Olderhood…. it’s a word

27 04 2010

I have, some of you may know, several white hairs in my otherwise red-brown beard.  I like them very much—I have a gathering of them on my lower left chin, and a less substantial group directly opposite them.  Symmetry is key, I think, in having a smooth transition from color to grey in hair.  I hope you’ll forgive me for my quiet desire to have style in aging thrust upon me.  I may get over it in time, anyway.

Today I found a bona fide grey hair in my actual coiffure, which was a bit of a surprise.  A person claimed to have seen one once, but couldn’t produce it for verification a second time, so I count this as my first real grey hair.  I was surprised because it was sitting up in the very middle of the part of my hair, and it wasn’t like the rest of the hairs.  Obviously it wasn’t the same color, but I mean to say that its character was quite different.  I’d combed my hair straight, and it was wiry, defiant, twisting this way and that, gnarled and stark out of the grain of the conformers.  It is nothing like the rest of them.  I wonder if that’s what I have to look forward to—thousands of rogue never-be-tamed misfits sprouting from my head and doing as they damn well please.  Time will tell.

I stared at it in the mirror as I brushed my teeth this evening, realizing at some point that I wasn’t paying attention to my teeth at all, and then realizing that I was annoyed at myself for it.  I suddenly remembered a time, not so long ago, when I detested brushing my teeth.  I hated to do anything that I considered “maintenance work,” particularly when the maintenance was solely to fulfill a societal norm, like, oh, I don’t know, having my hair cut.  I always thought of these duties as stealing my time away, leaving me less opportunity to complete all of the things that I wanted to do.  A couple of hours of maintenance work every week, I reasoned, robbed me of a huge amount of time for learning and improving.

Sometime between then and now, however, I learned to find real value in many of these tasks.  I particularly enjoy brushing my teeth.  It’s time I get to spend paying attention to myself, being sure that every tooth is properly cared for, that they feel clean and strong.  I don’t know how it started to matter to me so much, but I think that investing that energy in myself is beneficial in more ways than a clean dental record.  I may not have the words to describe the positivity of the act or the affirmation contained therein, but I’ve found something nice in the deliberate, thoughtful attention one can give to one’s maintenance.  Of course, I’m still not very big on grooming in general, but I’m finding my way to appreciation.

For those of you unconvinced that finding a grey hair and realizing that attentive teethbrushing can be therapeutic makes for a very interesting blog post, I’m with you.  I’m not sure I’m going to convince you, but I do have one further observation to make.  This has been a nice coincidental evening for me because it’s reminded me that we’re all still capable of change; that our minds aren’t as locked up as we can convince ourselves they are.  Sometime between my youthful head of vibrantly colored poo-brown hair and the nascent moments of olderhood, a firmly held belief of mine changed.  Every thought you think has the power to send you down a new road, even if you don’t realize you’re on the way until much later.  Every shift in habit is its own nudge toward your growing into a different person, so it makes sense that if you make the right nudges now (and avoid the wrong ones), all you can do is get better every day.  I used to scoff at my own halfhearted attempts at approaching vegetarianism, but the more I learn about the meat industry, the less I want to let myself support it, and what started as my trying to have one meatless day per week has sprouted a little to the point that I have many fewer meat-meals, and could very likely continue to improve my record in time.

I’ll keep you posted on whether I’m a fastidiously groomed, prim, and proper salad eater by the time I’m losing my last brown hair.