Friday, January 25, 2019

The attitude of greytitude


What is grey?

Is it a minus or a plus?

Is it the fading of colour from lush black hair?

Or an adding of salt and pepper to their ripeness? 

Is the lack of colour a reminder of my mortality?

Or a timely reminder to celebrate the years lived?

How you look at grey is entirely up to you.

I'll be celebrating my forty-eighth birthday soon. I've been greying for a few years now. After almost a decade of henna application regimen of once a month, I switched to hair colour when the rate of greying spiked. I convinced myself that No Ammonia written in purple letters on my box of shop bought colour meant it's almost chemical free and therefore harmless. I was wrong. My hair didn't take to the colour like I'd hoped it would and so I'm back to applying henna twice a month. The henna I use these days is organic. Yes, I believe the claims made by the packaging.

I've thought about greying naturally many times. To not bother about covering up my ripening roots. To celebrate rather than hide my luck to have lived this long, and mostly in good health. I'll be a year older than my mother ever was when I turn 48. 

But this pull of vanity makes me pick up that brush, load it up with goopy green henna paste, slather it on my head, paying special attention to the pesky roots, the obstinate growth above the temples that NEVER changes colour, no matter how many layers of colour or henna I put on it. Then there's the 4 to 6 hours of waiting, wearing a drying henna crown covered in cling film or shower cap. A couple of sheets of kitchen towel are twisted and stuffed into the edges of the shower cap to stop the henna from leaking on to my forehead or ears or clothes or the floor. The washing off of henna takes time. The bath gets super messy. All in all, it's a very messy and tedious process. 

Of course, this can all be replicated in a salon. I don't have the patience to sit for long periods of time in salons and my middle class Punjabi upbringing runs strongly through my veins. So, if I can achieve the same results at home, I'd rather wear my crown of crusty henna for a few hours every fortnight while I cook or watch Netflix or read.

The question I struggle with is why do it at all? 

I admire women and men who are happy with their greys. My husband is one of them.

I'd like to be just like them when I grow up.

I keep promising myself that I'll stop colouring my hair after this next milestone in my life. Our son's high school graduation in May. Our daughter's university graduation in June. Our holiday in September. That dinner at a friend's last Thursday. Yes, you get the idea. The pull of vanity is strong with this one. 

At times like these, I take refuge in the shade of greytitude (a term that popped into my head on one of my morning walks): a state of being that allows a person to be kind to themselves. It's when grey mixes with gratitude. It's when after having lived a few decades of accumulating material comforts, one realises how important the free things in life are. Not just important, but essential and irreplaceable.

Greytitude has to be cultivated, like a habit.

So, I show myself the kindness I find easy to give to others. 

I remind myself  that I have hair and it's healthy and the choice to colour or not is mine. When it feels right, I'll stop. For now, I'll cover my greys. But, I won't let the greys cover me with self-conscious gloop. I've lived my thirties is boxes of what will people say. It's time to discard those suffocating boxes. 

Today, as I sit at my kitchen table to write a post after almost five months, I look out.

Doha sky is wearing a soft grey blanket. Winter has arrived very late this year. 

The month of December was warm. Both our children were home for the holidays. The four of us were together under one roof after almost a year. Our collective chatter, arguments, silly jokes, leg pulling, telling off, accusations, sharing of news, making of plans, meals at the kitchen table, pizza slices in front of TV, saving and then savouring of favourite episodes filled the house to the brim with the warmth of family.

January arrived. The children left.

An empty nest. A quieter home. 

The clearly defined lines of mothering, the black and white of raising a family have been blurring into the greyness of what next. What does my role as a mother of adult children mean to me? to them?

Like a drop of dark ink in a bowl of clear water, I feel my world of parenting disappearing into a bigger, wider world. I feel like that drop of ink: spreading one molecule at a time, mixing with the water, losing my essence as a mother to the world that my children now inhabit. A world where they don't need me or my cooking. The black and white world of bed-time stories, school runs, packed lunches, help with homework, PTA meetings, school plays and proms has disappeared like that drop of ink. 

I sigh deeply as I type this post out. The drop of ink may have disappeared, but the water carries the tinges of its colour. 

Greytitude comes to my rescue again.

It's time to take down the scaffolding of mothering.

I celebrate the diluted inky waters of my new role as a mother who gets more Whatsapp messages than hugs.

I rejoice in the 'miss you too' and 'love you' sign offs.

I look forward to the next time this home will house us all in its fold.

In the meantime, I celebrate the open pastures of time where I can frolic with a book, volunteer at a hospital or at a special needs school, enjoy long languorous lunches with friends or just sit and stare at  sparrows in the garden as they flit from a purple petunia to a buttery frangipani, cheerful in their tweets and sprightly flights. I can do whatever I choose to do with my time, which is no longer bound by the knots of school runs.

I choose greytitude: an attitude of gratitude as I enter my fuzzy, soft, warm grey years.
I choose to be far away from hard lines, from definitions, rules that stifle, clothes that restrict, make-up that covers up more than it shows, people who find faults with everything, human stories that only focus on the ugly and the offensive. 

Instead, I choose to savour my grey like one savours the soft pink and white splendour of cherry blossoms or the orange and red of an autumnal birch. For like the seasons, my greys  will dissipate in a blink of an eye. Whether I will be blessed with the bliss of a snowy winter, I do not know. 

In the meantime, let me relish these grey pauses and welcome the peace and quiet of my home of brick and mortar into my heart of flesh and blood. Let me sit in silence and dip into my inner well often so I may draw from it the milk of human kindness. Let me ground myself enough so I may have the strength to share the warmth of my  grey blanket with a soul in need. 

Let me line my attitude with the warmth of gratitude.

Leaving you with these most beautiful words written by Guru Nanak Dev ji, sung like a dream by Shivpreet Singh and sent to me by my dear friend, Vidya. Her name means knowledge in English. I smile.




Wishing you all many moments of peace and tranquility.