Friday, July 5, 2013

Cafe Gray - It Can Change Your Life

Let's face it, to transition to grey you need a support team; cheerleaders who are going to get excited about your progress. That's where the Silver Sisters' forum (better known as Cafe Gray) comes in.

I'm going to go a few steps back in time. A little over two years ago my mom (a beautiful silver sister) was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. One would think that year was the worst of my life but in that year I got to live with her for three months while she received treatment, we took day trips together every weekend, I saw her more than I have in years (me living in different time zones than my family), and she felt good most of the time. I had a daily checklist to make sure she had taken her medications and laughter was always a mandatory to be checked off.

It wasn't until she passed away a little over a year later that the worst year of my life occurred. She remains the best friend I ever had- my number one supporter and confidante. I have talked to her every day of my life and to say that I miss her is a tragic understatement. There's a hole that no number of people could fill.

Anyone that has had a great loss understands this and also sees that in the worst year of their lives it is also the greatest growth in their lives as well. You really prioritize what's important and so much becomes unimportant as more and more of your ego evaporates. But in all this growth you're just plain exhausted - you could sleep 15 hours a day. Exercise falls to the wayside, weight increases, and you don't know if the light will be on at the end of the tunnel. This is where I was 10 months ago when I decided to stop coloring my hair. The weight has barely decreased but life is starting to normalize for me once again.

Now I have some pretty fabulous friends (this includes my sister and my step dad who have been my rock through this). Some have been through the loss of a parent or their parent is going through cancer, some have just helped me to try new things and take spur of the moment vacations. Some have been shoulders to cry on and others have tolerated my bad habit of always being late. But there's another set of supporters I want to highlight: the Silver Sisters.

When I decided to go grey I googled and came upon this forum. It's a free membership and most people introduce themselves on the Class of '13 page in the Newbies section. There are countless tips on products, dealing with grey hair and your career, growing your hair out, transitioning from a flat iron to letting your curly hair go natural, etc.  But the most important thing you find there is support.

There are thousands of members from all over the world on that forum. You will get no less than 50 posts a day on just the Class of '13 page alone. And here's the phenomenon: they're all positive and aimed at building up women. Now I've come across less than a handful of negative comments and a few tantrums but it's an anomaly; this site is really about highlighting how beautiful all women are.

This seems somewhat commonplace until you really think about it. In the US we are constantly surrounded by advertising that airbrushes supermodels. We have this perception that it would take every beauty cream, personal trainer, expensive piece of clothing, and makeup option to try to get close to this. But the reality sets in to this unattainable goal and we realise that plastic surgery is the only answer if we want to obtain this photoshopped ideal. I'm not saying we all drink the Kool-aid on every area but we do on quite a few. And who are the best advocates and reinforcers of this advertising? Women. Women will make faces at your skunk stripe, or your clothing a la Target, or your broad hips, or your lack of tan. They scrutinize each other until you can no longer pick out the one compliment in the series of negative comments.

So when you go to a place like Cafe Gray and countless women are commenting on how amazing your silver looks and giving advice and support about how to navigate through the rough patches... well, it's addictive! At first it's addictive to be around all the love and support. Then it becomes addictive to build others up. And then the unthinkable happens: this positive energy spreads throughout other areas in your life.

I've noticed a change occurring in me where I look to the positive aspects of my friends, I compliment strangers on a regular basis, I don't focus as much on the one negative comment thrown my way but look at the 20 positives, and I think I'm just more pleasant to be around. Men approach me a lot more, for one. But maybe my greatest test is how my Sheltie is around me. Dogs are energy sponges and they absorb whatever energy you give out. If I'm depressed, so is my dog; if I'm sick, she worries. Now that I have this positivity she snuggles close and cuddles more than she ever has in eight years. I see this as my own personal measure of inner growth.

I owe a lot of this to the Silver Sisters on Cafe Gray. In the first 7 months of your transition you're on there almost every day. And as you learn this positivity and it becomes a norm in your life, you start to release the daily chats to a few times a week and slowly release the comments to the next batch of newbies, as was once done to you by your predecessors. But I will always have a soft spot for my Silver Sisters and am grateful to them for providing a light at the end of the tunnel.

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