Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment

Prisoner of my hairdo

It turns out that when one becomes seriously ill for a spell (or has a baby) one of the after effects can be having your hair fall out.  (Bummer, I say!)  For a few weeks now, I’ve been shedding worse than our old Norwegian Elkhound used to shed in springtime.  When the weather warmed up, and she could no longer find a little patch of snow to lie upon, we would go out and pluck the dog.  My daughter has become a ‘mother plucker’ as she keeps my hair from landing in our dinners night after night.  Birds nests around my mother’s condo are being woven by the bread bags full of hair I bring to put near her feeders.  All this while I become closer and closer to being bald.  Turns out, I’ve been a prisoner of my hairdo all these years.

Back in the ’80s, I chopped off my long hair and got short mullet-ish thing with hair shaved close on the sides, spiky on top, and a bit shaggy in back.  Hideous, really.  After being sheared and styled, my glass blowing partner (whom I had worked with day after day in the studio) stopped me to ask if he could help me, as if I were a stranger.  When I told him who I was he had to look carefully to recognize me.  Apparently, Christine Lavin was right about us prisoners – if we cut our hair, no one will recognize us anywhere.

Today, being a prisoner of my hairdo is much less about fearing I won’t be recognized.  As my hair falls out strand-by-strand, my ego… my vanity… my Leo the lion’s mane… my armor… and the certainty of my existence seem to fall out with them.  I get weepy as the waste basket fills, the bathtub drains more slowly, and the floor needs constant sweeping.  I wonder if I’ll be okay… if I’ll be loved… if I’ll be beautiful enough.  These are the thoughts of a true prisoner.

Tuesday, I’ll have a kind and caring person cut my hair.  That same morning I’ll have blood tests to make sure it isn’t something else too.  While I wait for the results, I will remember that there’s nothing in my truest belief system that links my value with the length or thickness of my hair,  I will tend to those parts of me that worry and doubt,  and most of all, I will say prayers of gratitude for this particularly poignant lesson in non-attachment.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking there are all sorts of thoughts and things we can become prisoners of.  Perhaps we are brothers and sisters in this way.  Have you got one you care to share?  If you’re a coach, how do you recognize when your clients are prisoners of something?  …and what do you do about it?

I welcome your thoughts…. namaste


Comments on: "Prisoner of my hairdo" (38)

  1. You are such a great person, I was glad to see you over the week and noticed your hair looked a little different, but I really couldn’t tell it was getting any thinner. I am sure it is more daunting to you, because you see it fall out.

    I will attest that your personality and appearance seemed as cheery as ever!

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, Beth! As a person who seems to live life with no ego and in a state of total acceptance of self and other – you are an inspiration to me.

  2. Rachel Thompson said:

    Dear Helen, scrolling my way down here, having read your post, my eye was caught by the title of your last blog post… in capital letters no less: UNTANGLING PRETENDING. And so, I offer you a fresh perspective about this temporary situation of loss of mane, a reflection back to you of what your heart — and head — already know.

    Just more untangling happening… loss of mane, so much to gain! You are beautiful no matter what the colour or length, style or texture of your hair. And this is an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and what you’ve become attached to in this life, and of the many ways you’re coming to realise that you can free yourself and come more into alignment with your true Being!

    You grew, and grew along with, every strand of hair that’s falling out right now, and I trust, believe, know that there are thousands upon thousands of lovely, lustrous new golden strands of you waiting to emerge (whatever their colour, length, style or texture)!

    Raaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!!!!! xo

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, Rachel! You always have a way of seeing broader and more magical connections between things than I can even imagine possible. How perfect that ‘Untangling Pretending’ comes just before this. I hear the lion’s roar in your words too! I’m thinking climbing to the top of some mountain around here and letting out a good ROAR of my own might be in order. Yee Haw!! xox

  3. I so appreciate what you’ve said here, Helen! …and like you said, the severe illness you had is likely the culprit.
    I wonder if there are nutritional supplements and certain foods that you can add to your diet to assist in the regrowth of your mane…
    May its regrowth become a metaphor of FREEDOM!

    I’m quite sure that I’ve become prisoner of many things throughout my life, things designed to hold me safe or allow me to check out mostly. As I consider this now, at this very moment, and go inside, I come back with the realization that despite all the growth and development that I’ve been going through, I’m being held prisoner by my smallness. I can see that I’m crouched in the corner peering through the bars of my cell at something ‘out there’ that I’ve yet to discover, some perfect nuance of being that will allow me to REALLY be seen. or is that allow me to allow myself to REALLY be soon… hmmm.

    And as a coach, I can tell you that the things that hold my clients prisoner are usually identified by looping stories with a dissonant tone, shoulds and long explanations. There’s often ALOT of attachment to those things, so what I do about it is give them alot of room, some alternative perspectives to consider and work with them to become more present and unattached. oh, and I keep a watchful eye out for those things as we continue on to future sessions. They can more readily choose to lose the shackles from this place. Thanks for the inquiry!

    • helenhouse said:

      Dear Lydia ~ Your words bolster my spirit and give me courage to write again. You inspire and engage so many parts of me with this – the artist, the coach, the woman, the sensitive idealist ;). This FREEDOM theme is ringing through the comments of many. Me thinks I must pay attention to it! Thank you for your thoughtful reply and amazing way of being in the world. xo, HH

  4. As I was reading this, Helen, I kept thinking YEAH, the sickness is leaving your body and making way for a glorious new crown. Wonder what THAT will bring with it!!! And while you’re staying with what is, I hear a warm welcome for what will be. love, m

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you for your vision, Margo! “Glorious new crown”… perhaps I’ll fashion one in the meantime of the stuff we’re made of – duct tape, cardboard, gossamer, and faerie dust! Love to you, HH

  5. Helen…I’m sure this lesson in letting go of an attachment (one that is attached to your head and perhaps some beliefs of yourself) is not a comfortable one to be with.

    The fact that you even share this story shows me who you really are, regardless of your health status or the fullness of your hair.

    How I see you is: as a life adventurer that meets all that comes along in the experience of life and digs deep to glean some wisdom; one who is willing to be vulnerable and open even when it hurts; one who inspires others by being all of the above.

    You are the perfect example of unconditional beauty. I hope that’s what you see when you look in the mirror.

    Thanks for being you.

    Peace and love,

    • helenhouse said:

      Dear Kate ~ What an exquisite acknowledgement with room for all that is – the hard stuff and the hope. I have thought of you often along this path as the way you handled your own illness and recovery has always inspired me. Nice to be with you here. Love, HH

  6. I’m a prisoner of my habits, the external structures around me. Clear to me that when they go away, I get lost for a while, then….things open up…wish I could live everyday in that opened up space…

    But I know too that somehow the structures, the habits help, make things possible…

    balance, maybe, is the a trick I need to learn…
    and then, knowing that is all just thoughts…..

    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks for bringing in the paradox, Kim. It is ironic, isn’t it? So often the exact same things that set us free confine us the most as well.

      “Live everyday in that opened up space”. Now that’s something worthy of creating structures to support it!

      🙂 HH

  7. The pictures flash through my mind. The 3- or 4-year old with white-blond hair and a red swimsuit on backwards standing on the Alvinholme dock. The 8-year old hanging off the bars of the jungle gym with long blonde hair stretching toward the ground and cut-off yellow and black print shorts under your school dress. The honey-blond teenager in a long green dress for prom. The mullet-coiffed college student (I loved that one, actually!). All of them my beautiful sister.

    I remember trying to do your hair when you were little and it was so fine it wouldn’t stay in a braid or a pigtail, but still managed to tangle up pretty well and demand lots of de-snarling that made you not at all happy. Untangling, indeed.

    I’m wondering what you get to free yourself from on Tuesday morning. And what you get to free yourself for.

    Because here’s the deal, seester mine. The radiance that makes you fabulous and beautiful has very little to do with your hair and very much to do with the generosity, kindness, creativity, love, wonder, awe, and a bunch of other things with electric names that come bursting out of your heart and mind and spirit. All. The. Time.

    Love you, sis.

    • helenhouse said:

      Okay, Jensk…. I burst into tears at this one! I love your words – every one of them. I will take these inquiries into my journal and meditation – What do I get to free myself from? and…. What am being freed for? Juicy stuff….

      I love you more than you can bear….
      xo, Helsk

  8. You say you visited my blog because you needed inspiration? (huh? you don’t need no stinkin’ inspiration girlene!) 🙂 You just keep on asking those questions … that’s where it comes from.

    (AND, re: the hair – i hope it’s just post-illness issues … and i hope your glorious leo mane comes back … AND while it’s doing it’s thing, i’m so glad you’re living in the questions – and modeling that open curiosity about the process – even as you acknowledge how challenging it all is.)

    Virtual hugs comin your way.

    (oh wait; one more thing … i love the new theme on ze blog. colorful, bright and radiant, just like you.) 🙂

    • helenhouse said:

      Oh, Deb… trust me – I DO GET STUCK! Part of the challenge is having so many things rattling around inside my brain that none can find the opening to fall out. (Think lottery machine blowing those number balls all over the place and not a one falls down the chute…)

      Thanks for your comments, support, and wild way of telling it like it is. That is why I go to you for inspiration!

      xo, HH

  9. Dearest Helen,

    Thank you for sharing this. As I read it I felt a little terror percolating up. You’ve taught me a wonderful lesson about letting something physical define who you are…and I plan to ponder why I’m so “married” to certain physical traits (and why I let others hold me down).

    As always, you inspire me to think, dream & be bigger!


    • helenhouse said:

      Aaah… good ol’ percolating terror! When I read your words I thought about the arrogance and pride that can come with certain physical traits. You and I share being tall and all that goes with that. Funny how easy it is to get cocky about something we really had nothing to do with – know what I mean? In some environments I’ve felt very proud of being so darned tall… where in other environments I just feel like a big awkward moose. Yet really… tall is just tall. Hair is just hair. Blue eyes are just blue eyes. Why do we make the mean something about who we are? I’m rambling, but this is helpful! Thanks!! xo, HH

  10. Mary McManus said:

    I would be sad if my hair were falling out too. Even though I know that I am more than my hair, my skin, my freckles, my children, my friends, my body…my illness, my brains, my personality, I would still feel sad.

    • helenhouse said:

      Yup, Mary…. Sometimes I do just weep about it. I haven’t gotten mad about it yet. A little frightened by it, for sure. Sad happens most of all though. xo

      • Mary McManus said:

        I think often that anger is just covering up sadness anyways. I would imagine that it all just feels so out of your control. And, Really, it’s enough already right? You probably just want to be done with this business. stupid virus. I love you.

  11. Heatheroo said:

    Helen – –

    You are gorgeous. Inside and out.

    You have always been, and will always be.

    That’s my truth and i am stickin’ with it.

    And having said that, I am wrapping my big arms around you and rocking you, the way you’ve rocked your babies from that place of tender-hearted, I’ll-do-whatever-it -takes-to-take-care-of -you kind of love.

    i am holding you in my heart, you wild child, bodacious woman, wise healer and healing one – -tenderly and tenaciously – -Heatheroo

    • helenhouse said:

      Oh the tears! You do have a way about you, Ms. Heatheroo. You love fiercely and completely. I thank you for those rockin’ arms… and knowing you mean every word you write. I love you. ~Helen

  12. So, I read this post yesterday and been percolating since. It’s only your second post and your first post was so vulnerable that I wondered where you would go from there.

    Here is my answer: You will go to the places in your own heart that you are soft, confused, wanting more, and open.

    What a challenge for me to think about the stuff about me that I hold so dearly to. Part of me is afraid to think of things that I am attached to for fear that thinking it will make it a target for the universe….UGHH.

    Thank you.

    Also, two great thing about your blog–you already have 24..err…25 comments which is amazing for day 2 and you do an amazing job with links–stuff I need to learn from right away.

    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks, Ken! I thank you for reading my blog… for percolating on it… for coming back (!) … and for your thoughtful comment. Sounds like it may have stirred up a thing or two for you. Yay to that!!

      Now… you’ll have to come back one more time to see this is actually my 3rd post! You must have missed ‘Beginning with Completion’. As a coach, you might find something there… 😉

      It’s interesting what you say… “Part of me is afraid to think of things that I am attached to for fear that thinking it will make it a target for the universe”. This is the where I think things like ‘The Secret’ have led people astray. We live in a polarized world. If we only deal with the positive, there is no balance. I believe that one of the things causing my hair loss is stress. That stress is self-generated by NOT dealing with some of the things I must to keep that magical balance myself. So… time for both of us to take a peak….!

      Time to go read your blog and leave a comment!

      • a good friend asked me last night…”what is Ken so attached to?” in our conversation about how I am navigating life with my loved ones…

        The answer is that I am so very attached to not being alone.

        To your point–the choice I want to make out of that place is the choice to embrace my abandonment…to find out what it is I can learn there…to discover more truth about myself. It scares the crap out of me.

        Love this discussion. A little light on Y chromosomes…but love it.

      • helenhouse said:

        Vulnerable response, Ken… thanks for your courage —- and the willingness to go so ‘X chromosomes’ out loud!

        What popped into my head as I read this was a little different than the notion of embracing your abandonment, though that’s powerful. I was thinking about what a teacher of mine said once about how the loneliest lonely there is is when you’ve abandoned yourself. So maybe part of the task is to build/earn trust within yourself that you won’t ever abandon yourself – no matter how alone you become. Sounds a little psycho-babble-ish, but perhaps you get my drift?

  13. Ah, Helen. What a journey you have been thrown onto! Have you ever talked with T.B. about when she and much of her family shaved their heads entirely in support of her son when he had cancer? I wonder if she would have some insights for you, having gone from a thick mane to a totally bald pate in an instant.

    As I sit with this post a moment, too, I just got struck by an image in my mind’s eye. It’s of you, sitting almost Buddha-like, eyes closed, still, breathing and *being* as things are stripped away from you that have been buffering your deepest core from direct interaction with the world. In this image, you sit while weight falls away, long hair falls away, and other invisible things fall away, too, until finally, your eyes open, and the You that is in the world more fully, more intensely, is that which needed protection before, but that is now ready to interact. It’s like a Helen reduction sauce…more intensity, with even deeper flavor, and less is more.

    Dunno where that came from, but there it was, so there you go!

    Sending you so much love and support from my corner of the world. Thank you for continuing to share this journey with us. I wonder, now, what is buffering Me?


  14. helenhouse said:

    What a beautiful image, Laura…… Much to sit with there – literally and figuratively!

    ………..It feels like an invitation……….An invitation on beautiful paper…. elegant with nothing extra on it…. the kind you hold by the edges for fear of getting greasy fingerprints on it…………

    I’ll send a link to the blog to TB and see what she has to share. Good suggestion – thanks!


  15. Creighton Taylor said:

    I remember seeing a documentary on breast cancer in which there was a young mother who had just been told that she was seriously ill. When the doctor described his suggested treatment plan, and told her it would include chemotherapy, the woman’s immediate reaction was “No! I can’t do that. What about my hair?”

    I once had to take a medication that had hair loss as a possible side-effect. I didn’t think much about it at the time it was prescribed, but a couple of weeks later when the shower drain was getting plugged up and my hair brush was full, it dawned on me: “Oh my God – I’m losing my hair.” I was scared and panicky and horrified. It is one thing to be told it might happen and another thing entirely when it actually does. Here’s what I learned from my experience: Our hair matters a lot to us.

    I admire your courage, curiosity, and generous spirit at sharing this latest ramification of your illness with a larger audience. It raises so many great questions about identity, ego, and vulnerability. Thanks for asking us to participate with you.

    I loved the photo you posted when you were still in the hospital, sitting up in bed and looking at the camera. It was so ethereally beautiful – you were so luminous – and it had nothing to do with your hair.



    • helenhouse said:

      Creighton, you always have an amazing way of stating the obvious that creates the ‘V8 moment’. Case in point: “Here’s what I learned from my experience: Our hair matters a lot to us.” Reading your words made that it matters okay. Easy in this world of personal growth and self-reflection to think there’s something wrong with us if it matters. You normalize everything while leaving room to look beyond.

      My brother Sam sent me the lyrics to an India Arie song – I am not my hair – today. Here’s the chorus:

      I am not my hair
      I am not this skin
      I am not your expectations no no
      I am not my hair
      I ma not this skin
      I am a soul that lives within

      Cool, eh? Thanks for your words… xo

  16. freshencounter said:

    I love that your younger hair style matched the description of how your hair looked in my dream a few months back.

    You know I believe we are all soul-mates, this includes our pets too. Ive had dogs run up to me on the street like I’m there long-lost owner. I remember my last dog running away from me in the beach towards a person they could barely see and there began a love fear with a stranger. Anyway, I guess I’m just trying to explain that I recognize you and I love you. 🙂 I’m feeling like a lucky dog!

    You’ve been so incredibly courageous through all of this. I’m so deeply sorry for all the ways you hurt. You are a true example of beauty that comes from within Helen. You will glow with love, compassion, joy for life and so much more no matter your hair style. You will always be loved Helen.

    Thanks so much for your writing. With Love,

    • helenhouse said:

      Well, my lucky dog friend…. your words always move, delight, and inspire me. Thank you for being in my life…………

      So cool about the dream. Thanks for reminding me…………



  17. Vicki Cotter said:

    You are an amazing woman with totally amazing friends. I read your words. Then I read the brilliance and authenticity of your friends responses. And then, just when I’m sure it can’t get any better, jeanny chimes in and I cry. And then I read your responses to each other and I cry some more. So much love. So. Much. Love.

    • helenhouse said:

      Aaaaahh…. what a perfect last comment in a long journey through comments. I’ve loved having this hang there all day. Funny how people like you show up in my life and stick there. What is it that causes that? Is it the goretex? The twinkle in the eyes of two people who love their work and keep getting inspired to discover more? Is it the assumed connection right from the start? I don’t know… but I do believe we’re stuck for good. Lucky we!

      xo, HH

  18. Susan Carlisle said:

    My dear and precious Helen,

    Cutting off my curls was so hard…and I had a choice. I can only imagine how hard this must be and my heart is with you. I so loved the song because it is so true. We think we are what is seen on the outside…what a funny joke and it’s on us.

    When I saw you recently and unexpectedly in the SFO airport, what I immediately saw was you and your beautiful spirit…I didn’t even notice your hair. I saw you and my heart took a leap of joy. That is the impact you have…you make hearts leap for joy. What a gift you are to all of us who know you.

    I mourn with you the loss of your beautiful hair and I celebrate with you the beauty of your soul and spirit. And, watch out, when the hair grows back in it might be curly. Surprises await.

    Love you dearly,

    • helenhouse said:

      OH Susan… what a dear friend you are!

      I love that notion of just seeing someone’s beautiful spirit. I know I do that often. How arrogant of me to think others don’t do the same!
      Thank you for your love, support, tender words, and the vision of CURLS!! 🙂 I’m smiling now!


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