Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I have been astounded by how powerful having dreadlocks has been. I mean, it's hair. It's just hair. It's perpetually growing, almost infinitely why all that power in letting it knot up? It doesn't make any sense to me.

But there it is.

On July 11, 2010, I was sitting in church listening to the organ playing during the collection of the offering when, apropos of nothing, I thought, "I should dread my hair." I immediately responded to this thought by saying inwardly, "That's a crazy thing to think: where did that come from?" I kept trying to dismiss the notion.

It would not be denied.

I mentioned it to Jon and he agreed that it was a crazy thing to oh-so-suddenly think. Despite feeling that it was a ridiculous idea, despite knowing that it was a massive commitment, by the following afternoon I was sectioning my hair and backcombing it (I later learned that backcombing is essentially useless, but live and learn, right?).

It hasn't always been pretty.

It took a good six months before they started to even look like dreads: until then it just looked like I was massively neglecting my personal grooming. But as they matured and changed and shrank and shrank and shrank and eventually started to grow in length again, I found that my love for them grew. I also found that having dreads was a far more profoundly spiritual experience than I had anticipated. I initially thought that if I dreadlocked my hair I would just...have dreads. Nothing more, nothing less: just a different look.

I was so wrong.

What I discovered within days was that dreadlocks are - for me, and for many others like me - a journey. There are lessons and opportunities for growth and self-discovery to be had in the process. Lessons about self-identity. About surrender. About priorities. About beauty. About choice and self-direction. About patience - oh, so much patience - and acceptance. And along the way I have felt freer, with a fuller understanding of myself - of who I really am - than ever before. And I've felt beautiful. Truly, personally: beautiful.

Lately, though, I've been feeling a little constrained by my dreads. Washing them - or rather, drying them - takes a very, very long time. The ends of my dreads have looped back onto themselves in some strange ways, causing the tips of many of my dreads to be two or three times fatter than the rest of the dreads. It makes them hang funny, fall out of a bun easily, dry more slowly, and be far shorter than they otherwise would be. Frustration was mine. And there have been many wistful moments while brushing Peanut's hair - her hair that is so precisely like mine - when I have missed my old hair, my long curls. Those curls were so aggravating at times, but by turns so lovely.

I've felt a little trapped, truth be told. Cutting off my dreads seems so drastic and not at all a solution to my disquiet. But what else could be done?

Take a breath: I haven't cut them off.

Last night I had a dream. It was short, simple, and incredibly vivid. I stood in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, and I combed out my dreads. And I was happy. So happy. When I awoke I was almost surprised to find that I still had dreads, the dream was so real. And it occurred to me: why not? Why not try it? I know that it's possible to comb out years-old dreads: the beautiful Denise of Boho Girl recently combed her several-years-old dreads out over a period of weeks. As she describes it, it was a peaceful, calm process, one that served her need for change and a return to softness.

I'm not yet sure that I'm ready or supposed to release my dreads entirely at this point. I think I may have some more journeying to go. But while some of the greatest lessons I have gleaned from this process is surrender - surrender to the process, surrender to time, surrender to what will be - release of preconceptions - allowing things to follow the path they will, releasing my desire to control and constrain - and acceptance of what comes my way - rather than constant disappointment and critique - I've also learned a lot about my power. I have the power to defy expectations. I have the power to push my own limits. I have the power to be different and unique and noticeable and to do it without feeling afraid or constantly self-conscious. I have the power to step out of the box I built for myself all those years ago in high school and blossom into the person I truly want to be. What I'm discovering as I have meditated on this for the past few months is that my dreadlocks are merely a symbol of that, an outward representation of that power. And with that in mind, I not only have the power to surrender to my dreads, but the power to shape them if I want. It sounds pretty obvious: I control my hair, my hair does not control me.

So this morning after I ate my breakfast I rubbed some conditioner into the tip of one particularly lumpy-ended dread and started brushing it out. I brushed out a few inches of lock, which amounted to over six inches of free hair. Then I did another one. And another.


I don't know what will come of this. Maybe I'll let the free ends lock back up again but do some maintenance to keep them from lumping up the way they did the first time. Or maybe I'll gradually comb them all out. I haven't decided, and at this point I really can't. Since I seem to be getting these messages from the ether about my hair, I'm happy to continue that way. It hasn't led me wrong yet.

I now find myself on a precipice of sorts, in a liminal state of self-imagery. Am I a dreadie? Am I not? It's a strange mental space to occupy and I'm finding it challenging and more than a little anxious, but also rather exciting. However I proceed, I've seized a little more power for myself, from myself. That can't possibly be anything other than a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Intuition is a powerful and patient guide. As you follow yours, you'll wind up where you are meant to be at that time, living in and trusting your power.

    Funny how much effect hair has, how a very short cut I thought of in practical terms got such a powerful emotional response from others (some only casual acquaintances) and what felt powerful to me was unsettling to some.



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