“It’s going to rain EVERY day,” I wailed. “I don’t know why we’re going. We should just stay home.”
I was collapsed in a heap on my bedroom floor, directly in front of my sock drawers. I had pulled the drawers open in an attempt to pack socks for our Williamsburg vacation, and I just couldn’t do it. It was too overwhelming. And now I was having a full-blown toddler meltdown.
I probably should explain about the socks. About socks and my obsession with them. My feet are always cold, so no matter what the weather, I must wear socks. And those socks must match my shirt. I’ve been known to change whole outfits because I didn’t have socks that matched well enough.
This means I have many, many socks (way more socks than shirts, actually). I happen to love socks, and I keep collecting them, often in the hopes that the new pair will be an even better match for that difficult-to-match shirt. Hence, drawers of socks, 200+ pairs of socks.
Well, some aren’t pairs—not because we lost a sock, in 39 years of marriage Les and I have never lost a sock—but because some are Little MisMatched socks, a company that sells you three socks that coordinate but don’t match.
So when I needed to pick out socks for a seven-day trip—a seven-day trip for which the weather forecast was at least five and a half days of rain—the challenge overwhelmed me. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to do it. It seemed easier to cancel the trip.
I know it sounds stupid. (It was a stupid idea.) But it was actually just the final straw at the end of a several weeks of running hard, trying to get all my client work done so I could go away, attending our denominational conference, preparing to teach five classes at the writers conference I was leaving for three days after we got back from vacation, and designing a new speaking session with my husband for the clergy-and-spouses retreat we are doing together the day after I get back from the conference. I was exhausted. I had been super-organized. But now I was super-fried. Packing just put me over the edge.
As I sat crying over the sock drawer, my husband told me we didn’t have to go. No one would have to know. We could just stay home and chill.
I reached into the sock drawer and grabbed a whole stack of socks, and I straightened the stack, making sure each sock was folded neatly. And then I folded the next stack. And the next. All 200 socks in two drawers when I should have been packing.
In the process, I left out socks I thought might match the t-shirts I had packed. In the process, my heart stopped pounding, my tears ebbed. The beautiful sense of order for the drawer worked on my spirit, bringing my mind out of chaos and toward clear thinking.
Of course I didn’t want to cancel our trip. It was Williamsburg! It wouldn’t be our first time dealing with rain on vacation. And we’ve been there at least 45 times, so if it was raining too hard to wander the colonial streets, we could hang out in our condo and read. Or go to Panera and read!
I finished the sock drawers. I matched the sock possibilities I had selected to the appropriate shirts. I packed about 25 pairs of socks for seven days. And I went to bed.
Sometimes we just need calming rituals, something that we can focus on—even if it doesn’t seem like the perfect time to do that. How do you bring yourself back from the edge? What helps you refocus so you can move forward? It might not be organizing something like it is for me. (Maybe for you it’s throwing something, creating a mess! Or fingerpainting.)
The meltdown reminded me that I am not superwoman. I need time to rest as part of my day, every day. I need to uncomplicate my life some. (But don’t suggest I stop matching my socks to my shirts. I’m not ready to let that go.) And the way my mind or body or spirit decided that what it needed at that moment was to sort the socks will serve as a reminder that when my brain is swirling and my attitude souring, putting some messy part of my life to rights organizes my mind too. Perhaps next time, I can choose to clean a gadget drawer or straighten my desk before the tears arrive.
(By the way, we did go to Williamsburg, and while it was cloudy we had only one 20-minute rainstorm that came during the day. And all my socks matched.)