Two weeks ago I walked into my hair salon and let my hairdresser Opal chop my hair off.
Two weeks before that, I had been washing my hair and cried as clumps of it easily wound its way around my hand as I rinsed conditioner out of my hair. I’d been losing hair for more than a year. My thick, lush curls and coils had turned to thin, frizzy wisps. I’d been holding on to my hair for so long, that there was nothing left to hold on to. I was holding on to something that didn’t want me to hold on to it. Like many things in Black life, my time with my hairdresser is ritual, and chopping off my hair was a particularly marked ceremony of water washing away the old, letting go of brittle, dead parts of my life, and unveiling the promise underneath it all.
September was a sedentary month once I got back from the weddings on the east coast, and as I entered October, I still found myself without much movement. I was in many ways still figuring out next moves with my doctors, and attempting to rest. But I was not finding relief in this stationary existence. I was looking forward to breaking the cycle of little movement with an upcoming Indigenous People’s Day weekend trip to Utah to see my best friend who I had not seen in over two years for our annual national parks trip. I needed time with someone who I could sit in silence and they would hear the yelling inside my mind. I needed time with someone who reminded me of who I still was despite everything else.
I knew from the photos we looked up while choosing our hikes that I would love Zion and Bryce as national parks, but I could not describe the sheer feeling of awe I felt as we navigated the natural beauty of each terrain. In Zion we hiked to the Emerald Pool and trekked through the Virgin River along the Narrows path, water at one point up to our waist. When I went back to the entrance of the park to rent the gear we would need to hike the Narrows, the store worker told me that we would not have enough time to get to the main part of the canyon before we’d have to return our gear. I looked at the map and saw that there was lots of canyon and other scenery in the first part of the hike that also looked stunning and moved forward with my plan to rent the gear. As we were wading through the water, balancing on smooth, round rocks, and using our poles to check the water level, I was reminded that fixation on a set destination makes us miss out on everything surrounding us as we make the journey. We would have missed out on our incredible time in the canyon if I had listened to that man. Chronic health issues have no set destination, they are something that you find ways to not stop you from the life you want to live. The journey to figure that out is one I need to listen carefully to. I can’t let a fixation with an end goal make me miss all the beauty, even in pain, along the way. “Healing is a promise.”
While Zion is one of the most visited parks in the U.S., the hoodoos in Bryce and the vastness of the canyon before us hiking along the trails, felt like another world. Every corner we turned was a jaw-dropping view as we hiked down into and back out of the canyon. Hiking out of the canyon was tough, with a set of steep switchbacks along the way, and I was surprised and excited when I dug my toes in and steadily made my way up and out of the path. I realized after our hikes in Utah that I felt the best I had in a very long time. The vastness of Bryce reminded me of how grand God’s creations on this planet are, how there is so much left I want to explore and do. They’re just waiting for me to dig my toes in.
There have been too many things to adjust to in the last few months. One of the hardest for me has been accepting physical changes to my body. I knew if I was going to not feel overwhelmed, I needed to first address my self image. I dedicated October to things that would support my views on my self, from cutting my hair to experimenting with new styles and bold makeup to finding movement that brought me joy, not pain.
My body might be changing. It has different needs now, and I’m learning something new each day. But in the quiet corners of hoodoos and red rocks, I heard her whispers to not give up on her. We won’t always make our goals, and we may have to stop to rest, but my body wants me to believe that healing is a promise. It needs me to.
I slowly nod okay.