Living With Our Mistakes & Holes in Our Socks

Knitting Two Socks at a Time on a Pair of Circular Needles. photo: jparadisi 2012

I’m learning to knit socks. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll recall learning to knit socks is one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.  Since I don’t know what I’m doing anyway, I decided to learn the new method of knitting two socks at one time on a pair of circular needles, instead of one sock at a time on a single circular needle. Never mind only a few years ago I defined knitting as: making a tangled mess with yarn and sticks. Hey, I’m a girl who loves a challenge.  My audacity stems from years of the “see one, do one, teach one” on- the- job- training mentality most nurses rely on.

Fortunately, learning to knit socks two at a time is accompanied by patterns with clear diagrams and photographic illustrations. I found mine in Knitting Circles Around Socks by Antje Gillingham (Martingale & Company, publishers).

I’m happy to report I have successfully turned both heels. The most vexing problem has been confusing which of the four needle tips to use, then having to rip out and knit again previous rows after doing it wrong. I found one dropped stitch too, which is so far back at the beginning there is no way in hell I will rip out my work to redo it. I’ll simply learn to live with it.

If only nursing mistakes were as inconsequential. Who wouldn’t go back in time and fix the med error, rephrase the statement that made you sound dumb in front of coworkers, or treat differently the symptom, which turned out more significant than you realized at the time? Wouldn’t it be great if we could rip out our mistakes and knit them again like stitches dropped from a pair of needles?

We can’t.

Instead, I am aware of the importance my words carry when patients come to me with concerns or fears. I answer the same questions multiple times over the years of my career, but for the patient, their fears are new.  For everyone, I hope to get it right the first time: the right amount of compassion, the right understanding of the meaning of their words, the right kind of wisdom needed for a particular moment. If I get it wrong, coming across as abrupt, disinterested or intensifying fear rather than calming it, there is no going back to rip out stitches from the fabric created by my words and actions. They hang in our memories like dropped stitches; leaving an unsightly hole.

Nursing is more complex than knitting two socks with four needles. Often, there’s no way to go back and fix our mistakes. Sometimes the best we can do is learning from errors, acquire the necessary grace, and live with the resulting holes in our socks.

*Update: I finished knitting my first pair of socks last night.  See photo.

My First Pair of Knitted Socks! photo: jparadisi 2012


  1. Loved this post! “Wouldn’t it be great if we could rip out our mistakes and knit them again like stitches dropped from a pair of needles?” Amen!


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