“And I thought, well, Cheryl’s someone who has her shit together!”

This was a statement uttered by a mentee of mine when kicking off a conversation a few weeks ago. And though it was meant as a compliment, my brain rebooted in a moment of cognitive dissonance.

“You really have your shit together.” Why do people say this as a compliment? It’s often uttered in reverent, respectful tones. It is An Accomplishment to have one’s shit together. Usually career-related in some way.

But why on earth is such a phrase aspirational? Where does it come from? It implies that, at some point, it was a desirable thing to be managing feces in such a way as to have it in one orderly spot. Was there some erstwhile career where this was the ultimate achievement?

Or perhaps it’s more invasive than that. Does it imply regularity in one’s bodily functions? That hardly seems like the sort of thing one puts on a LinkedIn profile. “Consolidated shit effectively on a regular schedule.” No. I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen anyone boasting about such an accomplishment. (And God help us if we did – future generations would unearth archives of ancient Internet sites and think, “Now there’s a generation that spent entirely too much time organizing poop.”)

But there it is, the compliment in all its strange dissonance. Occam’s Razor probably dictates that someone just substituted “shit” for “stuff” at some point, because “She has all her stuff together” sounds altogether vague and unremarkable. And of course, cursing is fun and Makes Shit Real.

We say so many things that make no sense out of context. I know I’m a frequent offender – my mind loves metaphor but not as much as it does speaking quickly, so I’m often the Biff Tannen of colloquialisms, saying things like “putting a stake in the sand” (why would you bother to do that?) instead of “line in the sand” or “stake in the ground”.

Even then, though, this phrase now sticks out at me like a sore thumb. (Did I use that shit right?) It’s broken for me – each time I hear it I picture a little dung beetle, diligently working on its turd. I think I’ll need to find a new phrase to indicate respect for one’s life prowess. Suggestions are welcome.