Underneath It All

What do you wear under your clothing? It’s a personal question, I know. And this post is about to get really personal. But, before you get too far with that answer, I’m not talking about the intimate garments that lurk beneath the outer layer of your wardrobe. I am talking about what you wear on the inside of your body. Underneath the fabric. Beneath your skin. In your heart, in your mind, and in your spirit.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I attended college in the 90s. And during this time of my life, there was no band and no singer more influential to me than Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. The band’s self-titled debut studio album was released my Freshman year, and I rode out those next four years of school with the platinum-haired, energetic, original, and individual Ska-Punk-Pop songstress leading the way.

I didn’t just like their music. It spoke to my soul. All of the angst, anger, passion, color, fearlessness, hope, and love that was written into the lyrics flowed through my consciousness and resonated deeply within me. So much so, that I recorded the band’s famous lyric, “sorry I’m not home right now I’m walking into spiderwebs, so leave a message and I’ll call you back” onto my answering machine in my dorm, which my teenage daughters recently declared to be “the most 90s thing they’ve ever heard.”

Seriously though, No Doubt‘s lyrics in the 90s called upon me to build my confidence, Gwen’s status as lead singer in a group of males encouraged me to seek success as a female, and the band’s non-traditional image gave me a sense of belonging and encouraged my individuality.

It was such a turning point to find that I had a talent and I had something to contribute, somewhere.

Gwen Stefani

As time went on, Gwen Stefani’s contributions to me and to the world didn’t stop with her music. In 2004, the singer launched her own fashion label L.A.M.B. (Love. Angel. Music. Baby.) the title of her first solo album, a playfully styled collection that is now defunct, but pieces of it can be found on the reseller market through sites like Poshmark, where I have my own goods under the user name Slippers74. I, tragically, do not own one thing from her gorgeously eclectic rocker-inspired collection, yet, but I do still own this well-worn and much-loved oversized concert T that I bought in 1996 after seeing the band perform.

Many years have passed since No Doubt originally struck a chord in me. About thirty years, to be exact. Thirty years of time that covered my soul with a lot of great life experiences, but also with the heavy scars of hardship, trauma, abuse, disillusionment, and sadness. Thirty years that led me away from the positive things that I know I wear deep in my heart and in my spirit. Thirty years of unbecoming who I used to be.

The past few years in particular have been a dark period for me. Divorce. Midlife. Empty nest. Covid. So many changes in such a compact time frame have caused me to evaluate who I am. Way down inside of me. Recently, I heard the phrase “dark night of the soul”, loosely described as “an extremely difficult and painful period in one’s life, a collapse of a perceived meaning of it” and that hit home for me because most days I feel as though I am living in a fog trying to figure out my life and my place in it.

Then, as if I was beckoned to do so, I recently pulled out an old familiar friend, Tragic Kingdom, and listened to it in its entirety.
No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom CD from my personal music library.

Do you have a favorite album or band in your personal library of music that brings you home to what’s inside of you?

Like a flood gate opening up, the familiar music I stitched into my heart so many years ago triggered the twenty year-old deep within me. Every hope. Every plan. Every dream. And all the optimism about the future that I carried with me at that time came rushing to the front of my brain like a fan at a show excitedly waiting for an autograph. I dropped to my knees and cried. But they weren’t tears of sadness for the past that was lost. They were tears of joy that the me that I used to be wasn’t lost forever. I found her that morning inside of me, underneath it all, with a little help from the group who helped to inspire me in the first place.

Many of the lyrics from Tragic Kingdom came directly from Gwen’s own personal journey through pain and heartbreak. And, while she likely was speaking about her breakup with the band’s bassist Tony Kanal, when I blasted “Sunday Morning” during my weekend housecleaning routine that day, it made me remember myself, like a bolt of lightning had illuminated that dark night of my soul to show me what I’d forgotten.

Life takes us on a lot of twists and turns, both good and bad, and we can lead ourselves far from our original path if we let it. I believe the universe wanted to remind me of the hopes and dreams I set out to fulfill so many years ago, so that I can fire them back up amid the pain of the fog and keep climbing, because, as stated in The Dark night of the Soul by Gerald G. May, M.D., memory is the ground of dreaming. And without dreams, what do we have?

Do you ever find yourself lost? Alone? Away from the path that you are meant to be on? I encourage you to peel back the layers of your life and dig deep in order to try to find the parts of you that were lost, buried underneath. Sometimes, it’s as simple as playing your favorite song, going to an old, familiar place, or being near your favorite people. Life is hard. But, it feels easier when you are reminded to listen to what you wear in your heart, your mind, and your spirit. Trust them. They know the way. And, if all else fails, grab a book, pull out your favorite concert t-shirt and wear it like a coat of armor as you rock out your day.

The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May, M.D., my chosen reading guide as I try to interpret and make my way through this period of my life.

Published by Kelly W

I'm Kelly. I am a mom of four, a full-time librarian with a fashionista alter-ego, and I live each day with kindness in my heart. I love what I do, and I'm here to share words, wisdom, and wardrobe with you.

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