I am letting the silver sparkle. Shimmery strands of light, dancing through a somewhat mousy head of hair. I am letting them grow, and I like them. But I have found that not everyone does.

One of my co-workers could barely contain her shock when she noticed it … “You need to get your hair done”, she thoughtfully pointed out. When I explained that I’d decided to let it grow in, she was amazed. “But why??” she demanded, peering at me beneath a thick mane of what can only be described as pomegranate-colored hair. “Me ? Never! I’m turning 49 this year, and I intend to fight it all the way!!” There was no point in arguing with her, but as we parted company, I too, wondered why … why do we feel we have to fight this wonderful privilege of growing into a beautiful time of our lives – a time of wisdom, and peace, and understanding?

Why is it that we are so very afraid of our gray?

In societies past those unruly hairs were seen as a sign of wisdom … a sign that those who displayed them had fought through the challenges of life and earned a glittering badge of honor. They were the ones we turned to, to find understanding of the things that vexed us. They knew what we did not, and were respected as having lived enough life to help guide us through the lessons of our difficult times. Today we honor the young … toddlers, in reality, who have traveled barely a quarter of their life. Those with little knowledge, little history and little wisdom. What is it that they give us? An illusion of immortality? A momentary reprieve from our own disappointment? Our misplaced admiration is given to what is so fleeting – a thing that disappears as a firefly would into the night, leaving nothing behind.

As I drove home that night, I wondered aloud at our distress of the advent of those first gray hairs. We color, we pluck, we wear hats. As with so many other things, we try so hard to be what we are not. We run from ourselves … we run from our pain, our sexuality, our intelligence, our soul … and our age. Is it a fear – a realization – that our days here are numbered? Of that I have no doubt. But perhaps those strands remind us, too, of what we didn’t do … of the dreams we held in our hearts years ago … and that we surrendered to what others told us we ‘should’ be. And we are running from that remembrance. Maybe the gray is to serve as a reminder that we were created exactly as we were meant to be. That the All of Who We Are was placed within us for a reason, and this life has been a gift. Even more-so, perhaps the grays are to remind us to not let the song end without dancing to the music in our heart.

I am grateful for my years. They’ve not all been easy … heavens no. Many have been extraordinarily difficult and challenging. But they are mine, as are these beautiful new hairs. All of the experiences I’ve had, all of the people I’ve met, all of the joy and the heartbreak – they are all mine. They make me who I am. They’ve taught me dear lessons, and taken me on journeys of the heart, mind, and soul. They have gifted me with 20,829 days so far. 20,829 days of the Breath of Life. I have earned these silver ribbons. I am proud of them, and they are my reward. It is a precious reward. It is mine, and it is me.

Yes, I have earned these glittery strands. They are beautiful, sparkling streaks of glimpses into eternity.

R. Catherine Smith

R. Catherine Smith is a published writer and photographer. The image shown in this article was taken by her.

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