It’s not unusual for someone to compliment me on my hair when I’m out and about. In fact, it is unusual when it doesn’t happen. Yesterday an elderly man at Trader Joe’s smacked me with his empty re-usable grocery bag and said, “Nice hair. You look really nice,” and marched off. Tonight while at coffee with a friend, I walked by a table and heard/saw a girl gawking at me and comment to her friend, “Oh my gosh, I love that girl’s hair.” One talent agency told me cutting my hair was one of the best decisions I could have made as a commercial actress.
Before you stamp my face with a capital A for “Arrogance”, let me explain. While I do like it, I can take no credit for it. And the compliments are not just inflating an over-confident ego.
My “new” hair style has reminded me every day for the past three years of the new person I’ve become. It wasn’t by choice. In fact, it may have included kicking, screaming, and crying.
It’s been two years exactly since I finished my last cancer treatment. I spent twenty months undergoing chemotherapy for my leukemia. But before all of that started I had very long, naturally super curly hair. It was sort of my trademark. “You know, Lyndsay – the girl with the curly hair.” That was a common description of me. And I liked it. It represented me in a way.
And then I went through chemo and within weeks it was just a pile in the trash.
I felt like part of me left with it.
Suddenly it wasn’t just cancer that I was dealing with, it was who I was. I was an overly responsible young adult with a drive like the Energizer Bunny. I was not known to be compassionate. Reason over emotion was natural for me. Tears were like a stranger showing up at my doorstep when they occasionally filled my eyes. Nothing really shook me. I considered it my lot in life to be strong for my loved ones. I was a pillar. But I was suddenly the one crumbling.
The first day I donned my very short, fine, new hair and left the wig behind, I was scared to death. My confidence had nose-dived to near zero. Every time I looked in the mirror all I could think was, “This is not me. I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Stepping outside my house while going through that inner turmoil was like walking into one of those dreams where you’re standing in public and realize you forgot to put pants on. I felt so exposed, and so confused.
The first person I’d see with my new ‘do was a stranger. I was getting lunch for my husband at the In ‘N Out drive-through and the guy taking my money through the window stared at me oddly. I gave him a sheepish smile and pretended to check my phone to avoid eye contact. He handed me my order and said, “You know, I don’t usually like short hair on girls, but that hair cut looks really beautiful on you.” I turned fifty shades of red, thanked him again, and drove away before he could see me cry as I thanked God for being so incredibly kind.
It was as if, in that moment, God held out His hand to me and invited me to cross an invisible threshold with Him. I was blind to what was in front of me, but secure in knowing my Leader would not allow my foot to snag along the path. I knew when I accepted His invitation that I would not remain the same.
I refuse to credit cancer for bringing this change to my life, but it forced me to take a good long break from normal life. I had to rely on God like I never have had to before. I came to understand suffering in ways I couldn’t have dreamed. I became acquainted with perseverance when my emotions were screaming at me to quit. And the Lord was so kind to me through it. He helped me nestle closer to His heart as my own began to bleed for other people with compassion, as I surrendered my right to judge, as I confronted lifelong fears, as I explored parts of my personality (that God created) that I never knew existed, as the cold front glazing my emotions melted.
I felt . . . new.
I decided to keep my hair short. Pre-cancer Lyndsay was gone. Instead of it bringing up painful memories of treatment and insecurity about my identity, it was a reflection of what beauty God made from my ashes.
I wonder how many of us experience significant trials and are just relieved to emerge alive instead of recognizing the ways that God has worked “all things together for good.” I wonder after which tragedies we just allow bitterness and resentment – even toward God – to cast a shadow over the brilliance that God is trying to emanate into our lives.
Every time someone comments on my hair cut . . . every time someone tells me how brave I was to try something so drastic . . . every time someone says they wish they could “pull that style off as well as you can”, I smile, thank them, and thank the Lord. He has changed me inside and out.
(Top photo courtesy of Sarah Maizland. All images property of Lyndsay Wilkin)