Are you the kind of person where your shit is either completely in order, or it’s all a disaster and you’re basically one step from living in a van down by the river while shoveling a steady stream of Bugles into your poor-me-hole? I don’t mean your literal shit (is it backed up and kind of squeak-farty with bad breaks, or is it a nice solid loaf of — no), I mean your row of ducks, your overall life situation. I’m a special fractal snowflake of rigid commitment and overindulgence, basically, where I swing from one extreme to the other when it comes to exercise, housekeeping, diet, personal enrichment, self-care, and so on. I’m proactively scheduling flu shots months in advance or I’m waiting in the line of pallid Walking Dead extras in Rite Aid on January 20th. I’m making my bed first thing in the morning and cooking a nutritious breakfast or I’m emerging from a cat-hair-coated pile of discarded pillows to nab a stale donut. I’m doing crunches and folding the laundry or I’m crunching through a bag of cinnamon-sugar Pita Crisps while justifying the visible cobwebs on the ceiling as startlingly realistic Halloween decorations. Etc.

I’ve been enjoying the firing-on-all-cylinders side of my personal productivity cycle lately, which is a good feeling. I lost most of the weight I allowed to creep back on over the summer (damn you, Jeni’s ice cream, for being incomprehensibly delicious AND having a brand name that looks like “penis” in a URL bar), I scheduled the first dentist appointment I’ve made in *loud distracting cough* years, I have all my millions of soccer practices and games carefully and redundantly entered into both a paper and digital calendar. I start training for an enormously intimidating new volunteer job this week, and I’ve even been forcing myself to step outside of my hermit comfort zone and actually talk to the other parents I see each week at my kids’ activities.

It’s all awesome stuff, but I can never escape the belief that no matter how well I’m doing, it’s all temporary. Like, the woman who’s currently juggling several things with what appears to be a decent amount of discipline and capability, she’s just a facade. The real me is waiting in the wings, and she’s wearing chocolate-stained sweatpants and an expression of self-doubt. She’s ready to take over when Mrs. Doing-It-All runs out of steam, and she’s got the ass-dent in the couch all pre-warmed for me.

Do you ever feel this way too? How do you convince yourself that there’s no good you or bad you, there’s just you, and it’s okay to be proud when you’re doing well and be gentle with yourself when you’re not?

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Aubrey
Aubrey
7 years ago

I feel this way a lot! I’m good with it BECAUSE when I’m in the middle of being productive, I can clearly remember being the snarly self-doubter, and when I’m being the snarly self-doubter, I know that the productive side is only a week or two away. I pretty much run on a monthly cycle. You know, like most women ;)

mrspooley
7 years ago

Oh, yes. The self loaving. Made all the worse when wearing the chocolate stained sweat pants because you know the other part if you is there; You could have yiur shit together, You SHOULD. But look, the couch dent beckons. Why doesn’t the all-together person feel good enough to shun the lasy ass one? Maybe this work of bettering ourselves requires a communal effort. Not an accountability per se, but someone else to say, yes, you can.

mrspooley
7 years ago

Er, loathing. Gah.

Rebecca
Rebecca
7 years ago

I blame PMS after 40. It makes me crazy hyper manic productive, then I crash hard and have zero poops to give. I try and plan it, though? When I know the get shit done phase is coming I start making lists of projects and plow through them so when I’m on the couch and it’s work just to watch tv and shovel food into my mouth at the same time, I can say from the bottom of my anxiety and depression pit, “At least I got stuff done.”

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Oh, this is me, only my down cycles last 3 years sometimes, the good ones a year aprox.

Valerie
Valerie
7 years ago

This completely describes me as well. Thank you for the reminder that both halves are the same, wonderful person. We all need that reminder, and probably on a daily basis.

PinkieBling
PinkieBling
7 years ago

Thiiiiiiiiiis!

I am all or nothing, one end of the extreme or the other. I’ve been trying to find a balance for YEARS. Let me know if you figure it out, please.

Janet
Janet
7 years ago

Same here. I’m hoping someone in the comments will mention the name of the miracle drug that is the antidote to this condition.

KateB
KateB
7 years ago

a.) The title. Love

b.) I think we all feel like that. Add in some Catholic guilt to the “bad” side and it is even worse. Blech! So, normal and like every other woman/mom I know.

c.) LOVED “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” and “The Rosie Project.” (From sidebar recs) If I was a mom on your kid’s soccer team, I’d be thrilled to talk to you, so go for it! I know that’s hard, but it makes the time go faster and makes practices/games less dread inducing.

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

exactly this.

And ditto to Janet. I’d do anything for a miracle cure for whatever this is!

H
H
7 years ago

I mostly plod along somewhere in the middle. Periodically I will hit a sloth phase followed by a surge of energy. I think the changes are caused by hormones and changes in the season. Right now, I am struggling to forge ahead every day – as they days get shorter, it gets harder.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

+1 on this phenomenon. I am actively trying to improve my overall ratio right now, and also trying to figure out why I’m tempted to give up for long periods when I know that the “high” periods feel really good – and it’s not like they’re intrinsically unsustainable, it’s really not – it is achievable to handle your shit well. However, one thing that really struck me in your post and moved me to comment is the thought that (paraphrasing greatly) ‘the real (you) is just waiting to emerge again and fail at everything.’ Two words – Impostor Syndrome – it’s a challenging issue. All signs point to you being a capable and accomplished person, people admire you, people are even jealous of how you’ve got it all together, but deep down you “know” that you’re just pulling off a really long con. As the accomplishments pile up, your anxiety can possibly rise further because your tower of false good qualities is getting so high, and you’ll of course be found out in the end, and the more of a fraud you are at that point, the more it will hurt your kids and everyone. OK, I didn’t mean you – I meant me. So – Impostor Syndrome.

Jessica V
7 years ago

YES – this! For me, it’s like the beginning of school where everyone is excited with their new organized supplies and is on time to school…and then two weeks later I’m rolling out of bed 25 minutes before we have to leave after having hit snooze 3 times while rationalizing that I can just work from home today so there is no reason to make myself look good. HOWEVER, I feel so. much. better. when I get up in time to shower/dress/makeup and get the kids to school on time (w/o a side of screaming “get in the car and where is your backpack/homework/snack/left shoe?!”) and then go into the office. Staying at home makes my own anxiety/depression kick in and sets off a spiral where I end up never leaving the house that week because I’m too tired to motivate. In my heard, I know that just getting up 30 minutes earlier helps me be “on it” – and yet I can’t convince myself of that in the mornings, and so the spiral begins again. This summer was sloth-ville, and I was hoping that the school year would be better, but we are 5 weeks in and I’m in the office for the first time in FOREVER, having convinced myself that I needed to be close to home for various early school year appts. so it was again not worth getting up on time.

Jessica V
7 years ago

Also – Anne’s comment is spot on. She’s right – I know that the times I’m “on it” are not “intrinsically unsustainable” so why can’t I stick with it?

Jeannie
Jeannie
7 years ago

Heavens. I get this day by day. Some days at work I can cross of everything on my list. Some days I feel like I sit all day dumbly staring at a screen. I just try my best those days and remember that on good days I am on *fire*.

Mine is definitely affected more by hormones post 40. There are days I feel SO DRAGGY. Much more than before. It sucks. But then so far those days are still outnumbered by good ones. So.

Anyway: yes. I feel you. Be more gentle with yourself. :)

Lana
Lana
7 years ago

Yes! the above Imposter Syndrome is me in a nutshell (thanks to Anne for giving it a name!) I was so on the ball with my exercise and diet before the summer and was feeling so good about my life and myself mentally and physically, Now? I have gained weight and couldn’t even make myself go for a walk in the delicious sunshine today. a WALK. In the SUN. Every exercise/lifestyle change I make turns into a temporary commitment where I am full in until I’m not.
Thanks to you for once again reminding me I’m not the only one to ever feel this way (as my mind wants me to believe).

Artemisia
Artemisia
7 years ago

Second or third – Imposter Syndrome. It is a BITCH. (Reared it’s ugly head during grad school and never really left.)

Danell
Danell
7 years ago

I’ve decided that I find chocolate (or, stain-of-your-choice) stained sweatpants to be quite fashionable. If we AAAALLL find sweatpants (or yoga pants…they don’t have that annoying squishy waistband) to be fashionable, then it’s a trend, right…RIGHT?

Angella
7 years ago

I feel like I keep going, and going, and going. I think part of it is fuelled by my addictive personality (I must run! And work out!), and part of it is that I don’t want to feel like a failure and that keeps me going too.

*shrugs*

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago

Yes. Me, too. I am the perfect physics example…a body at rest will stay at rest, a body in motion…. The more I have to do, the more i do, the less I have to do,? Welp, there I am sitting on the couch in chocolate stained sweatpants.

Robin
7 years ago

Yeah, I get this, too… Here’s a new earnest me, energized and dedicated, embarking on something challenging! And the “real” me does an eye-roll and says, eh, I give it a week.

My theory is that I have had much more practice with the negative self-talk, so it comes more easily and feels more real.

As silly as they feel at first, affirmations have helped me counteract the Imposter feeling. (Affirmations like, “I love myself even though I didn’t get this or that done, or get it done the way I wanted to”; not like Staurt Smalley in the mirror… Although, don’t knock that until you try it.)

That takes practice, too, and ends up being not nearly as contrived as you’d think.

Lindsey
7 years ago

Yes, I feel this way, all the time. The real me is a mess, and I’m just waiting for the world to figure it out. xo

Erin
Erin
7 years ago

You just described me. I can also manage to have it completely together at home with lunch bento boxes while simultaneously having a desk covered in paper and old food at the office and surfing Facebook all day. For me, it has a lot to do with sleep. The more I am getting, the better I function. But sometimes it is summer and all I want to do is walk away from life and go sailing and eat non-stop. Which totally didn’t happen this year at all, just an example.

Angelique
Angelique
7 years ago

This is exactly the reason I see a therapist weekly and yet feel like I’m still destined for the “nut house” (I say that with heartfelt compassion, because I have been there). I feel like such a fraud, and that I’m not really living my life. I often wonder how many people feel this way.

dorrie
dorrie
7 years ago

You mean it’s not just me? To paraphrase Ram Dass, we are all just walking each other home. And Annie Lamott calls us great spirits in a meat suit. I try to remind myself of these things when I need to take care of that little girl stuck inside; you know, the one with the dirty face who looks scared all the time.

Katherine
Katherine
7 years ago

You’ve done physical training, right? You know there are days your muscles feel strong and able, and days where they need rest. The same is true for your heart, mind, and soul. And some of us have a less-varying meter and some more wild swings. The key is you know yourself and can see through the immediate moment to the one you know will come after. It’s all you, and it’s all useful. One thing I do to help remind me that I’m productive even on my low days is to keep lists. On low days I look at my list and find the easier things to do. I take them one at a time, and each checked off item reminds me that I am functional, I do get things done. Those days are just light-lifting days rather than bench-press days. Worthy days too. And, to Anne’s point, there’s a ton of info out in the Google-sphere on Imposter Syndrome. Brene Brown’s work addresses that a lot.

K
K
7 years ago

I am blown away that other people feel like this. Blown. Away. I truly thought I was the only one.

Off to google “Imposter Syndrome.”

Gaby
Gaby
7 years ago

Angelique said exactly what I came to say. I pay someone to tell me that I’m not actually the failure I believe myself to be. It sounds kind of pathetic written out that way, but if I need a life coach vis a vis a therapist, so be it. It also helps knowing so many of us struggle with this same feeling. For this, I will always be grateful for the internet/blogs/twitter.

sarah
sarah
7 years ago

I sort of think of everything like biorhythms, there are peaks and valleys, what goes down, must come up & vice versa. I know the cycle well enough now to see when therapy would help, when a physical challenge would jolt me enough to feel energized, when I need a night off… Thinking of it as a seasonal/cyclical thing also allows me to feel like the basic pillars of organization that I install when I’m in the productive phase, allow things to not-fully fall apart during the downward trend. When I’m productive I don’t dread the “what if I can’t maintain this?” thought because I KNOW I can’t; and when that time comes, I’m going to appreciate the foundation that I can sink down to.

Renee
Renee
7 years ago

All the damn time. All. The. Damn. Time.
I cannot be gentle with myself, ever. I’m over here telling the husband to go easy on himself because he’s doing all the things, but I tell myself that while I might be “doing” all the things, I am not doing any one thing well.

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

Yes! And then I feel guilty because I have my stuff together for one week or month or whatever but I feel SO MUCH BETTER when stuff is organized/clean and together. I’ve learned exercise helps me (so much) and that getting ready every morning is the key to my sanity. Not like full-on office attire, but I try to hit the gym at 5:30, home by 6:45, and in the shower immediately. Kids don’t have to be at preschool until 8:45 so that gives me time to shower, get ready (yoga pants FTW!) and get beds made, dishwasher unloaded and everyone off to school.

Days I don’t hit the gym? SLOTHVILLE ALL DAY LONG. Not a fan of those days and I find my patience is terrible by the end of the day.

Imposter Syndrome. I love it.

Sian
7 years ago

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I remember Maria Bamford’s mantra of “do the work”. And that gets me back on track, because I’m always capable of doing SOMETHING that will move any given project forward, even if it’s tiny. If you haven’t read the piece on her in the NYT Magazine, it’s well worth it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/magazine/the-weird-scary-and-ingenious-brain-of-maria-bamford.html?_r=0

Shawna
Shawna
7 years ago

I gotta tell ya, this is one of the few areas I practice what I preach – I teach at the gym, and I’m always telling people to do what they can, but forgive themselves what they can’t get to and love themselves for doing what they manage to do.

Early in the week every week I create a new “to do this weekend” entry in my upcoming Saturday, copy over the list from the weekend before, then delete what I actually got done or what I decided over the last weekend to let go of.

Over the course of the week I add new things that come up, and put the stuff that really does have a hard deadline of the weekend at the top. I only really try to address those things, either by doing them, or by taking a hard look at whether I really need to do them after all.

When I gave my husband access to my calendar so he could see kids’ appointments, family events, and work on items on the to-do list if he had time, he FREAKED. He thought I actually expected to get (or have him get) the whole thing done that weekend, and didn’t realize that this was more of a rolling list, and much of it could be put off if, for example, we had fantastic weather for a family outing that weekend.

Anyway, I don’t know if anyone will find this useful, but I figured I’d share anyway. It’s helped me get a grip and feel organized and like I’m moving forward towards goals, even if I’m not in a manic, I-can-do-it-all phase.

Shawna
Shawna
7 years ago

Oh I feel like I should share two secrets behind my chill-outedness:
1) I get between 8-9 hours of sleep a night.
2) (this is the BIGGIE but won’t work for everyone, unfortunately) I get hormonal migraines so my doctor has put me on the Pill 24/7. The delightful side effect is no hormonal cycling for me. No period. No bad skin. No puffiness. No food cravings. No runaway emotions.
It’s like I’ve found the key to a magic land of unicorns and fairy dust. Seriously.

Kimberly
Kimberly
7 years ago

YES! All the time. But these comments blew my mind. You mean all you ladies that I compare myself to and think are all Super Women really are just on an upswing too and you all struggle with this? This makes me feel SO MUCH better.

willikat
7 years ago

YES. YEP. ALL OF THAT. Right here, sister.

Mandy
7 years ago

Oh man, I was just sitting here for the last fifteen minutes coming to terms with “This is me and sometimes I’m a mess” because shit, if I don’t own it now, will I ever know who I am? Also my friends and I call this “Bon Jovi -ing it”. We’re either Livin’ on a Prayer or saying It’s my Life. I’m not even a big Bon Jovi fan, but it makes me laugh.

Amanda Brown
7 years ago

I am the same person. All or nothing in basically everything I do. That last sentence is perfect, though. Sums up how I want to view myself.

trackback
7 years ago

mydło sandałowe…

All & Sundry…

Katie
7 years ago

I love all this. I skimmed a few comments and can tell I need to go back and read them all. I operate like this in the short term. Exactly as you describe but with intense short term cycling. Like totally getting shit handled for a few days. Working out, house clean, kids all settled, big projects tackled, dog walked, etc. But then having two days where I can’t move and where nothing happens and it all slides back really fast. Then a frantic cycling back into UP cycle. My mom tells me I am just “RECOVERING” during the down cycles. I will wail to her “I got nothing done today. The house that was totally clean two days ago is a shit hole, etc. I ate 4000 calories and didn’t move. Why do I even bother?” and she says “Well, you have to RECOVER from cleaning it and working out and being all on top of it all for all those days, don’t you?” She makes it feel like of COURSE you have to recover from all those times of being so on top of it. That’s exhausting. She is retired and is recovering from life. It sounds so nice…… The exercise thing is another problem though. I love seeing the results from it, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that I have to workout like that FOREVER. FOR. EVER. Ugh. I can do it enough to see results and then think “Ok! I did that, now time to relax!” I guess that’s why I never maintain what I want to….

Katie
7 years ago

The part that bothers me is that two of my best friends are SUPER anal and OCD and are ALWAYS. ALWAYS ON AN UPSWING. ALWAYS. They make me feel bad. They do seem totally frantic and swirly and non-zen. So I guess they don’t have it ALL together. But it sure seems like it. And I know them well. They just never, ever take recovery periods. Just go go go. My husband is like that too. Being around all these people like this makes it hard to be ME.

shayna
shayna
7 years ago

I was just thinking about this today. Why can’t I find a middle ground? I have no idea what would even be sustainable. Ugh. More thinking to do.

sarawr
sarawr
7 years ago

I feel exactly this way, all the time, and until right this moment I thought it was just me. Like, that I was broken somehow, and every other person ever had picked a lane and stuck to it from birth.

I’ve never been able to figure out what triggers the differing sides of myself, either. It isn’t seasonal, exactly. It isn’t really related to diet or sleep or exercise — no, those are variable side-effects, not causes. It sometimes correlates to big life changes, but not always and not reliably. I just… sometimes am a productive, on-point, firing-all-cylinders adult for a week or a month or a season, and then I’m not anymore. One day I just wake up and think, fuck it, getting dressed before noon is for other people.

I have noticed that there is some correlation with my drinking. I wouldn’t ordinarily talk about that, except that it’s something you’ve written about (beautifully and with honesty I admire) and I feel like maybe there’s some kind of connection there, like those of us who are prone to Struggle With Wine And Stuff are also prone to this kind of wild capability careening? I admit that I just now had this thought based on a sample group of two, so it may not be all that legitimate. Still, it does make me think, and this post and thinking about that make me feel less alone and/or schizophrenic (which I mean literally; I have literally wondered if I am schizophrenic and that’s why I cannot just be one kind of person, the good kind, all the time), so thank you for a) the post and b) letting me pour out this comment with its comma splices and digressions.

Ess. Gee.
Ess. Gee.
7 years ago

Dude. Like so many other commenters, I thought it was just me. And ladies? Thank you all for making me feel better. It didn’t occur to me, AT ALL, that this could be hormonal as well. I’m a single mom to a special needs kiddo, who holds up a pretty good front of *keeping it together* I regularly practice *fake it til ya make it* and am doing a pretty damn good job. But I feel like a fake a lot of the time. As several previous commenters said, I wonder when people will realize I’m a mess. I am insanely ANXIOUS today, and couldn’t figure out why….until I read these comments. I’m 41, my periods are FROM HELL now, and I’m currently in it’s throes. I may start taking my birth control pill straight through now. I feel like I giving birth to Satan himself, and I really don’t have to feel like this? I want to have my lady plumbing REMOVED. GAWDDAMNIT.
Anyway. Thanks for talking about this, I needed to hear it today.

Linda
7 years ago

Yes. Yes I do feel this way.
All. the. time.

Eilis
Eilis
7 years ago

It’s amazing how we all feel the same but feel so alone at the same time.

Also, I would totally hang out with you and don’t ever think that I wouldn’t!

It’s so funny how we are so afraid of each other as we get older. We are all dying to be friends with the other soccer moms. What’s the barrier? Let’s break this wall down and just have some laughs and be cool.

I went to my kids’ open house last night…and literally kids were just walking up to each other and HUGGING. I’d look at my son post-hug and be all “Who was that??” and he’d say “Ummm, I don’t know. I think Emily?” Let’s be that way, ladies! Let’s just hug and be besties and stop worrying and fretting and judging! I love you all! (As long as you’re not weird)

Skance
Skance
7 years ago

Yes. Yes to all this (the comments too). This is my everyday struggle and the thing that sabotages me most in my life. One of the things I’m trying hardto change about myself is my ability to just show up and be there for things and just do SOMETHING, even if it’s not the perfect thing. Like I have a lot of family and friends who are overseas. Constantly on my mind and so, so important to me but I find myself rarely reaching out because I don’t just want to send a letter-it should be the most meaningful, heartfelt letter they will ever receive, conveying my deep love and appreciation. So of course that never happens, and in reality, 10 ridiculous notes they do receive saying nothing would mean more than the epic screeds they never get. Or I diet but don’t exercise, work out but eat terribly, clean for days and ignore everything else, ignore the house endlessly until it needs day worth of cleaning etc. impostor, never good enough syndrome. Thanks for always articulating exactly how I would if I could find the words.

Monique
Monique
7 years ago

So glad I’m not alone. Like another poster, I’m a list maker, helps a lot with the keeping on track thing. I have lists for everything and a list of all my lists. When things get frantic and out of control in my head I do a “mind dump” and sort it all out. However. This does not keep me out of the ass dent in the manner I wish. I tell my mom “I know HOW to be organized, it’s the actual DOING part I struggle with.”

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