Rearranged Socks, Rearranged Thoughts

 

I was 19 when I bought a proper piece of furniture for myself for the first time. The man at the junk shop – which is to say, the kind of antique store that can be found along poorly traveled roads, selling this and that out of old ramshackle buildings that have likely been in the family for some time – said it was called a bachelor’s chest. It has five drawers perched on turned legs; three of the drawers are tucked away behind double doors with some mostly-intact ornamental woodwork.

So far, that bachelor’s chest has held my clothes in nine different homes and, so far as I can remember, held them in roughly the same configuration: short-sleeved shirts here, long-sleeved shirts there, pants down here, socks up there.

The other day, though, as I was unpacking clothes in this, its ninth location, I realized that some of the garments I wear the least – warm-weather socks and an oddly robust collection of stockings and tights, for example – had been holding prime real estate in the top drawer.

Now, winter socks of the wear-with-shoes and the wear-with-slippers varieties hold those spots. This organization is more in keeping with the objective realities that:

  • With only a few specific exceptions, I’m all flip flops (or barefoot) all the time in the summer.
  • My donning of dresses and skirts was on the decline even before Covid and I can promise you that I won’t be wearing them to sit at my desk at home, especially not with stockings or tights.
  • I’m serious about warm socks. Very serious.

There’s something oddly satisfying about looking at my clothing organization through fresh eyes and making a few small tweaks that are more in alignment with how I dress.

At a time when many of us are at home more than ever, these thoughts on the organization of things may well be enough. Except this isn’t really about things; it’s about thoughts and the lack thereof.

Though my dress and skirt wearing has ebbed and flowed over the years, I’m not sure there’s been a summer of my life when I didn’t prefer a sockless existence. I could have made this change a decade or more ago but I wasn’t thinking about it. Once my socks landed in the center section of the top drawer, that’s where they lived. When I actually thought about it, I moved them.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I realized that I hadn’t thought about many of the beliefs I had from earlier in my life, beliefs related to memories, interpersonal dynamics and shared histories. I believed them because I believed them. No thinking required. When I actually thought about them, though, I realized that many, maybe most, were built on a foundation of hearsay and/or my interpretation of someone’s behavior or words.

Not long after that, through this same lens of activating fresh review and increased attention, I realized that a friendship I had been spending an enormous amount of thought and emotional energy trying to salvage had been teetering on the brink not for the most visible reason – our political differences – but because I had overlooked how one-sided the friendship had been the whole time, several years at that point. When I really thought about it, I realized that he and I assumed he knew me as well as I knew him but, in truth, he hardly knew me at all.

We crave certainty with a hunger that far outstrips reality’s ability to quench it. Shining fresh light on our sense of certainty can be a deeply uncomfortable, even jarring, process for how it often challenges the comfy truths on which we hang our hats.

Because of that, it can feel like we have to make a choice between that which is comfy and that which is real… but only until we experience the refreshing freedom of allowing for all the complex, juicy uncertainty of our human existence.


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