Tuesday, November 08, 2005

AD/HD: Projects from Beyond the Grave!

People with AD/HD usually have a graveyard of unfinished projects strewn behind them as they move through life just like most people. We all have projects we've been meaning to get to. I believe what sets the AD/HD ghoul apart from the other zombies, however, is style. Take your normal person, for example. Their graveyard might be littered with a photo box filled with unmarked photos and empty photo albums, a garage that still needs to be cleaned out for Summer '02, and a gift copy of "Heart of Darkness" or "Mommilies" that they've had lying on their bedside table unread since last Christmas.

There's simply no flair or panache to such a list for the AD/HD person. They may never have remembered to develop the film in the first place, nevermind stick the photos in a box (how organized!). The cluttered garage and unfinished book would be there to be sure, but they would be buried under the unfinished "Let's cram a high powered FM transmitter into this toy Microphone" project, the two unfinished graphic novels, the box of unfiled taxes from 1999, the half finished walking cane/GPS LCD handle project, and the $4000 pile of scrapbooking supplies still waiting for photos to work with. There is a scope to the AD/HD list of unfinished projects that causes the normal mind to boggle, bend, and break in terror. Is it any wonder that we are so well adapted for Halloween? Unfortunately, this terror has negative side-effects, and I'm not referring to the disdain organized people have for you. I'm referring to the devastating blow our egos take when we ruminate about our unfinished projects.

Your typical person doesn't stress over the unfinished projects. They only have a few of them and have full confidence that one day soon the projects will see completion. The AD/HD person, in general, doesn't see things the same way.1 Every idle moment is a breeding ground for monumental projects that take one's breath away in their exhilarating aggression. The long tail of unfinished projects extends through the years and the weekends ahead are filled with new projects yet unborn. This tends to fuel the fire of self-flagelation, especially if your friends and family mock you. The longer the list gets, the more we stress about it, but remain seemingly powerless to shorten it. This is why finding humor in such adversity is so critical to a healthy self-esteem.2

Many women and men in history accomplished great things while dealing with AD/HD. I'm sure of it. I can't think of any off the top of my head but somebody once told me that Michaelangelo, Betsy Ross, and Ghandi had AD/HD, or was it Christopher Columbus? At any rate, even though psychologists weren't around during Columbus' day, I'm sure the experts are right. Anybody who balances eggs for fun and sails a fleet for India in the wrong direction but finds a new continent instead is our man. And he didn't let a little thing like missing India get him down. No siree.

So how are you going to discover your America? Learn to keep yourself on track. It may be hard depending on how ADDled your mind is, but I assure you it can be done. Anybody with AD/HD can do it with a bit of effort and perserverence.

Recognizing Distractions

I'm supposed to be working on finishing my coloring book and updating my portfolio. But somehow I became sidetracked in September. I wondered if posting every day in my blog would increase subscribers and visitors to my blog. The experiment kept me focused and busy for over six weeks. Then one day last week I noticed that it was November and not September anymore. I had posted shiploads of blog entries but work on my art had crawled to a standstill. Stats showed that I had tripled my readers. But upon analysis, the numbers belied a terrible truth. I had only increased subscribers by fourteen people. All that effort and only fourteen new people decided to join the party.

My secret to keeping on track is to ask myself "If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with how I'd spent my last 24 hours?" More colorfully, I tell my older children you have to live every day as if you might suddenly be hit by a bus. Time is precious. So I drive myself to keep on track. I keep lists and I reevaluate them every few months. I have trained myself to recognize when a project is a distraction and taught myself to abandon distractions. When I looked over my happy blog experience I smelled the unmistakable odor of distraction. Sure, I still got my other work done, but I could have accomplished so much more if I had been focused. I want to be a published children's book author and illustrator, not a blogger. I decided to write only on Tuesdays, keeping the blog under 900 words, while my youngest daughter is at school.

I can't stop myself from starting new projects, but I want a garden of ideas and fantastic projects to be my legacy, not a graveyard of unfinished nightmares. So a little bit of discipline is in order. Grab your shovel and bury your distractions. Plant a garden instead.

Coping Strategies:

  1. Accept your fate. You can't stop yourself from beginning new projects. The second you are bored your mind will generate a new one to save you. The trick is to keep track of the most important projects and have the strength to abandon the new ones that will inevitably spring up like mushrooms.
  2. Don't ruminate. You have too many unfinished books to read to waste time worrying. Go on. Get reading!