I Got a Grey Hair!
This whole show called life is temporary and that’s what makes it beautiful
Where I am: Norfolk, Virginia, in a dressing room behind a stage :)
What I’m Listening to: Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A few weeks ago, I was in Southfield, Michigan watching television with my big sister when she exclaimed, “Michael, you have a grey hair!” She almost seemed happy about it, as if she’d just recruited a new player onto “Team Aging.” I dismissed her comment and convinced myself she was wrong by explaining the edge of my hairline had always been more blonde than the rest of my hair. The sun hits that region of my head more directly. The hair follicle in question must’ve been one of those fringe blondes. This theory held up soundly until a few weeks later, when a small battalion of grey hairs emerged to support that first brave grey, aiding it in its Napoleonic plans of total head domination.
Now I found myself in a conundrum. My body was now inconsistent with my definition of myself. When I thought of myself, I thought of adjectives like:
and most definitely…
Suddenly, this list of adjectives was under attack by the ever growing insurgence of greys above my left ear.
If I am not “young,” then who am I? A slippery slope of mental questioning ensued: “Will my fans still love me if I get old?” “Will I be attractive?” “Will women want to be with me?” “Will I die alone?” etc.
Really? Did I really just go from grey hair to “Will I die alone?” in less than 15 seconds? Does your mind/ego jump headfirst into doomsday scenarios this way or am I the only one?
“The mind makes an excellent servant but a terrible master.”
— Some Old Dude
Part of the pain of the aging process comes from clinging to an old personal identity. It is not the grey hairs themselves that cause me strife, it’s that I defined myself as “one without grey hairs.” I was holding on to that definition of myself. The pain lies in stripping away that old definition.
SO WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO?
In theory, if we were less attached to our definitions then we would have less pain. Right? I think that’s what the Buddha was getting at. Be less attached to your list of adjectives, so you experience less pain when they change. This is easy to write in a sentence, but, again, how the hell do we actually do it? I am no Zen-master, but here are a few of my current makeshift strategies:
#1 Be Grateful!
When a person has a birthday in New Orleans, they never say, “I turned 28” (or whatever age they were turning). Instead they say,
“I made 28.”
What a philosophical difference this one word makes?! To turn 28 is a downer. To make 28 is a privilege. It implies gratitude.
How can I complain about my grey hair at 28 when so many people die before turning 27??? When I think about it, to complain or be embarrassed about my age is insulting to those people who never got to live this long. Why waste this precious life worrying about how long this precious life will last for? That makes no sense. So don’t do it :).
#2 Embrace Aging
You are always the oldest you’ve ever been. You might as well get used to it :). Leaves are supposed to turn brown and fall off. People are supposed to get old and die. Don’t forget that. You are living a human life. Don’t create some goal of preserving your 25 year old body forever. You will not achieve that goal. Ram Dass once saw an advertisement that said, “They call them aging spots…we call them ugly.” He said it would be more appropriate to say, “They call them ugly…I call them aging spots.” I like that.
#3 Realize: Death Creates Beauty
So let’s be real. I’m 28 years old, and a few grey hairs are hardly comparable to the cocktail of arthritis, neuritis, insomnia, constipation, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and/or nervous tension that is probably on the horizon for me in the not too distant future. Honestly, at my age, it’s still easy for me to pretend like I will never age or die. But the reality is, I will. And here’s the kicker, you will too! While this may seem depressing at first, it’s actually quite liberating. In fact, the knowledge that this whole show is temporary, that this all will end at some point, is exactly and precisely what makes this whole show beautiful. The only way we can truly embrace, enjoy, and be grateful for our present moments, is if we accept the fact that these moments are fleeting and we only have a limited amount of them. This is temporary. This is finite. This is beautiful. This is divine.
Let’s enjoy it while it lasts,
You can call/text me at +1 313–307–4075 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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