Day 45- The Last One

Easter Sunday is tomorrow, the day when we rejoice the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, and celebrate forgiveness. The day that Lent finishes. But I know that my journey does not end with Lent. I have learnt so much over the last 45 days. There have been good days and there have been bad days, but I suppose that’s the point. You need the bad days to appreciate the good ones, and when the bad days get too much, that’s when you need to ask for help.

I have learnt that when you have a buzzcut, it is of paramount importance to only use a tiny bit of shampoo, otherwise the suds get in your eyes and it stings SO MUCH. I have learnt that a dramatic haircut can leave you feeling constantly cold, especially if you happen to live on the fringe of the Arctic circle and it’s the middle of winter (dipstick.). I have learnt that humans are extremely tactile, and love to touch new hair. And that short hair is INCREDIBLY easy (I’m talking 1 minute to wash and dry your hair people!). I have also learnt that what my body can do is so much more important than what it looks like.

I have learnt how many associations society has with certain hairstyles, and how damaging it is that we have those associations. I have learnt that as a woman, society has forced upon me a very strange relationship with hair, and that I needed to breakdown this relationship and start again by pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I have learnt that perfection is a dangerous, unfair concept, and that Jesus was the only perfect human. And that being gracious matters more than being graceful.

I have learnt that the majority of the time when I feel judged, it’s all in my head because I project my negativity. I need to stop judging people in order to stop feeling judged. I have learnt that contentment and love is the key to all of this, and that it is our differences that unite us as humanity. This unity and love has shown me that I can depend on people, and that they fuel my own love and strength.

Most importantly, I have learnt that I am more than just my hair. My worth does not lie in what I look like. I have more self-confidence and strength than I could ever have imagined. My worth lies in the fact that God loved me so much that He died for me. That’s amazing. And that fact leaves me with a never-ending capacity to love, and an assured hope that He has a plan so there is nothing to be afraid of.

I suppose I kind of already knew all of this one some level really. It just required some reflection, thought and a bit of an extreme change to realise that I knew it.

So there we have it. That’s the story of the year that I gave up my hair for Lent. I’m kind of worried now though, because how will my next Lenten sacrifice EVER live up to this?!

Day 45- The Last One

Day 23- Halfway there

So it’s halfway through Lent (give or take a few days depending on whether you think Lent ends on Easter Thursday or Sunday). It’s very strange thinking that in another 23 days I won’t get back the thing that I gave up. I gave up meat for Lent a few years ago and the thought of the juicy steak at the end is what kept me going. Similar to when climbing Mount Kenya, it was the thought of a hot shower at the finish that made me push through.

And although I won’t be getting my hair back in 23 days time, what I have gained from this experience has already been so much more! Hearing from other people, and feeling a change in myself has really just been the most incredibly, wonderful thing!

That being said, there are a few things that I do miss about long hair, and will continue to miss for a while I’m sure:

  1. Having the option to have a different hairstyle everyday. Granted, because I’m lazy, I didn’t. But I really miss the diversity of long hair…although the easiness of short hair is awesome.
  2. Playing with my hair. Twirling my hair is ingrained deeply into my muscle memory and I miss it so so much. My friend even commented the other day that when I’m telling a story I got to toss my hair for emphasis and then my hand is just left stuck, awkwardly mis-air!
  3. Getting excited when I see a new, different hairstyle and thinking, Oh! I’m gonna try that out.
Day 23- Halfway there

Day 8- Please don’t call me an inspiration

Please don’t call me an inspiration. Maybe what I’ve done is inspirational, but it’s the action, not me. If you think of me as an inspiration, then I’m sorry, but I know that I will let you down. I do things everyday that I’m not proud of.

Please don’t call me brave. There are people out there who are FAR braver than me, and face troubles far greater than I could ever begin to imagine. Even if we only talk about hair, at least I got to choose to shave my head. There are people throughout history, and today still who do not have that choice. And not just people who have lost their hair to sickness. Forcibly shaving heads has been used  a weapon in conflict and as punishment for centuries. These people have all had something taken away from them, whilst I have been left feeling empowered. Also, there are countless things in this world that I am terrified of.  My hope in God allays these fears though- any bravery that I have is in Him.

Please don’t call me wise. There’s so much I don’t know and there’s so much I can’t know. I’m ok with that.

Please don’t call me humble. I couldn’t be further from it. Humbleness and humility are the two qualities that I aspire to most. And they are two qualities that totally elude me. My pride is my biggest stumbling block. It constantly gets me into trouble and arguments. It always causes me to judge others. Everyday as I try to live my life for God, I try to be humble like Jesus. And everyday I fail. And on the worst days that failure means that I give up and run from God, and on the best days that means I fight harder and depend on Him more.

Yes, we must believe in ourselves, back ourselves, build each other up…but I am deeply flawed and I don’t want anyone to think more of me than they should. Sure, there are days when I am one of, two of, heck, all of these things that I’ve described, and there are days when you are too. But there are days when I couldn’t be further from each of these things.

Please just call me human. I am not better than anyone. I am not more (insert adjective here) than anyone else. We are all made equals on this earth by God, and we should stay equals. Unfortunately, we don’t, and in every part of life some people experience long, hard descents, while others experience tough, steep climbs.

Our humanity is what unites us.

Please, just call me human.

Day 8- Please don’t call me an inspiration

Giving up my hair for lent

It’s Shrove Tuesday 2016. And I’ve decided to do a thing that some may  (in fact I’m sure will) call extreme. I’ve decided to give up my hair for lent.

Last year, I didn’t give up anything  for Lent. My excuse?  I had given up my life in order to write my dissertation, and there was nothing left to give up. Therefore, I was trying to put a little bit more thought into what to give up this year. Swearing? Too f***ing hard. Facebook? Be serious.  Palm Oil? Ah, now we’re talking. We all know that I’m a self confessed eco-warrior, and have a strong interest in social justice, and so I thought I’d hit the money. It would mean me giving up almost all sugary treats (the classic Lenten sacrifice), but also give me a bigger reason to do it with the opportunity to learn and teach others about sustainability along the way. Furthermore, it would mean clean eating and thus a slimmer me. AND saving money. Win, win. Tick, tick tick. Well done me.

Then I got to thinking about what Lent is really about. If I gain all of these things (better health, better bank balance) through my supposed sacrifice, am I REALLY sacrificing anything at all? Will this sacrifice benefit others? Will it get me thinking, reflecting, meditating, praying? Honestly…no.

When I read this article about Pope Francis’s Lent message, I knew what had to be done. In it, the Pope encourages us to fast from the indifference that has permeated modern society, in order to feel compassion at the outcry of the poor, weep for other people’s pain, and feel a need to help them by making room for God’s voice and love in our lives. I’ve been so distracted by all these “things” in my life over the last few months, that I am definitely guilty of living a life of indifference, something that 16 year old me swore that I would never do. These “things” that I’m talking about aren’t just the material world that I get lost in every single day. It’s guilt about stupid things I’ve done (which is silly because God forgives everything!), it’s wondering where I come from and belong (Zimbabwe? Kenya? England? Scotland? Italy?), it’s questions about what I want to do with my life (teacher? politician? charity work?)…

Donating my hair is something that I have thought and talked about doing for a long time, but I don’t think that I’ve ever really meant it. I’ve always wanted to be able to tickle my bum with my hair. This is the longest and healthiest that my hair has ever been, and anyone who has spoken to me in the last three years knows that I am incredibly proud and incredibly vain over it. It’s become such an idol in my life, and such a part of how I see myself, that I’m convinced that having long hair has made me more confident, and have more self-worth and self-belief. I’m also convinced that it has made me feel more feminine and sexy. Why should my identity be so intertwined with my hair!? It is literally just a bunch of dead skin cells that society has decided to put a value on! I am too busy looking to society for justification, where the traditional view of a beautiful woman is one with long, luscious locks.

By shaving my head and donating my hair to the Little Princess Trust I hope to start a journey. A 40 day journey of letting go of all of these “things” and learning how to trust God and depend on Him and His joy. And learning more about myself, and about who I am and want to be. Learning about how I react to being treated differently, because it’s a fickle world that we live in, and I’m sure that something as inconsequential as cutting my
hair short will lead to some very different interactions with people, and thus myself. And I want to take the time and space to reflect on it.

So yes, maybe it is a bit extreme. But I love doing things that people don’t expect. And even more than that,  I LOVE a good story.

Giving up my hair for lent