[“Glorious You” – Frank Turner]
Surprisingly enough, I did not start out an avid reader. Many people would be shocked to learn that I initially hated reading because I was quite slow to learn and, to be honest, I don’t deal well with being bad at something I have worked so hard to master. The first books I read and truly enjoyed were from a series, by Gerald Morris, about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (fantastic “YA” books, still very accessible to regular ole’ “A”s). These books, plus my Navy Brat upbringing, helped create a solid belief system based around the importance and necessity of armor; of personal protection from the things that wish to do you harm.
As we know, life quite frequently seeks to do us harm. Coping mechanisms, sarcasm, and a solid concept of self worth are our mental versions of armor; but there’s nothing wrong with decking yourself out in physical representations of your strength, when necessity demands it.
My own silly theories on what should constitute my physical armor started, funnily enough, with Calvin and Hobbes:
C&H has always been a favorite of mine but this comic was just strangely abstract, yet matter-of-fact, enough to stick with me through the years. Calvin had lucky underpants. Simple. Silly. Effective. He wore them when he felt he needed a little extra boost in his day (literally, since they were rocket ships). No one had to see them, no one had to know he felt the need to wear them, it was enough for him to know that they were there. Beautiful.
Believing this to be brilliant, I took this idea for my own and ran with it—just modifying it to my own purposes. So, here I am, a 7+ year champion and spokesperson for Wonder Woman underwear*. There’s a saying: “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it…” Well, I’d like to say that I put on my Wonder Woman underwear, and I ROCK it. The act of putting on this necessary piece of clothing, with an additional silly but meaningful purpose, is my literal act of strapping on my chain mail and shield—of steeling myself for the tasks ahead (this may be t.m.i., but we all know we wear them…most of the time… so why not make it fun? I hope I have not offended anyone’s delicate sensibilities).
Such a proponent, am I, of the magic of Wonder Woman underwear, that I actually have a few converted followers… My mother among them. These undergarments may or may not have been her Christmas present this past year. So, as she has steadfastly dedicated herself, along with the rest of my wonderful family, to my grandmother’s round-the-clock care, these (usually) unmentionables have been brought up quite often as an in-joke. Leading to the point where, when my mom had to put her foot down with an aggressive and disrespectful nurse, my mom confessed her pride, to my grandmother, after the fact that she was able to manage such a show of moxie despite wearing only run-of-the-mill underoos… My grandmother’s response? “Well, just imagine what you could have done if you WERE wearing them!” I may have become a little verklempt. I am so proud.
*It’s important to note that, like rocket ships, Wonder Woman is not to be employed for every day use—her services are to be reserved for the days when I need a damn lasso of truth and some super-shiny wrist cuffs that will deflect bullets. They are for the days when I need to kick ass and take names (it’s always important to establish rules, especially for arbitrary systems you have mandated for yourself).
Taking it One Step Further
Sometimes, though, as we have seen, the Wonder Woman (or rocket ship) underwear just don’t cut it. Sometimes, you need souvenirs from the edge of fear. Not just a reinforcement that you CAN do it, but a reminder that you DID.
Therefore, I recently created my own award system for when I feel I have done something brave (again, arbitrary systems require rules—particularly when they have a “Treat Yo’ Self” vibe—it’s important not to go overboard). This system stemmed from when I forced myself, a few months ago, to attend a group therapy session for depression (well really, if we are going to be honest, it also stemmed a bit from an inclination toward retail therapy and my addiction to earrings, but I digress)… I forced myself to attend an incredibly liberating session with the LiveWell Philly Foundation and may have found it necessary to empower myself beforehand, and celebrate my fortitude, with some earrings from my favorite store—which just happened to be just around the corner from the meeting location in Rittenhouse Square (whaddup Tselaine?!). Kismet.
Since employing this system, I have purchased four pairs of Bravery Earrings. Each is pictured above. I’ve joked with friends that the pointy qualities of 3/4 of these earrings clearly indicate my subconscious desire to stab something… But that’s neither here not there. Each represents an instance where I conquered a fear:
Instance One: The first, and appropriately largest, were my inaugural purchase which I jauntily wore into that therapy session. A group meeting where I admitted to strangers that I am the very opposite of put together. I admitted, to people I had never met before, something I struggle to talk about with my closest friends.
Instance Two: The second, and pointiest, pair, was purchased a week after my separation. I was on a business trip to Los Angeles and, a mere three months after finally securing my driver’s license (the egregious delay in securing this, largely necessary, accouterment of adulthood thanks to the ravages of the demon anxiety), I flew across the country, rented a car, and drove through some of the most horrifyingly dense highway systems in the United States (in the dead of night, I might add), toward a location I had never seen before, to put on a smile and be professional, just one week after my world crumbled into nothing. So, when walking with my colleague and friend back to our hotel after a day of educational sessions, I treated myself to some locally made, beautiful little danglies, when we wandered into an adorable store called Artistic Expressions (out of the sheer need for some air conditioning on an unreasonably warm and humid day).
Instance Three: The third pair, and least pointy, was purchased in Raleigh, NC, from Father & Son Antiques, after my longest solo road trip down to see my brother/bestest bud. This trip marked my first claim on independence in many years, a trip entirely up to my own planning and desire to see one of my favorite people in the world and relax for a bit. Apparently my little bro has a calming influence, with his “You do you” attitude, hence the lack of any damage inflicting pointy bits on this pair.
Instance Four: The most recent set was purchased from the reliable favorite, Vix Emporium, the night that I served “Said Person” with divorce papers. Despite the fact that he did the hurting, I was the one to ask for the divorce and to pursue the paperwork and other legalities. That night, I was finally able to say some of the things I had been thinking in the mere months since everything had imploded. Nothing malicious, just truths I had been holding in, or had been unable to mumble in between crying fits.
My rules? Locally made, aesthetically different, immediately wearable. Simple. Silly. Effective. Empowering. Beautiful.
Each time I wear these little statement pieces, it’s like looking at a postcard from a friend, when they were thinking of me in a far-off land. It’s like shaking my snow globe of the Rialto Bridge and remembering my time there with fondness. Each pair is a reminder of my foray into not only bravery, but the unknown. They have become a physical representation of my my 4-0 winning streak wrestling with anxiety and fear (at least as I have started keeping track).
No one actually NEEDS objects to prove their capability and fortitude, but they certainly don’t hurt. This is my armor, such as it is: As strong as Sir Gawain’s shiny suit and as precious as Mithril (just, unfortunately, not as impervious. I’m not perfect).
So here’s to Bravery Earrings, Wonder Woman underwear, and other, utter nonsense! Have some fun with your armor, but make sure to rock it proudly and just go do what needs to be done. The strength is your own, you are just channeling it through a symbol.
Just be you, glorious you.
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)