I am firing my ego on the summer solstice. At least, that’s what I’m going to tell everyone when they ask.
“Hey, Gloria,” they’re going to say. “I couldn’t help noticing you’re bald now. Interesting. And what caused you to make such a noticeable and off-putting decision?”
I know I’ll be asked and that I’ll need to have a pat answer ready. I could tell them that I’m in solidarity with a friend who is going through chemo. I could tell them that it was a dare. Basically, I could lie. But I don’t want to lie.
This is what I’ve decided to say, “Why yes, coworker/associate/check out clerk/person on the bus, your astute observation is correct. I am in fact bald now. I’ve also quit looking in mirrors between now and December because I have a book to write. I had to fire my ego.”
I figure this answer is esoteric enough to preclude further interrogation, yet full of enough truth to satisfy. They’ll nod their heads knowingly, as if fully understanding that one must shave her head to accommodate the muse.
At least that’s what I hope will happen.
In fact, I’ll probably have to talk about it – a lot – because, well, it’s strange. I’m upsetting the social order.
I’m shaving my head for some very personal reasons, and I’m doing it within the confines of a very public life. I can’t just quit work. I can’t stay in my house or go to a mountaintop. If I could do those things, I wouldn’t be shaving my head in the first place. I don’t have the freedom or luxury to go on a retreat, like Elizabeth Gilbert, to write my book and “find myself.” I don’t even have the freedom to drive to the next town most months. I can’t go anywhere external, but I can retreat as far inside as I need. I can use the landscapes and vistas I find in there – not just for inspiration for my book, but for inspiration for any number of other things.
And so I am choosing to go through a very private experience in front of the world. Like a car wreck on the side of the road, people will slow down to gawk. They’ll take the potentially life-altering as a dalliance. Which is fine. I’ll broken-record the pat answer until its boring. Writing a book; firing an ego. Nothing to see here folks; just move along.
What I won’t explain over and over is that I shaved my head and quit looking in mirrors on the summer solstice and that I will refrain from looking in mirrors until the winter solstice. I deleted my Facebook page. I began a daily regimen of meditation and breathing exercises. I took a vow of celibacy. I started journaling about my experience. And I made all of this up – collecting bits and pieces of rituals and practices that made sense to me. It’s been in the stars for a long time now; it just took me a while to figure it out. I’m a religion-less white girl with no cultural heritage; it’s not like I have some go-to practices to pull from when I need transcendence. Or, at the very least, a spiritual enema.
For the last several months, there have been constant attacks on my ego and my identity. I became a grandma in April – four days before I turned 34. I expected that my grandson would be born and I’d post a fun, jaunty piece here on The Nervous Breakdown about becoming a GILF. I was all prepared. But it turns out that the birth of my grandson was jarring beyond anything I had anticipated.
Furthermore, several important anniversaries have passed in recent weeks. Some of deaths. Some of births. Some of failed marriages.
Then there’s the constant financial apocalypse that follows a divorce. The waking up one day and looking around and asking “this is what I became when I grew up?” And “where to from here?” The need to listen to Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World” on repeat – which I haven’t done with a song since I was a teenager. And other stuff – a constant onslaught of it for many weeks now.
It’s something you can’t predict, these radical changes in identity. They come when they come. My friend Cheryl told me on my 34th birthday that I should expect my entire concept of the world to be turned upside down soon. “Happened to me when I turned 35,” she said. “Happens to a lot of people. You’ll see.”
For whatever reason, my entire concept of the world is akimbo right now and I want a quick, meaningful solution to it all. Two other times, I’ve shaved my head. Once was when my boys were born. The other time was when my marriage fell apart. I’ve had some experience with the effects of shaving my head during times of identity changes. It’s like pushing the reset button. But it’s also a shedding of ego – that’s not just something to say to get people off my scent. My ego has been in this driver’s seat for too long. I am a passenger to her knee-jerk reactions to getting older, having grandbabies, being smart enough, being good enough too often. It’s time to unseat her.
Not looking in mirrors is also an attempt to annihilate my ego. Facebook is a distraction that will take me away from my meditations and exercises. Celibacy is key to this process for obvious reasons. I have the support of a small number of friends and advisers who will help me stay focused during this time. I have my journal. I have my book.
And so, let people ask questions. Let people make jokes. I don’t care. I still have to live my regular life. I’ll still be on email. I’ll still be writing for The Nervous Breakdown. I’ll still have my phone. I’ll still be a mom to my sons, who, if I do this right, won’t even know that I’m any different – other than being bald, which I’m sure at least Indigo will not be fond of.
Will anything come of this? Will I ascend to Nirvana? Unlikely. But something may come of it – perhaps something profound. And it’s not going to hurt a damn thing to try.