Here’s what happened. I sat down in my hair stylist’s chair to get a much needed haircut and as she draped me in forest green plastic (and I, looking in the mirror, thought, “hey, forest-green plastic is not a horrible look on me”), she asked, “Is there anything new?”

The first thing that popped into my head was the love project, but as I watched her in the mirror fastening the drape, rolling her tools closer, pumping my seat up to a more comfortable hair-cutting height, I got self-conscious. I told her I was days away from finishing the final revisions of my manuscript.

She said, “That’s wonderful!” and asked about the next steps and we talked for a minute or two about that, but I wasn’t really there. I was lost in my hesitation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m beyond excited to be this close to a finished manuscript. I know that I’ve written the exact novel I meant to write, that it is as perfect as I can make it and that I’ve told the story I’ve carried around inside me for years as only I can tell it.But my hairdresser knows about Beautiful Lives. I’ve told her about the novel and about writing the novel and about becoming someone new in the process.

Strictly speaking, my manuscript is not “new,” but my love project is, and it’s what popped into my head, and it bothered me that I’d felt too self-conscious to tell her about it. I was worried she would think it was silly, or frivolous, or naive, or (God forbid) earnest. (How sad that so many very, very smart people in my world prefer snark to sincere hopefulness. How sad that I clearly buy into it, embarrassed by my own goofy optimism.)

I don’t remember now how I brought it up, but I think it was more or less a blurt, a clumsy non sequitur, like “In 2011 I’m trying to love fearlessly.” What I do remember is how she stopped cutting my hair for a second and looked interested, and how I rushed to fill the silence before her expression could change into something less supportive. And I remember how it felt, sliding into the coffee shop story and my public declaration of a year-long project, gaining momentum as I talked about January and my crisis of confidence and the outpouring of love and encouragement you all gave me.

We talked about hugging and I said that everyone, even the people who made me most nervous, acted surprised and then delighted when I asked for a hug. She said people love hugs. She said that sometimes she hugs her daughters (18 and 21) and she just waits for them to let go first, and usually they do fairly quickly, but sometimes they don’t for a long time, and I got goosebumps when she said that.

And we talked about how the world needs more kindness and how people get so wrapped up in their belief systems that they don’t even recognize their own intolerance and isolation. We talked about the economy and how scary it is and how we can get so fearful we withdraw. “Until someone hugs us,” I said, and she laughed and so did I, and we most definitely hugged on my way out the door.

Driving home, I felt so… buoyed, buzzing with the hum of connection. My hairdresser has been cutting my hair for years, but we’ve never had a conversation like that. That was a sort of bittersweet realization, and with it came my decision to be all-in with this love project. No more worrying about the cynics (especially because I think maybe they need me to be a badass love warrior most of all).

I came home and I wrote a love project manifesto. And then I started mapping out a plan. A bigger, braver, scarier plan. I feel like a woman on a mission.

This is going to be fun.

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