Saturday, February 20, 2016

ADHD vs. Guest Speaking. I won.

Ever find your ADHD focusing on everything that irritates you? Today’s (long) article shows how that happened to me on a large scale recently. Fortunately, training, humor & hyperfocus helped me stay on topic. Read on!

I had a big week two weeks ago! So big, it wiped me out about 10pm last Wednesday. Oh, wait. No, sorry. That’s when the flu hit me like a cement truck with wings. I thought perhaps I had just worked really hard and needed to sleep sitting up with the TV remote in my hand. I was like Rip Van Winkle sleeping the sleep of ages, except I recall the Brownie coming in and scolding me for waking her up because I was making too much noise. Funny how we don’t breathe well with our necks bent at 90°.

The big event that week was a guest speaker spot I had at Carol Lynch Williams’ novel writing class. Carol knows me from writing seminars a few years back. She was discussing indy publishing with her class and invited me & my editor to discuss our collaborative process. During the class, I had the students pass my iPhone around and take pictures of me. As I was pruning the several thousand photos, I noticed a few things I want to share with you.

But first, the class. The students asked incredibly insightful questions. They wanted to know about blogging, goal making, and dealing with disability while writing, which was right up my alley. Although I answered the questions without meandering, I think that it would be better for everyone involved if I didn’t have to think so much about the answers. Next time I’ll prepare more. I suppose this sort of thing will become easier for me with practice.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person up there. Heather Monson, my editor, added a great deal to the presentation. She has such a brilliant mind. I’m so glad she whipped my book into shape. The class was very curious about that process. How she whipped me… How deeply she cut… Did she laugh… It got uncomfortable at times.

Now, about those photos.

Looking over the photos, I discovered some awkward things about myself. First, my haircut. I knew the day was going wrong when I got a bad haircut earlier that day. The stylist was recommended, but she ended up butchering me. Photos don’t lie. It really was bad. That stressed me out quite a bit, until I realized I was letting my nervousness over the class hyperfocus on the haircut. I forced myself to laugh, repeated my “hair grows” mantra, and put it out of my mind.

Secondly, I didn’t realize how pronounced the Italian genes in me were. My grandfather was from the North End in Boston, my grandparents from Sicily. Although I am also English and Irish, it is the Italian side that gives me my flair. My voice becomes energetic. My hands flourish about meaningfully. But I had no idea that my mouth pursed when I made points. Photo after photo I looked like Donald Trump. I don’t mind The Donald, but I don’t want to look like him. (delete…delete…⌫) I also learned that I don’t know what to do with my hands when I’m NOT excited, I only addressed the left side of the classroom, and I need to practice smiling while talking. However, instead of being embarrassed, I was thankful for all the photos so that I can spot presentation flaws. Now I know what to work on in this new phase of my life.

Another thing that the photos revealed was how much in pain I was. I injured my knee three weeks ago and ouch, so you could see me dancing from leg to leg up. The pain shot from my kneecap all the way down to my toes. Sometimes my hand was photographed in a contorted position as I dealt with the pain. What surprised me most, however, was that the photos revealed how sick I was. I had no idea I was coming down with the flu. All I knew was that I was oddly inflated for some reason—like the Pillsbury Doughboy crammed into pants & jeans that were three sizes too small.

Then I collapsed on the couch after I arrived home. Thank heavens for adrenaline. I’m not sure how else I would have made it through the day.

I train myself to not hyperfocus on the fractured minutia of the day, but when sick, exhausted, or caught off guard, I slip into old habits. I could have let a bad haircut, an injured knee, and my mystery bloating hamper me, but I stopped myself. People often accuse me of being too negative. They don’t realize that ADHD makes background irritation turn into foreground irritations. If you have a problem with the negatives taking prominence in your mind, take heart from my example. I turned to my daughters, got my rants out of my system, then focused on representing myself as professionally as I could manage. I didn’t meander one bit!

Well, except for that time I started discussing politics, and then had to explain what I meant to the class. Oh, man. The rabbit hole opened up wide and tried to draw me in, but I pulled myself back from the edge.

OK, enough about that. Here are the photos: