Who Needs Matching Pairs?

Spring is flourishing here in New Zealand. The days are warm, the skies are blue, the birds have plenty to say for themselves and our feijoa trees are full with red promises of the fruit to come.

Some days though, the weather likes to remind us that the season isn’t all sunshine and glamour.  This afternoon we watched clouds of every shade of grey from donkey through to smudged charcoal, loom over the hills and spears of lightning slice through the sky.

Out of the cornucopia of symptoms my conditions deliver, crap body heat control puts in a frequent appearance. Although it’s muggy, the rain in the air dropped the temperatute by a degree or so – enough to make my bare feet think they’ve time-travelled back to the middle of winter.


All I needed was socks. Two socks were easy enough to find, but a matching pair – not a chance. When my feet are cold, all I want is to get warm, so if I have a sports sock on one foot and a hand-knit stripy sock on the other, I really don’t care what they look like.


As my feet warmed up, I remembered a blog post I wrote a few years ago. My laptop at the time was falling apart. Half the keys on the keyboard weren’t working if I typed faster than a one-finger plod, so anything I typed required a PhD in code-cracking. 

During a Facebook conversation with a friend, after one particularly incomprehensible comment from me, she told me ‘It’s like washing socks. You put seven pairs in the machine and get two pairs and three singles out.’

So I wrote a blog post about socks and fatigue. I figured it’s worth updating and including on my new blog here.

Life with chronic health conditions/chronic pain is just like those socks. Each sock is like an uncalibrated burst of energy. I’ve never had seven complete pairs since my conditions started to kick off six years ago. But some days I might have four pairs and two singles, others I might have only two pairs, or only singles. I never know in advance how many socks a day will bring me.

Sometimes I start the day with enough socks to take a shower, make the breakfast and empty the dishwasher, before I need to sit down for an hour. And sometimes even getting out of bed and putting on real socks is enough to empty the drawer all in one go. 

When I first wrote about this, I had had a good day. After the shower, breakfast and dishwasher routine, I’d still had socks left in the drawer for later. Later then was plastering a small hole in the bedroom wall, and driving to the hardware store five minutes away for a tin of paint. Later ended up including meeting my daughter and two small grandchildren for coffee.

None of that sounds demanding, but when you have chronic health conditions, fatigue is a major player, and even just talking to people, smiling and laughing, can make your socks unravel. After we’d finished our coffees and the little ones had shown us paintings from kindy and pointed out giraffes made of wire, red wire, Oma, look, all my pairs of socks were used up.

When I do laundry, I always turn jeans legs inside out to look for lurkers stuck in the ankles, or fish around inside the duvet cover. But you always know, however hard you look, when you only have odd singles left it’s time for home and another rest. 

Once all your socks, pairs and singles, have been used up, fatigue wraps you in a straitjacket. Then even simple tasks like getting a glass of water become monumental hurdles. Not only because fatigue makes the body seize up like a frozen turkey, but because it attacks the brain too. My mind has to make a conscious effort to remember where the glasses are kept, which way the cupboard door opens, and how to turn on the… the… that thing the water comes out of.

davThat day had been a good day though. So after another rest when I got home, I was able to get my own glass from the cupboard and fill it with water from the tap before I sat down to write about socks. Typing one finger at a time.

In the end, the laptop ran out of socks too and I had to get a new one. Sometimes I like to think I could just get a new body and be the me who didn’t know about sock counting. But the reality is, getting a random number of pairs and single socks out of the drawer on any given day is how things are for me.

Here’s a thought though. At least I have socks at all. Who says I have to count in matching pairs?


Suggestions for managing fatigue

 + Showers are typically exhausting for people with chronic health conditions. Have a shower the day before you plan to go out anywhere or before bed at night.

+ Break tasks/activities into small time slots. Ten minutes, then a sit down for a while before doing another ten minutes. 

+ Still time-limit activities on good days, just take shorter rests in between. It’s always tempting to push to your limits, but is it worth it if it takes days to recover?

+ Delegate. Make sure children and partners pull their weight with tasks.

+ Take naps when you need them.

+ Listen to your body – don’t keep going until you’ve finished something. If you start feeling tired, stop, and go back to it later.



33 thoughts on “Who Needs Matching Pairs?

  1. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Talk soon!


  2. Having mismatched socks and fewer of them is much better than having no socks at all. I wish you had more energy, my friend. But, it’s not meant to be, at least you make the best use of the energy you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. this article talks about gratitude. You want to be happy in life then be grateful. It is better two have unmatched socks, socks with soles than no socks. I love your blog it is always so inspirational thanks. Jerry Godinho

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your introspection about dealing with your pain and life itself. I like the reminder that we should make the best of what we have and not mourn too much for what we have lost. You are so very brave and strong. Embrace your mismatched socks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you Trish! And the analogy is perfect to connect with. Your suggestions will be greatly helpful for those who are dealing with chronic health conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your practical suggestions at the end of the post will be helpful to so many. Thank you for your posts that provide humor and an alternative perspective in tackling the overwhelming obstacle of chronic illness. Your writing inspires me to be better and be thankful for each moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is better to have unmatched socks than none at all! Do what you can when you can and the rest can wait. It’s always crucial to listen to your body and not do too much. As usual, the creativity in your writing astounds me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My first thought when I read the title of your post was, my OCD is having some sort of meltdown. Because I am the weirdo that matches socks before they go into the washer, when they go into the dryer, and again when they come out to be put away. If I can’t find a pair, the single doesn’t get washed until the match is found. But no sock is ever lost this way. I know, I’m a total fruitcake about matching socks. Lol. I do love the analogy you’ve brought me here though, about socks and fatigue. It really made me think about my days lately. I’ve been trying very hard to listen to my body and taking more necessary breaks. I can always tell when I’m on the verge of pushing myself too hard. Sometimes I just do it anyway, and I definitely pay for it. But I’ve been focused on not doing that lately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think those little net bags to put all your socks in before they go in the washer would be real timesavers!


  9. I had never really thought about chronic fatigue until you had started to describe it and the ways to help with it. Truely, something like that takes alot out of you and I can’t imagine what you must go through half the time. Have you ever tried to see a naturopath?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a challenge! I haven’t had success with naturopathy, but I find things like
      mindfulness, breathing and relaxation techniques really helpful.


  10. Thank you for sharing this!! Your analogy helps understand the condition better. You have a great writing style!! And I’m sorry you have to go through so much pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great analogy, many can connect with your through this. You are right at least you have socks and who cares if they match or not! Just enjoy the ones you have!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have had fibromyalgia since I was a child. Somedays not only do you have socks but they are amazing socks. Other days you are lucky if they are even remotely a pair. I just listen to what I need that day and don’t beat myself up emotionally if all I have are two socks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, some days we get the spangly and glittery socks! Not beating ourselves up on lost sock days is a necessary trick to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I remember this from your old blog. It is a great comparison to use. We run out easily, some might have holes in them. But, yes, we’re lucky to have socks at all. Lovely blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I realised yesterday that my socks are in shorter supply than they were when I wrote the first version but that I have also got much better and using them, or darning the holes, or whatever I need to do!


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