How I learned self-care from the woman who does my hair

Today, as I was out running an errand for work and picking up a new funeral bulletin, I stopped in to see my hairdresser and make an appointment. Actually, she’s more than the woman who does my hair, she’s also my part-time admin at the church and my friend. I walked into the shop and glanced around at all the women in the chairs in their various stages of hair work and went around the corner to her area–which was empty!  I could hear her giggling, though, with her infectious laugh. She was in another woman’s chair having her hair dyed and was laughing at me for just scanning past her.

Now, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with self-care. Actually, it has everything to do with it. You see, I am a typical pastor and have just done what a typical pastor does–post pone and reschedule my vacation because of a minor crisis at the church. It was, indeed, a worthy reason to reschedule and I have zero regret over doing it, but it is certainly not the first or last personal sacrifice I’ve made. I’m not making myself out to be a martyr by any means, but this is the kind of vocation where one day you’re making reasonable adjustments in your personal life to accommodate church needs and the next you’re living and breathing solely at the church, trying to use your house key to get into the building because you might as well call that home and have completely neglected your body, mind, personal life and, perhaps most critically, your spirit. So careful discernment and stewardship of ones own life is tricky.

And today, I realized what a great example of ‘self-care’ (a phrase I despise, but that is for a future rant) right there in the beauty shop chair, giggling and looking hilarious with her short spikey hair coated in dye. First, let me say that she is not perfect. She’s not a saint by any means, but she is good. She works hard and does a lot of stuff for other people.  I can’t count how many times she’s done extra things for the church or the times I’ve seen her give a free haircut to a college student because she knew they really didn’t have extra money. But here’s what else she does: she takes care of herself.

How many times have we heard the old adage that the plumber’s toilet is never repaired or the auto mechanic’s wife has a car that won’t run?  Well, it’s true for pastors as well. Ultimately, ‘self-care’ for a pastor, perhaps for all of us, is centered in good stewardship of ourselves and that can’t be possible without good spiritual health. But oh how often our spiritual life becomes like the plumber’s toilet! 

But my hairdresser always has nice hair! Always. It is never the mechanic’s wife’s car. She treats her hair as well as she does her clients. Shocking, actually, when you look at anecdotal evidence for the way most people behave. But in the end, it isn’t selfishness or self advertisement or any other self-agrandizing purpose that motivates her. It’s because she likes hair. She likes her job. In fact, she’d say she is called to do just what she does and she might be one of the few people I know who can actually say those things. She takes care of her own hair because she likes it.

Oh. Sounds awfully simple, doesn’t it? But really, why did I become a pastor? Because I believe God called me through the church to do it. Because I like it. In fact, I’d say I do it because I love God. So caring for my spiritual health–and in turn, my entire life–is no more selfish than my hairdresser getting her own hair done. She does it, and I do it because we love it. I got into this ‘business’ because I loved God, loved doing things God called me to do, loved talking to God, loved spending time with God.

So now, every time I see her hair, I think of my own spiritual life and doing the things I love. And maybe that’s where ‘self care’ begins: with what we love.

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