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day 88: when you're there, cut your hair, and don't forget your…

April 30, 2011

Due to a rather complicated schedule on Day 88, my standard morning workout just didn’t happen.  I opted, instead, to break up my afternoon with a trip to the gym and a leisurely shower.  Because this is unusual for me, though, I was a bit out of practice packing my gym bag and forgot my indispensable hairdryer.

“No problem,” I comforted myself upon this realization, “the gym provides hairdryers. It’s all good.”

After showering and using the gym-issued hairdryer for approximately two minutes, the caustic scent of charred hair filled the locker room.  A gray-haired woman in a towel raised her eyebrows at me from across the counter top.  “Honey,” she said, “I think you need to unplug that thing.”  Fortunately, I took her advice, as the hair dryer began to smolder, leaking smoke from its red coils.  I was afraid to throw it in the garbage, lest it set the whole building aflame, but I knew it was time for Ms. Gym Hair Dryer to meet her maker.

Immediately, I thought of the back-up hair dryer I keep for guests in my secondary bathroom.  First of all, we don’t host overnight guests all that often.  Second of all, if a guest needs to borrow a hair dryer, she can use mine.  My gift on Day 88, I decided, was to leave behind my Conair Infiniti Tourmaline Hair Designer.  Not only does it work exceptionally well, but it will catch neither the gym nor the gym’s patrons on fire.

I imagine you might think this is a lame gift.  “What’s so meaningful about a hair dryer?” you sniff, absently wondering if the straightening attachment on the Infiniti is really all its cracked up to be (it is).

I’ll be clear:  on Day 88, I spent a lot more time thinking about the little things we leave behind than about my mostly-damp, entirely frizzy hair.  My family’s move back to Texas looms large on our skyline, bringing with it not only fear of the uncharted, but sadness at what we will be leaving behind.  I’ve accepted the big things I will miss — a beautiful community of friends, our church fellowship, the blooming North Carolina spring time — but thoughts of leaving little things bring a surprising ache to my chest.  I think about Larry at the gym who greets me by name every morning, wearing a different marathon t-shirt for every day of the month.  I think about what I’ve accumulated here: the librarians and baristas and preschool teachers; the running routes and “kids eat free” nights and grocery stores; the universe I’ve worked hard to develop and understand over ten long years.  Leaving it behind means memorizing a new world.  Anew.

I’m simultaneously daunted and excited by this prospect, but one fact remains: I’m committed to leaving this place better than how I found it.  If all I’ve done is replace one bonfire-waiting-to-happen with a snazzy hair dryer, well, at least I have done something.

So often, I think, what we leave behind is far more powerful than what we smother to our chests.

My six closest girlfriends and I met our first year in college.  We’ve lived longer as friends than we lived before meeting, and so far we’ve shared all of life’s celebrations and failures together.  Between us, we have nineteen children and careers ranging from stay-at-home mother to tenure-track professor to entrepreneur.  We span the country from Seattle to Atlanta.  When we graduated, we left our lives of late-night gossip and fraternity formals behind, but we’ve maintained an annual tradition of reuniting every January.  A few weeks ago, one of the Gang of Seven sent this message out to the rest of us:

“So I went to the pool this morning and I was in the locker room getting dressed with these seven older women (probably in their 70s) who had taken a water aerobics class together. I could tell that they were good friends…they were having the best time… talking about their kids/grandkids, laughing, looking out for one another (i.e., ‘do you have your underwear? where is your underwear?’).  It made me miss you girls. Maybe when we are 70 we can all live in the same town…especially since I forgot my underwear today and clearly need help already.”

Underwear, hairdryers, connections, love — often, what we leave behind makes all the difference.  What we leave expresses what we hold most dear, stoking the fire within and urging us onward.  “Go on,” it whispers, “I’ll be just fine.”

Today, I hope you pack lightly and leave something precious behind.  Thanks for showing up.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lucy Falk permalink
    April 30, 2011 10:11 pm

    i don’t even want to think about you guys leaving – even though I don’t see you that often – it’s nice to know that you are a “go to” person and those are few and far between 🙂 xoxo

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