Perhaps you’ve arrived here having Googled some version of this question late at night.
I’ve done that.
Or maybe you were searching how to clean up an actual mess, like pink silly putty a toddler ground into an off-white carpet.
Like that splotch on the floor of the room of our toddler who is now in high school.
Isn’t that silly? I haven’t yet cleaned up that silly putty! It’s only been twelve years. I’m getting to it.
Or perhaps you happen to know me personally and are wondering how it is that I am such a mess?
I mean, I LOOK like I have it all together.
There’s the business and the family and the occasional Instagram post of salad or the beach. Solid stuff.
So that couldn’t have been me, running around the produce aisle like a Crazy Lady while my just-purchased groceries were melting in the trunk of my car…
But it was.
I misplaced my phone.
Here’s the thing… I walked into the supermarket with it. I know this because I was trying to log onto the app that allows me to digitally download coupons for the groceries I was about to buy.
I love a good coupon. According to CVS, I’m in the top 1% of coupon clippers. (If I were in the actual top 1%, I wouldn’t need coupons, clearly…)
Anyway, I’m in the supermarket trying to get onto the app to download coupons.
There’s just one problem. I can’t remember my password.
Like every other password I seem to ALWAYS FORGET AND NEED TO RE-SET BECAUSE I HAVE NO METHOD FOR STORAGE OF INFORMATION WITHIN THE LIMITED CONFINES OF MY VERY CLUTTERED BRAIN.
Ok. I’m ok now.
I’m trying this new thing with breathing and meditation.
Occasionally it works.
But that day, in the produce aisle, I was in a bit of a frenzy. I had already gone 15 miles out of my way to go to two stores to pick up some things I needed. I went to the first store, got my intended items, got in my car, and drove off. It wasn’t until 14 miles into the return trip home that it hit me that I NEVER WENT TO THE SECOND STORE.
Like, just forgot about it.
Also, I FORGOT TO USE THE COUPON I had for the item in the first store which was the entire point of going out of my way to go to that particular store in the first place.
Now I’d have to go back out of my way again at some point which was TOTALLY NOT THE PLAN.
And it’s NOT AS IF I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO DO ALL DAY LONG BUT RUN ERRANDS.
I’m a very busy woman. It’s that whole Looking Like I Have it All Together thing. It takes time.
I get it. I’m overreacting. It’s errands. What’s the big deal?
Just breathe. Forget about your coupons, shop for your groceries and stop yapping about First World Problems.
So I get my groceries and while in the checkout line I rummage through the Giant Black Hole known as my purse. And I cannot find my phone.
I know I walked in with it. Didn’t I?
Faint memory of trying to log on to the app to download coupons…
Yes, I had it. It must be in here.
I look through my Giant Black Hole of a Purse meticulously now, opening zippered compartments and unearthing coins, some ridiculously long CVS receipts, and a petrified cheese stick I have no idea how long has been in there.
I cannot find the phone.
I check my pockets. Unlike my glasses, it can’t be on my head.
I must be wrong. I must have left it in the car. It’s NOT in my purse.
I pay for my groceries (thankful to still have my wallet), head to my car, load up the trunk with my purchases, get in the driver’s seat and DO NOT see my phone.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic.
I dump out all the contents of my Giant Black Hole of a Purse, panicking.
WHERE IS MY PHONE?
It is NOT HERE.
Am I going crazy?
HOW CAN I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF THE LAST KNOWN LOCATION OF MY PHONE?
I race back to the store. Maybe I put it down somewhere. In the cart?
By the deli? Did I stop to tie my shoe?
I am wearing flip-flops. My mother embarrassingly calls this type of shoe “thongs.”
I quickly retrace my steps, in my flip-flops. I am also wearing a thong but that’s beside the point.
This is why I forget things, my mind is in 57 different places at any given moment.
Right now I am hyperventilating in the supermarket, in my flip-flops and my thong, looking for my phone.
Maybe I never had the phone to begin with. Maybe I left it at the first store, the one 15 miles out of my way on one of those two errands of which I only did one.
The ringer is off, so I can’t call it.
If a phone rings in the supermarket and no one answers, does the phone actually exist?
Flustered, red-faced, with groceries warming in the trunk of my car, I wait at customer service, impatiently tapping my flip-flopped foot.
The person in front of me is buying scratch-off lottery tickets. I start thinking about luck and winners and losers.
Why am I so UNLUCKY?
I pile on to this thought because why not just run with it into the Land of Self-Loathing…
Why am I so DISORGANIZED?
Why am I SUCH A MESS?
This wouldn’t be so bothersome if it didn’t happen ALL THE TIME. I misplace my phone, on average, about 4x a week. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for said phone. Or my keys. Or my glasses which are often atop my head.
When I’m not doing that, I sometimes find myself walking into a room only to have COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN WHAT IT WAS I INTENDED TO DO THERE.
One time, while taking a bathroom break in the middle of a busy work day, I was shocked to notice my underwear was on backward. And by underwear, I mean my thong. This is somewhat difficult to NOT notice, as you can imagine. My lack of noticing speaks to my lack of functioning mental capacity.
It’s like I’m Operating in a State of Crazy. All the time.
I get to the front. The customer service rep eyes me warily. Crazy Lady in Aisle 2.
“Did anyone turn in a phone?” I sputter. “I think I lost it here, it’s pink, it has a picture of a sunset on the front, it’s mine…”
And I see it, right behind the counter. She holds it up, smiling at the Crazy Lady in front of her.
“It was in produce, by the avocados.”
Of course it was.
I have no recollection of leaving it by the avocados. I have no recollection of whether I actually bought avocados. If I had, they are now quickly ripening in the stifling heat of the trunk of my car.
All I know is that I’m so relieved to have my phone back.
And feeling pretty stupid.
And having a sudden desire for guacamole. With a side of giant margarita.
I thank her and race back to my car, determined to get home before the contents in my trunk melt. I put all the items I had dumped out back into my Giant Black Hole of a Purse. The items cry for help, a desperate longing to be rescued, as I zip them back into their cluttered tomb.
I vow to clean it out when I get home.
I vow to clean up my life. Get organized. Stop being so forgetful. Calm down. Create systems and follow them. Put clothes on the right way. Stop Googling “Why am I such a mess?” when I awake with insomnia at 3 a.m. and ponder the meaning of my existence.
“You’re not a mess!” you say to me. (This is the part where you say that, thank you). “You’re a normal human being. Forgive yourself.”
Or perhaps you send me that lovely quote making the internet rounds:
‘You are not a mess. You are a feeling person in a messy world.’
Well right back at ya, lady. Meet me at the market and we’ll talk about it.
If you’re still reading at this point, it’s because you, too, feel at times like a mess. Or you often misplace your phone, forget your coupons, and wear your underwear backward.
Or something like that. You’re still here.
Like me, you run around with too many tabs open in your busy brain, flicking from one thought to the other with no semblance of order.
Like me, you’re quick to judge yourself by your worst moments without giving credit to all the times you get it right.
Like me, you take small transgressions and use them to label yourself with major character flaws.
These are all things I’ve written about on my Things Not To Do list. And yet I still do them. You likely do too.
And that’s OK. Because we’re not a mess, we’re feeling people in a messy world!
Next week, I’ll likely once again leave my phone in the produce aisle of my local supermarket.
If you find it, can you try to log on to my account and download my coupons? And grab a few avocados. We’ll make guacamole together.
Valerie Gordon is a 10-time Emmy-winning television producer, a lifelong storyteller, and the founder of career and communication strategy firm The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and works with corporations to help high-achievers create greater success at work and in life (and also in the produce aisle). The author of “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life,” Valerie wants everyone to know that behind every pretty Instagram post is someone barely holding it together.