by Anita Lustrea
The decision to let my hair go gray did not come easily. Discerning my reasons for this action was equally difficult. I joked with friends and said, “I’d rather enjoy a couple more nights to eat out per month than pay to color my hair.” Really? Is that the best I could do? More eating out vs. looking younger and more hip? I’ve even used the reasoning that I don’t want to put those chemicals on my hair any longer. People who know me well see right through that argument. They know I’ve never cared about chemicals in hair color, lotions or make-up. Nor am I one to buy organic unless it’s the less expensive choice.
So why go gray now at age 57? I’m discerning that it’s wrapped up in a combination of reasons.
Esther de Waal said in her book, To Pause at the Threshold, “There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: ‘A threshold is a sacred thing.’” For me to move into the realm of gray hair is a threshold of sorts, and more of a sacred threshold than I originally thought. After being let go from a 31 year career in radio, I knew I’d never find another job quite like it. It was a niche job. Since I was just 55 at the time, I figured I would find something else to help sock away money toward retirement. I was still occupying space in the all-important earning years. As days turned to weeks turned to months, my husband and I sensed God had a new direction for us and it wasn’t an upwardly mobile track. We sold our Chicago area house and made a pilgrimage to Sarasota, Florida.
My first response to moving into our 55+ community was, “I’m NOT one of them!” Truth be told, we arrived at our new home when I was age 56. I was not ready for retirement, but neither was I ready to ramp up to a big job in the marketplace. I needed a rest, a sabbatical, as did my husband. We needed time to discern what might be next. We’d found our location but we were still pondering vocation. Unexpectedly, my spiritual direction practice went from 2 to 12. My spiritual director suggested I might want to pay attention to that. Maybe a new season of life was presenting itself. One where I would embrace myself as a woman of wisdom, a crone.
In our society, the deeper meaning of crone has been lost. Current dictionary definitions label a crone as ugly, withered and old. In world literature, a crone is anything but withered and ugly. She is a woman who walks with a wind-in-the-hair kind of freedom, who lives into courageous non-conformity and has a wisdom that encompasses her own story which she fully understands and willingly offers to the world. This definition put forth by author, speaker and spiritual director, Janet Davis, is one, I’m finding, that I am ready to live into. It is one that embraces crows feet and even gray hair.
Today I choose to cross this sacred threshold. I confess there is still slight trepidation. Don’t be surprised if I wind up trying out a colorful streak in my gray hair. Confidence has replaced conformity.
What thresholds are you wrestling with right now??
Anita Lustrea hosts the Faith Conversations podcast. She is a Spiritual Director, Author and Media Coach. (Click here to visit her website.) Anita’s most recent books include What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom From the Secrets We Keepand Shades of Mercy, about her beloved Northern Maine.
Anita, I love that last line – “confidence has replaced conformity”. YES! I’m not there yet but where it concerns my appearance but I’m an eager student. Welcome to Florida. Hope you and your husband are enjoying it. We’re on the east coast in Ft. Lauderdale and love it. I loved this post of yours. Just wonderful.
Debby, Thanks for the kind words about the last line and thanks for the Florida Welcome.
Love this post! I remember a radio program you did on beauty for the Christian woman that had an impact on me. Though still coloring my hair, I ‘m crossing the threshold of embracing my position of older woman in the body of Christ. (I’m also 57.) Not sure if I like the word crone, but I love the world literature definition. The older I am, the freer in Christ! Hallelujah!
Peggy, I remember that program. And, yes, I also feel much more free in Christ the older I get. I do believe there is an accrued wisdom.
I love this salute to the crone! And I’ve never colored my hair even though I grayed fairly early and still had young children when the gray hair became the majority color. Like you, I’m not sure of my motives: Is it laziness or just a refusal to start something that I won’t know when to finish?
One of the fun perks of gray hair is that there’s an assumption of wisdom on the part of observers.
I try not to be too disappointing. 🙂
Michele, good for you for never coloring. Especially Brave since you went gray at a young age.
I always thought that I would never color my hair and I do let it go till the gray is showing but I end up coloring it again. I just don’t like how it ages me when I look in the mirror. One day I will probably quit coloring it but I don’t think I am ready yet. But I admire those who don’t color their hair. I am 56 and have a thinner face so wrinkles are more prevalent.
If you look at my pic at email@example.com you will see that I am 74 this month and gray hardly shows – it’s genetic. So if it makes you look and feel older do what you choose to your hair. I always like the looks of people who streak their hair. I don’t picture wall-to-wall- NOT gray hair; I picture combing streaks of whatever color you choose through your gray., even as the illustration looked like pink and or blue combed through.
Margaret, it is such an individual decision. Feel no pressure from me! You’ll know when it’s time. We are inundated by images of perfect and young looking women. That makes it especially difficult to take the leap, I think.
A full head of gray hair is beautiful. I’ve been thankful enough to have been blessed by sage women in their fifties. Confident, real, no-nonsense ladies. Great post.
Jess, glad to hear you’ve had these kinds of wise women in your life. And thanks for your thumbs up about gray hair. Encouraging as I’m in the middle of getting there.
Well, a couple weeks ago I was in a hurry heading out the door and failed to remove my apron. And I threw on a sweater/poncho/hoodie hoping to cover it, and my knitted hat which is oversize complete with ribbon tied at the bobble thingy. I gave no thought to how I appeared. In the store a young guy (in his 20s) approached me and asked why I was dressed this way (is it a costume? Etc.) And my answer was ‘these days teenagers get to dye their hair purple and call it self-expression, and I’m all for that! So, if they can do that, I can dress like this as my 41 y/o form of self-expression, right?’ His answer, ‘no. It doesn’t quite work like that. You should dress differently because you look more like 80 than 40.’ I found this interchange quite humorous and entertaining.
So, I say, embrace self-expression even if strangers think you’re odd, unless of course that would bother you. If it does, then I’d say, don’t, and try to conform for your own inner peace. 😉
So thankful I paused long enough to read your words, Anita. I haven’t ditched the dye, and I’m not sure when I’ll do that, but I love your story. Love the literary image of a crone with freedom, courage, and wisdom. Amen! Your words remind me of the beauty of thresholds, passages, portals. Thank you for some wise words today.