The Dawn of the Dread

392272_4383437664571_537099055_nIn 2007 Alex & I took off on an adventure. I had ALWAYS wanted to back pack the planet and the kids were with their dad, so for the first time in 19 years I had the ability to do it and took the opportunity. It was the most spectacular 2 years of my entire life.  I have way more to see and pray that another (possibly longer) tour is in my cards.  Fingers and toes crossed.

When we traveled, the way WE liked to do it was to pick a place and stay as long as we liked. We hit places on the way to and from one destination to the next, that sounded cool or that caught our eye on the road. We had the best experience that way. We either slept or rested up or stayed awhile, depending on the vibe and surroundings. Sometimes it was just over night, others (like in the Transkei of South Africal at the Backpackers called Amapondo or at the Sanctuary on Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand it was a full 6 weeks. We spent 12 weeks living in the rice paddies in Ubud, Bali Indonesia doing detox and cleanses and touring the island. Our last stop was Kathmandu Nepal, where we lived (and worked) for 8 solid months. 223291_1055492588024_6070_nMore on that later. There were a ton of amazing people and places in between and it was during those 2 years I increased the ink art on my skin and fell in love with dreads.

In my experience some of the most conscious, intelligent and unique people I’ve met in the world to date (aka., many of the people I want to be more like) were dreadies. Beyond the fact that I find them to be utterly beautiful, I found that most of the dreadie women that I met possessed so many beautiful and attractive qualities; they eminated the kindest and humblest juju, operated in both patience and wisdom…and confidence exuded from them as if simply knew who they were in the room and in the world.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t meet amazing people without dreads.  I did.  I met brilliant, beautiful souls that taught me incredible things that I will cherish for eternity…in every body style, fashion sense, culture, gender, race, creed, color and sexual orientation. However, I didn’t want to become one of them…I wanted to become a dreadie.  I wanted to gain access and acceptance into the dread community and to experience the process, and the freedom. I wanted what they had and there was only one way to get it.

Follow Dawn Wright-deBrantes’s board Dreads on Pinterest.

Fast-forward 7 years, into and through returning to the US, my “come-back” in the business realm, my fall in said realm and the transformative process of scorched-earth days, 3 years of (the other kind of) dread, and a total annihilation of life-as-I-knew it. Gone was my liberty, money, home, car, pretty much everything I’ve worked for for 25 years including the respect I’d earned among my peers…poof…gone. (More on that later) Suffice it to say that I prayed (and still pray) for the wisdom, patience, strength, courage and well…a deeper connection to God & Mother Earth to get through it all, because it’s not even close to done yet. All of the hammering (by self and others) had left me with a desperate need to feel connected to the earth, those women, the travelers and the other side of the planet (where my spirit and body healed once) and I simply could not/cannot/choose not to go there physically at this time without paying a price I’m simply not willing to pay. I longed/long 554761_3566823729733_1364221945_nfor; the drums and wildlife of Africa and the seas, pirates and islands of Thailand, the volcanoes and rice paddies of Bali and the healing waters, fire and freedom of them all. However, I needed them delivered to my landlocked doorstep right here in Arkansas. I wanted dreads. I needed them.  I needed to do this for all of the reasons above.
But, (yep, there wasn’t just one “but”… there was a huge list of them…which was why I hadn’t done it in years 1 through 7!) I had grown up a hair bear since birth and have toted long, silky hair most of my life…so my pull to tangle it all into individualized “rat’s nests” and the knowledge that I would either have to cut or endlessly untangle them if I didn’t like them was terrifying.  I wrestled with myself over the decision (I decided to get married without blinking…but THIS? This was my HAIR! 🙂 (get the picture?) So, I made the jump…with both feet…after torturing myself over it for a solid 7 years. 🙂

I am happy to say that I am finally a full-fledged dread-head. At 18 months into the process I have gone through every emotional response I can have to them.  I have experienced triumph, exhilaration, frustration, pain, relief…and many more (some all of the above in a single day.) I talk to them and refer to them like they are living, breathing entities with mind of their own (notice the use of “them” instead of “it” which is how I used to refer to my hair.) This is a totally accurate pronoun however, because they are alive and have a serious mind of their own!10404664_10203735268042663_333818943_o

I have to say that without a few killer YouTube tutorials and Pintrest pics that gave me a tip or ten – and ALOT of Tiger Balm for my tendonitis and arthritis 🙂 – I would’ve given up.  I read somewhere that baby and toddler dreads under 2 years old were just that…”unruly toddlers.” I want whoever wrote that to know that THAT one statement actually supported me in keeping them and sticking it out.  I am closing in on the 2 year mark and sincerely look forward to it.  I (more than anything) look forward to my super long 8yr dreads that I can pile up perfectly without so much tucking.
When I began on this journey, I thought “piece of cake” – but the first year was a TON of work.  I don’t have a head of hair that simply tangled and said “oh hey…no problem” when I teased it. I have a head of SUPER healthy, shiny, beautiful hair that many people ooo’d and aaaahhhh’d over so it was resistant (and still can be) to simply staying put. I enjoy not HAVING to wash it all the time – but when I do…I look like Garfield coming out of the fluff cycle of a tumble dryer. 🙂 Thank you layers and breakage.  I color my hair every 4-6 weeks with a temporary color because I hate the big line of regrowth – but I could 2014-08-23 17.46.24use the damage (damaged hair dreads easier) so it’s a lot of learning to think differently.  I think the most significant thing I’ve realized about dreading my hair was the attachments and projections that OTHER people had/have to my hair and that so MANY people react to them – either positively…or negatively.
I once had a man I’d never met call me a rooster and tell me I look stupid.  I had to refrain from my NY Italian hot-bloodedness taking over and DIDN’T tell him that “at least I can fix my hair” with the seething up and down look thing. (See Exhibit A. Growth) 🙂  I DID however question why what I chose to do with my hair (being a woman he didn’t know and has no relationship to whatsoever) bothered him so much that he would socially accost and demean another human being with the desire to make them feel bad?  I mean seriously…why would he care?  I then realized that he ALSO had an ego SO BIG that he felt that somehow I would care enough to change my hair for HIM.  LOL People can be really silly.
Then there was family.  Alex and I have one rule really.  It’s “I go…You go.” So, I asked if he would go with me, he said “sure” and he did.  3 weeks later he had taken every last dread out of his head.  He hated them in every way. I was on my own.  My hair was almost touching my ass and that left me humbled and begging for the support of my family (and specifically Alex)2014-03-23 17.18.27 when I knew that each one took at LEAST an hour to just get SORTA done. One of my daughters resisted me fully.  I have pictures of her resting “I’m so pissed I’m doing this” face.  See Exhibit B  on the right (gulp).
My Cancerian daughter (who despises change) was really angry with me over it 18 months ago…but seemingly (hopefully)
loves them as much as I do now.  (I don’t actually know that, because I’m afraid to ask).  Sometimes I find it’s simply easier
not to ask and assume the positive feedback exists silently (the alternative is that I would have to not care which I’m certain is more in-line with the point of dreads.). My other two off-spring decided it was cool in a hot second and I’m SO grateful for all of my family’s support because they and “they” mean the world to me.
On the flip side of the resistance of others, other dreadies, and people who understand fully the commitment they are and what it means internally to dread ones hair, are insta-family. 🙂 That part truly rocks. My first first experience of it what when I was 6 months in.  I was extending them so I didn’t look ridiculous for my son’s wedding and I had business to look semi-professional for.  Enter this guy on a massive fork-lift at a vape event in Las Vegas. I hear a booming “YO DREADIE SISTAH!!” and I look up 40ft up and there is a beautiful dreadie male of some SouthEast Asian heritage who pounds his fist to his heart twice and yells; “RESPECT on the dreads!” I beamed like sunshine the rest of the day.  I never got a chance to thank him.
I suppose that’s where a great deal of the growth and spirituality inherent in this process comes from. There is little understanding out there in the first world about dreads.  People thought I’d be dirty, that I wouldn’t care anymore about my appearance and that I would be the apology they’d have to make at the next dinner party. Some of the members of my family thought I had done lost my mind.  My BFF who own a salon in CT (who I count on for support on all of my “looking good” stuff) also thought it was a terrible idea. She simply didn’t like dreads. So those things made the decision to take the plunge ALL about ME.  What did I want and what did I think?  I wanted dreads.  I knew why.  I thought they’d look awesome and Gypsy HippieDivathat I could totally pull them off.  Fashion + spirituality.  I’ve never had my HAIR actually MEAN something until now.
I’ve never really been the fitting-in type.  I’m more of a “step-up and stand out” personality, so I want everything about me to be unique and to represent who I am, and who I intend to be.  I find conformity deadly to creativity and believe FULLY in self-expression through every available channel which for me, includes my accessories. It’s a true state of beingness.  So for me…this an extremely worthy process to undergo.
To the countless women (and quite a few men) who have walked up to me and marveled, touched and communicated how much they love my dreads and want them themselves, thank you.  Thank you for being my “feel good”, balcony people.  They get me through the maintenance days and the times I want to cry over not having thought through the water-jet head massage. 🙂 They keep me going…really.
I will do my best to offer advice on dread products, how to dread, dread maintenance, dread frizz and dread resources…as an ongoing series and as I have it – it will be yours.  I commit to do my very best to save you some of the headaches (both literally and figuratively) that come flying solo with this process, by writing about what I have found did and did NOT work for me in upcoming posts (pinky swear). However, I’m saving that for another day and another post. It’s time to water our BRAND NEW GARDEN!! (Thanks to Carrie Delaney – Pintrest cdelaney77) for all of her amazing tips and her leading me to: How to use pallets (instead of tilling!!) Woooo Hoooo! My Whole30 just got $600 a month cheaper :).
Always remember to love yourself unconditionally.
Once you can do that, you can unconditionally love others.
We all have our own shit to deal with, it goes with the territory.
Learn the lesson. Put the hammer down.
Ignore the haters.
Learn to hear and accept solid feedback given in safe space with humility and gratitude.
There’s a big difference between the two.
Know who you are.  If you don’t…go figure it out.
Choose to be comfortable in your own skin.  It’s yours…you may as well wear it with confidence.
If you don’t like something…change it.  You created it and you can eliminate it.
The choice is ALWAYS YOURS.
That’s it for now,
I’m outta here! Peace…xo