This week, I was moved to get my hair cut. I say ‘I was moved’ because it came upon me as a directive, rather than a choice. My hair looked fine. I like my hair. It’s curly and a little wild. But watching an episode of ‘Friends’ with my two teenaged daughters caused hair angst. Or so I thought. I looked in the mirror, thought – hey, let’s get a fringe and some layers, so that when it grows, it grows into something nice. I got an appointment with my favourite hairdresser, Graham. I get my hair cut every two years. We’ve known each other for about fourteen years, so we spend the haircut touching on family and kids, but mainly talking existentially. When I walked in, he said – ‘Your hair always looks so great, I often wonder why we’re cutting it. Why don’t we just have a cup of tea and a chat?’ Which was nice. But no, I was determined this was happening, and so it happened, and I looked a bit different. We talked about the balancing properties of learning the piano, and I gave him tips on the flexing of those new muscles he was developing in his brain.
Yesterday, I got dressed in my teal skirt and black jumper and went off to Bristol for the day. On returning home, I clicked onto Facebook, which flagged up a memory from two years ago. It was a photo of me wearing my teal skirt and black jumper, showing off my new haircut. I found it amusing, and posted about it on Facebook, completing a pretty lame circle. This morning I woke up and thought – I must go to Cirencester today. I’ve no reason to go to Cirencester. I am concerned that I am now being ruled by an uber brain which is telling me to do things because it assumes that my life has a seasonal quality. Don’t move forward, it is saying. Sit within your lane of routine.
And I hate that.
Because I come from a family of immigrants, I feel that movement and change equals success. Unless we are challenging ourselves to be in new places, how are we to see the world in a new way? Unless we cut our hair off, how are we to see renewal and growth? Unless we spend time in new environments, watching new people, interacting with them, learning their language and their ideas, how are we to challenge the old ways we thought and our parents and grandparents thought? And how will the world evolve into the best place it can be?
All of this swirled around within me, making me anxious and unhappy this week. Should we sell the house and move on? What am I doing with my life? How can I counteract the rise of the far right and the movement toward jingoism and hatred within my own little sphere? And then, I got myself a new habit. I took myself off every evening at around 6pm, lay on my bedroom floor and meditated for half an hour. Brain balancing, I realised, was what I needed. My brain was sending me a very clear message: it wasn’t saying ‘you’re stuck in a routine’. It was saying: ‘you’re not listening to me enough.’ In clicking through to Facebook/Twitter – the internet, in fact – routinely, instead of doing what I used to do: pick up the phone and call a friend, or turn on the radio and listen to a show I liked at the time it was on rather than catching up on iPlayer, or writing a letter to someone, or reading an article in a magazine, or reading a chapter of the book I’m so looking forward to getting back to in my last twenty minutes before sleep, I’ve been clicking through to read a lot of news, a lot of people’s opinions, a lot about the nonsense of people’s lives. It engenders a feeling of not being quite here. I’ve not been quite here for a while.
Meditation every night for a week has caused all sorts of things to come into focus. November has brought sadness. I cry at the slightest thing: this morning, I sobbed when Radio 3 played Willard White singing Aaron Copland’s song ‘Simple Gifts’ for Thanksgiving. The words are stunning:
Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning we come round right.