Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Wall I Hit

We all have different ideas about beauty. And we are all vulnerable when those ideas don’t meet reality. Plenty of us fight that extra weight that if we could just lose would help ego just a bit. Some of us struggle with skin or other body issues, but I don’t know one girl or woman who believes that they are beautiful just the way God made them. 

I am no different. That elusive five pounds I wanted to lose, the thicker hair I wanted, the thinner eyebrows, etc. Even when I looked my best, to me it wasn’t enough. I wanted more.

Then life changed. Twists and turns I couldn’t even begin to plot if I was writing fiction came about. The biggest surprise was my body telling me I’d done too much for too long. To make a long story short, my body rebelled. The first six weeks, I was desperate, frantic. I’ve visited doctors of all kinds, always asking the same thing, “Why is my hair falling out and how do I stop it?”
The answers varied, “Sometimes this just happens,” or “it was just a perfect storm,” or “some women after menopause lose their hair,” or “it’s an auto-immune, but we may never know what kind.”

The sense of vulnerability I felt was beyond anything I’ve experienced before. I was powerless to do anything and no doctor seemed to be able to help either. Powerless. And I had no explanation for friends and family, or the students I teach. 

Soon people were asking me what type of cancer I had. Others were wanting to know all the details. But I couldn’t claim the warrior battle I’ve seen so many others go through. I have a new respect for those women who’ve gone through cancer and come out the other end with no hair. They have no idea if their hair will grow back and all the reassurance in the world doesn’t quell the torrent of emotions inside. My guess is every woman who has battled cancer has had to confront the illusion of the word “beauty.” 

For weeks, my prayer was desperate. “Please Lord, stop my hair from falling out.” But that was not His Will. Instead, not only was the hair on top of my head falling out, but also my eyebrows and eyelashes as well. It was clear I was going to need to define a new idea about myself. I remembered a prayer of surrender I was given and I started praying it. 

I had loved ones telling me I was beautiful on the inside. However, I had heard that line more times than I care to remember when I was growing up. I was a homely kid, braces and glasses didn’t help. So I came to think whenever someone said I was beautiful on the inside it meant that I wasn’t on the outside. 

Those weren’t the words I was hoping to hear. One day, while cleaning the hair out of my drain, I began my prayer of surrender. Perhaps the Lord was trying to tell me to focus on my inside beauty.
Then God whispered to me something completely different than I ever expected. It was that His beauty was different than the world’s idea. Humans believe beauty to mean something physical and sometimes emotional. Lambasted by the media, we are never quite happy with ourselves.

But it took a second grader to remind me of something else. She told me she was praying for me. But then she told me, “God doesn’t make junk.” While I’ve never thought of myself as junk, I have always had that nagging thought that I’m not enough. People have verbalized that I’m not good enough throughout my life. And all this time I’ve believed it. 

To add to my journey, I ran into a sign. Literally. I was looking back, not looking forward and I hit a wall with a sign on it. My dad always told me, “Never look back, you can’t go back there anyway.” (God’s sense of humor gets me every time.) And what was on the sign? 

"God’s idea of beauty is not ours."

It took a wall to remind me of something I’d forgotten. God makes us for Him…not to be a runway model or to be desirable for each other. We wander through life believing the lies of what outer beauty can do for us, all the while forgetting that no matter what our looks are, we are all headed on the same journey, being with God after this life.

Looking in the mirror is still painful, I can no longer hide behind the long brown locks I once sported. The prayer of surrender is all that I have. But I am confident. While I’m still coming to grips with the whole surrender concept, it’s the first time since this hair saga began that I have peace. The prayer of surrender is working. What does it all mean? No clue…but I’m guessing I’m about to find out.


Karen O'Keeffe said...

Your message is sticking. I'm sorry you had to go through this experience to gain the insight. I know you have beauty on the inside. Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to converse with you knows that. But you are beautiful on the outside too! Not very fuzzy, but beautiful!πŸ˜‹πŸ˜˜

Rosalinda Lozano said...

Sweet, sweet Loretta. I love you. Forgive me for not knowing the weight you have been carrying. Please know I have never stopped praying for you in all I have witnessed of your life from afar. God bless you and your family with all that you need for salvation. God is good all the time. rl

Danica Favorite said...

Love you! You are one of the most beautiful people I know!

Lina Fletcher said...

Oh sweet Loretta. Beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing. I have been praying for you....and...you ARE beautiful. Xoxo

T. Lane said...

I have missed that B E A U T I F U L face!! Fuck the hair!! Sorry to be so course, but that is just how I really feel. I was bald as a buzzard for about 3 almost 4 years, I think, and I was dying. You, my dearest, may have lost your hair, but you are LIVING! You have a most fabulous life, a family that adores you. Friends (like me) who marvel at your intelligence, insight, beauty (inside and out), humor and amazing capacity to LOVE LOVE LOVE. You ARE love!! And, I have some fantastic head gear that you can borrow until I need it again! All I could think when I initially saw your post/picture was, God, I love her so much. And that, in the end is all there really is. I LOVE YOU!! I love you bald!! I love you no matter what, and I know you love me. We are both suckin' air, have beautiful families and we love, we LOVE, we are loved, we ARE LOVED. I am just so dam grateful that you don't have the bastard cancer! It would have pissed me off to no end if you did and had not shared it at least with me. So, my bald beauty, thank you for what you wrote, it is truly beautiful. And now go write a children's book about a Mom going bald! I love you so much.πŸ˜˜πŸ™πŸΎ❤️✝❤️πŸ™πŸΎ

Stevie said...

T. Lane said it so well, not sure she left anything unsaid, one of the things I truly love about her.

As for you, Loretta, thanks for sharing your story, even though it's a hard one to tell. Beauty is fleeting, your hair may be gone temporarily, but in the end, you will always be YOU...brilliant, eloquent, strong, funny, full of faith, and clearly loved by so many. I appreciate what you wrote, your words will touch many. You will remain in my heartfelt prayers for resolution. God bless.

Loretta Oakes said...

Thank you, friends! I am blessed to have each and every one of you! Love you to the moon and back. :)

Gina Beckman said...

Shady, you are gorgeous and smart and funny. That is all you need in my book. ��

Loretta Oakes said...

Thanks, Gina.

Dianne Daniels said...

Thank you for your willingness to share openly and be vulnerable. You are a true blessing. You have always been beautiful but it has never been because of your hair. You are beautiful because Christ shines in you and through you, and your love is abundant. Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

Loretta Oakes said...

Thanks, Dianne. We all need to keep fighting. My hope is that others struggling with their issues will see we are all in this together. There is POWER in numbers. :)

Kathy Mackel said...

Loretta, I am so sorry you're going through this. I can, however, tell you that this blog post is going to lift the spirit of a friend of mine. Someone you won't meet this side of heaven... you are a true blessing. Truly, m'dear.

Ironically, yesterday I looked in the mirror and told myself my hair was the only good thing about me. You've given me the courage to take a second look. Please continue to be open about your struggles, if you feel led.

Loretta Oakes said...

Oh Kathy, thank you! I will be praying for your friend. We're all in this together, though at times it doesn't feel like it. :)

And PLEASE, do take a second look, because you have always been beautiful to me, Kathy.

Love you...

Paula Canty said...


What a scary and stressful experience to be going through. I do want you to know though, without discounting the anxiety of losing your hair and the frustration and stress from the lack of guidance from the medical professionals, I am so thankful that you are not going through chemotherapy and fighting a terrible cancer. Life really is to be enjoyed one day at a time, and you are an amazing and talented woman who clearly is loved by so many. While today may not be how you would have planned it, I'm so glad you are here being your eloquent self. I pray that you can enjoy the day, each day! I can't wait to have a long over-due cup of coffee with you.
Paula Canty