It happens every time. I’m feeling good. I’ve got a lot going on. I’ve scheduled myself pretty tightly, partly from necessity, partly from neglect. I can’t control when other people want to have meetings or need to pay rent or get sick, and I tend to forget that planning a birthday party takes more than a day, or that I can’t be in two places at once.
At first, I’m humming along. I’m hitting on all cylinders, I’m cranking out the work, I’m feeling good about the number of things I’m checking off my “to do” list. You’d think I’d be happy, right? And I am! In fact, I’m so happy that when someone says to me “Can you take this on?” I say “Sure I can!” And I will trot out the old adage that if you want to get something done, give it to the busiest person you know, which is generally me.
I’m staying up all night reading for school, spending all day on the phone taking meetings while revising my manuscript while sending emails to the library board about our next big event.
And then comes the day when it all goes sour.
It could be that my kid mistook the deadline for her school project, thinking it was due a week later. Or somebody in the family gets sick and my down-to-the-second timing gets thrown out the window. Or worse, that I get sick, so not only can I not do all the things I’ve planned, but I feel horrible both mentally and physically.
As fast as I came up the hill of “I can do anything! I’m an achieving machine! Nothing can stop me!” I’m now screaming into the valley of “I’m a fuckup! Who do I think I’m kidding? Why do I keep doing this to myself?”
At one point, I put together a list of criteria for myself for which projects I should take on, and which I should decline. The problem is that when I can do anything, I can do anything. I don’t need to consult a list or a calendar. Certainly I can give you feedback on your website, write four chapters of a novel, help you move across country and meet you for drinks! But once it becomes clear that I can’t, it’s not just that I feel bad for letting people down. It’s what I imagine all those people are saying. That I’m a flake. That I’m incompetent. That I’m not as bright as I’d like to think I am.
The end of the cycle is where I start believing that it’s all true. I’m not looking forward to that.