Recently I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos from someone called Love 518. It’s a wonderful channel, where a hairdresser takes people’s hair that has been matted, or untended for a long time and she carefully unmatts it (no I don’t know if that’s a proper word, but ye know what I mean right?), tends it carefully and sends them on their way feeling some pride in themselves again. She is also really careful with her people, offers some amazing masks to allow them to keep anonymous and gives them hairstyles they love and feel good about.
Why would I think a random hairdresser in Miami, Florida is doing the gods’ work? Well, she’s giving people back their respect. She’s giving people a new start. She doesn’t give a damn how or why the hair gets matted, she regularly says none of us know when we might have a bad run of luck or have mental health issues, her aim is trying to give people back their hair. She just accepts people as they are and where they are and move on.
And hair is something that’s really obvious when there’s something not right. Skin is easy enough to keep clean and looking semi presentable, but hair… well hair can go wrong very easily. All it takes is a bad week and the knots get amazingly difficult to get out. Add a few weeks, a month, a few months, and hair gets really messy and difficult and a big job to tackle, and sometimes -well sometimes that’s just too damn much to face into. And so, it gets worse and worse. Now my hair isn’t too curly, ( I think I’m about a 2B according to this evaluation) but it still knots easily, and knots are the first step to matting for me.
But I don’t need to go to the hairdresser regularly to keep control over my hair, I can throw it into plaits when I need to, it’s easy enough to deal with. Added to which, I like it long because at least I can throw it up in a pony tail as well. But I like my hair. There are times when my hair is the only thing I really love about my body. (Don’t worry – there are times I can love other things as well) My hair is my crowning glory and I love it. So, I can completely understand how the work that Love 518 is doing is Divine Work. As far as I can tell, the hairdresser is Christian, but the faith doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is the right thing, in my opinion.
People deserve their self respect and hair is a massive part of that. Recognising that, and then moving to do something to help people – it’s amazing. This hairdresser spend days, 12 hour days on people’s hair and the transformations she makes for people are amazing.
I could rhapsodise for a while here, but go check out her videos. To expand the point – I don’t know if this hairdresser realises what she is giving back to people, but I hope she does. For women in particular, hair has long been considered a “crowning glory” (see the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 11:15) and cutting the hair or shaving the hair has been long been a punishment for immodesty or vanity or whatever. Hair can be used to make a statement, it can be a way to identify ourselves or hide ourselves, to stand out or to blend in.
Sometimes, doing the work doesn’t mean lots of praying or fasting or deprivation or whatever else we think of when we think of spirituality. Sometimes, doing the work means taking the skills we already have, taking the work we already do, and pushing it out to help those who need it. What I mean by “pushing it out” is by looking at those skills and talents and work and seeing how we can use them to make this world a better place. Maybe that means you affect one person’s life, maybe it means you affect thousands of people’s lives. It doesn’t matter. To leave the world a better place than we found it is a good thing in general.
For me – engineering is my job, teaching is my work. So I share the way I think about things here, on my email list, in the school, in the facebook group, on the facebook page – all in an attempt to do the work I have to do and to make this world a better place. Mind you, engineering is also my work, cos why have just one bit of work to do – I work for a very practical and efficient deity! Persuading more women into engineering and making sure the ones already in engineering get the supports they need to keep going are also part of the work I do. My work will never be as clear as the work that hairdresser is – the changes I help people make are more private for a start, and sometimes I won’t ever know what changes are actually made, but I have hope. And that keeps me going.
Today, it’s a cold, freezing day in Ireland and I’ve had a tough weekend. I’m going into work tomorrow to face a shitstorm that because of reasons I wasn’t able to sort out over the weekend. But I can and will deal with it and in doing so, I will make the path clearer and easier for the women coming after me. It is unlikely I will have someone weeping on my shoulder because I made a fundamental change to their appearance that helps them to make them recognise themselves again. I have had people be thankful for my teaching and support, which is lovely, but it’s also important to realise that I don’t do this for that feeling, as awesome as it is, and I need to be careful to not depend on that feeling either. That was lies a lot of pain and badness.
I went down a potentially dark path there, but it’s important to recognise that it would be really easy to come to depend on people telling me how great I am, and that’s just not healthy for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – if something I say helps you or affects you or you just want to reach out – please feel free to do so. But it’s down to me to manage the me side of that interaction. And the me side needs to recognise that my feet need to stay firmly on this earth and not be rising up pretending to be something I’m not. I know already my daily practice tomorrow will be a brief gesture towards the east as I get into my car in the morning, long long before the sun rises. I might include a prayer on my way to work and while I’m in work asking for help and for support throughout the day. There’s a chance I’ll remember to say thank you tomorrow evening when I get home safely.
So, I’m not some genius guru with all the answers. I can’t fix all spiritual problems as easily or patiently as Love 518 solves hair problems. But I can help people along the way. I can help with small things (like the 30 Days of Brigid class coming up in January). I can ask the questions to get you thinking. Actually, I usually ask the questions here that get me thinking. And then work them out in the words here. I can help disentangle a problem or a spiritual issue with words, the same as Love 518 does with her combs, her brushes, her hands, her products, her knowledge… but really, it’s down to each of us ourselves to maintain once the help has been had. Just as it’s down to me to make sure I’m not claiming to be something I’m not and I’m making sure I keep up to date on my knowledge for Brigid, for engineering, for my own practices… It’s down to all of us to look after ourselves, whatever that looks like for us. If someone comes to me for help – I’ll give it if I can. If someone keeps coming back asking the same questions, getting the same answers and not working on it – well Brigid lost patience at times so I figure she won’t mind me losing it as well 🙂
That’s not to say anyone needs to be nervous about asking questions. But when someone has put time, work, effort into helping – make sure to do the work you need to do to get the best out of that help. Now there are times when you ask for help (indeed, times when I’ve asked for help) and you’re not in a position to act on the help, or you recognise the value of the help, but you just can’t fit in the work to use the help – honestly, that’s grand. Say it! I had someone say to me a few month’s ago that they very much appreciated the offer of a scholarship but they knew they wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the course right then, so it would be unfair to take me up on the offer. I love hearing people be honest with themselves and me like that. I respect it, I appreciate, it shows self knowledge and awareness.
So where am I going with all this rambling? Watching the Love 518 videos really has me thinking about how I can further help people – and I have a few new ideas coming up. It also has me thinking of ways I can reach out for help for myself as well, in both practical and spiritual terms.
And if anyone can spare a prayer or a candle tomorrow to help me through a tough work day, with challenging weather conditions (for Ireland anyway!) , I’d appreciate it!!