This past summer I started feeling like I wanted a change, something new or so I thought. As it turned out what I got was something old, very old. About 14 years ago this past Fall I walked away from a high-paying career in high-tech, a big house and what appeared to be a successful life from the outside. I was one of the only people who knew that my life was broken. It was literally killing me. At the time I was just 40 years old, about 90lbs overweight, having 2-3 migraines a week, having panic attacks, and was miserable in every area of my life. So I did what any desperate person would do, I declared a revolution and hit the reset button and the road.
I didn’t know what would make me happy, but I was very clear on what was making me unhappy. I slowly removed those things one by one funded by a small, golden parachute courtesy of a Sun Microsystems’ lay-off package and the support of friends and family. Not only did I leave a career and a state, but also bad health and bad choices were both to be replaced with better health some good choices (as well as some different bad ones). I also chose to change my hair color from my childhood streaky blonde to red. In fact, as the story goes, I was the first client to sit in Wayne’s stylist chair who, when asked what I wanted said, “something unnatural.” I went red. Sometimes it was bold and deep and other times more copper or as a third grader once said, “Orange with brownish at the head part.” That kid now is a YouTube craze tearing the Kardashians fashion choices to shreds and I can say I knew him when. Either way I stayed red for the next 14 years with all its many shades and given my pasty Irish complexion and a few weeks here or there it looked natural, or almost. It was a good fit for where I was and what I was doing. I loved it.
What I didn’t know at the start of this journey is that change is most successful when it moves from the inside out. If we shift our beliefs, our thoughts, our view it translates to how we relate to others, the world and ourselves. Back then I was working hard at adopting good eating habits and finding an exercise routine I could live with, but I was also in deep search for inner purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning were the key; the external had to be married to the internal for it to be grounded and vice versa. Changing my hair at the time was a flag to say “Do Over” to the Universe but mostly to me, it was to give me a fresh start and a reminder to be bold, to step out of my comfort zone in search of my real true road.
More and more now we see science is proving what practitioners of this type of search for truth and meaning through inner work have been saying. A recent study shows that the practice of gratitude, looking at your life and truly being grateful for its many gifts, releases dopamine into you system. It has the same effect as Wellbutrin. It also shows that the trait of gratitude is linked to higher levels of happiness a person feels in their lives. Cultivating gratitude and embracing change are aspects that are foundational in wellness. I went from hating my life and myself to loving both. It took time and it still evolves but hell I stopped paying attention to the marker of October as the revolution some years back. Now it is merely the all-important start of the candy season!
This summer’s yearn for change is nothing new; I do it all the time in one arena or another. I really try to be the catalyst for change in my life and not give it away to the man behind the curtain. Even as I write that there is laughter in my head. Ah the peanut gallery always keeps us honest and without our humility we are paper tigers. I can take direction fairly well from the Universe and self but hell even a blind squirrel finds a nut, right? So in contemplating this change, I talked to my sister and a few friends, took a poll, and then dove in. I didn’t orchestrate it with events or the calendar. It started as an internal tickle and a what if and it rolled from there. The end result is I went not only blonde but a good bit shorter than I’ve been in a bit, making it dead-easy to have a style no matter what time I roll out of bed. I am lazy by nature which over the years made me incredibly efficient. I work smarter, not harder, in order to garner the most pleasure, play and goof-off-i-ness one can jam in a day. Hey, judgy people that is called “process.” When you are a writer or any creative type, our “process” might look like a nap but it is a gestation period not pure sloth, but I digress. Short cut, I dyed my hair back to my childhood blonde or rather Kristen the Magnificent did.
At the time I was thinking, fun, fashion, and change, not change in that way that pulls you up short and makes you connect the dots but just cute-shit-glamour change. I can be as dumb as a box of rocks, or in this case box of hair. I did not remember until days into my new/old blondness the time frame of why I went red, the revolution and how it came to be. I had been so steeped in feeling what my life is now which is happy, content, constantly curious and grounded that I had forgotten. I had forgotten how very lost and how much pain I was in. The need to cause a revolution is close to the need to come home it turns out. Not home to the girl who started this process, or the child, and then the woman who walked on eggshells for the first 40 years of her life. I came home to my core, my potential for good, for real, and for quirk, in other words all that is me. Not only me, but this is true for you too. When you come home, you come home to a giant connection to core, to source and to love.
I didn’t see, as usual, this part of the long game when I made the appointment with my hairdresser. I never see the roll out of a lesson coming, a moment and a AH-effing–HA until it happens. This one brought me up short and helped me to see I was closing this chapter and to appreciate all my work, marking down the gains; I found a career or path I love-check, stopped all the migraines–check, lost weight and found a new relationship with health and exercise–check, and so many other things I had only dreamed about. All those dreams, even being a writer, have come to fruition and now are the fabric of my life in a way that I had stopped noticing the wonders of them. So the key here is to stop, to notice, and to be grateful and sometimes to be proud of the hard work you have done. The gifts bestowed on us are big and small from a Twizzler birthday cake to those who love you even when you are cranky and unlovable. To soaking up all the goodness around which amplifies creating a beautiful life, but be careful: you might send yourself right back to your roots.