I’ve done it before and it’s never easy. Whether it was a job, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a family member, a doctor or a hair stylist, breaking up can be hard to do. And here I am again… in the midst of another breakup.
Why are breakups so hard? I believe it’s because they often come with some hurt feelings or a sense of “what the hell happened here?” A big blowup could be involved. It could be by mutual agreement. Or, it could just be a silent, slinking away. However it happens, it’s over.
Whenever you relocate and have to find all new people to do things or experts to rely on, you not only go through the process of finding people – docs, dentists, drycleaners, gardeners, mechanics, etc. – you begin to develop a relationship with them. And, if you’re like me, you hope the first one you “try” is THE one and that everything will be hunky dory. Your relationship will last for a long time and you may even become friends. Perfecto.
Well, I’ve been more than grateful for most of these new folks – remarking often about how lucky we feel to have been blessed with the best referrals. The only one that hasn’t clicked is someone I see every four weeks or so for a tuneup. The hairdresser and the one I was the MOST nervous about. You know, if there’s not a love connection there and if you’re not happy with results, that can be one miserable relationship.
In Baltimore, I had been most fortunate. After I fired a hairstylist – yep, fired him – because he forgot who was paying the bill and who needed to be satisfied with more than his charming self, I found Erika. She and I clicked from Day One and we ended up being together for more than eleven years. She’s the one who talked me out of wearing my hair short and trying to make it tame to letting it do its thing – be curly and often wild, because as she said, “That’s what it wants to do. Why force it to do other things?” She was right.
And, Erika was the one who figured out the perfect hair color for me – not auburn, not mahogany, not blond, not strawberry blond… but a coppery/orangey red that was “my” color.
And, a year or so ago, when some medicine I was taking started making my hair fall out by the fistful, she was the one who “nursed” me through it with a combo of products and supplements.
Never a worry with her – she listened to what I wanted and educated me at the same time.
So out of all of the new people I had to find, discovering a new hairstylist was the most unnerving to me. I came armed with the hair color formula, the products that work best for me, the way I get my curls to do their thing…. so, how hard could it be to find someone to fall into the rhythm of making it all work?
I took the easy route, I know. There’s a cute little salon in town and its real close. I stopped by one day and talked with the owner about setting up a consult appointment. I wanted to show her my formula and talk to her about getting a curly girl haircut. My first clue should have come when she looked at me light I had horns or something. In a nice way, she let me know she had been cutting hair for close to thirty years and had done it all. Not wanting to offend (I get like that sometime), I was almost guilted into setting up an appointment.
Before I had the actual appointment, I ended up meeting several women and having conversations that somehow got around to hairstylists. Whenever I asked about this particular stylist, I would get something like…. “She’s cut hair for a long time here, but…” or, “She’s really nice, but…” and the “but” was always followed by, “She doesn’t listen.” Second clue.
But, I went anyway – mainly because she’s cut hair for thirty years and I could walk to the shop. Trust me, not good enough reasons.
What I found out the first time was… she doesn’t listen. While she got the cut okay, the color was way off – a bluish red – and she insisted on blow drying my hair, which doesn’t work for me. When I got home, Bob was like, “What color is your hair?” We both acknowledged that the cut was okay and that next time, I’d have her adjust the color.
Four weeks later, I tell her we needed to adjust the red and I would like to add a few blond streaks for the summer. The cut worked, the red part almost worked, but a few blond streaks turned into big, blond stripes. It might have been ok if I was in a rock band. But, I’m not. When I got home, Bob was amused but he knew better than to say anything. My sense of humor was suffering.
Yep, I actually went back for a third round. I let her know I wasn’t happy about the stripes and wanted to tame them down a bit. She did her best – they still showed up more than I liked, but the red was warmer and the haircut was okay.
I know you won’t believe this. I went back four weeks later. I told her that with less humidity, my hair doesn’t curl up as much, so if she could trim it just a bit shorter, the curls would be fine, and to be sure she kept the same shape because otherwise I would end up looking like Bubblehair Barbie – the one I had in the third grade. That’s where the disconnect was and that’s when I realized… she doesn’t listen.
When I got home, I cried and cried. The color was off again and my worst fear happened… I looked like a cross between my mother and Barbie with the bubblehair. I was thinking about calling Erika to see if I could get her to move to Vermont or at least come see me once a month. Bob tried to console me by saying, “It’s too dark, but it doesn’t look THAT bad, and it’ll grow.” Argggh.
Yes, it will grow and there will be remedial haircuts and color in my future – starting next week. I cancelled the appointment I had made while I was in shock after my last visit. When the receptionist asked me if I needed to reschedule, I said “No, thank you.” I’ll be driving about fifteen miles to a new place for a consult appointment. One thing I do know for sure, they use the same products and color as Erika did, and they are trained curly hair specialists. Let’s hope this works.
What I figured out from this adventure:
- If I’m vain about the way my hair looks, I am okay with that. Four months of bad doos have done me in.
- Experience doesn’t always mean someone is good or competent.
- Being heard is important to me and I don’t want to be bullied by an “expert.” If I’m shelling out bucks and tips every four weeks like clockwork, I’m a good customer. Listen to me.
- I believe in giving someone a second or third chance, depending on what the relationship is like and if they are making an effort. If everyone is getting the same haircut that day whether they want it or not, I’m not interested.
- I need to let go of my “nice girl” self when I need to. This isn’t personal. I am quite sure this stylist is a nice, lovely person. But, this is a business relationship that has personal consequences for me for at least four weeks at a time. I should have made the decision to stop going at least two months ago.
Silly, huh? Maybe so. I’m pretty sure there are some of you who think I’ve lost it. I’m pretty sure there are some of you who empathize with me because of your own personal experiences. I just realized how great a good doo makes me feel and I haven’t been getting good doos.
Onward I go… and since I don’t have hopes of getting Erika up here, I’m hoping that the appointment I have scheduled on Halloween will not be frightening at all.
Any hair nightmares out there or have you found the perfect stylist?
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Jen Grow
Jen Grow is the Administrator of Baltimore Intergroup, a nonprofit organization that helps alcoholics to achieve sobriety. She also organizes and leads retreats for women in recovery. In addition, she is a freelance writer and the Fiction Editor of Little Patuxent Review. She co-wrote the book, Seeking the Spirit (Morehouse Publishing, 2006) with Harry Brunett, and her collection of stories My Life as a Mermaid and Other Stories, winner of the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize is forthcoming in 2015. She’s received two Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and her stories, which often have social justice themes, have earned nominations for Best New American Voices and a Pushcart Prize.
People would be surprised to know that: For many years I was under-employed and stuck in co-dependent relationships because I was afraid to take full responsibility for my life and really shine. It seemed much easier to blame something or someone else for my unhappiness than to acknowledge my own poor decisions and the ways I diminished myself. Finally, thankfully, it became too hard to live that way and I had to change. Pain is a great motivator.
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
Every time I’ve ever sincerely asked for help (and have been willing to receive it), I’ve had transformative experiences. It doesn’t matter if the help I’ve asked for has been physical, emotional or spiritual. I once asked a stranger to borrow his cell phone, and his kindness and generosity touched a place deep inside me that reminded me to reach out to people every day. For me, asking for help is the same as saying, “OK, I’m ready to change. My way isn’t working anymore.” The guidance I receive in return is mind-blowing.
What are you most conscious of today?
Since my father’s death and the deaths of a few close friends, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the fact that everything is temporary. Everything is in a continual state of transformation. I used to understand this intellectually, or I thought I did. Now I my understanding is visceral. Loss and renewal have awakened in me a deeper appreciation of and compassion for the present moment. The beautiful thing about grief is that it splits the heart wide open.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
I want to spend more time painting, taking photographs and making art. I’ve dabbled with art projects for many years, but I’d really like to express myself more fully in a visual way. Also, the inner ham in me secretly yearns to take some acting and improvisation classes. That would be so much fun!
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
Any conversation that women have collectively is a good conversation. The more collective conversations we have, the stronger we become. It would be great if we had a big loud bullhorn of female voices that could bellow with great strength to change the world. For that to happen, we have to put aside rivalries, shaming, and other subtle judgments we’ve been conditioned to make about each other so we can come together in supportive and uplifting ways. On the individual level, that means cultivating self-love, self-respect and healing to transcend the ways the world tries to suppress us.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
If I could round up everyone in the world, I’d say: “Stop with all the name calling and finger pointing!” Blame is useless. It’s all projection and story making. So let’s stop. When we focus on the problem, the problem increases. When we focus on the answer, the answer increases.
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live
“There is no better time than autumn to begin forgetting the things that trouble us, allowing them to fall away like dried leaves. There is no better time to dance again, to make the most of every crumb of sunlight and warm body and soul with its rays before it falls asleep and becomes only a dim lightbulb in the skies.”
- Paulo Coelho, from his novel, Adultery
No matter what the temperature is or what the weather conditions are, my husband always says, “It’s 78 degrees and sunny.” When people questioned our sanity about moving to a place where the winters are snowy and frigid – when everybody else our age was heading south – he would say that it didn’t make any difference because wherever we are, it would be 78 degrees and sunny. I’ll see if he remembers that come February (isn’t that called the cruelest month?).
But right at this moment – it’s about 73 degrees and sunny. I am sitting on our deck overlooking a golf course in the distance and the lovely Mt. Peg. The leaves are just a smidgen past their peak color and several trees are almost bare. The sun is shining through the trees in the woods next to the deck turning the colors into an almost neon version of themselves – especially lovely on those leaves in mid-air floating to the ground.
On these precious days, it’s hard to get any work done. I want to take full advantage of gorgeous days and soak up their beauty so that when the real chill comes, I’ll have some beautiful memories.
I don’t know what it will be like this winter for me because I’ve never lived in this type of cold before. And everyone I meet gets around to asking me the question as to whether we’ve been up here in winter and are we planning to stay throughout the year. Like we’re wusses or something. I’ve been through some pretty cold Mid-Atlantic winters and endured years of beyond hot and wet in Houston – both extremes. Plus, I’ve done my winter gear shopping. I am ready.
What I’m really interested in is living with the change of light – getting darker about fifteen minutes earlier than the Baltimore area and those gray skied days. It’s so beautiful right at this moment with all the colors around me looking like nature’s most gorgeous oriental carpet and the warm sun shining – what will be it be like in a month or two?
I’ve talked to several people recently here in Vermont and back in Maryland who struggle with the darkness and slide into sadness and in some cases, mild to severe depression when winter arrives. I’ve felt that sadness at times for a day or two during winter and my heart truly goes out to those who suffer year in and year out, just waiting for the light of spring.
Knowing that this will be the year I start to navigate my way through a “real” winter, I’m looking forward to it. It’s the perfect time to give myself permission to slow down, take it easy, rest, and look inward. It’s the time for some ultra-nourishing self-care. It’s the time to give myself a break and lay off the demands and the “shoulds”. I am thinking this could be a valuable time of discovery – uncovering and excavating what is ready to come to the surface.
So, I am already preparing for the nurturing self-care. In the midst of house painters being with us starting in November and lots of furniture that needs to be picked out, I have a list of things I know will help me feel warm, fuzzy, loved and taken care of. I’ll be adding to this list as I go along, but so far:
- Plenty of tea and a new cup to celebrate winter
- A beautiful fireplace all ready to go – with gas logs that light up with a push of the button and warm the entire room
- A lovely throw right next to my favorite chair and ottoman
- Taking naps when so moved
- Getting plenty of sleep – it works for bears
- A supply of red wine to sip by the fire
- A freezer full of food and a gazillion new recipes to test
- Fragrant soaps, essential oils, and epsom salt for long soaks in the tub
- Several bottles of champagne to toast whatever needs toasting
- A new journal to record my thoughts – I plan on writing and writing
- A stack of books to read
- A selection of audio books
- The yoga and pilates class schedules – oh, and going to the classes!
- And more… gathering new friends in our home for meals and conversation and taking advantage of cross-country, snow shoe and dog-sledding activities, and dare I say, curling???
So, this will be a new type of winter in a new place, but I’m headed in wide-eyed and bushy-tailed in my exploration mode. We’ll see how it goes, right? After all, I am not a wuss, except about heights and going to the dentist.
And, you… how does winter come for you and how do you enter and pass the season? How do you nourish yourself? And, if you live in a warm climate, do you notice any difference internally with the passing seasons? I would love for you to share.
We can have different ideas about what a scaredy-cat is, but I have always been one to some degree, especially when the sun goes down. I can pretty much tackle anything that comes my way during the daytime, but come nightfall, I feel as if I’ve lost my super powers. And, now that we are in the spooky month of Halloween, I’m on high alert.
Where did this come from? It started when I was little. I always thought “things” were under my bed, in my closet and I actually had night terrors – keeping up everyone in the house with my crying and screaming. And, as suddenly as they came on, they left after several months, but they lived up to their name. They were terrifying.
Also, I was raised by a scaredy-cat mom who turned on all the outside lights and closed all the blinds at dusk… because there could be people out there looking at us. For real – in our tiny, little town? Yep… and, I believed her.
When I graduated from college and moved to Houston, I took my scaredy-cat self with me. All of a sudden, I wasn’t in a town of two-thousand people anymore. I was in a city of well over two-million and the evening news reassured me that there were plenty of spooky people out there. When I read Stephen King’s, Salem’s Lot, I could hardly walk my dog at night knowing that there could be vampires hanging around on window screens.
And then, within a year – still in Houston, three very scary things happened. The first happened when I was walking my dog one morning before daybreak. A man who had just robbed a convenience store was running from the police and jumped over a six-foot fence just as I was walking by. I’m not sure who was scared the most, but thankfully, he kept on running and the police were close on his coattails.
The next thing happened when I got up one morning and went to take Nauzer the Schnauzer out for a walk and I couldn’t get out of my front door. As I walked around the house, I found that all of my doors were damaged and that window screens had been pulled off lower windows. Someone had tried to get into my home during the night and neither my dog or I had heard them! I had double locks on all the windows and deadbolts on the doors, so it must have been too much trouble for them, although they gave it a good try.
When the police came they shared the comforting news that when someone breaks into a home at night and a single woman lives there, they are usually after her and not her TV. They advised me to get a gun – after all, I lived in Houston – or better yet, a shotgun, so I could just stand at the top of the stairs and pump it. Whoever it was would leave when they heard that. I didn’t follow through with that suggestion.
And, then when I was thirty-three years old, the scary event happened that forever changed my life and anything I felt or thought I knew. The proverbial boogeyman abducted me from a grocery store parking lot and assaulted me, letting me know that he would finish me off before the evening was over. But, he didn’t, and I was able to get away. He was caught and because I had not been the only victim, he will be locked up forever. But, that nightmare stayed around for years and still rears its ugly head occasionally, although it no longer controls me.
Needless to say, I became hyper-vigilant about walking, driving, parking lots and being at home alone all locked up with curtains drawn. When I moved to D.C., Baltimore and Charlotte – I was extra careful. Big cities with lots going on, too, and you can never be too careful.
When Bob and I got married and bought a home outside of Baltimore City, the whole backside of it was glass. A veritable fishbowl. I wanted curtains drawn and outside lights blazing at sundown. Bob kept saying, “Who do you think is standing in our backyard looking?” I had no idea. Probably, a bunch of deer, but I wasn’t taking chances.
The alarm system was always on and stayed that way for several years until it started acting up. It got to the point that every time a fly farted, it went off, and sort of like the kid crying, “Wolf,” we lost confidence in it and just turned it off for good.
I also stopped closing the curtains at night. After all, who was out there except the deer eating all of my hostas? I felt safe.
So, about a month ago, we moved into our new home in Woodstock, Vermont. After living in major cities all of my adult life, I felt I was back to my roots, living in a very small town – about a thousand people in the district where we live, and another thousand or so in the town of Woodstock surrounding us. Vermont, itself, only has a population of 627,000 – smaller than most of the cities I’ve lived in. The crime rate is next to nothing in the area and the state is considered one of the safest in the nation. Bob said that’s because nobody lives here.
Well, the first thing I noticed was it’s very dark at night and it’s very quiet. For the first time in ages, I can walk out on our deck on a clear night and see all of the stars in the sky. No street lights to cause interference and there’s no noise… at all. Dark and quiet.
We have no window coverings at this point. We do have an alarm system that we are reluctant to use. We have porch lights on timers. And, we have motion detector lights on all corners of the home. Pretty well covered for a town like Woodstock.
But, old fears can live deep beneath the surface and can be easily aroused in my case. One night, I was watching TV in our new fishbowl without curtains and the motion detector lights near the French doors went on – several times. I froze and every horror story ran through my mind. Someone was out there. I just knew it. Even in a little town with no crime… the boogeyman had ended up in my backyard peering through the windows. Visions of Jason and Freddy Krueger were fueling my imagination. I hollered for Bob to come down and check it out. He told me to tell him when they were on the deck and then he would come down. Yeah, my husband, the hero. I finally decided I wasn’t going to be bait for any scary people and headed upstairs to the safety of my hero.
The next morning when I walked out back, it looked as if a deer convention had taken place in my newly, cleaned out garden beds – hoof prints in all sizes. They were probably wondering where all their goodies had gone and resigning themselves to the fact that they would have to wait until next year to get anything out of that garden bed. It also occurred to me that the motion detector lights had picked up on these intruders and that Jason and Freddy weren’t there after all. Just Bambi.
Without growing entirely complacent about possible dangers, it also occurred to me that my horror stories from the past and the fear they had generated within me didn’t need to control me in our quiet little version of paradise. The backyard is big enough for me and the deer… until they start eating the hostas.
A question I have been asked recently and devoted serious time to talking with women about is the time of transition when a woman’s ovaries start to slow down the production of hormones. This time is better known as perimenopause.
A woman can experience perimenopause in her thirties, or it may not be until sometime in her forties or even her fifties. Regardless of when the symptoms begin, actual menopause may still be years away. That’s a long time to be “in transition.”
So, what to expect? First, you should know that no two women’s experiences are exactly alike. Just because your best friend had one set of symptoms doesn’t mean that yours will match.
This is exactly what I am experiencing. Yep, I am in the “transition” at 50 and fabulous. Well actually, I was thrown for a loop over the past few days with dizziness and hot feet! Not what I was expecting or what most women have shared with me over the past weeks. Not my head… but my feet! Can you believe my feet were on fire? After researching, I found that dizziness and vertigo are systems of perimenopause that are not often talked about, and so are hot feet.
To my amazement I found thirty-five common symptoms of perimenopause. I could not believe the list was so extensive. There were my symptoms: dizziness, vertigo, light headedness and episodes of loss of balance. At the very least, I felt validated! I did consult with Dr. Andrew London, GYN, co- founder at The Maryland Center for Sexual Health (MCSH), and over the phone, he shared that each woman experiences various levels of discomfort and varied symptoms.
MCHS is participating in this phase three trial. Currently, recruiting women, between the ages of 40 and 65,who are experiencing discomfort from the first signs of sweating to persistent sweating and/or months or years of experiencing hot flashes. Recently, I wrote about the “burning bed” and until now I have been interviewing women and “talking the talk” about low sex drive and menopause. Now, I am walking the talk on perimenopause. It was inevitable, right? I am grateful to have a resource in Baltimore that has innovative treatments and safe options to help navigate women through these transitions. As I asked Dr. London questions, I felt validated as he listened and offered options and first steps in my journey through perimenopause so that I can live an active life and not be miserable!
After talking with Dr. London, I requested to have my hormones tested. While he agreed to see me the next day in his office to discuss options, he also stated this is just a borderline test to show hormone levels and not very effective at age fifty! Women’s hormone levels fluctuate daily, monthly and yearly in various stages of our lives. While the Follicle Stimulating Hormone Test (FSH) is a great test for other issues that present in women (i.e. infertility), it would not be a valid test for most women in perimenopause, especially for me since I am still experiencing monthly menstruation cycles. My purpose is to be pro-active versus re-active to savor the next 50 fabulous years! So I am excited to meet with Dr. London and find out how to navigate.
To learn more and stay up to date on topics, trends and additional studies Click Here. MCSH conducts an extensive range of therapeutic clinical drug trials, evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of new drugs for the treatment of numerous sexual problems with women in various stages of menopause in Baltimore. Substantial financial compensation is awarded for your time to participate. From what I am learning and hearing from other women, the rewards just might outweigh the financial return!
So for tonight, on a beautiful autumn evening in Baltimore – moderate temp – my air conditioning is turned on high! I am in preventive mode to avoid another night of “hot feet”. I am excited to see Dr. London and eager to learn more about the ever-changing, wondrous female body that continues to amaze me. Stay tuned!