Word bracelets

I bought myself beaded bracelets — three, to be exact. Each has its own saying, up to 12 characters, of my choosing.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-work lately. I’m guessing it comes with this chapter of life — when you see how you show up as a parent, as a partner, as a friend and for yourself and you want to do better. But every once in a while, you need a visual reminder. At least I do. So my first bracelet says, “Be Better.” The next says, “Pause” — which, for me, is essentially the same as saying to take a deep breath before you act. And the last bracelet says, “Stand In Joy.” I could have saved a lot of money if I had just bought the trio of pre-made bracelets that had “Breathe, Achieve, Choose Happy” on them, because they are essentially the same thing.

Most of the jewelry I have found doesn’t let you create your own sayings, because the makers have nailed down what most people want to live by: “Faith Hope Love,” “Full of Wonder,” “So Loved,” “Goodness Grace.” But those words don’t resonate with me. I need to physically “Pause” and emotionally stop. I don’t need to choose happy; I need to stand in the joy I’m surrounded by and notice it. Relish in it. Participate in it. These are tiny differences, but when it came to my visual cues, it had to be words that worked for me.

And sometimes they really do work. Not always but sometimes. In fact, sometimes they work so well that I have questioned why all of the self-help guru jewelry of the world — a quadrillion-dollar industry, no doubt — focuses solely on abstract personal improvement. Why not more specific sayings? Instead of “Full of Wonder,” it could say, “Full of Vitamins.” Instead of “Faith, Hope, Love,” it could say, “Remember Your Keys,” “Charge Your Phone” or “Pay That Bill.” Rather than “Choose Happy,” how about “Choose Lactaid, or the Ice Cream Will Make You Run to the Closest Restroom, Probably in Some Gross Gas Station, Where You Will Miraculously Catch Typhoid”? All super-useful bracelet reminders! They’re not inspirational, per se, but they definitely would improve your quality of life.

Not that quality-of-life improvement is relegated to making choices that are good for you. You may need a bracelet reminder to “Play Hooky,” “Experiment a Little” or “Dye Your Hair Hot Pink.” “Live Laugh Love” is great, but so is “Stuff Your Face with Cheetos.” (Feel free to sub in a disgusting/delicious terrible food of your liking.)

For those of us who already dance on the side of the flames, perhaps a bracelet that says, “Entertain the Fantasy, but Don’t Actually Steal That Cop Car” or “Just Lie and Say You Did.”

That last one kept me out of a lot of trouble as a teenager. What did not keep me out of trouble as a teenager was writing on the back of my hand. Ever the absent-minded adolescent, I’d lose my backpack but never my limbs, so I’d jot down homework assignments and play practice times, sometimes scrawling so much information that my Bic ink would go far up my arm. Hand handwriting wasn’t only for keeping track of assignments and schedules, however. I’d also write the names of boys I liked in hearts and my latest favorite Gandhi quotation, obviously following his word to a T in those teenage years. I knew back then, before the explosion of the inspi-bracelets, that the visual cues would help me remember who I wanted to be and what I needed to do to get there.

“Be the Change You Want To See in the World.” Cool!

“Write an 800-word Essay on the Fall of the Roman Empire.” Check.

“Use Laura’s Fake ID To Buy Cigarettes.” Oops.

Mom didn’t like seeing that one.

And I guess that’s the problem with word jewelry on a mass scale and why we tend to buy words that the masses approve of. Anyone can read what you wear, and to choose something new is to choose something exposing. “Pause,” as opposed to “Breathe,” exposes something about me. But if I “Pause,” the exposed reminder is worth it.

I’m guessing the person who buys “Choose Lactaid, or the Ice Cream Will Make You Run to the Closest Restroom, Probably in Some Gross Gas Station, Where You Will Miraculously Catch Typhoid” agrees.

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Katie Langrock is a

nationally syndicate columnist.