The Nose Knows

It started today.  And I never saw it coming. I was going through my morning routine.  Visit restroom.  Brush teeth.  Shave.  Shower. Put on clothes.  Deodorant.  Fix hair.

But somewhere between clothes and deodorant, I got distracted.  As I turned my head I caught a glimpse of something in the mirror.  Like a flash of light.  Or an apparition.

What was that?

I turned my head again.  Leaned in this time.  At a certain angle, the light caught something protruding from my nose.

Upon further inspection, it was a hair.

A long hair.


* Hindsight being 20/20, I could have used one of these snazzy finger-shaped trimmers.  Boy does this fella' look happy!

How could I not have seen that before, I thought.  It was obvious that this hair was lost.  God had intended for this hair to grow from the top of my head, or at the very least, an eyebrow, but it hit a detour somewhere inside my melon and wound up in my schnoz.

At this point there was only one thing to do.  I had to remove the wayward follicle.  As most of you know (and don’t even try to deny it), there is no elegant way to do this.  Lacking any of the proper implements, or even a pair of hedge clippers, I simply grabbed tightly with thumb and forefinger and pulled.

* Even this solution would have been an improvement

What came next was an audible *snap* followed by a searing pain emanating from the core of my body.  I appears that this hair had been growing since my second birthday, taking root in my spleen and meandering through my central nervous system throughout my lifetime, finally breaking through to daylight this past Memorial Day.

My eyes watered.  My knees buckled.  My sinuses cleared.  I am fairly certain this is what childbirth would feel like if God had chosen to place a uterus in all our foreheads.

When I recovered my faculties, I looked down at the offending party.  It was no ordinary hair.  It was abnormally shaped.  Thin at one end, then fat in the middle, then thin and slightly curled at the other end.  Like a mythical tree from a Dr. Seuss book.  I’m sure if I sliced it, I could have counted the rings to determine its age.

Slightly rattled, I put the hair in the trash, and went about my routine.

Later, in the car, my mind flashed to images of guys I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Guys whose noses are home to dozens of these crazy hairs.  Guys who looked like they spent hours sniffing dryer lint screens.  And the common thread with all of them is that they are all closer to the end of their lives than the beginning.

And that’s when it hit me.

One day we wake up and realize we’ve crossed that threshold - moving from “growing up” into “getting old.”  For some of us it’s a birthday celebration.  For others, it’s living through a crisis.

And for me, it was a hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t think I am as “grown up” as I need to be.  This post is testament to that fact.  I firmly believe that you spend your entire life learning, and you don’t come to understand what it’s all about until that magical moment when The Great Rogaine Master In The Sky calls you home.  At 38 years young, I am far from that, God willing.  But there is good chance that I have more years behind me than I do in front of me.

Coming to grips with your own mortality can do one of two things to a person.  Choice #1: it can cause you to look at your life and compare your contributions to those of others.  Like a couple of weeks ago when Shaquille O’Neal (also 38 years old) retired from the NBA.  This little newsy nugget led me to realize that my dreams of NBA stardom would likely never come true, adding age to that long list of limiting factors including lack of jumping ability, endurance, strength, size and full body tattoos.  And unfortunately, that’s the case with this perspective.  When we choose to compare ourselves to famous people like Mother Teresa or Warren Buffet, and feel like we have woefully fallen short, the end result is a bad case of the “blahs.”

It’s defeatist thinking.  Sadly, a lot of us go there.

Choice #2 is to look at the time we’ve spent on earth and remember all we’ve learned.  The lessons of life.  Experience gained.  The strength we’ve built celebrating successes and facing down failure.  The anxiety that accompanies this line of thinking is not that we feel we haven’t measured up.  Rather, we’re anxious because we feel like there’s something more.  A way for us to connect our experience and our values to our work.  A yet untapped purpose that’s been growing since your second birthday.  Taking root in your soul and meandering its way through your nervous system.  Ready to burst forth in an unexpected place.

Time for another good, long look in the mirror, I think.

***  I would love to hear from those of you who have plucked far more crazy hairs than I have.  What unexpected purpose have you found, and how did you stumble upon it?