Lessons from nails and gray hair

I think this pandemic is starting to work some kind of voodoo magic on me. First it grounded me, no more weekly flights, then it seemingly caged me, in my house, no more tidy hotel rooms and in my year dedicated to Freedom according to my vision board, that is what I call irony!

Woman hand on mountain background. Volcano Batur. Bali island. Indonesia

 Now, weeks into this I am physically changing. On and off over the years, I have gotten my nails done, sometimes I think they look ridiculous but most of the time I like being able to make them a different color every three weeks and have them be long, something they never seem to do on their own.  My husband has always been the biggest reason I got them done since he likes them for head scratching.


Over the last few years I have had them on, click, click, click all day every day they hit the keys on my laptop since I am on my computer much of the time for my business I had gotten used to that sound. A few weeks ago, when the first one finally came loose, I got some acetone at the pharmacy, soaked them and peeled them off. It is never pleasant coming face to face with the damage done of my own volition. After years of no sunlight or oxygen my nails were paper thin, and the upper two thirds of them that had been covered by the acrylic nail showed the remnants of being filed down and roughed up every 3 weeks or so.  As I look at them they seem to represent the wore down, used up version of me, the one who was always on the go, fitting life into the weekend, my life twisted and rinsed to get the very last second out of it, my nails look the same.


With polished nails gone and my paper-thin layers healing slowly, no more bright orange toes even, smiling up at me in flip flops and now each day as I type on my laptop I feel the keys on the pads of my fingertips, a much more solid connection to the keyboard and more of a thud sound than the previous click, click, click high pitched noise.  I actually find the sound difference much more calming, more purposeful somehow.


Finally, these last few weeks I am also having to come to terms with the gray hair making its way up my part.  I could get a color from my stylist and do my roots myself to cover up the gray but as she and I have talked about several times over the past few years, I was curious to know exactly how gray I had really become. While she had told me over and over again that it is not as bad as I think, now that I can see it for myself, I need to inform her that, yes, it is exactly as bad as I think, perhaps even a little worse but as I assessed it in the mirror this last weekend, sending her a photo of my roots, talking about whether we should just start to blend to the gray I just realized that I am happier coloring them. Plain and simple, I don’t feel my age and I would prefer to look how I feel not given in to time just because it wants to make it’s time felt in my follicles.  How I look is not at all my reason for being and I have so much more to contribute than worrying about covering some gray hair but recognizing what makes me happy and making sure that I am caring for my happiness is important.  While I will not likely go back to getting my nails done since I was doing that for someone else, I am going to color my hair because that I have always done for me.


This pandemic has brought many adjustments to my life, easier maintenance of my looks, less makeup, more questioning of what I spend money on and the value that spending actually brings to me. I have fixed items that I had been getting billed for but wasn’t using, I think our total savings tab is up to about $350 per month in that category alone. All of the little subscriptions, the little amounts that over time you may not pay attention to, they add up.  Just like all of those nail appointments added up, not just in money but in time, in gas spent to go to the salon, time sat in a car on a crowed freeway to get there and get back, all of it now saved.


I have begun to take more walks in my neighborhood, the weather has turned beautiful, everything is in blossom, the birds are having an absolute party outside, has it always been like this, I wonder. I find it hard to believe that I missed these walks for time spent on the 5 freeway in heavy traffic to get my nails ground down and painted bright blue or orange.


As governors and mayors begin to talk about relaxing rules, I find myself torn. Yes, I was happy that the beach opened back up so we could take walks there but do I want everything to go back to the way it was, to sitting on a packed freeway to get anywhere, allowing an extra 30-45 minutes to get somewhere that right now you can get to in 15 minutes.  Yes, I do want to be able to leave my house, travel to see my children or visit friends but do I want to go back to the pace of life the way it was, no, I don’t, not for one second I don’t. My un-nailed, gray haired self still has things to notice, things to clean up, organizing to be done and birds to listen to so let’s take this journey back to the hamster wheel a little slowly, let’s make sure that each step is actually one that we want to be making. I hope we don’t blindly just jump on!


  1. Katharine Johnson on May 5, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I love this and all the imagery you so deftly put before us – it really brings it home.

    • Renee Cantor on May 5, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you Katharine!

  2. Janet Kornblum on May 5, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Love this Renee . You definitely capture the zeitgeist of the moment.