Saturday, 29 June 2019

It would make your hair curl

Now here's an odd thing — at least, I think it is.

When I was a young woman, I had long, straight(ish) hair. Allowed to dry naturally, it had a very slight wave in it. That's how it was.

My life went along being itself right up to 1998, at which point a season of radical change began.

From the winter of 1998 I entered an increasingly turbulent time, not within myself but in my circumstances. It gathered force, until by the winter of 2001 I had lost my job, my marriage and my family home, while still bearing responsibility for a family on the verge of fledging.

In 2003 I remarried — to Bernard, who developed an auto-immune disease that destroyed the mucus membranes of his gullet and mouth and trachea. I (and my daughter Hebe) looked after him at home until he died at the end of August in 2004. Bernard was a tempestuous man, who before me had been married to the love of his life, Anne. When I moved in to his cottage, it was still furnished for the two of them; he was willing to make available for me one cupboard and two drawers. This was a useful stage in my journey into minimalism, but not especially easy. His illness was terrifying. At the same time I had returned to working as a minister, and bore increasing pastoral responsibility over a widespread rural area — long hours, a lot of driving; It was very tiring.

During these years I was often at my wits' end, exhausted, drained, bewildered, just keeping on keeping on.

About a year and a half after Bernard died, in the winter of 2005, I entered the life partnership I am still in, with Tony. We married in 2006. Though this brought me joy, life remained  . . . terrifying. I met immense hostility from my new step family, my family of origin, (never easy) was in melt-down, and my new marriage meant a move hundreds of miles from the last shreds of continuity and stability my life still held. I was happy in my marriage, but otherwise immensely lonely and continually attacked and rejected by new and old family members. I was too wrecked to work.

Around 2002 I wrote a book called The Clear Light of Day, and in 2007 somebody interviewed me in connection with that novel. They wanted a bio photo for the article. Here's the one I provided —

It's how I looked when I left my hair to dry naturally.

In 2008, I decided enough was enough and it was time to rebuild and heal my life.

We moved back to be near my family (my children). I left the Methodist ministry. I withdrew from social contact with almost everyone. And since then, over the last decade, I have travelled deeper into minimalism, making my schedule, connections, income and possessions smaller . . . smaller . . . smaller . . . modelling my life on the hazelnut Jesus holds in the palm of his hand in Julian of Norwich's vision. I've also chosen to minimise the time I spend with people who have made it clear they don't like me, and with people whose energy is so turbulent they overwhelm me.

At some point along the way I saw a Body Talk therapist. It proved to be a very short session because, she said, my body didn't want to tell her anything except that it had horror in its bones. I'd say that was about right.

I've spent the last few years cleansing, healing, restoring, and making myself well again.

Here's a photo of me today —

My hair has stopped curling. It's gone back to the straight-with-a-slight-wave it used to have when I was a young woman.

Now, I have known since childhood the expression "It would make your hair curl!" to describe something horrific or terrifying. I always assumed it was just a saying that didn't really mean anything, but apparently not. It's actually something that can happen. Straight hair that changes to curly is mostly caused by hormonal change or by drug intervention (chemotherapy). Evidently stress can do it as well.

Who knew? I found that interesting, and a good way to evaluate the effectiveness of the healing journey I've undertaken.


Suzan said...

Pen I have heard the expression but you proved it true. You an amazingly strong lady.

greta said...

well, that's interesting. i've heard of hair turning white practically overnight due to stress or grief, so why not curling? although what strikes me as being truly fascinating is that your hair went from mostly straight to quite curly . . . and then back to mostly straight. that's a real puzzler.

Pen Wilcock said...

Suzan — these things happen, as I know you are well aware from your own challenges and mountains to climb. x

Greta — I think it may be something to do with stress affecting blood chemistry, maybe de-mineralising the new hair so it grows weak/uneven, and then being re-nutrified once life is calmer and with careful attention to nutrition. Somewhere in the archives I carry in my head, my inner librarian has filed information about an experiment done with goats and Vitamin C. The good Lord alone knows how they did this, but goats were tested before and after a shock (fright, not electric). The sudden trauma caused the goats' Vitamin C levels to drop drastically and immediately. I have no idea why they tested only for Vitamin C, but I expect there would be an effect on the entire blood chemistry profile.

Buzzfloyd said...

That's really interesting! My hair has also had bouts of curliness during stressful times and immediately after having babies, but I never connected these things up.

Rebecca said...

I found the interview very insightful....took note of the book titles you referenced, and appreciated your view of self-promotion.😏

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Buzz — gosh, I didn't know that! Yes, an article I read said that hormonal change (puberty, babies etc) could trigger that change.

Hi Rebecca — Yes, I am not helpful to my publishers when it comes to self-promotion — can't, won't, don't; end of!

Sandra Ann said...

Wonderful as always Pen. Nothing is ever wasted though, all that turbulence and suffering has brought you to where you are today and the rest of the Kindred Crew are as a result blessed with your wisdom and insights. Sending big hugs to you dear friend x

Pen Wilcock said...


Waving! I hope you are able to get some rest and feeling a little better.

Sandra Ann said...

Little by little moving out of the funk and holding my own :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope,
I've seen several incidences of curly or wavy hair going straight after being cut. Especially in children. My father's hair, was red in childhood (his mother saved a curl) and turned brown/black the rest of his life, I think starting around age eight. I have a red-headed daughter, and watched for it to happen to her. It didn't and she now has two red headed children of her own. I ran into only one other person in my lifetime who told me that happened to a loved one in their family as well.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thinking of you, San! x

Hi DMW — yes, I've known a few instances of childhood curls being lost after first being cut. I wonder what would have happened if they had never been cut. We have red hair in our family, too — my mother had brown hair and my father flaming red hair. My sister inherited his hair colour, and mine was blonde as a child, darkening to brown/dark blonde as I grew up. Haircuts never affected whether mine was straight or curly though — my hair grows quickly and was cut/grown many times in the straight/wavy years and several time in the curly years, without making any difference. Isn't hair interesting! Something else that interests me is that all the hairdressers I have know have been gentle people. During the years I was a Methodist minister, I pastored one church that had simply loads of weddings, and there'd be a smattering of weddings in the others I pastored, too —so I was officiating at weddings all spring and summer. Of all the weddings, the ones that stood out in my mind as especially gentle and loving occasions, full of kindness, were both the weddings of hairdressers, with lots of hairdressers among the guests.

Bean said...

You are a beautiful person, we love you just as you are, you share your words of wisdom and I feel many benefit, you challenge the ways of the world and strive to live in peace and harmony with all. That is a holy life, a good life, and I feel blessed by your posts and think you are travelling the right path through life.

Peace and all good,


Anonymous said...

Penelope - I think hairdressers are natural therapists!

Pen Wilcock said...

Bean — Thank you! That arrives in my heart as such a blessing. x

DMW — yes, I think so too. We love our hairdresser.

Anonymous said...

Read 29 June (Sandra Ann) and 30 June (Bean) I heartily endorse their comments. Pax et Bonum, Mairin.

Pen Wilcock said...

"Pax et bonum". That's a Franciscan greeting, isn't it? Are you a Franciscan, Mairin? Or do you (like me) just love that greeting? x

Anonymous said...

Re your question lst July, yes I am a secular franciscan (OFS) borrowing the greeting to wayfarers that Saint Francis and his little band used! Mairin

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh! I love the Franciscans, and St Francis, and that greeting. ❤️

BLD in MT said...

I always assumed that was just an expression, too. Of course, I thought that about a smell that could "take your breath away" until I was volunteering at the zoo in my college days and encountered tiger urine in a confined space...and I could not take a breath, it took my breath away. Matt always thought the same about "scardy cat" until we got our shy Ginger kitty. That is cool, language and expressions, interesting.

My sister's hair curled when she was pregnant, but she had a sorta hard pregnancy. Like, Buzzfloyd, I never connected it though.

You have lovely hair. I most enjoy natural, relaxed looking hair.

Pen Wilcock said...

That's a good collection of expressions-that-turn-out-to-be-true! Tiger urine! Who knew? Interesting about your sister's hair.

BLD in MT said...

It was like the ammonia scent of housecat urine, but multiplied by a thousand, a million! Cat pee on steriods. I couldn't clean it up fast enough. ;)

Pen Wilcock said...