I was counting the railroad tiles out the window when my facilitator read, “Is often prone to daydreaming…” Yes, I thought, my daughter does that! I take a note to remember that frequent daydreaming is a sign of ADHD.
I fidget and look at the clock. How LONG is this meeting? It’s been 45 minutes already. My foot bounces at the end of my leg, a habit that irritates nearly every office mate I’ve ever had. I swirl my foot in circles and take more notes. “Fidgeting, constant moving, even in adults…” Impulsivity, forgetfulness, distractibility. If I hadn’t been diagnosed a year and a half ago, this might come as a shock. Today, though, I sit, fidgeting, for nearly TWO HOURS (mygod two hours!) in my first Adult ADHD Women’s Support Group with many others who are only learning this isn’t “normal.”
In my world, I am normal. In my world, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had to work out daily or I can’t sit still. I don’t like going to the movies because they’re too long. I thrive as being a “big idea person” and the one who “drives projects”, the one who “loves change”, the person who will show up in Amsterdam having not thought about what I was supposed to do once the plane landed. In my world there was NOW and NOT NOW. I write notes to remind myself of important events and forget where I put the note. I make plans and forget I already made plans. People who love me cherish this about me and those who don’t? They don’t stick around for long.
Nearly two years ago my world crashed down on me for those “cherished” attributes. After 35 years of coping mechanisms, the tiny rock-chip of balance broke in to a full crack, splitting my life in two. Projects, Marriage, Children, Friends, Family… everything fell to the ground from their balance on the high wire, the very high wire I carefully walked my entire life.
It’s nearly a cliche now to hear people say how “ADD” they are. I remember hearing someone say that in front of my good friend Lotus, to which she replied, “You know, there are people that struggle to have a good life because of that.” At the time I didn’t know I was one of them. Today, I appreciate that response more than I can express.
After the urging of several key people in my life, after my daughter’s teacher suggested getting her tested, after my world exploded, I decided to finally take an assessment for adult ADHD. **
I, along with 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults, have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I was lucky enough as a child to learn coping mechanisms which helped me succeed in school. I have a graduate degree in technology. I’ve enjoyed, for the large part, a “successful career” and life. I don’t look like the disaster that ADHD can create in a person (unless you know me very well). But here’s the secret: many “successful” people have, and struggle, with ADHD.
After my original diagnoses, I’ve followed up with a year of books, groups, therapy, podcasts, medications.
From Ari Tuckman’s Podcast: “What Causes ADHD And What Doesn’t” (recommended listening) he states the following:
- Research found ADHD is primarily passed via genetics.
- If someone has ADHD, there’s a very good chance that at lease one other person in the family has it as well.
- 6 or more genes are involved and impact ADHD in its own way
- Some environmental influence can exacerbate the genetic component to ADHD but does not CAUSE ADHD.
DOES NOT CAUSE ADHD
- Diet and food additives. *Note - Diet can exacerbate an existing ADHD imbalance or can create similar symptoms (and thus mis-diagnosed cases) but does NOT cause ADHD as a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Before doing a research for false information, please try these peer-reviewed articles.) **please listen to the podcast for the reasons behind this correlation. “ADHD causes the eating of junkfood, not that junkfood causes ADHD”
- Poor parenting. *Usually at least one parent will also have ADHD so research shows that parents perform better when kids are under control, not reversed.
- Modern Society (Twitter, Facebook, etc). *Even with the overload in available distractions, it does not cause ADHD. Yes, twitter can distract even the most focused mind, but it does not cause ADHD. If this were true, societies with less technology or slower pace of life would have fewer cases but they don’t. At most we can say ADHD symptoms are more debilitating and obvious in our face-pased and distracting world, like saying a white shirt is more obvious against a black background than it is a white one but we would never say the white background caused the white shirt.
The reason I share this with you now is twofold. 1. I survived, almost thrived, for 35 years with a brain chemistry deficit that could easily have derailed my life much earlier than it did but I had the structure and coping skills to handle this (until those failed from environmental factors). And 2. I am thriving again now that I have that knowledge.
ADHD can be a gift or it can cause pain and frustration. I enjoy the company of others just like me and I appreciate the company of the countless friends of mine who aren’t. My closest friends can sit still, stay in routine, plan a trip and they gracefully (at least to my face) understand when I need reminding or a push to follow up. I am in a roll at work now where my “gifts” are appreciated and used to push products forward, lead, and see things from a higher-view and help those stuck in the mire of detail to keep an eye on the final outcome. People closest to me understand that my need to travel it is not a desire but a NEED. My children benefit from a mother who understands them and can offer solutions to their disorganization. We, as a house, have structured our lives for success and keep dates, events, and deadlines on a white board for everyone to see. Managing ADHD can be complex and take a lot of work but in the end, if it is preventing life from being as amazing as it can be, it’s worth it. For me, I am learning to balance both: Allowing the impulsivity and spontaneous me to work within an 8 hour day of projects and deadlines and bills. Now I finish projects on time, pay bills on time, remember and arrive early to meetings.
Learning the hard truth about why I am the way I am has helped improve, not diminish, my life. ADHD is not an excuse to be distracted, it’s a reason to get help.
- The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is being released in May, 2013 which will contain and updated diagnosis criteria for ADHD in both adults and children based on recent research.
- ADDitude Mag which offers a handout for debunking 7 myths of ADHD.
Books I’ve read (and recommend)
** Notes about assessments: If you are considering taking an assessment for ADHD, you will need to have a clinician who specializes in Adult ADHD help. There are several “inconclusive” tests that can lead to a false positive (Such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-V1.1 from WHO Composite INternational Diagnostic Interview which is only 6 questions long). The longer the test, the more inclusive and more accurate. All good clinicians will want to talk to a spouse or family member to confirm the replies as most ADHD people can be unrealistic with their personal perceptions.
Two good assessments (I’ve taken both):
Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales for Adolescents and Adults: Definition.
Events, months, season, holidays, years. Each one sliding by less influential each time.
The daylight ends so early now. Darkness chills the children as they walk off school busses.
Commuters rush in drizzle rain to the warmth and glow of home.
There is a place I dislike to go. My mind swirls with lonely thoughts. If I chat loud enough, I do not hear her.
I try to not hear winter breathing down my neck.
A year? Two? More? How long has this winter lasted? Why is she here again, so soon?
My children delight in the dark. “It’s almost Christmas! Mom, look!” breathless they point at the houses already lit with twinkle lights. I smile, aching for their joy. I hold them close, hoping by some tactile osmosis, their enthusiasm for life will soak in to my bones. I cling to them almost with unhealthy gulps. The very people who used to cause me such anguish, such uncertainty, are the very ones who seem to be saving me of myself. I curl up with them in their beds, listening to their breathing. I watch as they relax in to calm. I wonder if I will ever find that space again; the peace, warmth and hope that comes with innocence.
I reach out for familiarity. I find songs, blips of light from favorite scenes in movies, quotes in books. I revel in the colorful paintings my children proudly display for me. I work diligently to find the Happiness. And yet, here, in this space, the darkness is heavier than I expect. I try, I try, I try. And yet…
We are over Deluth. We are leaving the Big Apple behind in sunset lights and long shadows. I ponder the past few days, how a few days can be such a grand event, how every group of few days provides alternate versions of life. Carrying my camera down the streets of Brooklyn, watching with the eye of an observer, I pictured myself walking to the cafe to meet a friend on this sunny morning. I would know the cafe barista because this is what we do most Saturdays. I’m not sure if I own a dog, a small one, in this alternate life, but if I do, he walks with me as the kids run ahead. I can see this all through my lens, and my eyes tear up for a brief second with the thought of my children, how wonderfully in love I am with them, how deeply I miss them every single trip, and how desperate I am to show them these lives, even if we do not live them.
*I should always wear a Jenn Lukas as an accessory.*
It is not that I have such a wide array of worldly experience that these new places are becoming familiar. No, though I never travelled to Brooklyn or NY City before, there is an air of comfort to it. The subway is a strangely wonderful experience. The buildings are twice as tall as they seem on TV. The shops are so crowded, a way I only experience at holidays, I squeeze and bump body parts with several strangers in a stretch of three minutes. But they speak English, and for some reason this catches me off guard. The city, this experience, the bustle and tousle of humans in small spaces, the colors, the bricks, the small shops with outside seating: these qualities feel so European to me, my only experience in this environment having happened thousands of miles across an ocean or two.
*A Robert Eerhart and Louis sandwich, the founders of EECI.
No, I’m not sure if Brooklyn and New York feel familiar because of my traveling experiences or if they feel like home because of the people I see within moments of arriving. There is a band of brothers waiting for me at the nearest pub, ordering beer and waiting up well past the appropriate hour of dinner. There is greeting, smiling, hugging and limbs flying around necks. They are people I know beyond work, they are part of a bigger picture I can not possibly explain without bringing you with me. It is impossible.
*A few of the odd boys
As the MC of the conference, I take stage early on the first speaker day of the conference. I am nervous there, but in the crowd I see familiar faces. I remember something I read from Scott Burken, “Everyone in the audience actually wants you to succeed. They are breathlessly waiting for you to kick ass.” I’m not sure if those are his actual words, but those are the words that repeat in my mind as I introduce myself, welcome the crowd, and kick off the first speaker.
*Look! That’s me on stage! (I did that a lot)
It is this way for two days. The mic, the speakers, the people. It is a blur of puns and friends taking the stage next to me. We manage to make it to the second day, the very last speaker, a good friend of mine, and wrap up the event. It is a feeling of camaraderie, of faith in a community, of strengthening friendships and working relationships. Few conferences can compete.
*Brits who live in Canada still love to drink beer. This teaches us two things. 1. Brits who live in Canada like to drink beer and 2. So does everyone else.
So it is that I think of them as I fly over Deluth. My European friends. My colleagues on twitter. My peers from states and countries and time zones. We gather once a year, in different cities over the world. But we bring with us a sense of home, a sense of comfort, a sense of family. Because of this I know the next city I go to I will think fondly of taking the wrong subway or ordering the wrong menu item. I will laugh to myself quietly unable to explain an inside joke I share with a community thousands of miles wide. I will struggle to explain this to my children when they ask where I was. “I was at a conference, sweetie,” I will reply, “and I missed you very much.” It is that second part where they will hug me, waiting up past their dinner hour, with arms flying around necks. And I will know I am home again.
The alarm went off at 7AM for the first day of fifth grade. My dad was in his suit walking out the door as he heard me grumble and get up. “Life sucks and then you die,” he greeted me.
This is the first of a thousand similar morning greetings he would say as he suited up and walked out the door to work.
I always thought this was just my Dad’s “thang.” Like he loved the Aggie’s football or playing war games on the computer. I thought it was sort of just something he muttered like when he sneezed “Jesus Christ on a commode.” It was one of his quirks, those parts of Dad that made him… well, Dad.
Years and years later, at thirty-five, I sit talking across an impossible valley. As it turns out, my dad is not the only one to say this as he went to work each morning. In fact, it’s something many dads said as they embarked on their early morning trek. It was not just dads in suits, or dads at mills, or dads with fancy cars or frequent flyer miles. It’s an attitude of a generation. The norm for our children’s grandparents is a rut-filled expectation of misery and eventually death. Our children’s parents, now in their mid-thirties or early forties, are just now rebelling against mid-life. We are just coming in to our own careers and now, as we walk out the door in the early morning dawn, we are asking why. WHY do we have to live our father’s mantra “life sucks and then you die.”
It is a rare prophet who challenges and pushes for change.
In Steve Job’s commencement speech at Stanford, a speech filled with not just inspiration but several challenges, he urges the students to Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. He shares, through his own experiences, the seemingly erratic life experiences that culminated in a respected, and revered, life of amazing.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Do not live our parent’s dogma. As Steve Job’s says, “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” Life can suck and then you will die. Or life can be an amazing road, bumpy, rocky, long and winding. Death can loom like an escape, some future release. Or it can speak urgently to you: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
I’m beginning to believe the words myself. I hope you will join me.
There’s a theory of mine. Ok, it’s not just *my* theory, I’ve actually read a book, watched a documentary and heard a famous comedian talk about it. It’s called the “Pro You Decision” theory.
See, I’m a big believer of making your own fate. I think there’s a lot of self fulfilling prophecy out there. If someone is always feeling like a loser who can’t lose weight, I’m fairly sure they’re going to be a loser who can’t lose weight. If you take that same person and shift their mind in to a positive “I can totally lose weight! I’m able to make those decisions to move in that direction!” I think eventually it will happen. It’s been my own experience in many areas of my life at least.
To get out of a spiral of despair, I try to make a Pro Me decision. It’s a small decision, can be seemingly inconsequential, but necessary. This morning I chose to get up early, take a brisk walk, and start work early with a todo list in hand. It has shaped my entire day. One Pro You decision leads to another Pro You decision. It’s not cosmic magic. It’s the simple fact that by placing your mind in a positive position, you’re more able to see the positive choices presented to you in a day. By working out in the morning I’m more willing to select healthier foods during the day. By selecting healthier foods I’ll have more energy. The afternoon will be more productive because I have more energy and my productivity will boost my self confidence at work and help me feel satisfied when I return home. One small decision this morning will set the stage for an entire day of awesome.
What is your Pro You Decision?
“How can you share everything from your life to The Internet?”
This is a question I’ve been getting asked since 2003. I give the exact same answer I gave before blog ads existed, conferences were popular or marketing pitches went out en mass: “I don’t.”
There is a vast difference between sharing all your personal information and sharing fun, personal stories. Believe it or not, most bloggers still filter their content. As personal as the stories I have shared throughout my time online, there are many details of my life nobody knows except those involved.
It’s a false sense of closeness you’ll get from reading someone’s blog. You might feel that you understand them entirely, could be best friends, have the EXACT SAME thoughts. The wonderful truth is that you might have or be all those things, but you can only find that out by experiencing a true friendship. In the past few weeks I’ve reached out to many of the wonderful women I’ve met online. They have shared snippets of their lives and I know them well enough to understand the bigger picture that lies underneath. The amazing fact is that if you ask, offline, off record, in earnest, you can share things so much more intimate than what The Internet can ever know. “I had no idea,” a friend might breathe over IM. “I didn’t realize,” you might whisper when you read an email in return.
Many of us blog because we love to write and express ourselves best in this medium. Many of us find it therapeutic to work out the inner ideals we’re unsure of here on this screen where others can help guide or encourage the enlightenment. This form of communication, while cathartic, is still limiting.
So it is that The Internet may not know everything. There are times when a piece of paper and a pen still remain the most valuable psychotherapist. There are no indexes, no “way back machine”, no SEO meta tags. Pure thought, unfiltered, raw; one day I may even share those stories with someone as well. Perhaps.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
There is so much for me to tell you. There’s the conference I spoke at in Manchester with some pretty fantastic people last week. There is the amazing opportunity for work that I have right now pushing my own boundaries to places a sherpa is necessary. There are the stories from Japan, where I am now, working with a team of people who are brilliant and outspoken, winning clients and conducting business in which I am proud to be part of.
I’ve been on 8 planes in less than two weeks. I’ve touched three continents, four time zones. If I was to write down my perfect life, it would include these two weeks of chaos, exhaustion, work, people, sleeplessness. I am happier than I have been in a long time, finally actualizing dreams.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
So much of my twenties was spent reading travel books. I would camp out in the “Travel Essay” isle at Powells and read through books and essays of people living their lives in a variety of cultures. During insecure times, difficult decisions, uncertainty, I always open these books, my favorites, to read quotes of travel, searching, finding, learning.
Finally, I write my own chapter.
Finally, I go. I go. I go.
There is a misunderstanding surrounding people with a strong travel instinct. It is less about running than it is about being present. I fly, yes, I run, yes, but ultimately my flight, my path, is to something greater than that which I left. I am seeking to be here, in this space, in this strange country with new smells and people I can not understand or words I can not read. I am here at a shrine, I am here at this restaurant. I am here at this train station lost in a sea of people. I am talking to these people, I am experiencing their world. I am grateful to be here, right now, in this space. I am on the wrong side of the road again, I am lost in my life but I am here, presently, realizing my “lost.”
I will take this home with me, I will not forget what I learn while I am gone. I will remind myself to be present in my own country, surrounded by people I love, who are familiar, who know me. I will stand on the proper side of the street, I will understand the menus, the signs, the streets. I will be there, in full, knowing I will leave again. And I will leave again. I will repeat this pattern until I can no longer breathe the air of our world, until I can barely shuffle the lines at the airport. I will be this person, having shed my uncertainty, and when I wake up in my life after this one, I will hold not a single regret; for those I met in every country, those strangers who became friends, those cuisines that became familiar, will always be a part of who I am, who my children know, who my grandchildren will strive to be.
At least, that is what I hope for. Perhaps, even, one day my children’s children will stand in a travel isle at their book store reading a story of their Grandmother and maybe, I can dream as much, they, too, will go. They will go. They will go.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
I hear my family upstairs. There are squeals, laughter, delight. The radio is blaring through the built-in speakers of our bedroom window, opened even though this last August air is chilly. There is chasing above. I sit on the patio as Ben Folds plays via iPhone. I work a bit. I delight in my job. I ponder the day. I drink a good beer.
I once read, “To be in harmony with the universe is to be like floating: Doors open, opportunities arise and you take them without thought.” That is happening to me as of late. Doors seem to bust open. Life seems to beacon me. COME! COME LIVE!
“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” -Anne Lamott
I am exceedingly happy at my upcoming opportunities. I am living a day job of merriment. I am watching my children ride their bikes without training wheels and smiling at their accomplishments. I am aging in my own body and appreciating it more daily. I am realizing the future may not be as I always expected but that the universe offers more than I can ever hope or dream. Without being cosmically ridiculous, I can say without a doubt that those who dream big live big.
I want to dream big.
There is a song that plays on a loop. “He grown up just like me.. he grown up just like me…” I like to push it down as Catholic guilt. I like to play the cosmic Pause button on my children’s life. I try to justify my happiness but it’s a fleeting thought. I know the twilight will come and the dark will bring the guilt, the questions, the second guesses. The summer hours are easier, the light is longer, the days last forever, the children ask why they need to brush their teeth so early? But I know change is inevitable. The dark is around the corner. The fall brings the promise of another dark winter. The belief that floating on the joy of the universe is short lived and nine months of rain is inevitable.
As a child I loved sitting on the curb of my small Houston home. I would watch each street light turn on without a single person manning the switch and I would question things like timing, daylight, darkness. As an adult I understand timers, automation, disengagement. I hope I always sit on the curb as the sun sets wondering what is next, what is past, and look forward to the next day of laughter, giggling, squealing. If I leave my children with but one thing it would be that: To float on the universe’s evening and trust the morning that follows. It always follows.
Right now there’s a lot of people posting about “Tips for being prepared for the school year.” Let me be the first one to share with you my strategic plan: “How to lose your shit prior to school starting.”
Y’all, it’s how I roll.
Here, in no particular order, is my recipe for a complete meltdown:
1. Plan a trip prior to school starting including long international flights.
2. With 14 hour layovers in Holland.
3. Take on three freelance gigs the week prior to said trips.
4. With short deadlines.
5. Start PMSing.
6. Look at pictures from September last year and your children’s first day of school.
7. Realize they’ve changed too much.
8. And that you will miss said first day of school this year.
9. Catch a cold the week before said travel.
10. Have sick children the week before said travel, knowing every.time you leave the country someone is sick and needing you.
BONUS! #11: Allow mommy guilt to penetrate your everything until your children are sleeping in your room every night because you can’t stand another second away from them. Aside from said deadlines, travel, and (lack of) sleep.
I live with an Engineer. I work with software developers. My life is a sort of a living excel spreadsheet. If things are to be done, they are to be done in order, logically, after much research and testing.
Only thing is? I am an anomaly. I picture myself standing in front of The Man watching myself on TV screens of utter chaos being told I’m the One who has to introduce spontaneity.
Introducing The Life Impractical.
A year ago this month I made promises to myself. This came on the heals of my “HOLYSHIT I TURN THIRTY FIVE” moment. Since that time my life has turned an incredible corner. Doors don’t just open, they fly open.
I’ve achieved much of what I ached to do last year: Visit Germany, Outline The Book, Find someone interested enough to promote and publish The Book, meet amazing people in my field, become grounded in the person who carries around this 35 year old body. All these things I am grateful for. But I am also excited about the prospect of what is to come. It has only wetted the appetite I have to BE, DO, LOVE.
I’m blown away at opportunity, at what is available to achieve and who I can potentially be. I am blown away because it defies all logic. I do not understand the ways of the world and I do not want to second guess them but here, from this precipice, again, I decide one thing: Live a life impractical.
19 guests here now.