This is baffling me and I could use some help.

There are days, actually hours within days, when I feel an intense obligation to produce, to make something good happen. This feeling can swell up in me whether I’m at work, at home in my favorite stuffed chair or driving my car in heavy traffic. Often, this feeling has little rhyme or reason. It’s not as if a big challenge is staring me in the face, or a crisis is brewing in my life. Nor do I believe it’s an ego thing, me seeking some form of recognition. And yet, there is this deep, authoritative voice inside my brain that demands, “Do something, you lazy oaf.”

What I do with this nagging but vague command can result in anxious moments and capricious behaviors. This inner voice convinces me that idleness is the enemy and if I let the hour pass without a trackable achievement, I’ve committed a mortal sin. So, often when I’m moving into or out of a fragile sleep, I’ll concoct intricate business plans to start a spaghetti and broccoli chuckwagon I can motor down Highway 101, feeding hungry bikers on the west coast. Or I’ll build a 17-story condo complex in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, made out of the cardboard centers of toilet paper rolls. As a compromise, when I awaken, I wind up washing my car on the coldest day of the year, re-ironing my pressed shirts or going out to buy three science books I will never read. To put it bluntly, “Doctor, I’m totally nuts.”

My guess is that these self-imposed expectations stem from the spirit and boundless energy of my mother. But at this point in my life, I’m less concerned in figuring out where it came from, and more worried about what to do with it.

There’s a piece of me that agrees with this inner monologue. “Yes!” I say. “We should have a sense of urgency! This day was given to us, so let’s make the most of it!” Then my other side kicks in, the lazy me who thinks about stretching out on the couch and just doing my best imitation of mindlessness – no, I mean mindfulness. My cat, Roy M. Quick, is such a role model for doing “deep nothingness.” Why can’t I be more like him? At the office, I can lay my weary head on the three Wall Street Journals I have yet to read and take a little snooze. That Snickers bar I gobbled down has got me a bit tuckered.

I’m asking you for help. Do you have the same competing self-talk that I do? And what do you do with it? By the way, will cardboard centers of toilet paper rolls hold up in rainy weather?