The Magnifying Mirror

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Ever heard the expression How you do one thing is how you do everything? Well, if that’s true, then my hair has just gifted me with a major insight into my relationship patterns.

Let me explain. I wore my hair long and straight for many years. And then, a couple summers ago, I started feeling like that hair was no longer mine. So I got it cut off by the stylist I’d been seeing for years, surrendering myself to her capable hands. And I loved the result.

Soon after the big cut, her salon closed and she left town. I was a little freaked out. How would I find someone else that I trusted with my hair as much as her? Because I am too lazy to use products or style it, I needed someone who could give me a true wash-and-wear cut, which wasn’t easy with my stick straight mane.

So my search began for someone who understood how to work with thick, fine, straight hair. I spent an embarrassing amount of money, which I really don’t have for things like this, trying to find a new stylist. Also, I walked around with crappy haircuts for close to a year.

And then, this fall, fate led me to a new salon. I called on a Saturday morning, and wonder of wonders, a stylist had just had a cancellation and could see me right away.

I loved my new haircut. She GOT my hair! It looked exactly how I wanted it to look! She understood my hair, really understood it. She even cut it dry so she could work with its quirks.

And I liked her. She was soft-spoken, sweet, and kind, with such a nice smile. I gave her a big tip and left feeling sure I had found my stylist for life. I was so happy that I could stop the search and settle into a nice, stable long-term hair relationship. I thought my bad haircut days were over.

Eight weeks later, I went back for my second cut openhearted, happy to see her, fully expecting a repeat performance. About halfway through I realized she had forgotten what she did the first time. I watched in shock as the cut progressed, trying in vain to find the right words to express what I wanted instead. I left holding back tears. Maybe I was unclear. Maybe she just couldn’t do it this time for some reason.

I returned the next day, after washing it and seeing exactly how choppy and uneven it really was. I redoubled my effort to communicate very, very clearly what I wanted. I even used my hands to show her.

She apologized profusely the second she laid eyes on me, and did her best to fix it. She even took notes in her client book, so she would remember what my hair needed next time. I was comforted by that, and resigned myself to a few more months of ugly hair while it grew out.

But still, I had faith in her. She’d given me the best cut of my life, so I knew she had it in her. I told her and myself that it would take some time to establish our relationship, and I was willing to be patient with the process. Yesterday, I sat down in her chair once again.

This time, I knew my communication was crystal clear. I had spent a lot of time figuring out how to explain what I wanted, even running the explanation by my daughter to test its clarity before I went. The stylist said she understood exactly what to do.

And I’ll be darned … I walked out of there with another crappy haircut that was not at all what I wanted!!

As I got in my car, I said to myself, “I’ve given her enough chances. I was as clear as I know how to be, and this is not what I asked for. I won’t be coming back here again.”

Yet when I woke up this morning – I swear I am not making this up – I thought, But I loved that first cut so much! Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Maybe I should give her just one more chance …

AARGH!! This truly is the way I think, for better and for worse. I see people’s innocence. I see their good intentions. I wake up every morning with a clean mental slate, and hope springs eternal in my heart.

And far too often, I do not notice that sometimes, people are unable, unwilling, or un-something of following through on their good intentions.

I give a lot of chances. I give the benefit of the doubt. I try and try to find the right words, as if communication is the magic formula that will set everything right. As if any problem in the relationship is my fault, because I was simply not clear enough.

My kids have endured this quality of mine for years. It means I stay in relationships far longer than they would prefer. It means I try too hard to make things work. It means I cut a lot of slack. It means I focus too much on people’s potential and not enough on their actual. It means I endeavor to call forth that greatness I see inside people, and to be fair, I am successful at times, but it’s usually not very sustainable.

So every morning when I look in the mirror and see this haircut that I did not want, I can be reminded of how well that approach is working for me. Since it’s probably not likely that I will turn into a cynic any time soon, I wonder what kind of checks and balances I could put into place to bring more discernment to my relationships. It will be interesting to see what develops organically from this new awareness.


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