I Feel Stupid at Night. Also Other Times.

I feel stupid at night.

Also, sometimes in the morning.

Also-also, when driving in the car, especially alone.

And sitting on the potty.

And standing in line at the supermarket sans kids.

Pretty much every time I have a chance to stop and think, I feel stupid, and I replay my every fault, real or imagined, on repeat.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I say to me, and, “I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT.” Or DID that. Or WORE that. Or ARE that.

If my brain was a friend of mine — in a separate body and not, you know, in charge of my bodily functions and keeping me semi-upright throughout the day — I’ve have ditched her a while ago as generally toxic and, well, mean. Not to mention the fact that she requires a truly ridiculous amount of caffeine and sometimes makes questionable decisions like spending lots of money on fancy cheese. Unfortunately, my brain sits inside me and so we must navigate these cruelties together and work toward what my father calls a better way, which was infuriating when he was teaching me to load the dishwasher, but is important when considering my relationship with my brain.

The problem with my brain, really, is that she can’t make up her mind. She’s wishy-washy and relentlessly inconsistent.

I feel stupid at night, for example.

But I feel smart during the day.

At least sometimes.

Smart and strong.

Smart and strong and like I CAN CONQUER THE WORLD. Smart and strong like I CAN OVERCOME. Smart and strong like IT DOES NOT EVEN MATTER that I dropped pineapple down my shirt or my dress flew open or I pooped my closet or I, once again, chose that particular granny-panties/slim-skirt combo that cuts my tummy fluff in half exactly so I display two wholly separate tummies on the front of me because two tummies is better than one, friends, and put your best tummy forward. No; sometimes, I feel smart and strong, as though pineapple-scented breasts and public nudity and tummy fluff are irrelevant and don’t define my worth as a person. THAT smart and strong, you guys. THAT smart and strong. And like it’s OK to be me, which is the same thing as being free.

My friend, Webb, wrote me this week in response to an epic missive on my part. I was vacation planning ahead of his wife’s birthday next week and was maybe a tiny bit detailed and a touch leadershippy (as opposed to “bossy” which I totally wasn’t), and a tad overwhelming with the sheer volume of information my brain unleased. Webb wrote back only, “I love the way your mind works: sometimes it’s like a precision-crafted, jewel-movement Swiss watch, and other times it’s like a dumpster fire,” and I thought, “YES. Oh my gosh — YES. Yes, this EXACTLY. This is how I feel about my brain, too!”

So in case, friends, you have a brain that makes you feel stupid, and smart and strong, and also stupid in such rapid succession you can’t quite keep up with its shenanigans — in case, well, your mind is like a precision-crafted, jewel-movement Swiss watch, and other times it’s all, “DUMPSTER FIRE!” and “WHO BROUGHT THE LIGHTER FLUID?” — I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not alone. And you’re not stupid. And you’re not alone.

Sending love,

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
12 comments
  1. Yesterday morning, I fired off a super-efficient e-mail to my daughter’s ballet teacher to say that a Saturday class would have to be cancelled as there was a church fair going on that day. She fired back a rather terse e-mail telling me that’s why she had scheduled a Sunday class for that weekend as set out in the letter given to us in September… I want to say to people that I used to be really, really organised. Having a second insomniac baby just tipped me over the edge…

  2. I laughed so loudly into my coffee cup when I read the words “dumpster fire” that both my husband and my kid (girl, 10) asked me if I was going to be okay.

    Then girl child asked me what I was reading—partly because she was hoping it was something she would find funny, too, and partly because she loves to find out if I’m reading something she shouldn’t, and could a bad word possibly be gleaned from it? So, I read her the last two paragraphs.

    She stood looking at me for a second and said, “That’s exactly what my brain does to me.” I then explained that’s what A LOT of people’s brains do to them. Not just mom’s. That she wasn’t alone with just me for company, that other people would likely wave at her in the dark for feeling that way. Then I had to explain “waving in the dark”.

    She looked at me funny and walked off, as girl child is wont to do. But I think she got it. Hopefully she remembers it when it matters. If not, I will remind her.

    Thanks for giving us that moment this morning!

  3. My brain goes from Swiss watch to dumpster fire numerous times a day. Who’s bringing the marshmallows?

    1. It’s a new version of “If life gives you lemons…”: “If life gives you dumpster fire, toast marshmallows.”

  4. Oh. Mygosh! So. Much. Yes. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. And I’m not stupid because I needed to know that, ya know? =,}

  5. You are not alone in this, thanks for sharing your heart! And tell your mean brain-friend to mind her own business!

  6. Thanks so much for this! waving from the dark today.

  7. Just had a thought about leadershippy. When we call someone a “boss” its not a bad thing that’s demeaning to women. So why is “boss-y?”

    1. Ever read Tina Fey’s “Miss Bossypants”? She makes the same point (in between making you laugh your socks off).

  8. Oh my goodness…. Yes. Sometimes my brain is like a helpful servant, handing me words like “bougainvillea” when I need them. Other times, it drops that tray so there’s an empty spot where that word belongs, and serves up memories of things I didn’t do, or should have done, or should most assuredly NOT have done. Little silver platters of things I could do without.

    Stupid and strong, swiss watch and dumpster fire – YES!

  9. Dude. This is exactly my brain. Even down to the expensive fancy cheese purchases! Have you had blueberry Stilton?

  10. I love this… I feel like this every day! <3

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