Friday, September 22nd 2017

Vanity hair

A Soul’s Code reader’s meditation on pain management begins with her own “Good Hair” journey, and a childhood brush with suffering

long-braidGUEST COLUMN: ELLEN FENNER— When I was a young girl I had long, thick hair. A few years ago, an old schoolmate told me that when she first saw me in the classroom, she stared with fascination at the sheer size of my braid, but when I turned and swung another one around, she nearly fell out of her chair, amazed that anyone could have that much hair!

My mother’s hair was thin and fine by comparison, so she was similarly awed by my coarse mane. But, like me, she dreaded having to deal with it when the braids had to be unraveled, especially when they’d been in for a while.

She would sit me down, and, with a brush and comb, we’d begin the process of returning my hair to “normal”. The mere anticipation of the pain for both of us was almost as bad as the reality.

My first lesson in pain management

My 10-year-old self would reluctantly park on the stool in front of the mirror, and Mom would commence the torture. In my reflection, I thought I could see sparks shooting from my head with that first yank. Flashes of searing light blinded me, and with each violent jerk of the comb I felt as though I were being scalped! My mind flashed back longingly to the days when I wore a short pixie-cut and my minister father would “hire me out” as a flower girl for weddings when no other little girl was available.

schoolgirlhairSnippets of the Bible verse he so often used in the ceremonies — “Love is patient, love is kind” — would inexplicably enter my mind as my mother tugged away at my unruly tresses. When I cried out in misery she would respond in frustration, “You’re just feeling it. . .” Yah, you betcha I’m feeling it! I wanted to grab the brush from her hand and bop her on the head with it! I wondered to myself, “If she really loved me, how could she be so impatient, so unkind?”

Tears squeezed from my eyes as the lids were stretched back on my face, and I would eventually surrender to my hapless fate; the price to be paid for bearing such a head of hair would be the occasional trauma of having it combed out.

Slowly, my spine would relax into a slouch, and those sparks of pain would dull into a wavy rhythm that was almost . . . soothing?

My breathing would get slower, and I would drift into a world of my own creation, somewhere behind my elongated eyelids. The tugging turned to gentle brushing as I returned to my mental shore, feeling as though I’d just survived a hurricane by hanging onto a raft for dear life.

A gentle swell would set me down onto the sand, and I would sit there for a moment, grateful that my ordeal was over. When I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror, the color had returned to my cheeks, and my lustrous dark hair once again framed my face.

Our over reliance on medication for minor pain is not healthy

pillssmSomewhere along the way, our society seems to have forgotten how to get to its own happy place when we perceive impending pain, and our minor discomfort is transformed into outright agony through our imaginations. Gone are the days when we would just “grin and bear it”, when an incident of pain was treated with a good cry and a hug, and maybe a lick on the face from our dog if we were lucky.

Today, we go racing for the medicine cabinet, or to the phone to call the doctor in an effort to alleviate the pain as quickly as possible. Many of the pills available today are even intended to create an artificial happy place, and the temptation to stay there all the time with our proverbial toes in the sand becomes too great for some of us, and we must be dragged kicking and screaming off the island.

As we Americans are trying to wrangle our way through an overhaul of our health-care system, we are feeling the effects of the dreaded hair comb; seeing only sparks and experiencing the anguish of locks of hair being pulled in the wrong direction. We want to smack on the head with a giant hairbrush anyone who seems intent on causing us further discomfort.

Rather than an escapist response to pain management, we must learn personal techniques of dealing with pain and anxiety. Too often we have bypassed the real lessons that suffering has to offer — healing ourselves means offering ourselves the same kindness and compassion we would give to those we love.

If the relative pain of a rigorous hair-brushing seems to trivialize the reality of those in true agony maybe its because we have become so separated from our innate power to heal our own bodies and minds that the very suggestion that we have the capacity, or, heaven forbid, the responsibility, to take such care of ourselves seems more like a threat that an offering of encouragement.

Pain management starts with learning to overcome those early hurts all by ourselves and little by little building on the resulting tolerance. Our bodies, minds, and spirits grow stronger with each victory over suffering, and our need for someone else to heal us diminishes as we recall those simple cures we discovered when we were children.

I can’t remember the exact verse, but doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, “No pain, no gain”?

ellenEllen is a writer and artist living in central Florida. Read her Downright E-fenzive blog, and and previous article for Soul’s Code about Caroline Myss: Before she was famous, a mystical neighbor changed my life.

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2 Comments on “Vanity hair”

  1. Hehehehehehe, Got vivid memories of the same kind :) )) I was running though with my arms covering my head - no gain though... :) Cxxx"

  2. My hair is very fine, and as a child I remember my mom cutting out the snarls because she couldn't get them out! Thanks for this article, which starts off about hair issues (something we all have) and moves on to more serious territory. I enjoy your writing Ellen!

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