Shiny on the outside, messy in the middle

I didn’t pre-schedule a blog post for today. I usually have them at least 2-3 days out, if not a week in advance. It’s not a stressful process. I just write them as they come to me, and then schedule them for the next unscheduled day’s slot.

I like doing it that way, because it allows me to break ideas into their smallest units, to stick to a single point per post. It allows me time and luxury to edit my posts. To sleep on them, to come back and update the things I still don’t like about them.  It generates a more polished and succinct post for me to address them that way.

When I have to write them on the fly – like I do today – they end up messier, more scattered. In a way, they are also more honest.

In this way, my blog very much reflects me and my interaction with the outside world.

I mentioned to a friend on Twitter this morning that I present well, but that inside my head things are chaotic.

I know I present well because of the things people say to me:

  • “You’re so organized!”
  • “You’re so together!”
  • “You’ve got it all figured out!”
  • “You’re so responsible / reliable / steady…” (anything that makes me sound rock-like)

Here’s a little secret for you: inside my head, my entire life is barely managed mayhem. 

I have learned how to cope with the constant firestorms of ideas, the tornadoes of emotions.  That makes it so I don’t look as insane as I feel. These people who rely on me to be their rock have no idea what a bed of quicksand that rock rests upon.

That patina of polish on all of my blog posts?  We’re talking at least 3 revisions in advance, and even then I still hate most of them. I’m still worried that people will hate me because of them. I’m still worried that some troll is going to come along and comment “You’re an idiot” and be 100% correct.  The more I put myself out there, the worse it is.

The more honest the post, the more I want to vomit at 11 AM when it goes live.

That massive amount of organization? Most of it is either turmoil management, or it’s based in fear.  I’m a phenomenal coping artist. I am incredibly skilled at triage, prioritization and action items. This is not a natural skill, it’s a learned one. One that came at the price of a lot of anxiety attacks.

One thing I learned was to always keep my goals in sight – those help with prioritization.  Then I learned to set the right goals from the start.  As long as I set goals that are really in keeping with who I want to be as a person, then I end up living a life that is at least somewhere near where I want to be.

I really think that extroverts’ heads are mostly quiet on the inside, so they seek chaos from without. I know my head is so freaking noisy most of the time that I seek quiet from without so I can make sense of it. I usually can’t. I just catch snippets here and there and toss them onto a piece of paper until I have a moment of calm.  Then the sifting begins.

This jumble inside my head includes everything that crosses through my brain in its rapid-fire, nonsensical, tangential way. My piles of notes and paper reflect blog post ideas, errands I need to run, story ideas, next steps for WIPs, a random image that struck me funny on the train ride home, a note to call my mom, shopping lists, a paragraph of dialogue that I thought of while walking to work… these things are scribbled in notepads, in the margin of my journal, on scraps of paper, receipts, napkins, backs of envelopes. I email myself links.

Yes, there are tools that work for this. I have evernote on every device I use. I spent hours last weekend transferring scattered pages and emails into evernote notebooks. However, my memory works best with the act of writing stuff down longhand. Write it down and I can “see” the note even if the paper is lost.  Typing and soft copy stuff doesn’t have that sensory permanence.  I still have to use pen and paper.

In the end, I triage, prioritize, pick the three things I need to get done next, and then do them.

That professional poise and self-confidence? It’s a sham. I fake that unless I really know what I’m talking about. If you bump up against an area that I’m well-versed in, you might get a glimpse of expertise-brain-file-access.  If I talk with you about SEO or social media, then about 98% I’m not faking confidence. I do know my field, as much as anyone does. (It’s always growing and changing, so no one can really be an expert at it.)

I think the key is that I’ve learned how to keep my mouth shut. I’ve also learned how to very professionally say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” I find that admitting what I don’t know is the smartest way to keep that sheen of confidence going.

As far as my appearance? What I see in the mirror and what I envision of myself in my head do not match. At all. I think I have brown eyes and brown hair in my residual self-image, but … yeah. Sometimes I glimpse myself in the mirror and wonder who the hell that woman is. So, any self-confidence people might perceive surrounding my appearance is all bluff.

My inner critic is a horrible person.  She’s a really good editor, so I let her play when I’m in revision stages. Generally speaking, my inner critic is a bitch.  She’s a lot of why I’m not self-confident about more stuff. She’s a liar about really basic things. In the chaos of my mind, she’s the voice that tells me I can’t do, can’t be, shouldn’t want.

People see a person who dresses professionally and goes to work every day. Someone who eats a healthy breakfast every day and has homemade chicken soup stocked in the freezer in case she gets sick. Someone who cleans the house, grocery shops and does laundry on the weekend. Someone who does a really good job at work, and has this “corporate career” stuff pretty figured out.  Someone who manages to be a good friend, manages to have time for reading and writing, manages to “get it all done”.  People see someone who shows grace under pressure, who doesn’t get bent out of shape about things like the car getting stolen.

I present well.

What I see – from the inside looking out and with the constant self-critique – is a woman who may or may not have on mismatched socks after dressing in the dark, who eats the same thing every day so she doesn’t have to think about food choices, who is usually one mishap away from an anxiety attack.   I see a woman who worries about being “good enough” though there is no real measure for that goal.  I see the mountains of ideas that haven’t been realized, and the daunting lists of to-dos that have to be broken down into smaller parts to even be workable.  I see someone who has to be rigid about how she spends her time or she’ll wander off into the storm.

I think I wanted to admit to this, and write this because I’m tired of people saying they wish they could be like me.  My critic says that what they want to emulate add up to learnable skills and a spit-polished persona, and I’m simply not worthy of praise.

As I type this, I realize that maybe she’s just being a bitch again.  I want to argue with her that even though my head is a mess, I do actually get things accomplished. Isn’t managing the chaos sort of impressive in itself?

I usually have a nice way to wrap up my blog posts. Something to complete the thought. I probably won’t have one of those today, because this is stream-of-consciousness unedited garble. (Welcome to the inner sanctum of my freewrite). But there it is, for what it’s worth.


11 thoughts on “Shiny on the outside, messy in the middle

  1. Love the story of what is the real you. Well said and well put down into words. Not many people have the courage to admit details of their life that can be exploited by the crude mentailty of selfish individuals. Even though I am no one, I appreciate all you said from a friendly perspective.
    We are who we are…no more, and no less. And that’s…..what makes us all so very special.

  2. Here’s what I think. I think that you are normal. Every woman out there can relate to what you say here. Every one of them. So do not feel alone, singled out or odd because the only difference is you express it better than they do in writing. Love you.

    • I think the universal truth factor is part of why I wrote it, actually. I wanted to be honest. To be clear. Or at least, that’s was what I tried to do 🙂

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