“One day the hero

sits down,

afraid to take

another step,

and the old interior angel

limps slowly in

with her no-nonsense


and her old secret

and goes ahead.


you say

and follow.”

– from “The Old Interior Angel”, by David Whyte

Today I had one of those days that felt like deja vu, or a relapse to a time I thought I’d outgrown. But I suppose it’s like that point in every hero’s story where the hero sits down, feeling a little doubtful, wondering if he is really cut out for this work. Then he is reminded that this is his destiny. There is no other journey like this one, and there is no turning back.

Maybe it was all the inversions I’ve been doing the last two days in yoga. Standing on your head – repeatedly – will do things to your thought processes. Bringing fresh blood supply to the brain and reversing the flow in the lower part of the body…I’d love to see a PET scan of someone in headstand.

One of the things I realized today is that when you change, and stop playing the roles that people have come to expect of you, you might run out of things to talk about. It happened to me today with my hair stylist, who is such a fabulous woman and always good for a great conversation while effortlessly crafting my hair into something sleek with “somethin’ goin’ on”. The switch flipped when I tilted my head back in the shampoo bowl and announced, “No more school!”. She gasped loudly, “No more SCHOOL?? What are you going to DO??” I didn’t expect that response, given the fact that I had spent the better part of the last two years sitting in her chair telling her horror stories – at her request – of some of the clients I was dealing with. It seemed like every six weeks there was a new story. There were some favorites that she still remembers – like the time when I had a parents forum and one of the “lessons” shared by a family was “motivating” their three-year-old to practice by threatening to throw her Barbie dolls out the window if she refused. After that, I had the wisdom not to hold open forums for “sharing wisdom” among the group. Some parenting strategies are best left as “best kept secrets”. It was easier for me to sleep at night not knowing what happened in some of these homes.

But I was done complaining today. I was ready to talk “Rah! Rah!” motivation for a new start, a fresh beginning, a new life. This visibly disappointed my stylist. No more stories? What was SHE going to do? What were WE going to talk about? I tried going into a little bit of what I’m trying to promote in terms of “The Music Within Us” metaphor – finding your own music, living your own song – but she just pursed her lips, nodded her head, and said, “That’s nice.” And kept on cutting.

After a bit of silence, she said, “So, have you seen any of the latest movies?”

She talked about Avatar, which was “amazing” (the standard response…why can’t anyone bring themselves to chime in with a lukewarm review of a James Cameron film? Have some balls, people!).

Getting bored, I asked her about Up in the Air. Ah, she had seen it. Relief! Something to talk about! Except her appraisal was lukewarm. “It was dePRESsing,” she said.

“I LOVED it,” I said in my cheeriest voice. Because I did love it. Every dark minute of it.

“Really?” she asked quietly, pursing her lips again slightly. “What was it that you loved so much?”

I pounced on this opportunity. “Well, I just thought it was RIGHT ON.”

“Oh yeah?” I could barely hear her, as her lips were barely moving apart. “What was so right on about it?”

“Well, corporate America, and how so many people are so mindlessly attached to their jobs and thinking they are guaranteed this and that, so that when reality hits, they’re just frozen…”

Silence. Not sure if she was even breathing still. So I went on.

“And then the George Clooney character, well…I guess he just reminded me of someone I actually knew and was involved with once.”

“REALLY.” I couldn’t believe she was in such disbelief. This is a woman with ink covering most of the upper part of her body. I guess I assumed that she had “seen a few people in her day.”

“And OH, I thought it was so ballsy of them to make the female character the “bad” person in the movie. You know? Usually it’s the GUY who’s the liar and cheater.”

“Oh I thought it was ballsy of the female character to do what she did, you know?”

No, I didn’t know. There was nothing courageous about that character. Only the directorial choice to include her as a major storyline in the movie. “How so?” I asked.

“Well, you know, to go out with him, and then to go to the wedding, and then you know…”

I still didn’t know. But I was content to just let her keep cutting my hair. She’s so lovely and cheerful and has such a great long-term vision for my hair. I credit her for “coaching” me through the biggest fear I had about my hair – that I’d never be able to grow it out gracefully. And I did it!

Part of me missed the lively banter of the days when I would sit down and spill my guts about all the madness in my life, the stuff I was dealing with, the stories that had become so much a part of my identity. Sometimes it was the “hilarities” of match.com dates, other times it was the latest drama in my school. I always had something at least mildly entertaining (ie, dramatic) to report from my life. And this was our pattern. This was what we expected from our time together.

So today, when I had nothing to complain about, and was just completely clear in my mind and sitting there getting my hair cut, I have to admit, it felt a bit flat. Oh MAN, I thought. Is this going to be another empty elevator moment? I didn’t want to face the reality of another one of those.

But in a way it was. In a way, she and I will be reinventing our way of relating, and this time it may just end up being stylist-and-client, instead of friend-and-confidant, or story-fondler-and-eager-listener. It’s less fun, but it’s part of the deal. I wouldn’t trade my life right now – in its luscious spaciousness and possibility, as well as the occasional fleeting pang of terror – for the opportunity to keep complaining.

Time for another headstand…