Monday, June 22, 2009

Letting Go

I hold onto things. It’s my way.

Bank statements, signed yearbooks, partially filled journals, scratched up leather purses, clothes I’m going to fit into again one day, cute shoes I would love to wear if only they didn’t hurt my feet so badly, photos of people I don’t even remember…I still have my tax records from my college years, report cards from elementary school, expired driver’s licenses and passports.

Call it sentimental. Call it research for my book. Call it the hoarding gene. Any which way you dice it, it’s over the top. And it has been weighing me down and holding me back—which is why I decided to make 2009 My Year of Letting Go.

I started the year with a colon cleanse, to let go of the toxins in my body. Bye bye holiday sugar, fat, alcohol, and caffeine.

Next I played with a shredder to safely and securely let go of an entire filebox of unnecessary papers. Good riddance paystubs from old jobs and utility bills from prior residences.

In February and March, I let go of two dozen shopping bags full of used-up and useless material possessions. So long moth-eaten sweaters, faded and bleach-stained t-shirts, blister-causing heels, tapered-legged suits, and many, many miscellaneous never-gonna-be-used-in-my-lifetime household items.

It was working. After dozens of trips to the alley recycling bin and neighborhood Goodwill, my load was lighter, for sure. But I was still feeling burdened by old grudges, wounds, anger, other people’s expectations, and a few societal norms I no longer believed but by which I continued to measure my success.

To let go of these long-held patterns and deeply rooted belief structures, I was going to need the help of a professional. Enter licensed practitioner Joanne Wambeke of Colorado Healing Services.

In our session, Joanne used the Japanese healing art of jin shin jyutsu to find – and treat – my internal energy blocks. Not acupuncture, but accupressure. Not needles, but the gentle pressure of fingertips. I’m sure it worked, because the longer I lay on the massage table in the dark, listening to soothing music, the more relaxed I felt. Farewell, accumulated energy. Hello, natural energy flow and clearer thinking.

The harmonization of energy and pulsation was followed by a secret Letting Go ceremony, involving the release of my inhibiting beliefs into a small body of water. Well, at least the beliefs I could think of in a 15-minute meditation and fit on a small piece of dissolving paper, which was released into a water-filled kitchen sink. The voices of an overbearing boss, judgmental relative, and lying ex faded and slipped out of reach.

I’ve taken my Letting Go goal very seriously – except, it seems, when it comes to my hair. Sure, now I talk openly about my alopecia when once I went to great lengths to hide it. Yes, now I laugh about being called a pirate when once I couldn’t even say the word “wig” because I was so ashamed of my hair loss. Certainly, I’ve come a long way.

Actually, I’ve come so far that it took me awhile to realize I was still holding onto anything related to my hair.

I was researching the official definitions of alopecia and all the types—areata, totalis, universalis—so I could explain the differences here in the blog.

Always, I’ve been an areata, the type of alopecia characterized by patchy hair loss. It started with one small, quarter-sized bald spot. Then the spot multiplied, and multiplied again, like rapidly dividing cells, creating one big bald patch on the left side of my head, another on the right side, another in the back. But still, patchy: large bald patches paired with smaller patches of hair. That is, until this year, my Year of Letting Go.

Here on the blog, and to anyone who'd listen, I’ve been going on about my three remaining hairs, posting pictures of them, joking about them, carefully pulling them out from behind the scarf before I head out each day, all the time ignoring the fact that three hairs no longer qualifies as a patch. Three wiry hairs means I have transitioned from alopecia areata to alopecia totalis, or total loss of scalp hair.

It shouldn’t matter. I mean, I’m okay being a bald girl. I am. I don’t expect to get my hair back. Ever. I’m okay with that. And it’s not like anything has changed from yesterday. I only had three wiry hairs yesterday. I’ve had three wiry hairs all year, which sounds like a long time until you realize I started losing my hair in 1994. I’ve been an areata for 15 years, and now suddenly, for no apparent reason, I’ve become a totalis.

Before I can even accept my new label, I find myself worrying about slippery slopes, and transitioning from totalis to universalis, which is a total loss of body hair. No more eyebrows. No more eyelashes. No more stray hair on my leg. Not that stray hairs on my leg are a big problem. But still…

All of a sudden I’m more acutely aware of a loose lash, the shape of my eyebrow. Is it happening now? Will it happen soon? Will I know it when it happens? Will I see a clump of lashes on my mascara wand one day? Should I stop using mascara? Can you stop the progression? Can you slow it?

And here I am again, holding onto hairs, and beliefs about their significance, and the comfort of old labels.

I feel a knot in my chest. My heart rate rises. This is not good. I must take action immediately.

So today, in My Year of Letting Go, I am publicly letting go. I’m letting go of my need to know, to control, and to label. I'm letting go of my belief that eyebrows and lashes somehow make me more normal. I'm letting go of wanting to be normal. Even better, I'm letting go of my definition of what it means to be normal. Again.

It is what it is. And whatever it is, I’ll be okay.

© 2009 Christy Bailey


mojee said...

good for you that you have arrived at the "letting go" place. there is not enough money in my budget to pay for therapy to get over my "holding on" place. i will use you as inspiration for sure. i feel responsible for you "holding on" gene.

Mel said...

I admire your acceptence. I cheer you for being able to let go.

I tell erveryone that I am ok with not getting use of my left side back. And I do believe that I will be ok if I do not ever get to wear shoes without a brace or use my left hand to help with something, anything. But secretly I hope and wish that I'll wake up one day and have it all back. I've heard so many stories of stroke survivors who have awoken ten years after their stroke and have regained all of their deficits back. I wonder if I too will ever be able to really let go of the dream of wearing high heels again. Thank you for sharing your deepest desires with us here. You are stronger than me and I admire your courage.

Katie said...

Bravo, Christy Bailey, Bravo! Love the 2009: Year of letting go. Love the jin shin jyutsu. I think that you've made tremendous progress and am so proud of you. Whoppi Goldberg also has no eyebrows or eyelashes, although I am not sure of the cause. It's not something that I ever noticed on her until it was pointed out to me recently and it's not something that I think people would notice on you. You should be okay to wear mascara, as long as you remember to remove it at night. There is a new product that stimulates lash growth called Latisse. Not sure if it works on those with alopecia, but you could check it out if you wanted to.

P.S. No more hair on your legs? Girl, please... Do you know how many people would L-O-V-E that? :)

Joanne said...

The best is what's on the inside! (Took a quick look at your blog from my qigong retreat... I'll be offline for the rest of the week.) We spend so much time worry about our outside, but really letting go and cleaning up the inside is where it's at, man! :-)

Glad the letting go ceremony helped! Keep letting go!

Anonymous said...

"...but our answer today, is to let our our worries, like the breeze through our fingers slip away..." - Stevie Wonder, Master Blaster (Jammin')

Your blog today has a lot of wisdom about people can better approach the challenges of life. Very Buddhist. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder.