I recently trimmed my beard.
I wouldn’t usually consider such a thing worthy of a passing comment, let alone a post, except that– well, a few things.
First, I used to have a rather big beard, so the difference is notable. My niece even said she didn’t recognize me when she first saw me afterwards!
Second, in the religious circles I often frequent, wearing a long beard can also be a religious act. Kabbalistically, some consider the beard to be a conduit through which G*d passes blessings, so one would not want to diminish it in anyway. Also, Jewish law has some things to say about touching a razor to one’s face, and the corners of one’s hair (although it’s possible to shave without those issues coming to bear).
Third, often when people make a large change to their appearance it reflects some inner change, so my friends ask, “Has something important changed?”
Fourth, I’m planning a visit back to Minnesota, and some of my friends there may feel it has something to do with changes in my life (getting married, moving to California, etc).
So I thought it might be helpful just to write my thoughts about it here, rather than repeat myself many times if/when folks ask.
Many months ago I noticed that the long beard felt like it was getting in my way physically, in a way it never had before. I kept feeling irritation when it got pulled on, or dipped into food, or when the ends brushed my eyes and my face. For me, that kind of irritation can be a sign of some inner shift, so I asked inside to see what might be happening. And there were several things:
- Socially, I noticed that here in California folks reacted to my beard as more of a “statement” than I had felt it was in Minnesota, and I felt it creating distance between myself and other people as a result. That surprised me, since, if anything, I would expect the Californians to be more easy-going about lifestyle choices. Perhaps it had more to do with the overall perception of the beard as a religious statement, and the assumption of rigid, dogmatic views?
- Psychologically, in accessing some old trauma issues from childhood, I was feeling the need to express some very young feelings and memories. Somehow that was harder to do with a large beard (which is more associated with age and wisdom, I suppose).
- Spiritually, I am in a period of openness and growth, and somehow the long beard felt associated with a settled energy. I felt an itch to stir things up a bit and be less fettered.
So for many months I let the idea percolate to see how it might settle out.
My wife has been wonderfully supportive of whatever choices work for me, which has made things much easier. I know many men whose partners have strong preferences that influence their choices when it comes to facial hair.
So this past December I took out the trimmer and bought an electric shaver, and now here we are. The man on the left now looks like the man on the right.
I still don’t have much hair on the top. :> But I in the past many weeks I have felt that the trimmed beard is somehow “right” for my current stage, and I feel lighter and more energetic in the ways I was hoping to.
So here’s a toast to authenticity and making changes when the inner guide suggests them.
And let’s keep grinning and enjoying the ride. With whatever facial accoutrement feels right.