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.

27 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Having been grey for the past twenty of my sixty years, I cannot recall being otherwise! Nor can I, truly, relate to 'empty-nesting' as I have never mothered, nor even married. Yet that essence of having been of use in life, then finding oneself adrift from that, I do understand. It takes some adjusting to. One begins to question whether one was ever of any use, if there was any contribution to life of which one can be proud and satisfied. There must remain a sense of purpose. Find that now and it will serve your 'sannyaasa' years well, Arti! YAM xx

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    1. Hari Om and thank you Yamini for your wise words. They shine like a guiding light. Thank you. xx

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  2. Arti you won't believe it ...read it with my henna on , my Friday ritual!! I could relate to each word you wrote .I was missing your post and this came in so appropriate , loved it .
    Keep writing and spreading happiness
    with your beautiful words !!

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  3. It's me ...Pooja

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  4. This is so very relatable! Thank you for voicing it, Arti.

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  5. Brilliant read it was Arti. Couldn’t wait and landed straight here from your fb page. Haven’t had a chance to taste the grey in my mane yet but have been hearing all about it from surrounding friends. Although, can’t imagine of doing henna on hair in this frigid cold winters that we have. And the empty nester phase...tell me about it. However, it is partially for us as we re still enjoying or rather cajoling, bribing and forcing the younger one to spend more time with us. Life is challenging, rewarding, confusing, and thrilling....sometimes all at the same time yet we are beautifully alive. Lots of love. Pinkz

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    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting Pinkz. Yes, life is beautiful:) xx

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  6. I had tears in my eyes as I read this...the month of December was such for us too. A house filled with sounds of togetherness and love. But then life goes on...with moments of such reflection. Love your thoughts...you are indeed gifted.

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    1. Thank you Sindhu. Coming from you, this is indeed high praise. Hugs. xx

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  7. Your post really resonates with me - transitions of the grey hair kind and of the Mothering kind.

    I’m at a different Mothering stage to you - we are towards the end of Primary School and heading into high school and the teenage years. (The last 10 years have zoomed past) Already I’m seeing a shift and my role is changing.

    Your post reminded me of the Khalil Gibran poem

    http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html

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    1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem of Gibran's. I read it a long time ago. "Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;" such beauty in his words.
      I look back at the last 22 years and wonder where the time went.
      So enjoy the next chapter of your mothering phase.
      A dear friend once told me when I was about to enter the teenage phase of my children that they need to be loved more when they are the least lovable. Her words helped me at testing times. xx

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  8. Jennifer here. I entering the teen roller coaster. Reading your Artis moments made me realise no matter how bumpy the ride it will soon turn into the final slow slide down to the ultimate stop. Sigh ....

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    1. Exactly Jen. I'll repeat what I wrote to Tammy:
      A dear friend once told me when I was about to enter the teenage phase of my children's lives that they need to be loved more when they are the least lovable.
      I can tell you there have been moments when I've questioned the whole idea of parenthood. So hang in there buddy. Read Gibran, pour a glass or two of a good red or a white, book a massage or go for a long walk and then come back and tell them you love them.
      Just like the tides, they'll turn. Adult children make excellent friends if the channels of communication are open, unbiased and non-preachy:)
      All the best and a warm hug to you. xx

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  9. Brilliant and what a come back.. as I read through I kept thinking of the conversation We had about my teenager.
    As much I don’t want to think about college days, I want to savor every moment. As usual your posts, your talks everything creates an impact on all our lives. Keep it up

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    1. I'm beginning to feel like a famous something who took a break and has made a comeback Almas:) Ha! Ha! you are so good for boosting my ego my darling friend.
      Yes, savouring these precious moments and then watching them blossom in their lives--these are the blessings of being a parent. Enjoy and share more when we meet next. hugs. xx

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  10. I think we should all cultivate the attitude of seeing this time of life as soft warm and fuzzy. That's much more peaceful than whining about it.
    (And you are, at the very least, an *important* somebody who took a break. ;-p)

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    1. Thank you for visiting Jz. Hope you're feeling better now. xx

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  11. Really missed your blog-thank you for having started off with the first one of the year .

    Loved your words and thoughts Arti ! And the topic wasn't a grey zone for me either ! Loved the new word you coined on your morning walk too !

    Well written and the emotions of being an empty nester is something I can SO relate to . C'est la vie ,I guess .

    The song at the end is still playing in my mind-soothing .

    Eagerly await your book Arti-high time I'd say .

    Hugs my dear friend !

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    1. Thank you Sharmila. Your words and hugs nourish me and my writing heart. xx

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  12. I like this greytitude - I shall try to live that way too. I was thinking of dying my hair with bits of grey (I call them white) into a pink shade. I just think people are the age they want to be although if a person wants to be 5 years old again, that would be kind of weird but I just think numbers shouldn't define us.

    I once read a blog post where someone was turning 24 or something near that number and they claimed they are old - I want to tell that person they can claim to be old when they are 94, not 24. it's kind of silly to think you're old at such a young age. but I didn't tell them that because I think they will find out what old means later on.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. Hi Lissa. Good to see you here. I agree with you: age is just a number. I've come across wise teenagers and reckless fifty year olds in my life:)
      I like the idea of pink hair. Let me know if you go ahead with it.
      It's a beautiful day in Doha today. The birds are chirping and the sun is shining. Hope your day is full of light too.

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  13. Long awaited.... wonderfully expressed! Loved it! Keep us posted with your beautiful thoughts. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you Manu. It feels good to be writing again. xx

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