Maybe when we lose our hair it humbles us. Maybe when we have cancer we realize what's really important, and we don't sweat the small stuff. Maybe when you bare your head physically, you also bare your heart.
I don't have the exact answers and I won't pretend to. I do know that the two times people I'm close to have lost their hair, I've been struck by their beauty.
It's so true what they say about "real beauty." It's not just a nice quote on Pinterest. True beauty doesn't come from a bottle or tube. It doesn't come from hair. It comes from the stuff — good and bad — within us.
I read once that whenever there's a sunset there's also a sunrise somewhere in the world. The light to my experience with this cancer darkness is that I know just how beautiful and strong these two women are, and I admire them more than ever.