Friday, January 13, 2006

New Year's Flies in My Resolution Ointment

Aside from spending the past few weeks sick as a dog with a lingering virus that has moved in and taken up residence. (I'm now receiving it's forwarded mail), I have been paralyzed with indecision. I made my big goals for my 39th birthday, but have stalled on making big goals for my next birthday. I turn forty, so the goals need to be worthy of the event.

I am not the type of person who makes New Years Resolutions. I noticed at a young age that most NYRs were broken within a month of their convicted declarations. People seemed to use them as traditional party hats that looked really good on December 31st but were tossed in the trash the next day. With an angry gleam in my eye I would shake my young fist at the foolish traditionalists and make a declaration of my own: Nothing Changes on New Years Day!

Actually, that was a line from an old U2 song. At any rate, I have a hang up about NYRs that is deep rooted in teenage angst and is therefore silly since I haven't been a teenager for some time, but that's not what is paralyzing me. I live my life by End of Year Deadlines, not NYRs. My birthday is the big event by which I meter my success. Since I hinge my self-worth on whether I can meet these goals, I think about them hard. I like them to be just beyond my reach so that making the deadline requires growth. Over time, however, I have accomplished all the easy goals. Don't forget to get dressed after the shower? Check! Remember to not let the water, and the bottom of the pan, boil away when cooking ramen? Check! The items left on my list are decidedly more complicated and intimidating.

This is what I discussed with my Cognitive Behavior Therapist the other day. I hadn't seen him in over six months so there was a lot to catch up. Besides, I needed a referral so I could pursue further treatment with a neurologist. I had a good year so there was mostly accomplishment after accomplishment to discuss, which is rewarding if not a little unusual even for me, but soon the good news was over and I was faced with my dilemma. What on Earth was I going to do for the next year? And why couldn't I decide?

What's nice about a CBT is that he or she doesn't make any decisions for you. The whole point of the therapy is for you to work out your own problems with the tools and skills you were born with. The CBT often helps you see your limitations as obstacles that you can maneuver around. So much about Adult ADHD is negative. The CBT focuses on the positive. In my case, he just sits back bemused as I pace back and forth in his office while I work out what's troubling me and what I can do to fix it.

I realized when reading my list of potential goals out loud that I had once again chosen too many of them. Jack Palance's character in City Slickers suggested the secret to life is focusing on one thing. One thing? I can think of forty amazing things to accomplish before the breakfast gets soggy! Obviously, I don't have time to do all of them, but I don't always recognize that emotionally. I get hung up thinking I'm supposed to do it all because that's what "normal" people are supposed to be able to do. I was spinning in place spending all my energy ruminating and building anxiety.

The problem was that I was waiting for a shaft of light from Heaven with choirs of angels and a voice from above saying "Douglas, this is what thou art supposed to do. Go forth, my son, and do it!" I had three big projects on my list which could not all be accomplished in a year's time. I wanted to do each one, but couldn't prioritize them properly. Finishing any one of them would have helped me feel I was making something of my life, but which one should I pursue? Then my CBT said something that caused me to sit down in stunned silence. He said sometimes you have to drill a hole in the ceiling to let the light through...that sometimes we need to just decide on something and pursue it in order to find out if it's the right thing or not.

My life has been filled with so many false starts and unfinished failures that I have become quite anxious about undertaking new ones as my fortieth birthday looms in the distance. I have been waiting for the "Sure Thing". Sometimes, though, we aren't really waiting. We're actually afraid to step out of our comfort zone and take a chance. Other times we simply can't see the forest for the trees. While I was waiting I was stagnating which was only making me miserable. Instead, I needed to make an informed decision and act on it.

My CBT still didn't decide anything for me, but he pushed me in the right direction. He helped me see my ADD obstacles so I could stop walking into them like a wall and opened a door to bypass them instead.