A man holds his father's gray and red wool socks, which glow with a warm light and ward off the dark clouds around him.

Wool Socks and the Art of Self-Care

Grey wool socks. Red toe caps and heel caps. A wide red band at the top. As long as I can remember, these are the socks my father has worn. Summer and winter. I do not think I have ever seen him with athletic white socks or even dress socks. Grey wool socks with red accents.

I will not swear to the absolute veracity of the following. Like a movie “based on actual events," tasteful embellishment is the stock and trade of a storyteller and I am, if nothing else, a storyteller. That said, the underlying lesson is pure fact, and the truths I have gleaned from the story have helped to shape my life.

Learning from my father and his stories

My father is a man of many talents. He is well-educated and well-traveled. When I left home for the military, he signed up for the Merchant Marine. In my early years, he owned the first liquor license in a dry town and the best steakhouse for 50 miles in any direction. I could sit and listen to his stories of adventure for hours. It is one of those stories that brings me here.

Taking steps to take care of his needs

If memory serves, this would have taken place in 1975 or maybe 1976. Dad was working with a construction crew as a laborer. They were replacing a water main in Hillsborough Oregon. The water in the ditch had soaked through dad’s workbooks, and his socks got wet. Once his feet got cold he decided some self-care was in order and climbed out for the ditch and began to walk across the parking lot to a “Wigwam” sporting good store.

The foreman started shouting at him and asked him where he thought he was going. Dad responded, “My feet are cold and wet, and I am going to get dry socks.” “You won’t have a job when you get back,” shouted the boss. Dad waved over his shoulder and kept walking. Once he has secured better footwear and dry socks, he returned. The foreman was mad. The crew had a good laugh, and dad kept his job.

Wet socks will ruin your day

Dad laughed when I asked if he was worried about losing his job. “Jobs come and go my boy, but wet feet will ruin any day.” I would hear that again when I joined the army and the drill sergeants made us change socks during long marches.

It's okay to put your needs first

There will be times when your need for self-care is inconvenient for others. Sometimes the needs will be embarrassing or require you to leave your comfort zone and speak up. To advocate for yourself even when it frustrates others or delays plans. That is okay. Let me repeat that louder. IT IS OKAY! Okay to take care of yourself. Okay to put your needs first. Okay to be your own caregiver.

Learning to prioritize self-care

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I will find myself with “wet socks” and cold feet. I picture my dad climbing out of the ditch and walking away from an angry boss and I smile. Then I walk away from whatever is causing my discomfort until I am better equipped to handle it. Then and only then will I return and keep working. Grey wool socks with red accents taught me to take care of myself.

Thanks, Dad.

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