The Parable of the Sock Drawer

Lucy had a sock drawer that confounded her.  No matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t seem to keep that sock drawer tidy and organized.  She had seen her sisters’ sock drawers.  Their socks and underwear sat beside each other in perfect communion, neither one spilling over into the other’s territory.  Her sock drawer, on the other hand, wouldn’t qualify for trespassing infringements because there were no territories, no carefully grouped communities of socks or underwear.  Every few months she would empty that sock drawer and try to create some order out of the chaos.  But then it was never that simple.  Because her socks never seemed to come back in pairs.  And what were you supposed to do when your ballet tights got mixed up with your church tights? And for the life of her she could not keep her underwear folded – they were too small to be folded anyway she said to soothe herself.

The truth is she desperately craved a tidy sock drawer.  She wanted order in that most intimate of places.  But she couldn’t quite figure out how to coax order though she tried again and again.

As she got older, things only got more complicated.  When she changed bedrooms she was given a bigger dresser.  Perhaps this would solve her sock drawer dilemmas.  Perhaps what she needed was more space.  But order was not conjured in a bigger space.  All that was conjured was a more complicated disorder.  Lucy as a teenager had new items in the sock drawer – things she wanted to stay hidden under the tangle of stray socks and unfolded underwear.  Things that were made of silk and lace.  Things her mother would never approve of.

Perhaps when she was an adult, when she had her own place, when she got married, when she had children, then she would learn the secret of the tidy sock drawer.  But as each of those happened in succession, the sock drawer remained her guilty secret.  Even sharing a room with her lover wasn’t enough to inspire order in that drawer.

And then one day it struck her.  She needed to figure out what belonged in that drawer and what was an intruder.  What did she need for day-to-day life and what was in there only to stoke fantasies or hide deep shames?  She’d emptied and rearranged her sock drawer so many times in her life that she hesitated to do it yet again.  Perhaps this was her fate – a life of messy undergarment storage.  She thought carefully.  It took her months of pondering. Until one day, she knew she was ready.

When the house was quiet, her children at school, her lover at work, she began.  She emptied that sock drawer onto her bed.  And even before she began the sorting she sat and looked at the empty wooden drawer.  For a long time.  Seeing something she hadn’t seen before.  And then one by one she went through the items.  If it wasn’t part of her real life, she put it in the discarded pile.  If it wasn’t something she needed to be ashamed of any longer, those garments of silk and lace, she hung them in her closet.  If it didn’t have a matching partner, it went in the garbage.  Before she knew it, there in front of her was order.  Simplified, real-life, no-hiding order.

She placed her dark socks in front of her white, athletic socks.  She found a folding pattern that kept her underwear in place.  And her bras?  Well they lined up perfectly along one side of the drawer where she wouldn’t have to sift through to find the right one.  She found she even had room for her bathing suits in this newly laid out landscape.

After it was done, she sat again and looked at the drawer for a long time.  There was something so beautiful, so honest, so practical about her sock drawer now – she knew she’d done it.  She’d found her way out of the intimates’ chaos.  She couldn’t stop smiling.  She was unspeakably proud of herself.

When her family came home, she showed them the drawer one by one.  While the children didn’t yet understand the significance of her tidy drawer, her husband did.

What happened that day inspired Lucy to apply these same techniques to other drawers.  It took time and still the process continues, little by little.  Her drawers are falling into something that looks like peace.

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