Living in the Gray Zone

The truth is gray.

The truth is gray.

Looking in the mirror these days, mortality winks at me as I notice the increasing gray, scraggly hairs at my crown. Life has been a little busy these days and the last thing I’ve had time for is fixing my gray roots. Oh, well … I’ll get to it eventually. But I will get to it. 

I have a few friends who have fully given in and accepted the gray, and they look fabulous. Each is as smart, striking, confident and beautiful with her silvery mane as she was before. More so, perhaps, because each gals has that beautiful quality of women in their 50s who knows who she is and just doesn’t give a what any more about anything other people think about her.

I’m going in soon to refresh my look and my color, but deep inside, I want to be the woman who accepts her gray hair gracefully and with pride. I’m just not there yet. I’m afraid gray hair will wash out my already pale coloring, leaving me all but invisible. (I mean, more invisible than a middle-aged woman already is.)

I’m a little disappointed in myself at shying away from gray. After all, I pride myself in living in the “gray zone.” I am not an absolutist on many things; I don’t really look at the world in black and white terms. I’m a big believer in “everything in moderation.” (Even though my oldest brother claims that “moderation can be overdone.”) I believe that sanity is in the middle. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. 

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but an Independent. (With all that’s going on in politics these days, do you blame me?) I am completely exhausted by the chronic “othering” of folks on either end of the spectrum, vilifying “those Republicans” or “those Democrats,” as if each was a faceless, genderless, soulless thing. I know and love people with whom I do not entirely agree on matters of politics. Are these people evil or stupid or hell bent on ruining America? No. They just have different, well thought out opinions than I do. What’s the matter with that? Being what the media seems to think is a rare breed these days, a moderate, I have learned this and that from either side of all these roiling debates. I know there are more of us out here. The truth lies in the middle. I personally think our president is a pig, a ham-fisted, narcissist who has an adolescent’s temperament and is completely confounding in his communications. I would not invite him over for dinner, but I think he’s doing some things that make sense. Taking China to task for their misdeeds, for one. I think no one should be discriminated against for anything and that we should all just live and let live. Everyone needs to just chill the hell out. But I also think that “identity politics” is tearing our country apart, separating us into little fiefdoms, instead of uniting us into a village.

I believe that we are a proud country of immigrants, built and made great by our diversity and that we should make it easier for folks to immigrate legally. But I think we do need a coherent immigration policy that has rules about illegal immigrants that is humane and empathetic, while also protecting the safety of our country and its citizens. I still tear up at the Statue of Liberty poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Take care of folks who need refuge and they will be forever grateful and loyal to America. As far as politics is concerned, sanity is in the middle. (Please! Send us someone in the middle!!)

I consider myself a Catholic, but I’d say I’m a gray zone, “cafeteria Catholic.” I’ve got serious issues with the patriarchy of the church and its inability to get on top of this abuse scandal. Most times I go to mass, I am saddened to see only men in charge. Jesus’ most loyal followers were women, after all. They were the ones at the foot of the cross and the ones who showed up to wash his body, were visited by angels and discovered the Resurrection. When I see coverage of the goings on at the Vatican, to only see men shuffling about and not cleaning up the huge mess there… Well, it’s very dispiriting, to say the least. But I pray, go to church very irregularly, I’m a fan of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the Beatitudes, and the New Testament. I am Jesuit-educated (much to the chagrin of my conservative father who thought the Jesuits were a little “way out”) and I still call myself a Catholic. But I also believe that God speaks to us through other religions, through methods of meditation, yoga, nature. Why wouldn’t he/she? As far as I’m concerned, God lives in the gray zone. (And probably rocks gray hair … Just ask Michelangelo).

I’m pretty gray zone about dieting, never been one to adhere to strict dictates. All my life, as soon as I try to lose weight by going on a fad diet, all I can think about is food and I end up gaining weight. Lately, my body is telling me it’s not a fan of gluten, so I avoid it. But sometimes bread or pasta just needs to be eaten. Raised in a big family, I’ve grown accustomed to eating pretty much anything put before me. But as an adult, I do choose my food mindfully. I mean, life is short, man. Eat good food!

Exercise and being fit has always been important to me, but you know … when I have time. Like my sister-in-law once said about running marathon, “I don’t even do things that feel good for three hours.” I like to move, and break a sweat. But I also love my sleep and, and when my kids are in town from school, allow myself to lie around and watch Netflix with them all day. Too much of that, though, and my body gets sore and achy, so I get moving again. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

This Marie Kondo method of purging one’s house of all nonessential things is indeed inspiring. That kind of thing has been at the top of my New Year’s Resolution lists every year. And yet, my junk drawers are all full of, well, junk. (Let’s be honest: all my drawers are junk drawers). I really want to be the person who wants to do all that. I want to be OCD just a couple of days a month, so I can get that crap done. But so far, no luck. I’m hanging out in the gray zone with some organized drawers, some labeled boxes, and piles of random stuff like family movies from fifty years ago and piano books from my childhood hanging out in the corner of the living room, waiting for a home. Some rooms are more organized than others. Oh well. 

So, does all this mean that I am wishy washy? A flip flopper? A moral relativist, with no conviction or true beliefs? On the contrary. I believe most people feel passionate about some things, and let other things go because they’re too busy working, laughing, crying, raising their kids and living to get all bothered by someone who has differing opinions on politics, religion, or hair color, for that matter. The media and politicians want to whip us into a frenzy, to choose hard sides. But I think that most people who are strict absolutes about things just aren’t listening, really hearing what the opposition has to say. My hunch is that there are many more “gray zone” folks like me. 

But I am going to color that hair.