Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Progress Report: My Month as an ADHD Shrubbery

Remember that experiment last month where I was supposed to be analyzing just how Multi-Irons Syndrome affected me? Yeah, me neither.

(cc) Douglas CooteyI wasn't able to post my month in review on May 30th because I was racing across I-15 that day. It seemed all of a sudden I was the guy elected to drive two of my daughters to an Irish feis in Scottsdale, Arizona. I would have enjoyed the scenery more if the trip hadn't occurred in the dark. I did get to see quite a bit of wildlife cross my headlights as I broke the sound barrier over the desert floor. (Who needs the Bonneville Salt Flats?) I saw a coyote and a whole herd of jackrabbits. I even saw the Milky Way, which I was relieved to find out was still there. I hadn't seen it in quite some time. Word must have been out, though, that I was coming. I had the singular experience of watching the gas go up from station to station from Utah into Nevada and back down into Arizona. Fortunately, I rest assured that my carbon footprint was still smaller than either Al Gore's or Barack Obama's. Besides, I fertilized the desert flora along the way, something I bet neither of those gents can claim. Actually, I probably shouldn't have claimed that either.

The sudden road trip was a good wild card to be played on me. As I detailed in "My First Steps at Managing Multi-Irons Syndrome", like many people with ADHD I go through a cycle every few years of pulling excess irons out of the fire in an effort to gain some sort of control over my time and my life. Prune. Collect. Prune. Collect. I've been doing it all of my adult life. This time after I pruned I set out to complete just two goals — the two most important at the time — and I watched and waited to see just how ADHD affected me. Could I do it? Could I stay focused? Would I be able to concentrate only on two goals? Nothing tested that more than a sudden road trip thrown at me at the end of the busy month.

The good news is that yes, I could do it. I put my shoulder to the wheel and pushed along, taking note of all the distractions that made the journey difficult. Although I needed a week to get my bearings again after returning from the trip, I didn't head off in a new direction as I have done in the past, but instead dove right back into the remaining goal. I will comment on all those difficulties in the next article which I am still writing. I aim to publish it later today.

The first goal I had set for myself was to finish the first draft of my picture/chapter book "Benjamin Fudge and the Vegetable Grudge". This I accomplished before the road trip. What a great feeling of accomplishment to finish another children's book. I know that I was only able to do it because I had organized my schedule and made it a priority.

The other goal was to "pour my attention" into the project. I didn't have as much progress in that as I'd have liked, but by no fault of my own. The software I needed to work on the job didn't arrive until after I was back from Arizona, which is the way these things usually go. Still, I did work on the project, so that, too, was a success.

Just prior to squeezing a spontaneous road trip into my schedule I had rediscovered Jeff Smith of Cartoon Books. I had been a fan of his graphic novel, "Bone", for years, but stopped following him when I stopped buying comics over ten years ago. Jeff had an exhibit of his work up at his old alma mater in Ohio and there was an online interview that really opened my eyes.

All these years I felt Jeff sprung up out of the American comic landscape overnight like a tall, original, and polished sequoia. Instead, I learned his work was heavily influenced in style by "Pogo", a favorite series of his youth, and that when I had just begun a comic strip at college he had completed a four year run doing a comic strip at college. He then reworked those characters and proceeded to bring them to life in comic book form for thirteen years. Simply amazing. How did he prevent himself from wandering off and doing something new out of boredom? How did he find interest in the work instead of interest from outside of the work?

As I struggled with my two simple goals I was quite humbled by his accomplishments. When he was finished, the story of "Bone" was told in over 1300 pages – pencilled, inked, and published in 21 page installments. Jeff became a giant through hard work and perseverance; he is amazing to me. MIS is only one of my obstacles. I need to master my ADHD if I want to achieve anything on my list of goals. Otherwise, I'll be shuffling from project to project until the day I die, living my life as some sort of shrub eking out an existence in the shadow of giants.

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