My very patient husband is not like me at all. He’s neat and punctual, and he doesn’t lose things. He’s one of those people who doesn’t even keep a case on his phone because he knows he will never, ever scratch or damage it. I feel terribly guilty when my dumb mistakes cost us time and money. My husband is usually very kind about it and takes my mistakes in stride, but sometimes I can tell he’s frustrated and irritated with me. And rightfully so — I realize he feels like he’s always cleaning up my messes, and, besides, car damage can be expensive to repair!
It probably won’t surprise you that this is a pattern that goes back to my childhood. I was the youngest/messiest/most-absentminded child in my family. I’ve always been the one that needed cleaning up after. I would love to do better/be better, but I don’t know how. I’ve tried telling myself, “From now on, I’m going to pay more attention to what I’m doing, stop being so absentminded, and start being more careful,” but this just hasn’t worked.
Do you have any advice on how I can stop being such a hot mess and start being/feeling more like a competent adult who has her life together? — Hot Mess
I’m not sure that you can change who you are at this point in your life or change a pattern that dates back to childhood. But you can certainly reframe the way you see your behavior, you can employ some strategies to help you be more mindful, and you can open communication with your husband and give him an opportunity to express his frustration or alleviate your concerns that he’s upset with your behavior.
First, are you filling your day solely with activities that you are either obligated to do or that support your emotional and physical well-being? For example, you are obligated to do your 9-5 job because you need to keep the job to pay your bills. But you are not obligated to keep a rigorous work-out schedule or write a novel in your free time. Do those activities bring your joy and make you feel good? If not, perhaps it’s time to think about dropping them or adjusting your time investment in them. You could replace some of the time you spend working out with meditating (practicing mindfulness) instead, making lists to help you remember stuff, or doing things that will help you run more efficiently throughout the day (like packing your bag or purse in the morning or the night before with everything you’ll need during the day). You could set some alarms on your phone to alert you when it’s time to do things that will help you feel more calm, like take five minutes to sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply or leave for work ten minutes earlier.
But let’s be honest, there’s only so much effect these little changes are going to have, overall. There’s a good chance you will always be someone who runs late, makes messes, and loses stuff. If you’re concerned that your husband is frustrated or that your behavior is costing you money, be proactive and talk to your husband about this. Tell him: “You know I have always been absentminded, and lately I am feeling that this is frustrating you and I feel bad about that. I want to change my behavior, but I don’t know if it’s possible. I think this may just be who I am. I feel especially bad when my absentmindedness costs us money, and I’m wondering if you have any ideas for how I can make it up to you.”
Maybe he will assure you that he is NOT frustrated. Maybe he will have some concrete ways you make things up to him. Maybe — hopefully — he will remind you that no one is perfect, and if losing keys and making messes and running late are your worst traits, well, that’s a whole lot better than being cruel or narcissistic or lazy or unfunny. And if he won’t tell you this, then I will: There are far worse personality and behavior traits and habits to have than the ones you feel so bad about. And clearly, the traits are not deal-breakers for your husband or he wouldn’t have married you. Spouses are going to be a little annoyed and frustrated by each other sometimes. The key to not letting resentment build up is to express gratitude for the things you appreciate about your spouse (like being understanding of your limitations) and express acknowledgment of the things about yourself that you know can be challenging to live with sometimes. Doing this really does create a culture of appreciation and understanding, and it goes a long way to lightening the burden one might feel in not being perfect all the time.
P.S. You sound way more like a “Cathy” than a “Pigpen.”
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
Cara Davis May 21, 2018, 8:29 am
I’d recommend OP get tested for ADHD– it often is missed with women and many of the issues OP has are classic Adult ADHD symptoms.
Ruby Tuesday May 21, 2018, 10:05 am
The test for ADHD is very time-consuming and likely would not have any benefit for the LW. She did not describe any issues at work and she is able to maintain a regular schedule. You can be forgetful and chronically late without having ADHD.
Greta Fedder May 21, 2018, 1:34 pm
I agree about getting testing for ADHD. I have ADHD myself, and that my instant reaction.
Juliecatharine May 21, 2018, 8:58 am
LW, I have to ask, have you internalized some form of abuse on these issues? You seem really down on yourself for things that sound minor and totally normal to me. Granted, I walk into my coffee table 3-4 times a week, am totally lacking in spatial awareness, and drop stuff constantly but I also really don’t think that’s something people can fix about themselves. I’m sure you try to be careful (I know I do) but it doesn’t do much good and well, what can you do? Nobody’s perfect even if they run early and never drop their phone (in the sink twice last week).
Copa May 21, 2018, 9:19 am
I wondered the same thing, and it’s odd to me that these trivial things are the ones you use as criteria for having your life together. I myself am fairly absent-minded and find myself doing really silly things that sound not unlike LW. I’m usually running a few minutes late, I misplace my keys regularly/have locked myself out of my place on multiple occasions, sometimes I’ll absent-mindedly “put things away” and later realize I put them in a SUPER weird place. My mom is actually similar (she can NEVER find her glasses) and I’ve always thought I’m hardwired this way just like she seems to be. I don’t think my absent-mindedness is a big deal — I’m generally a good and successful person, and those qualities count for way more. Of the qualities you listed, the only one I think can sometimes be problematic is tardiness. (My internal clock is a few minutes “off” but I do think punctuality is important so I choose to actively work on this.)
LW May 21, 2018, 11:27 am
I wouldn’t call it abuse, but when I was a kid, my family was really hard on me for being klutzy/absentminded/mistake-prone. My mother always has her shit together, so to speak. She’s a bit like my husband in the sense that she never makes a mess, never loses anything, is always 100% organized. Unfortunately, she’s less like my husband in the sense that she lacks his patience. I think it was hugely frustrating for her to raise a kid who was so messy, and I’ve probably managed to internalize a lot of that frustration.
Copa May 21, 2018, 11:59 am
If it’s any consolation, my parents would get frustrated with me over stuff like this, too. (Even my mom, who can never find her glasses.) I was sometimes made to feel bad over specific incidents, but generally don’t feel bad about it because I just don’t think it’s a huge deal. There are worse ways to be, worse qualities to have. Yeah, your husband might occasionally find it frustrating when it’s something bigger (like the car), but he presumably knew you were like this before you got married and may not be frustrated with you regularly or even at all. My first long-term boyfriend told me he found some of these traits endearing. In any case, I like Wendy’s suggestion of expressing gratitude to your husband.
dmarie May 21, 2018, 1:35 pm
I’m super klutzy and drop/spill things all the time. I also run into poles. I swear they move as I walk by. I’m just kind of absent minded. I was just at a wedding and a friend was making a cup tower because they weren’t picking them up and yet totally stole my napkin and I completely ran into the table and knocked it all over. All my friends just laughed and were like oh Dmarie not again! haha The only time it’s a real problem is when I’m letting my depression or anxiety get them best of me and then I get really frustrated with myself. Maybe it is more how you perceive it then your husband. We all annoy each other from time to time and it isn’t a big deal.
Fyodor May 21, 2018, 9:23 am
I do think that the car accidents are a separate issue-if she’s getting into two accidents a year, eventually she’s going to hurt someone.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 9:52 am
She didn’t say she got into car accidents – she dented the car. That could be something like hitting the garage or scraping by a scaffolding pole – examples from my own messy life.
Hell, my mom drove into the garage and dented the outdoor fridge and put a teeny scratch/dent on the hood of the car. The fridge did not survive.
Copa May 21, 2018, 9:54 am
We don’t know that she’s getting into accidents, though.
Fyodor May 21, 2018, 10:49 am
I guess it depends on the particulars, but if she’s actually denting the car anywhere other than her driveway, she could just as easily be hitting someone.
JD May 21, 2018, 9:23 am
LW I think you are taking this a bit too seriously. I don’t tend to lose things but I can walk into a wall that has been there my whole life. My friends say I need myself and everything I own bubble wrapped. Some people are just that way. I keep good phone cases and screen protectors on, I have a case on my laptop. If you lose your keys often put a Tile on them. I bought one for my boss and they are life savers. Obviously it can be annoying to your husband when it causes messes or costs money but it doesn’t sound like he is that upset, just logically annoyed. It annoys anyone when those type of things happen. I will say you need to either not drive or pay more attention period when driving. You can hurt someone, drive their insurance rates up depending on the state (in CA your rates go up even if you weren’t at fault) and risk being sued. I am assuming you are not doing anything to distract yourself while driving but if you are STOP. Can happen though. I backed into a truck a while back, but in my defense he had a foot long tow hitch hanging out which there was no humanly possible way to see while backing up. Lucky for him 3k damage to my car and zero to his.. That is not legal for obvious reasons. Douche.
Teri Anne May 21, 2018, 9:36 am
Because the LW has bees struggling with these problems since childhood, she could have an undiagnosed learning disability such as ADHD or Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit. I have two friends who were diagnosed with ADHD as adults, and once they had an accurate diagnosis and help with their ADHD their lives improved enormously. In addition to Wendy’s sensible suggestions, I urge the LW to consult a specialist in learning disorders. While there is no cure for learning disabilities, occupational therapy and sometimes medication can make a big difference.
Mystery lady May 21, 2018, 9:56 am
Please, please get yourself tested for ADHD. Your story is very similar to mine including my parents shaming me by calling me Pigpen (And Miss Piggy and space shot and klutz …)
The negative thoughts spiraling in your brain are both a symptom of having and ADHD nervous system as well as having been shamed for decades by parents, teachers and peers.
I was not diagnosed until almost fifty and I feel so much better now that I’m in treatment.
Wendy’s advice is usually spot on but I strongly recommend you maintain your workout schedule. Exercise is a critical component to managing ADHD and it is probably why you are doing as well as you are.
Dear Wendy May 21, 2018, 10:24 am
Well, in my defense I did not suggest she give up working out. But maybe she doesn’t need for her work-out schedule to be as “rigorous” as she says it is.
Ruby Tuesday May 21, 2018, 2:16 pm
I cannot speak for anyone else, but my opposition to ADHD testing has nothing to do with the stigma that exists around disabilities. I have worked in special education and disability rights law. I am concerned, however, when I read advice regarding disability because I do not think the advice given is complete or accurate. ADHD and learning disabilities are very specific conditions that affect a small percentage of people. It is far too easy for people to self-diagnose and seek treatment for conditions they don’t actually have.
If the LW feels distressed enough that she wants to speak with a medical professional, she absolutely should. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. I am naturally wary when I see others give specific medical advice based on personal experience. I question advice that suggests the LW be tested for a specific diagnosis based on very limited information.
Ange May 21, 2018, 6:19 pm
Oh my gosh I spill things all the time because I am an animated talker and my hands get the better of me. On one hand I agree learning disabilities deserve to lose the stigma, on the other I think it’s kind of gross to diagnose someone with something just because they display completely human behaviours.
Ruby Tuesday May 21, 2018, 10:10 am
People can be absent-minded, chronically late, and accident-prone without having ADHD. If she was describing how these traits were negatively impacting her work life, that might be a different story. ADHD medications are powerful; people don’t need drugs because they are always late or lose their keys.
ktfran May 21, 2018, 10:45 am
Agreed with RubyTuesday.
So, I just read several sites about Adult ADHD symptoms. Out of the 10-15 symptoms listed on each, the only couple this LW displays are maybe time management? And perhaps disorganized? If I went by one of the sites I read, more than half the adults I know would have ADHD. And I would too.
If she weren’t able to complete tasks, or function as an adult, or hold down a job, that would be one thing. But it sounds like she is otherwise thriving despite being absent minded or clumsy.
Teri Anne May 21, 2018, 11:30 am
Some commentators are taking strong exception to the possibility that the LW may have ADHD, possibly to the stigma that still exists with learning disabilities. The fact that the LW has problems spilling things also suggests that she could have another learning disability that impairs motor coordination. The LW’s distress is reason enough to consult a professional,
Greta Fedder May 21, 2018, 1:37 pm
I still say it’s a good idea to get tested. Plenty of people get tested for ADHD and the test results show that they don’t have it. If she turns out not to have ADHD, then no harm done. But if she does have ADHD, the treatment could be just what she needs.
Meeple May 21, 2018, 1:54 pm
just because she didn’t say anything about this affecting her work life, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I would suggest seeing a counselor who specializes in ADD (this does not sound like there is a hyperactivity component to me), see if they agree there is a diagnosis to be made, and then start on a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness training. ADD drugs (stimulants like Ritilin and Adderall) ARE a big deal, and I would start with a therapeutic course of action before trying medication.
Meeple May 21, 2018, 1:59 pm
Also, if she is academically/intellectually gifted, then ADD has an entirely different presentation and presents different life challenges. I stand by my recommendation that she sees a counselor who specializes in this population.
Ange May 21, 2018, 6:21 pm
This was meant to nest here:
Oh my gosh I spill things all the time because I am an animated talker and my hands get the better of me. On one hand I agree learning disabilities deserve to lose the stigma, on the other I think it’s kind of gross to diagnose someone with something just because they display completely human behaviours.
anonymousse May 21, 2018, 9:51 am
It’s hard to see what happened with the car, for some reason, I get a lot of nervous energy from your post. You sound nervous. And as you’re always late, did you back into someone while trying to rush to work or something?
Buy better cases, buy the protection plans, insurance, and a tile and start setting your clocks five or ten minutes fast, so you get out the door on time, or pretend you have to be wherever thirty minutes before you actually do. In the free time you have before appointments or work, make lists.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 9:57 am
LW – cars and phones are tools. Sure, it’d be great if you didn’t damage them but shit gets damaged. It’s ok. And if your husband is getting irked – well, he can deal with it like a grownup.
Routine is a friend. Try to create a routine where your keys are always in the same place, phone is in the same place. You will have to work to create these routines but they will pay off. Get an otterbox for your phone. Drive like you have a niece or nephew in the car.
And if you’re always 5 – 10 minutes late (which is not great but certainly not bad – then it’s time to start recalculating when you need to leave so that it’s 5 – 10 minutes earlier. It’s not hard, but it does take practice to stop the magical thinking of “it will only take xx minutes to get there so I can leave at yy” and add in the things that you never consider (parking, getting from parking to place, etc. etc. etc.)
But as someone who has dented enough rental cars and just replaced my phone screen – shit happens.
MissD May 21, 2018, 10:04 am
I cannot even count the number of times I have walked into the door frame instead of through the door.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 10:11 am
Right? It’s like I forget I have shoulders.
JD May 21, 2018, 10:18 am
Opened my bathroom door into my eye a few months back. Had a golf ball sized lump on my eyelid. Not even the first time I’ve done that.
bondgirl May 21, 2018, 10:41 am
I have also walked into door frames….and wall corners…..I’m glad I’m not the only one out there!
I have horrible tendencies to be absent-minded too, so this letter and the responses are quite relatable.
Just curious though, what is involved with ADHD testing that makes it so time-consuming and length?
Ruby Tuesday May 21, 2018, 10:57 am
While testing varies by person and doctor, the accepted standards in diagnosing ADHD cannot be accomplished by your general practitioner in one normal doctor’s appointment. An ADHD diagnosis can involve different psychological and neurological evaluations, interviews with a doctor spread out over multiple days, interviews with multiple family members, and other diagnostic appointments. These evaluations and interviews require a specialist, such as a psychiatrist.
for_cutie May 21, 2018, 10:26 am
My husband is a neat freak and I leave a trace of me everywhere I go. I haven’t seen the wood on my desk at work or dresser in weeks. But, I am functional and it is how I function.
When we were first married my husband would get annoyed, or put things away while I was still using them. I used to comment “you knew what you were getting into when you married me.” He saw how I kept my apartment.
Now that we’ve lived together almost 15 years he’s mellowed and appreciates my mess. He says he likes being able to tell what I’ve been up to around the house. Or my favorite, the house would be so clean and boring without me in it.
So maybe your husband just needs to mellow a little and live with your hot mess for a few more years. Plus, I totally appreciate that my husband is a neat freak because it means he does the dishes! https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/05/18/611978514/why-the-cant-he-wash-the-dishes-the-chores-that-can-sink-a-relationship?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180518
Guy Friday May 21, 2018, 11:15 am
I mean, but does he? The whole letter is written from a REALLY negative, self-deprecating, self-critical headspace. I’m not sure I can tell from the letter if his reaction is “Stomp off and slam the door” or “sigh and roll his eyes when it’s the third phone in a month that breaks.” If it’s the former, I totally agree; if it’s the latter, then I think we look at the fact that there’s no indication he’s telling the LW this is a deal breaker or that he won’t accept her as she is.
anonymousse May 21, 2018, 10:29 am
I don’t have much personal experience with ADHD, except my bff in college had it, but I don’t think being successful through college and a career sounds congruent with ADHD. She is also banging out a novel in her free time, other than working, and her vigorous workout schedule.
Greta Fedder May 21, 2018, 1:39 pm
Not necessarily. I have known several individuals with undiagnosed ADHD who made it through college and had a successful career. If you choose a career where your ADHD symptoms won’t interfere with your ability to do your job; then it won’t be an issue.
anonymousse May 21, 2018, 6:28 pm
What, in her post, says ADHD to you? She sounds like a normal, fallible, albeit clumsy person.
_s_ May 21, 2018, 10:52 am
As a concrete solution for lost keys (or anything you lose frequently), I just want to second all the people who recommended getting a Tile. As someone who’s always misplaced keys and had the subsequent frantic/stressful tear-the-house-apart-looking-for-keys episode, Tile has been a lifesaver!!!
JD May 21, 2018, 11:18 am
My boss would constantly lose his keys and everything stopped until he found them. Best $40 I’ve ever spent. We just ordered Tiles for the dogs collars. GPS dog collars are $100 up, the tile is the same size as their tags. My dog ended up in jail last week after being picked up by the cops so a solution became necessary.
LW May 21, 2018, 11:20 am
Hi Wendy & commenters:
Thank you for your kind and thoughtful responses! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who walks into doorframes.
A couple of additional comments and points of clarification:
*I’m not getting into car accidents–I’ve never caused a collision with another vehicle. But I have caused minor damage to almost every car I’ve owned (I’m on no. 5 now) when parking, backing out of places, scraping curbs, etc. These are not incidents that are dangerous but they are expensive and I’m frustrated that I keep doing this–I feel like I’m somehow unable to learn from my mistakes.
*I’ve worked very hard to be punctual in recent years. I now get to work on time or no later than 5 min late every day. This is a HUGE victory for me–in previous years, I would typically get to work 15-30 min late, but I happened to have a boss who didn’t really care, so it never mattered.
*It’s true that I tend to be a nervous, frazzled person. I think that might be the root of the problem, but I don’t know what to do about it?
*I’m hesitant to pull back on my workout or writing schedule. The fact is, though I’m a valued employee, I hate my job. My workplace and coworkers are fine, but I don’t enjoy the work itself–it feels like a bad fit for my personality and interests. Working out and writing in my free time is the thing that makes me feel like myself again after a long day at work. It also helps distract me about how unhappy I am about job/career.
*I’ve heard that mindfulness is good for absentminded people, but every time I’ve tried meditation, I’ve been so bad at it. (I get bored really easily while trying to mediate, and it’s tough for me to focus my thoughts.) But to be honest, every time I’ve tried I’ve given up really easily.
*I’ve thought about getting tested for ADHD, but given that I’ve never gotten fired or failed in school, it seems like maybe my distractedness isn’t so severe as to be diagnosable? I never missed assignment in school and I work very hard to make sure I always deliver on commitments at work. I was both an A+ student and a chronic procrastinator.
*I think part of the problem is that I’m very, very hard on myself. I take things personally and tend to be a perfectionist. The fact that my husband is so good at all things I’m terrible at just makes it worse, because I feel like I’m letting him down. The fact of the matter is: he’s really easy to be married to. He’s a great husband, he’s responsible, he does 50% of the household labor, he’s reliable and patient, etc. So I feel really bad that he has compensate for my weaknesses when I almost never have to compensate for his.
Anyway, thank you all for your feedback. I have to say, Wendy’s comment that “there are far worse personality and behavior traits and habits to have than the ones you feel so bad about” really made me feel a lot better.
Guy Friday May 21, 2018, 11:47 am
So I feel really bad that he has compensate for my weaknesses when I almost never have to compensate for his.
You want to make it up to him? When he DOES have weaknesses — and he will someday; we all do at times — remember his compassion for you and show equal compassion to him. Marriage is a team sport, and so a partner’s victories are sweetened by having the other to celebrate with and a partner’s failures are softened because you have the other to lean on. You don’t have to be equal, and I bet if he responded here he’d be able to name 4 or 5 things without blinking that you do to make his life better that you don’t even realize mean that much to him.
All I’m saying is that if he loves you and cares about you, maybe accept that you deserve to be loved and cared about. If nothing else, it’s the easiest thing to do 🙂
LW May 21, 2018, 11:50 am
“When he DOES have weaknesses — and he will someday; we all do at times — remember his compassion for you and show equal compassion to him. ” This is wonderful. Thank you.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 12:49 pm
LW – you are too hard on yourself. Seriously. Things break.
Mindfulness, like anything else requires practice. You work out – running perhaps? Weights? Whatever you can do now- is more than you used to be able to do. Do not feel like you have to sit blank minded for 20 minutes out of the gate. Try 2 minutes. And if you can do nothing than count to 120 – then that’s fine. It’s 2 minutes of being totally in the moment of counting to 120.
Be kind to yourself and celebrate your achievements. Going from 15-30 minutes late to 5-10 is great. Writing is great! Dinging the car – not great but by no means awful. Go to Rome -every car is dinged. It’s a tool to get you from point A to point B A ding in the door isn’t going to make the car go any slower (or any faster).
TheRascal May 21, 2018, 1:42 pm
“It’s true that I tend to be a nervous, frazzled person. I think that might be the root of the problem, but I don’t know what to do about it?”
The nervous/frazzled description sounds like a form of anxiety, too.
Have you ever been to talk therapy? Or any kind of therapy? I have found that with talk therapy, my stress levels plummet and my anxiety levels go way down. I’m not diagnosed with any anxiety disorder, but talking through things on my mind helps me feel more centered and mindful.
LW May 21, 2018, 2:05 pm
No, I’ve never been in therapy, in part because it seems like my problem(s), whatever they are, may not be bad enough to be diagnosable. But it is something I’ve considered and might be worth a shot.
ktfran May 21, 2018, 2:44 pm
You don’t have to have a diagnosable problem to go to therapy! You don’t even have to have one to benefit from therapy! If you find the right therapist, he or she can help you with these negative feelings of yours. He or she can help you reframe your thinking process so you’re not so hard on yourself. They’ll help you get to the bottom of why you feel inadequate and then help you find ways to address those issues.
TheRascal May 21, 2018, 7:10 pm
“No, I’ve never been in therapy, in part because it seems like my problem(s), whatever they are, may not be bad enough to be diagnosable. But it is something I’ve considered and might be worth a shot.”
Talk therapy is the BEST. You don’t need to go to get a diagnosis. I went to help me manage some acute stressful moments (a divorce-like break-up) and then again to address some trauma. I have never been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc, etc, but therapy hugely improved the quality of my life and allowed me the tools to begin to retrain certain learned/ingrained and destructive coping mechanisms.
Attending therapy was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
j2 May 21, 2018, 11:24 am
Polled 6 go-to guys.
Two said they would not have any problem. One because he would never have married LW. The second said all that was “just life” and “part of the package deal.”
The other four said versions of IFthey thought LW was taking advantage of THEM by expecting them to solve/pick-up/adulting etc. All four said that if their partner indicated appreciation, perhaps even thanking them for being understanding or whatever, they would be more than fine with everything. Two suggested affectionate thanking would inspire them to step up and help/empower/wave-off absolutely anything.
ele4phant May 21, 2018, 11:40 am
I share many of your traits – I am messy, I am constantly boinking myself on and into things, I feel frazzled a lot (I am punctual to a fault – but otherwise I am you).
But, I’ve never considered it to really be a problem. Are your traits impacting your life – your work, your marriage, your other relationships? I understand you feel guilty for your husband, but is it really causing an actual problem in your marriage? Not just occasional frustration on his part – getting pissy or annoyed with one another is just going to happen on occasion.
So, from where I’m standing, I don’t think you really have a problem, you just are who you are. I think if you feel your traits are serious impediments to your life – maybe you want to pick one or two to work a routine out for or maybe engage a life coach for a session or two.
If you’re anxiety is making you feel unhappy generally, then certainly, maybe seek out some counseling for that.
But, I think you sound fine. No one is perfect. Including your husband. I know you think he has to compensate for you, but I’m sure if you thought about it (or asked him directly what he thought) you’d realize there are things you do for him, you’d hear that he believes he has some weaknesses that you pick up the slack for.
LW May 21, 2018, 11:49 am
This is a perspective I hadn’t considered. I guess you could say I don’t have a problem? I’m not getting fired, my husband and I aren’t fighting, and while the car damage is expensive, we can actually afford to make the repairs.
But… I often feel as if it takes WAY more work and effort for me to do the basic adult things that other people in my life manage to do (like being on time, not make a mess constantly, being at least a little organized). It would be amazing if I could find a way to do these things that felt less stressful and exhausting.
ktfran May 21, 2018, 12:05 pm
LW, I think the best thing you can do for yourself is give yourself a break and stop being so hard on yourself.
You actually have no idea how others might be struggling to keep it together… to be on time all the time or keep a clean house or be organized. It’s futile to compare yourself. I do think you would benefit from a therapist, but not because of all the things you name that are “problems.” I think you would benefit from a therapist to help you let go a little bit, help you reframe things so you’re not so hard on yourself. Maybe if you weren’t trying to be perfect, you wouldn’t feel so stressed or tired?
One of my very closest friends is so clumsy, it’s ridiculous. Like, she is so unaware of her surroundings and is constantly bumping into things or tripping or IDK, just clumsy. But it’s also one of the things I love most about her. She has accepted it and can laugh about it.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 12:57 pm
Everyone is messy – but there are two keys to being neat: Have less stuff and have a place for everything. Your husband makes messes, it’s just that he probably tidies up as he goes.
If you want to be a “neat” person – find a place for everything. Nothing on the counter and piles on the floor are not acceptable. Don’t try to clear everything, just try to keep the stuff to it’s relegated place and before you go to bed – put everything in it’s place. If only for your husband. Maybe that is the key – not by trying to be neat for yourself but by trying to be neater as a way of showing your husband how much he means to you. It’s a thought. Personally, it doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal to him.
Vathena May 21, 2018, 1:13 pm
I agree with ktfran. Learning to forgive yourself for not always having your shit together is an important life skill. I can relate- I have a full-time job, an almost 5-year-old kid, marriage, house, cat…it can be a lot to juggle, and I can get down on myself when things fall through the cracks. I do a lot of list-making and calendars and routines. If it all feels overwhelming, you could benefit from talking to someone about ways to manage your anxiety about it. But you sound pretty normal to me, too!
Random thoughts: sitting-still meditation is boring and hard to me, too, but if I can hit a yoga class (personal preference for alignment/strength focused yoga) it helps me stay in the moment and just concentrate on breath and movement. Bonus that it might help with body awareness elsewhere too. (lol, “have you tried yoga”, I feel so basic right now…)
For your car bumps and scrapes, also obvious, but do you have a back-up camera? I love having that built in. Pretty sure it’s becoming standard but I look forward to never driving another car without one.
Ele4phant May 21, 2018, 1:41 pm
Honestly – if you have a problem – it sounds like it’s your anxiety and guilt, not your general messiness.
The fact you break stuff or a little late isn’t impacting your life or relationships, but that it distresses you so much is.
ele4phant May 21, 2018, 2:40 pm
“But… I often feel as if it takes WAY more work and effort for me to do the basic adult things that other people in my life manage to do (like being on time, not make a mess constantly, being at least a little organized). It would be amazing if I could find a way to do these things that felt less stressful and exhausting.”
Also – if this thread is any indication – remind yourself that in fact many adults struggle with the same things you do. You are not less grown up, not less valuable of a person, not less worthy because you are messy and lose stuff and a spacey driver.
Certainly if they are impacting your ability to function – seek out resources and routines to help you (maybe hire cleaners, maybe buy a car with a back-up camera, go to a life coach to help you develop better habits, IDK). But cut yourself a break and know that lots of totally functional grown-up people are just like you.
anonymousse May 21, 2018, 3:05 pm
Everyone is different! I am like you in many ways, and my husband just rolls with it. I haven’t caused expensive damage to our vehicles or busted a phone (in the last few years) but this is just LIFE. It’s just who you are. He loves you, he married you, I’m sure he rolls his eyes sometimes or get mildly annoyed, but please stop trying to be perfect. No one is. And your faults aren’t that bad, considering.
As for the little things, you can figure out some ways to be more organized. I always loved a daily planner for life and work, but now there are calendar apps and reminders, etc all on your phone. Use them. I personally like writing things down, because it helps me remember. Ask a friend who is very organized for help. There are tricks to get out the door faster, like seriously planning to be everywhere 15-30 sooner than you should be.
And talk therapy is a good idea. You might even get some sessions free with your job.
anonymousse May 21, 2018, 3:07 pm
Oh, and just be more careful with the car. You’ve caused damage this many times, so be extra prudent. Put a stick on the dash to remind yourself.
Teri Anne May 21, 2018, 11:51 am
My brother discovered he has a learning disability after he finished a rigorous PhD program in the physical sciences. He has struggled all his life with reading, and assumed that everyone was like him because no one ever talked about it. He first realized he had a problem when he read aloud to his children. As they learned to read, they noticed that my brother kept getting the words out of order. So he got himself tested.
LisforLeslie May 21, 2018, 12:52 pm
That is amazing. Your brother really powered through.
SherBear May 21, 2018, 12:07 pm
I’ve always been super absent-minded as I routinely walk into things, drop things and leave a tornado of mess in my wake. I’ve gotten better over time but will still get teased by my family when I get genuinely surprised at Christmas when I open the most obvious gift and didn’t figure out what it was. I was a college athlete, got all As, have a great job but still have blonde moments (I’ve since died my hair red but as my Mom has told me ‘roots are still blonde’).
I doubt ADHD but some of the stress from being frazzled all the time could be underlying anxiety. I personally was diagnosed with a couple anxiety disorders and learned a lot of awesome coping skills in therapy and take meds daily still to this day bc that’s what I personally need. But I don’t think of myself as a hot mess – it’s accepting who you are and laughing when you run straight into the door (again).
SpaceySteph May 21, 2018, 12:39 pm
I consider myself an extremely organized and together person and even I misplace things, lose things, have some minor vehicle damage (not from accidents, but like opening my door into the gas station pole or something), and definitely walk into things all the time. This morning I walked 4x around the house looking for my sunglasses, gave up and used my backup pair. It’s just life.
I read your letter and it seems like you think these traits make you less valuable as a person. But they do not. Your worth as a person is not tied to whether you know where your car keys are. Or whether your phone screen is cracked.
There are things you can do to help yourself– and it sounds like if you managed to get yourself to showing up for work on time that you can do these things. Get yourself a hook for your car keys so maybe 9x out of 10 they’re on the hook where they belong. Don’t take dumb risks with your phone (like holding it while pulling down your pants in the bathroom– good ol toilet phone, yes I’ve had one). But most importantly, practice giving yourself grace.
Also if your husband isn’t using a case for his phone he’s kinda dumb because it literally only takes one wrong drop and its a several hundred dollar investment that you can protect with a $10 case. Stupid not to.
ktfran May 21, 2018, 12:43 pm
Speaking of phones. Saturday, I was in a busy store picking up an on-line order. One of the cashier’s asked if there was anyone in line for an on-line pickup. I excitedly raised my hand, forgetting my phone was in it. The phone flew out of my hand a few feet. Case cracked, but that’s it. Thank goodness!
SpaceySteph May 21, 2018, 1:21 pm
I have had a smart phone of some kind for 10 years and while I dropped it a bunch, I always had a case and never cracked it. Until a couple months ago. Fell off the bathroom counter at work and hit a metal trash can on the way down. Big screen crack. :'( Still works though.
Anyways, this is why I can’t have nice things.
Mystery lady May 21, 2018, 12:44 pm
If you are interested in learning more about ADHD go to the web site below. They have lots of coping techniques on organization and time management that you might find helpful even if you don’t have adhd. Good luck.
LW May 21, 2018, 12:54 pm
Thank you! I will check this out. Can’t hurt to try new coping techniques! Hopefully/eventually something might stick.
Ruby Tuesday May 21, 2018, 2:20 pm
If you are interested in learning more about ADHD, I suggest you seek out information from sources like the National Institute of Health or the Mayo Clinic. I would avoid any publication or website specifically focused on ADHD unless that site has established itself as a reputable source to provide medical information.
Kate May 21, 2018, 1:33 pm
Lol at the “Cathy” comic.
LW, I’ve read this a couple times and I’m scratching my head as to why it’s concerning you so much. Is there some kind of imbalance going on where you feel like you’re not pulling your weight? Because everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and the two partners need to figure out theirs together and make things work. We all pitch in in different ways and pick up some slack where our partner may not be as strong as us. I scratch the rims of my car on curbs sometimes when parking, and last summer I was backing out of an unfamiliar driveway and put a couple scrapes on it. My husband wasn’t HAPPY I did that, but he didn’t make me feel bad about it, or, more accurately, I didn’t really feel bad about myself for doing that. It’s the city, whatever, things get banged up. I can fix it if I feel like it, or not. If you’re feeling inferior in your marriage for whatever reason, I think that’s a problem. And maybe this little stuff is what you’re focusing on, but the problem is somewhere else. Hating your job might be part of it, like maybe you’re not feeling fulfilled, and your self-worth is off, so you beat up on yourself more. But if you’re getting a vibe from your husband like you’re a hot mess and he’s sort of saintly tolerating you, I’d address that. A little couples counseling could help a situation like that.
brise May 21, 2018, 1:56 pm
LW, you have internalised your mother’s mean comments and have a husband who somehow allows you to repeat this humiliation feeling – even though he can’t be guilty of not scratching cars. What strikes me is that you make lists of very ordinary things. Statistically, a lot of people scratch their cars or lose or destroy their phones. That makes the garage and iphone markets. You are on the distracted side, nothing serious. But your dislike of your job could be the key here: you seem to seek validation, you expose your good grades but your job seems a bit boring, not up to your studies level. Perhaps you could take some professional risks? Explore your possibilities. Make job applications in a better field. Start a training course to manage a career change. Then I assure you, these poor lists of little damages will seem to you completely pointless. The day you will have children, you will have to change your routine anyway. You will be more organised because you have too. My diagnosis: you are massively bored in your actual life. Make a professional change!
dinoceros May 21, 2018, 2:05 pm
I appreciate that you sometimes tell yourself you’re going to do better, but as with any “goal,” being vague isn’t likely going to result in success. Just like “I’m going to be fit!” isn’t going to help much. You need to consider specific things you are going to do that are concrete. This also goes back to the idea that it’s a conscious choice to be punctual, etc. It’s not about “being” someone else. It’s about doing things. For example, always aim to be “ready” 15 minutes before you have to be somewhere. If you have to leave the house at 5:30, then base your getting ready schedule on needing to be out by 5:15. Set alarms on your phone. If you are often late for specific things, then prep for that event/activity ahead of time. (Like if you’re going to a friend’s party, then set out the wine you intend to bring, your outfit, etc.)
I’m a little torn on what to think about your letter. On one hand, I can’t tell if, like others say, you are being extra hard on yourself or your husband is being grumpy. But on the other, I am similar to your husband, and while I understand that not everyone cares about punctuality like I do … if I see that someone else doesn’t care about being punctual or whatever, then I do get irritated that I am putting in the work to be on time and they aren’t. I could see this with the way that you are super successful in other aspects of life. (I would probably wonder, Hmm, why is it that they can be on time to work, but are always late meeting me?)
I mention this just to give some perspective, but also to say that it’s not just about *who you are.* Yes, some people have tendencies toward being neat and punctual, etc., but some of it is just people choosing to do those things. I prefer things neat and being late stresses me out, but I’m definitely a person who can easily let things pile up at home (because I am super lazy about chores) or put off getting ready and be late — I just don’t like to be messy or late, so I make the choice to be more responsible about it. I think sometimes when you focus on it being a part of your personality, you not only throw in the towel (and say, Never gonna happen!), but you also make it about your self-worth, which it isnt.
Lucy May 21, 2018, 3:31 pm
I’m also one of those people who super neat, organized, never loses anything, and it’s always on time. I was also married to someone who sounds a bit like you, messy and disorganized, constantly running a little late, not able to find where he had put things, losing phones/keys/wallet, and so on, even down to the minor car accidents and the overall klutziness. (He was also extremely successful at work.) He was finally diagnosed with adult ADHD in his forties, and a lot of these things improved dramatically once he was in treatment. So I just like to add on to the people who are encouraging you to get screened for it. It’s not clear to me why some people seem to think this is so time-consuming; it takes more than 5 minutes, but it’s not like it takes months.
And for the record, although these traits about my husband irritated me from time to time, obviously they weren’t deal-breakers, or I wouldn’t have married him. I wouldn’t be too worried about how your husband feels about it.
Skyblossom May 21, 2018, 5:47 pm
Most of this isn’t going to adversely affect your life although I think the suggestion to get tested for ADHD is a good one. The one thing I would strive to change is bumping things with the car. Sooner or later that could be a person you bump in a parking lot and they could be seriously injured or killed. I think that warrants working on the situation.
I’d begin by making sure your eyes work together to give you good depth perception. You can have perfect vision in each eye and still not have the eyes work together to give good depth perception. Having poor depth perception can cause the types of problems where you can’t judge how close you are to something and so run into it.
I’d also make sure that the next car you get has a backing camera if you don’t already have one. You can see what is behind you much better than you can by turning your neck to look behind. It will also beep if you are getting too close to anything. Before backing looking behind in both directions but also check the cars across from you behind you to make sure there are no tail lights coming on indicating that a car is going to be backing. Before backing I look at my backing camera and look in my rearview mirror and both side mirrors. The backing camera allows me to see anything coming in the driving lane and the mirrors help me to see if anyone will be backing into the same space at the same time. Be very aware of any pedestrians.
Do you realize that if you start to turn into a parking space and it is a tight fit you can stop, back up and choose another space or if there is no other space you can stop, back up and try again. A parking lot is one place to take your time. Another thing that can help is to look around as you are getting in your car. Is anyone else getting into or out of a car next to you or across from you behind you. If they are be very aware of them. If they are getting in their car at the same time the two of you could easily back into each other by backing at the same time. If they are getting out of their car be aware that they may be behind you when you back.
If you are running into things in front of you when parking then be aware that you have less space available than you think. Modern cars have a hood that slopes enough that you can’t tell where the front of your car is. Error on the side of parking a ways back from the car facing you. If you get out of your car and see that you have parked so far back that you are sticking out into the driving lane you can get back in your car and move it forward a little bit.
There is never anything wrong with assessing where you are in a parking lot and stopping and trying again.
Bittergaymark May 22, 2018, 12:13 am
Damn. I’ve never seen so many people making so many excuses for somebody who is really just a) careless. b) a shitty and wreckless driver… oh and c) likes to make everybody else fucking wait.
Your husband should be fucking annoyed. He thought he married a grown woman and wound up with a irritating 15 year old…
CET May 22, 2018, 7:09 am
LW, You sound fine to me except you are being too hard on yourself! You sound like a great person…you have your job, you work out, and you have an amazing hobby writing a book. Two things you complain about you can fix. Get a “Tile” for your keys so you don’t lose them again. (I used to lose my keys ALL the time). Get a car that beeps when you get close to something. I have dented our car before scraping a pole, and I backed into something once. We now have a car that beeps…the beeps get closer together to warn you when you get closer to the object. The beeps flatline when you are way too close. I have not scraped anything since we got a car like this! Mostly, I want to say you sound fine and that you are being WAY too hard on yourself! Therapy is a great tool for perfectionists…to help your self talk be less negative. 🙂
Aj December 9, 2021, 8:12 am
You clearly need to have an open dialog with a good husband who can be reasonably frustrated with you. Being absent minded that too at all times is unbearably frustrating. So behavior and communication is your sole solution! Show your utmost respect and consideration for him. Get scolded and abused if you deserve that. It is about accepting your husband as your leader and letting him set your way forward. Let him solve your problem. Talk to him,listen to him, apologize to him, openly admit messes and misses, get your husbands direction, make him your boss and the best friend!
Trust me, by being expressive, effectively communicative, admissive, polite and respectful, all your absent mindedness will end permanently but with graduality and time.
Just put your best effort to not be absent minded but be prompt and communicative… Thats it.. Once you surrender to him he will fix your problems.