I think I understand your feeling.
Every time I begin to teach a new person the two-hand vertical circle, I am reminded of how complicated and overwhelming it can seem for a while, even though it has only four movements. I think it is kind of like learning how to juggle three balls. The mind struggles to find a fixed thing to latch onto and rest, but the minute it seems to find something and tries to rest, all the balls drop as the dynamic pattern is destroyed. Every time you want to pause and think you have got it, the changing positions continue and you can feel lost again. It can be very hard to relax the mind and let the body take over for a bit.
I have also found it pretty common that students can actually be doing quite while and be able to sustain the circle; however they can feel clumsy and frustrated because their mind has not caught up to their body yet and they do not understand what they are doing. Our method aims at being "first in the mind, then in the body," but sometimes, especially at the beginning, it needs to be the opposite.
In answer to your question, my understanding is as follows. The most accurate way to think of the sequence is: rising Peng, Lü, An, descending Peng, Ji. You could also, of course, begin the sequence in the middle with the descending Peng.
Sometimes when I first teach the sequence, I proceed slowly and call out both of our movements, since this matches the sequence in Grasp Sparrow's Tail as we do it in the form. If I begin from our formal start and choose to spiral into a clockwise circle, I would say: "We both start with Peng; I do lü; you do Ji; I do An; we both do Peng; I do Ji; you do An; we both do Peng; I do lü; etc. In this scenario, I would begin with my right hand in Peng and my left palm on my partner's right elbow. My right arm will be doing the rising Peng; and my left, the descending Peng.
If I begin by spiraling counterclockwise, I would say: "We both start with Peng; I do Ji; you do An; we both do Peng; I do lü; you do Ji; I do An; we both do Peng; I do Ji; etc. This is the same as the previous scenario, except that the direction is opposite. Also, the left arm will be doing the rising Peng; and the right, the descending Peng.
I hope this answers your question without contributing to the confusion.
By the way, let me congratulate you if you are learning this circle. To reach this level takes a lot of work. However, depending on your interests, this is when Tai Chi can reach a whole new level of enjoyment if you can persist. I have begun to caution new students that learning this circle will feel like the most difficult part of Push Hands; but once it is learned, everything else is easier to grasp. It also becomes much easier to have fruitful discussions of Tai Chi theory and energy, since a skilled person can make you feel it in your own body. We use this circle to begin teaching the eight basic Jins and making use of full and empty.