Gray hair, past experiences, and living in the now

Today I noticed a lot of gray hairs.  In the last year I’ve found a few, but today, I noticed a lot.

My dad didn’t get gray hair until his 60’s, and my sister is two years older than me and just found her first one.  I know I’m genetically lucky in the gray hair department, so don’t worry, this isn’t a vanity problem or a rant about aging.

It’s just when I stare at my hair it just seems crazy that I can actually have gray hair but still act like a 12-year-old.  And I don’t mean conceptually, I mean truly act like my old 12-year-old self.

When I am dealing with any type of confrontation, my inner 12-year-old takes notice. She gets worried and she gets scared.  She wants to make sure everyone is comfortable and that she is not making herself seem too important.  She does this because she is a typical middle school girl - she desperately wants to make sure she is accepted and liked.

And sometimes, when my husband and I are arguing, my 22-year-old self comes out.  She wants him to know that she’s tough and she’s right, she wants to make sure he knows she’s independent and wise.  But really, she is afraid of not being loved.  She desperately wants to be seen and validated by someone she cares about.

The worst is when I’m frustrated with my children and my inner 7-year-old makes an appearance.  The girls say something disrespectful and out comes a child-like comeback – I have never said, “I know what you are, but what am I”, but I might as well have - anything said with childlike bravado doesn’t come out sounding very mature or kind.

The woman in the mirror is a grown up, but all of her ages still live inside of her.  They still want to be heard and they want to offer protection from pain.

These past parts of me come out when I feel uncomfortable, afraid, or when I’m unconscious – they make an appearance when I’m living on autopilot.

They should not be stepping into a present day issue, but their intention is to protect, defend, guard.  For that, I understand and honor them.  I see what they are trying to do and I understand they are trying to use what previously worked.

But it’s no longer the past, things are different – and when they show up in the now they do more harm than good.

They carry old hurt and outdated beliefs, so their actions create misunderstandings and vicious circles.  They read present day experiences through an old filter which significantly skews the perspective.

As adults it’s our work to integrate and honor these parts of ourselves but not allow them to take over our present. If we unconsciously continue to view our life through the eyes of a 7, 12, or 22-year-old we are inevitably going to have some issues.

Certain ages and defenses will inevitably pop up at different times in our lives, but the work is to notice - let the young you know that the present day you can handle whatever is happening.

This is an exercise in being here, now.  This is what it means to let go of the past.  This is what it means to be in the moment.  This is what it means to be free.

Of course we acknowledge our past hurts and experiences, but we don’t need to drag them around with us everywhere we go.  Our past experiences offered us an opportunity to grow, but if we stay stuck in them it is difficult to evolve.

At 7 I needed to know how to talk back in an argument - at 12 I needed to conform and keep the peace - at 22 I needed to appear strong and not let others know they hurt me.

That was my truth then, but it’s not my truth today – those needs are outdated and unnecessary.

So my gray hair is just another reminder to be where I am, to be 41, to be fully conscious.

To appreciate the years of experiences and growth that got me to this day, this moment, and this hair color.

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