When my husband left, my friends and family surrounded me with a level of love and support that still brings tears to my eyes. I woke up to supportive texts almost every morning. I came home more than once to find a warm casserole dinner waiting for me on the front porch. From notes filled with scripture to bottles filled with wine, I was showered with encouragement and support for months. Neighbors shoveled my driveway and rolled my trashcans out for me. My friends’ husbands dropped by to see if they could do any household repairs.
My mom put together a toiletries basket for me to use on nights I needed to stay with her. My brother ordered pizza and slept on my couch, and my sister covered our hotel room bed with my favorite junk foods. My mother-in-law bought me a massage, and my sister-in-laws pulled all nighters with me.
My quiet friends offered a shoulder to cry on. My social friends offered girls’ nights. My wild friends offered adventure and distraction. My mom friends scheduled playdates, during which they took over all responsibility and supervision, allowing me to make phone calls, respond to emails, or just sneak off to a quiet place to cry. And my witty friends never failed to make me laugh with their oh-so-awful-but-oh-so-funny comments and quips.
I will never forget that feeling: I had just lost one of the most important relationships in my life, but in that heartbreak, I had found and forged deeper bonds with so many people who truly loved me dearly.
One of my favorite gifts during this time came in the most unexpected form: A little pink gift bag waiting inside my storm door, holding a simple pair of socks. Yes, you read that right. Socks. First of all, warm feet are just plain comforting during times of stress. Amirite? But that’s not really what got me. What caught my attention about this particular pair of socks was a message, printed in bright pink font on the crisp white fabric, staring up at me. Made just for me in that moment, as I faced a very scary, uncertain future in an unknown world: I AM STRONG.
I’d been told by countless people that I was strong. My family, my friends, the minister and elders at my church. They all reminded me of it often. But here it was, stated so simply every time I looked down at my own two feet. I wore those socks ALL the time that year. If I was home, I was in them. They probably didn’t get washed as often as they should have. They aren’t crisp-white anymore. But I still pull them out and wear them from time to time.
When I do, I think back over the past 23 months, and like the socks themselves, I see strength woven throughout. I see a mom who learned how to parent solo and how to ask for help often and without pride. I see an entrepreneur whose business has thrived under her dedication and hard work. I see a woman who found confidence and who learned from her mistakes in the post-divorce dating world. And I see an adventurer who sought new experiences and hobbies, pushing her limits time and again.
I decided the day I opened that pair of socks that I would take future opportunities to pass the gesture on to women facing their own difficult circumstances, women who need to be reminded of their own inner strength. I recently got an opportunity to do that, and I hope that the little message of strength she sees on her toes when she looks down helps her to continue to bravely put one crisp white sock-covered foot in front of the other.