Monday, January 26, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True

A year ago I had a painful revelation. I'm not who I thought I was.

My entire life, I had been under the false but comforting impression that I was "Little Miss Type A". Organized. Together. Detail-oriented. Ambitious. A list-making, time-managing, efficiency-driven, dynamo of a gal. A natural-born leader with productivity and perfectionism oozing from my pores.

But as time went by, I was daily bombarded by a perplexing disconnect between my identity and my reality. For a while, I simply lived in denial...until my reality became increasingly difficult to ignore. 

My home was not organized. I often felt that I was anything but "together." And while I own a label maker and I can spend hours roaming the aisles of Staples and I heart containers, my life did not reflect Type-A-ness. At all. I was juggling a million different things...and dropping balls right and left. I sought refuge in my Myers-Briggs-ness, telling myself "I am an ENFJ." But the chaos and disorder went on, unabated.

This disconnect between my identity and my reality was ostensibly easy to explain. I was simply a Type-A who had fallen off the wagon. And there were lots of good reasons for this. Balancing career and family and home. Living with disorganized people (known as children.) Not having a Type-A husband to partner with me in all things orderly and organized. I was a victim of people and circumstances who did not align well with my needs and goals.

And then the truth just hit me one day. Sobering and undeniable truth that was painful to swallow and even more painful to admit to others.

I am not Type-A. I never was. I was just a wannabe Type-A. 

I didn't fall off the wagon. I was never on it to begin with. 

I was just some deluded girl running behind the wagon...sprinting, sweating, breathless, and very determined. But not destined.

Don't get me wrong. I love order. I am always looking for the book or method or system that will work for me. (Fly lady flew into my life...and then flew back out as quickly as she came.) I crave visual peace, especially in my home. I even use my label maker. But for every Type-A-ish attribute, there are at least 10 shameful characteristics that prove otherwise.

I am usually late. I am very absent-minded. I often can't find stuff. I am very easily distracted. I procrastinate unpleasant tasks. I love to start projects and not finish them if they become un-fun. And I feel guilty of course but not guilty enough to employ the self-discipline I need to complete the not-fun project.

Worst of all, I am a horrible manager of my time. Horrible. 

Like when I'm on my way to the bathroom and I pass the computer and decide to just quickly check my e-mail and then it's 45 minutes later and I have forwarded a "What Kind of Dessert Are You?" questionnaire that somebody sent me that I didn't have the heart not to do and then I decided to make my bed because it would look prettier and then I am wondering why I've nearly peed my pants and why my children are running wild and my baby is screaming in the high-chair and out of Cheerios.

That is not Type-A. That is Type-ADD.

And while I do not want to be that person, I now know, for better or for worse, that I am that person.

And when I finally accepted it, I felt free. And freedom is a beautiful thing.

You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And it did.

Sure, it's disappointing to realize you're not who you want to be. But all that blame-shifting and deluded thinking was exhausting and disappointing. Exhausting because I was always running after that dang wagon and never reaching it. Disappointing because I had an impossible image to live up to. Not to mention that being a blame-shifter makes you unlikeable and cranky because you blame everyone and everything except yourself.

Two funny things happened when I told my husband of this grand revelation...

First, I got all self-righteous about my self-actualization, thinking I was brilliant for realizing it and so humble and mature for accepting it. (I'm always amazed at my twisted ability to puff up with pride as I glory in my humility.)

Second, my grand revelation came as no surprise to him.

He just looked at me and smiled.

And then I knew...

He had known all along.

He is a saint, this man. First of all, he lives with me and has put up with all my junk for over 13 years of marriage. Second, he has never felt the need to point out my flaws. He loves me in spite of them and knows that I'll learn what I need to when I need to.

I wish I could say I've always been the same way with him. (I perfected the art of nag years ago. But thankfully God is overhauling that part of me too.)

As it turned out, everyone knew I wasn't just a Type-A who had fallen off the wagon. Everyone but me.

Even my best friend told me, "You're not that person. You're never going to be that person. When are you going to accept it? Why don't you think of each day as a grand adventure instead of a controlled routine that you need to maintain and perfect?"

The joy of freedom, of seeing yourself for who you really are, is that you are then finally free to work on the real issues. To admit that you have a problem. (Many, many problems.) No more blaming. No more exhaustion. No more disappointment...well, not as much disappointment.

So I'm working on being a better manager of my time. On being organized (only in the areas where it really matters.) On a few other personal disciplines I've chosen for this year. And I'm actually making a bit of progress. We're making progress. (Because if you read a couple of posts ago, you'll recall that I Got Nothin'.)

So for all you Type-A's out there, I love you. I still sometimes want to be you. You all look so neat and pretty and organized and enviable up on that wagon. I will likely continue to read your books and attempt to apply your methods...probably in vain.

But for all you wannabe's still racing after that wagon, consider this...

Maybe you're not meant to be on the wagon. Maybe there's joy and adventure and freedom in simply accepting who you really are.

To thine own self be true.
-William Shakespeare

(Perhaps he and I have a few things in common. Weird, philosophical, wordy, romantic, misunderstood writer-types, who place undue emphasis on the dramatic and tragic.)  

To thine own self be true.

 Yeah, I like it. 

And I'm finally free to live it.


  1. wow... sounds just like me!!!! minus the kids! i swear the computer will one day be the death of me!!!

  2. Oh good, so you finally got it. Welcome to my world. I called it first... you remember.

  3. Too funny girl. It's funny how being a stay at home mom will reveal things about yourself that you never saw when you were "pretending" out there in the real world, huh? I'm the same way. I used to think I wanted to lead, now I'm content to follow (well, most of the time). I used to think I had a brain. Then I began homeschooling.
    I'm just a nobody with a REAL SOMEBODY JESUS living inside of me.

  4. You sounded like you were describing me! Two differences, you are much more intelligent and you have the ability to put your thoughts into words. Now I can relax, knowing I understand you better than I thought. I, too, have a husband who has always accepted me just for who I am with no need to complain! I love you! Debbi

  5. Seriously, this is exactly how I feel! You totally nailed it. Thanks so much for your blog... it is a highlight of my day!

    Meg -

  6. Ha. I'm laughing because I'm sitting here, just checking blogs & facebook "real quick" which turned into writing my OWN blog post and spending the last 45 minutes on the computer. Now the 5 year old is asking if she can have her turn on the computer, the pictures I want to sort through so that I can order more b/c I have a great coupon (NOT because my scrapbooks are caught up, have mercy, I'm 5 years "behind") are not sorted through, and the meal I'm supposed to start working on to take to some laid-up church people is far from being started.

    I'm thinking I was never on the wagon either. :o)


  7. Just wanted you to know I've read it, laughed and cried while reading it, and wondered what I did to contribute to the 35-year-delusion! You know . . . mother's guilt.

    I love you abundantly. This is an absolutely incredible blog. There are so many others who are gonna love you too. But I was first!


  8. Oh my goodness! If this is not me! I try so hard to be type A and I always thought I was type A! Your blog has actually helped me realize this! I guess I do need to be honest with myself and accept me for me! I literally could copy your post and put on my blog! But I won't!ha Thanks for the revelation!
    Jennifer Johnson

  9. I was wondering if you can tell me your paint color from your beutifully "mistreated" room in your prior post? It is a pale yellow/buttery color.

  10. I think you may have just described me perfectly! Maybe I'm not the type A I have always expected myself to be! Something to really think about.

  11. That is a WONDERFUL post on so many levels! I can't wait to share it with friends...

  12. In answer to "hlsst7" 3 comments above, the color is Montgomery White by Benjamin Moore. It will look cream on the paint chip but I PROMISE it's really a soft yellow once on your walls.

  13. I love this. I can totally relate to walking aisles in stores looking, and sometimes buying, organizing stuff. Somehow my house never is organized completely. Just curious, have you taken the personality test again?

  14. Funny thing. Within the last two or three years, I have started telling others that I was quite sure that if they had done testing ADD when I was younger, that would have been me. It still is . . . with a lot of coping . . . some healthy but probably some not healthy! Don't know if came from my gene pool or not. Since this is not an official diagnosis, we can attribute it to the other side of the family! Still loving you . . . more than ever. Dad

  15. You are an excellent writer...very insightful and funny. Thanks for sharing!


  16. Thank you so much for sharing your paint color. I would have never guessed it would look like that from the chip. -Heather

  17. Hey there,

    I left an award for you over at my blog... stop by whenever you get a chance!


  18. Oh Marian. I was just trying to tell Jennifer Matocha today that it was really hard to try to live up to her and Marte. Marte is a serious type A. I ALWAYS feel guilty for not being like her. I always want to be organized, but it is so damn hard for me I can't get there. Can't you be a type "B" (whatever that is) and still be organized. all I want is organized....some control.....some normalcy.
    I love help my soul...years ahead of me. years.....hopefully not years.

  19. ME TOO! I have fooled a number of people into thinking I'm super organized, but the life you described fits me to a tee. I especially loved the part about nearly wetting your pants because you were distracted. Is there a self help group for people like us?

  20. Type A's are boring and they just make the rest of us feel guilty. I'm glad you are who you are! It's more fun to laugh at the park together over sticky floors and dirty kids- than it is to hurry home and organize linen closets.

  21. Oh my gosh, I could print this out, frame it and put it on my wall! You just described me too a T! I've always thought of myself as Type A but inside I know I'm not. I can not maintain order everywhere...but at the same time if life is not pretty orderly it makes me uncomfortable. I'm running behind the wagon!!

  22. This is ME, too!!!!!!!!!! I love organization, but rarely find it. I could agree with all that you said, only you said it better! thanks for sharing!



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