Tuesday, 26 January 2021

How to get yourself/your kid (maybe?) to do boring stuff

 Well! Hello there! It’s been about a zillion years since I have been here to bestow my boundless wisdom into the ether, but it’s a new year (off to a fucking insane ridiculous dumpster-fire start) so what better time than to write something non-useful?! 

Today, I bring you Jessica’s top tips for motivation through boring stuff! These are my best distilled (who am I kidding?) tips that I regularly use to force myself to do* boring things that must be done. I have tried out most of these with the 9-year old as I struggle hard to try to convince him to complete the endless worksheets that are supposed to make him learn from home (but mostly make him hate school, and get mad at me). I tried getting the Ok from his teacher to just burn all of this and go look for bugs under logs instead, but that was not well-received. So, since I am a rule-follower, we are slogging through the backlog of work, sprinkling these tools along the way, keeping the old “get ‘er done” goal in sight. 

 

1.     Change of scenery

Yes, we set up a room in the house (formerly the guestroom, but what even is a guest anymore?) as a “classroom” with desks and such, but moving around to work in different areas can break things up and help motivate. Some places we do work: the playroom floor, the couch, the porch, the kitchen counter, the trampoline (not while jumping, that would be a bit dangerous from a pencil-stabbing-eyeballs standpoint), the outdoor couch, the garden, the 3rd floor, etc. 

 

We use these smooth and rigid plastic bin-lids from Ikea as work surfaces for non-iPad work when I am coercing the children to do school work in these different non-desk locations. 

School on the trampoline - who would have thought?

2.     Colors and things


When doing something boring and repetitive, why not at least spice it up with some fancy colored pens? Or use some cute seahorse stamps to make your 6x7 array example instead of just drawing pencil dots? Stickers? I love this shit. 


I feel very pro with my handy change-of-scenery-friendly colored pencil/marker caddy made from some yogurt containers and zip ties. 


Yogurt containers with pencils and pens
Yogurt containers are handy and cheap!

Hedgehog tape holder
Cute, and also harder to lose.

 

3.     Chunks


Break up each giant, intimidating piece of work into manageable chunks: one worksheet page, half an hour of washing glassware, etc. You can even add chunks to a to-do list and cross them off, or make a spreadsheet and color-code the completed/to-do cells to celebrate and track progress. 

 

4.     Snacks


I learned this one from someone on Twitter: self-bribery with treats. Allow yourself/your kid to enjoy a gummy bear or similar treat after completing a given little chunk of work. 

 

I also like to use healthy snacks like celery sticks, carrots, snap peas, etc. to keep my mouth and therefore part of my brain busy and distracted while doing something boring. This is weirdly effective.

 

5.     Gum


Chewing gum might be helpful for reducing stress (and therefore maybe improving focus) for those with sensory-processing issues (i.e. see this study), although other work (like this study) suggests it can be distracting and negatively affect attention. Toss up?


Remote kindergarten - oh my.

6.     Background music/podcasts and such


I often work much better in loud-ish and/or busy environments (coffee shops, my office with the door open and people walking around talking, etc.). Quiet nothingness makes me feel like I need to be somewhere else – surely there must be something better happening that I am missing? Similarly, I can’t possibly do things like repetitive labwork or house cleaning without listening to podcasts or a book on tape, or talking on the phone.  

 

Maybe put on the soundtrack to The Mandalorian or Star Wars to make it seem like you’re accomplishing something important and slightly dangerous? 

 

7.     Trading


Sometimes, the kids trade with one another – the little one does a few too-hard multiplication equations while the older one does a few too-easy lines of handwriting. The older one’s handwriting is pretty messy, and the little one at least grasps the concept of multiplication, even if she’s not quite as adept, so it tends to work out for a few minutes…at least long enough for them to be happy to get back to doing their own work for a while. 

 

I do mental trading with myself – i.e. if I do this one hard thing that I hate (like budgets), then I can do some of this other thing I really enjoy (like writing). 

 

I have yet to figure out how to trade so that the kids do MY boring tasks, but I’m thinking it’s high time they learned how to clean a bathroom at least. Maybe in exchange for coloring? Why do they hate coloring? It’s so relaxing! 

 

Have these tools worked for motivating myself? Why, yes, indeed! For my kids? Not so much! Please send wine/your advice/COVID vaccines. 


All the things: change of locale, colors, snacks, distracting birds singing in the background, etc.

(*Caveat: you know I have ADHD, so whether or not I actually complete boring things is another story, but these to tend to help them move in the direction of maybe being done.)

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Perfect Parenting Projects

Hello from Impending Doom (i.e. Sunday night before another week of pandemic parenting)! I hope you are holding up – if so, you are killing it! Nice job! 

For those of you who, like me, now have a preschooler at home and previously had absolutely no skills at keeping said preschooler engaged because you work and they go to preschool for a reason, I am here to share with you my new Perfect Parenting Projects advice. I’m qualified to provide this advice because my brother and his wife are preschool professionals, and I have rudimentary Vulcan Mind Meld skills (don’t tell), so I can now be trusted to guide you along on this newly-appointed-preschool-teacher journey. 

Step 1: Flail around on various Montessori-at home websites, and become totally overwhelmed by the volume of material and required time investment. Also get extremely confused because you have no formal Montessori training and you are not privy to the above-mentioned mind meld. Close 45 tabs and come back to this one. Now. Ready?
 
Serenity - it will all be ok (maybe, unless we all die and/or lose our jobs/housing//family members/friends, but who is counting...ok back to focusing on relatively small things because the rest is too much)


Step 2: Set up a sensory day:
(a)   Sight – cut paint swatches in half, and/or gather pairs of different-looking things like different sized washers, nuts, bolts, etc.  kid can do matching and then also ordering. Kids with Montessori experience in particular totally get this. It’s kind of magical. 
Estimated set-up time: 5-20 minutes. 
Estimated time this will keep them busy: 5-20 minutes, depending how hard you made it (I had like 16 shades of taupe – so proud of past me for keeping those). 

(b)  Smell – grab some things from the kitche that are kind of obvious-smelling and wrap them in foil, then poke some holes in them. Offer them to your kid to identify.
Estimated set-up time: 5 minutes. 
Estimated time this will keep them busy: 3 minutes. 
Not the most visually appealing
(c)   Taste – cut up tiny pieces of things and have your kid close their eyes & pop them into their mouths. Probably best not to give them things that will make them freak out, like maybe no jalapeƱos, and probably nothing deemed “gross”. 
Estimated set-up time: 2-5 minutes. 
Estimated time this will keep them busy: 3 minutes. They will probably ask to do it again with different things. 

(d)  Touch – put random objects into a cloth bag and have your kid try to identify them without looking in the bag. 
Estimated set-up time: 5 minutes of casting about the random things in kitchen drawers. 
Estimated time this will keep them busy: 5-20 minutes, depending on how hard you make it and how many clues you give. 

(e)   Hearing – re-use your paper towel/TP rolls to make matching-paired-shakers. Put inside things like dry beans, washers, rice, etc. 
Estimated set-up time: 30 minutes. 
Estimated time this will keep them busy: Maybe 5 minutes, but more like 2 if you make it too easy. 
There are probably faster & definitely less crappy ways to do this

Step 3: Design and carry out a super-creative craft project using items from nature:
(a)   Find an old Glass Gem corn cob in a drawer. 
(b)  Kernels must be plucked off using tweezers. This is good for fine-motor-skill development/practice. Disclaimer: I did not come up with this; we bought this cob to copy a work from the little one’s preschool, but then the little one decided the cob was too precious to take apart. However, I convinced her to use the cob for this work because of the awesome final-outcome, which will be to have a beautiful necklace to wear and show off said awesome kernels.
(c)   When the older child decides this looks way more fun than doing math worksheets that have been assigned, spend 30 minutes negotiating with the little one that the older child can also pluck half of the kernels from the cob as long as the little one gets to wear all necklaces made from said kernels.
(d)  Drill holes in a portion of the kernels the younger child has plucked while the children try to build robots from random nuts and bolts, and you explain what torque is and why the little whirring battery-powered motor that will spin a tiny propeller won’t propel a wood/nuts & bolts robot across the floor.
(e)   Partway through the hole drilling, the kids get bored of their robot plans.
(f)    The younger child decides she doesn’t want to make a necklace after all, and the kernels now must just live in the bowl she put them in. 
So pretty! Maybe I'll just make a necklace for myself


Step 4: Feel discouraged. Decide maybe we can just do playdoh, read, and watch movies for the next month. That probably never killed anyone.  
Never underestimate the awesomeness of facepaint

Monday, 13 April 2020

How to get your kid set up for remote-learning

In this very weird new world we find ourselves in, connected to others by computer, phones, and waves across a 6-foot chasm, I thought I would share with you my winning solution to getting your elementary-school kids set up for their new remote-learning situation. 

First, try not to let the emails from your school district learning coordinator, superintendent, principal and teacher get lost amongst the avalanche of emails re-assuring you that it is totally fine to re-book your airline flight, buy cupcakes delivered by disinfected drone, sign up for a zoom-based exercise class, etc. 

Next, once you have located the relevant emails amongst the haystack of others, pour yourself some coffee (or other beverage), take a deep breath, and sit down to read them.
 
These kids are way smarter than you might realize. This guy made his own worksheet, and one for his sister, after re-arranging our guest room into a makeshift classroom the day we learned that schools were closing. 
After reading the emails, save them as PDFs or print them, or put them in a special folder, and/or mark them as unread, and add a star/flag/whatever, because you are going to have to find them again. 

Now, lay down and have a good cry. My cry was mostly about how sad I feel for my kids, who love their schools so damn much, and their friends, and their teachers. Yes, it’s really nice in many ways to have more time together – but holy shit I am a terrible little-kid teacher and I am definitely not a good little-kid-friend, and our house is not in any way a substitute for a school environment. 

After you have a good cry, and feel better even though it doesn’t particularly help anything, wait until the next day. 

Try again, this time with your kid. Open the emails. Walk through the instructions step by step with your kid, and let your kid explain the parts you don’t get (“I already know how to do this, mom”). Maybe throw in a little “stop clicking so quickly!” in your best curmudgeonly voice. 

Be grateful that (if you are lucky like me), your kid’s teacher/school is amazing, and their expectations are reasonable.  

Or, if not, maybe sent them an email. This is all a weird experiment and no one knows what on earth we are doing. 

Then hug your kids. And maybe cry a little more. 


Along the same lines as the first photo, when you have no idea what you are doing, your kids might just come up with their own learning projects. The 4 yr old came up with her own Montessori-based ordering work using these wrenches when I was fixing our car a few weeks ago (the kids did not find watching me get dirty and frustrated very interesting). 

Monday, 9 March 2020

How to do your job poorly

Well hello out there! Long time no overshare! 

It’s been a little hectic around here – we’ve been overcommitted at work and spending too much free time (figuratively) banging our heads into a wall fighting crappy development projects, and trying not to be horrible parents and such. So, not a lot of time to write stuff, but I’ve managed to get on top of a few things and finally carved out a few minutes! Feeling really chuffed with myself. 

I’ve been reflecting lately on the general concept of work, and how a person gauges their own aptitude and overall “goodness” at a job. I have learned that I personally require a lot of external feedback to gauge whether or not I am doing Ok – I mean, not that I completely listen to people when they tell me I’m being a stubborn asshole, but, as with my sense of time, my ability to self-gauge is….poor. 

Some of this is probably “imposter syndrome” – where you feel like you got in the door accidentally, and at any moment, someone will notice that you aren’t supposed to be there, and kick you out. But, some of the je ne sais quoi – “essence” let’s call it – of being good at your job is not related to how well you perform technically, but how productive per unit time you are, or how much money you make, or whatever – I’m sure there are heaps more metrics (“pleasantness” perhaps?) of what makes a person “good” at their job.  

ANYWAY. 


The point of this blog is that I was thinking of some really fabulous examples of people being just absolute shit at their jobs, and this in a way is really helpful for me, to give me a nice clear sense of “no, that is not good, do not emulate.” So, in case you, too, struggle with knowing “am I doing Ok?”, I hope these examples help you, as well. 

Case 1: Just really not quite getting it

This actually didn’t happen to me, but to my mom. I won’t tell the story as well, but I’ll try. 

Scene: at the shoe portion of a department store. 

My mom: “Hello, can I please try on this shoe? I wear a size 7 and a half.”
Shoe salesman: “Sure, one moment.” [disappears for a while]
Shoe salesman: “Here you are! We didn’t have a 7 and a half, so I brought you a 6 and a half.” 
My mom
Shoe salesman: “Would you like to try them on?”
My mom: “I. Um. How do you… Um. I….” [bursts into flames]

Just another day at work for my friend Jessica Meir, performing maintenance outside of the Space Station (OMG, WOW, right?!). This is a good example of a time when a half-assed job just won't do.

Case 2: Really exemplifying your point very poorly

Not too long ago, I was at a required training class at work. The class was intended to teach us how to be good workers. Being as I am always feeling a bit overwhelmed, I was excited to find out the secrets to not sucking that I figured everyone else already knew. I expected this would lead to smooth sailing through the days from here out. 

Scene: a windowless room with about 30 adults sitting around groups-of-4 tables with table-tent name tags we were encouraged to decorate to express ourselves.

Instructor: “Now, you are all great at your technical work, and that’s why you were hired. But the ONLY way to succeed in this job, and life in general, is to have good SOFT SKILLS. This means being emotionally intelligent and understanding how to interact with other people effectively.”
Me: “I don’t think you mean to say that is the ONLY way to succeed.”
Instructor: “Oh, yes, definitely. If you don’t have good people skills, you will NEVER succeed. You will be a failure.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure that’s discriminatory, and illegal.” 
Instructor: [completely loses his shit and screams at me, then realizes what he is doing and runs out of the room]
Everyone in the room: “Good display of soft skills there, instructor.”

Case 3: Act like you are a good person, but then do the exact opposite of what a good person would do

This one was inspired by a certain elected official who just really sucks, but I’m sure can be applied to many others across the planet. Perhaps they were all trained by the “soft skills” guy at my work. 

Scene: Anywheretown.

Nominee: You know what I care about? All the things that you care about! Let’s make stuff awesome!
Rabble: Yes! Finally! I’m so glad this person cares! I’m totally voting for them.
Elected person: Awesome guys, thanks so much for electing me! I totally still care about all the things that you care about. This is going to be wonderful.
Rabble: Woohoo! 
Elected person: Now, as I was saying, because we all care so deeply about the same things, I will now take decisive action to completely undermine these things, but I will do so while claiming that I have no other choice, and/or that you are just wrong in thinking that this is bad. 
Rabble: Wait, but no. We hate that. It is bad. Like, measurably bad.
Elected person: Well, what did you think was going to happen? I mean, I can’t actually make things better by making decisions that you approve of. That would be too hard.
Rabble: But, why?
Elected person: Well, because someone is going to complain about everything. So, I’ve decided it’s better just to say I care about certain things to sooth everyone’s nerves, and then behind your backs I will just do whatever I want. And then I’ll blame you, if you don’t like it. It’s really your fault for being fussy, you know. 
Rabble: What the fuck?
Elected person: I just smelled a rich person. Gotta run! Tootles!
Rabble: [scrabbling around] Where are the god damned pitchforks when you need them?!

Now THIS is some authentic good work. Little Jessica is working super hard here, most likely describing the difference in crystal size and therefore cooling rate of these two igneous rock specimens.

Case 4: Take all of your stress out on your coworkers

Scene: The conference room, with your core group of coworkers that you really like and respect.

Coworker 1: I have a very reasonable question for you!
You: FAAAACK. Really? I can’t. Blarggghhhh [rolls on floor for a while]
Coworker 2: I mean, that is a very reasonable question. Perhaps you can try to answer it.
You: [bangs hands and fists on floor, shakes head back and forth rapidly] Nooooo!!!! I don’t wannnnnnaaaaaa!
Coworker 3: Do you need to go home?
You: My kids have been sick for like a century and I got puked on and did four loads of laundry yesterday and haven’t slept properly in like a decade. Is that what you were asking about? No? Oh. You want me to provide data. OH! Sorry. I thought this was an opportunity to overshare about my personal stresses. 
Everyone: [stares]
You: Do you feel loved, that I’m comfortable enough with you to lose my shit?
Everyone: [shrugs]
You: [looks at notes] Ok, sorry. Looks like...42. 

Ok guys! Since Case 4 was me, today, I think I will self-diagnose bedtime now. Hopefully that will put Case 4 on the backburner for a while from yours truly...but in any case, if this coronavirus business keeps on its course, there might be more posts coming soon where this one came from, if we’re all stuck at home! WHOOHOO!

Do you have a best-worst-job performance story? Please leave it in the comments. It would be such a treat. 

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Actually

“Actually, I want to sleep in my bed,” says the 3 year old, after I’ve set up the “foldo” on the floor of her bedroom with pillow and blanket to exacting specifications regarding angle and location. 

“Actually, I don’t want my blanket on me,” she says, after re-settling her onto her bed, with pillow and blanket, and following specific instructions on blanket flatness and distance below chin.

“Actually, I do want my blanket on me,” she declares, after several minutes of fussing with said blanket to try to make herself into a taco. 

“Actually, I want to sleep on the foldo.”

Trying not to yell, I inform her that as long as she stays in her room and has a nap, I do not particularly care where or how she chooses to place her body, but that I am done participating and will be leaving now before I feel the urge to break something. 

"Actually, I no longer feel thirsty, thanks."

***

“Actually, I’m not sure we made the right choices. I think we should go back and cancel the whole thing,” he says. 

We are currently driving home after spending 4 hours in IKEA spanning the 2 year’s old nap time ordering a kitchen that took weeks of planning, while living in and cooking out of a trailer in the yard. 

I am grateful to be driving. I keep the pedal pressed to the floor. 

***

“Actually, I don’t want oatmeal. I want rice crispies,” she says, as I present her with the bowl of oatmeal I just prepared at her request.

“Actually, I wanted the milk on the side,” she says, three milliseconds after I pour the milk into the bowl to commence the snap-crackling. 

How convenient, I think. Now I won’t forget to make myself breakfast, I just get to eat two small bowls of rejected food and I’ll be good to go. 
Day 1: Hey mom, this is awesome! You can just lick salt directly off the ground!
Day 2: Actually....[intestinal mutiny]

***

“Actually, I think the electricity bill must be so high because you are always washing clothes, and doing the dishes. We should try washing the dishes by hand for a month and seeing how that changes the bill,” he says. “And also, just don’t do so much laundry.” 

I try, and fail, not to have an aneurism.
***

I break down and spend $100 on a replacement electronic control board for the dishwasher. 

Dishwasher, on 1st run: "Sweet! I'm all set now, thanks!"

Dishwasher, on 2nd run: "Actually, no. I'm going to give you the same problem as before, but thanks for trying!"

Sunday, 3 February 2019

How to overshare

I’ve recently had a massive revelation in my world, and in my normal spirit of oversharing and taking forever to get to the point, am going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT. (The hyperlinks embedded near the end will bring you to relevant articles, if you are inclined to read even more!)

For about as long as I can remember, I have disliked certain aspects of my personality. I wondered why I failed at seemingly simple things, like NOT constantly losing my shoes. I embarrassed myself in social situations (could I be any more awkward?!). Maybe if I just tried harder. Maybe if I just tried *one* more new way of organizing myself, or *one* more new mindfulness technique, I would reach a state of zen and all would be well. 

----

This is a common discussion in our house:

Jess: “Can we talk about x,y,z later? I’m really frazzled.” 

Adam: “You’re *always* frazzled.”

----

This is true. I am always frazzled. But I just thought that if I just could force myself to try a little bit harder, I would get my shit together and wouldn’t be frazzled. But it never happened. 

My shit refuses to get together. 


I don't actually know why I have this photo. 

These feelings have, not surprisingly, seriously impacted my self-confidence. Maybe that's surprising? By standard metrics, my life is wonderful. I have a PhD. I have a great job. I have a great husband and 2 great kids and a great house and I live in a great town. I have wonderful friends and my body is mostly functional and healthy. 

I spend a lot of time laughing and smiling – even when I’m expressing something not-good. “I feel like my life is totally out of control! HAHAHAHA!”

----

You may be thinking “oh, you are just over-reacting. Other people may exude together-ness, but they aren’t really.” Allow me to demonstrate to you some of my failings:

The scattered teacher
Almost all of my teacher evaluations said I was enthusiastic and approachable, and other good stuff. But also, at least ½ of them said my lectures were all over the map and hard to follow. I needed to come to class more organized and prepared. I needed to present things in a more logical, linear and less spider-webby fashion. (Note: I tried. I tried so hard.)

The lost jacket
One Christmas, my mom bought me a new snowboarding jacket that I coveted. It was beautiful and cozy and I was so happy. But then I almost immediately lost it. How could I lose an entire jacket? I looked everywhere. I didn't dare ask my mom if she had seen it, because this would be the zillionth time I had lost something, and I didn’t want to admit I had been so careless as to lose such a precious thing. So I took the money I’d had saved in my bank account and bought a new, identical one. 

A few days later, I was wearing the new jacket in the kitchen after coming home from school when my mom opened the door to, naturally, the coat closet and lo and behold, there was the original one. It never occurred to me that someone might have picked up my jacket and put it in a logical place on my behalf. 

The benefit of having 2 identical jackets = twinsies snowboarding with my friends!

The out-of-place talker
When I was a professor at UMass Boston, I attended an event one day that consisted of experts from around the city coming together to brainstorm practical solutions to environmental injustice in the city. Climate change was disproportionately impacting low-income neighborhoods, and my colleagues hosted this meeting to address the problem. I sat at a table with about ten people who actually knew about this. I know this because we all introduced ourselves before we started the brainstorming activity. I told everyone upfront that I knew I didn’t know enough to contribute and was just here to listen and learn. 

This was really true: I know about the science of climate change itself, but knew almost nothing about other neighborhoods of my new city that weren’t on the Red Line, and certainly very little about practical infrastructure-based methods to combat these impacts. Yet, I literally could not stop myself from randomly interjecting things, even when I immediately regretted what I said because I sounded like an idiot. 

I have a long list of examples in my head of times when I have inappropriately interjected something in a professional context and then felt so ashamed when my colleagues looked at me like I had just started doing cartwheels in the back of the room.

The inability to find words
Multiple times a day, I struggle to remember words. I often have to reverse-google them: “what is the thing called that a boat ties up to?” Oh, that’s right, a pier. I often find myself getting really irritated when Adam or the kids ask me a question because it takes so much mental effort to remember the right word to answer them. (For some reason, this irritation doesn’t happen at work, just at home). For about a decade, until yesterday, I thought this was a sign of early dementia or a brain tumor or something. I didn’t want to ask my doctor or anyone else about it for fear of confirming this frightening suspicion.

The agitation of changing plans
I also thought perhaps I was mildly autistic, as I sometimes get more upset than I logically know is reasonable when plans change or things don’t go as I had anticipated. I often have to run through plans in my head multiple times before I do something simple, to help me be able to do it. For example, if the kids fall asleep in the car, I’ll plan out exactly how I’m going to get the kids out of the car and where I’m going to put them inside to continue sleeping. If Adam helps, but does things differently than I had planned out (parking in the “wrong” place, for example), I have been known to freak out.

I often spend a very large amount of time looking for my shoes...

The inability to complete things (at home)
I have my shit together at work, more or less. Sometimes I forget meetings, but I don’t miss deadlines and I do a good job. (Unfortunately, if there are no deadlines, things generally do not get done until my guilt overtakes my ability to procrastinate). But at home it’s worse. I am forever starting projects and not finishing them. I start a worm bin and then forget about them and they get all desiccated (sorry, worms). Instead I get a spinning composter but only add stuff to it. Adam points out that perhaps I should pull out the finished compost and use it in the garden. I freak out and yell at him for badgering me about this, because I know this and I already feel mildly guilty; but it just seems like too much work to figure out how and then to do it, so I don't. 

When we work on a project around the house together, Adam says at least once “Can you please just finish what you were doing before you start something else?” or “Why can’t you ever put stuff away?” or “Why are you pulling weeds? I thought you were putting that tool back in the shed and then coming back inside.” Well, it’s because I get distracted and suddenly I have to do the next thing rather than finishing the first. Partly it’s because if I don’t do the second thing when I think of it, I’ll forget. Partly it's because the first thing got boring.

The complete overwhelm of minor tasks
I also often can’t do seemingly simple things. “Just login to your bank account and pay this bill that came in the mail.” Doing this requires (1) finding my laptop, (2) not getting distracted by email or one of the 17 tabs I have open while navigating to the website, (3) remembering my password (but usually trying until I get locked out and have to reset it), (4) and remembering what I am doing once I get to the website. This is all hard and exhausting for me, and can take an hour. It takes Adam 5 minutes because none of these things are problems for him.

The forgetful friend:
Countless times, I have been in a conversation and asked a question, like “what do you do for work?” that I had learned a few minutes before because the person had just told me. Typically, the person looks at me with obvious concern, probably wondering if I suffer from dementia. This usually happens at parties, conferences, or other loud and busy situations. Unfortunately, it also happens with good friends, and I feel horribly embarrassed that it probably seems that I just don’t care enough to pay attention and remember what is going on with them. Sometimes, I avoid reaching out to friends to get together because I’m so embarrassed that I can’t remember what we talked about the last time we’d seen one another. 

One thing I like about myself: I can be creative and artistic when I have the time.

I could go on about my failings, but I’ll stop there. I’m guessing you won’t be surprised to hear that I suffer from sometimes-intense self-doubt, depression and anxiety. 

So, what to do about this? 

I’ve been in therapy on and off for much of my life. Each of the times I went to therapy, it was focused on trying to work through and combat these symptoms. But there was always some external stress that these problems could be attributed to – divorce of my parents, peer pressure, teenage angst, sexual assault, becoming a mother. If I could *just* work through my feelings about these problems, I’d be all fixed up. Each time that doesn’t help, I try various antidepressants on and off. This helps a little, but never completely. 

AND THEN. 

I am scrolling through Twitter, which is what I do while I sit next to my daughter as she drifts to sleep. I stumble into this thread. It’s as if the author is reading my mind. 

I read the linked article

Holy shit. 

I so very obviously have ADHD. 

I burst into tears. I text the article to my mom. She reads it and writes back: “Well, OMG…get to a psychiatrist immediately!!!”

Maybe I am not just broken. Or, I guess I *am* broken, but in a way that makes sense and has an explanation. It’s not a character flaw I can fix by just working and trying harder. I keep failing, over and over, to be the way I’m "supposed" to be, because my brain works differently.  

Suddenly, so much frustration and guilt and sadness and shame is lifted from my heart and placed in a neatly labelled box in my head. 

I am so relieved.

Each of the above, plus a bunch of other aspects of my life (working on 14 different things at once, or alternatively getting into hyperfocus mode when I’m working on something I enjoy or have a deadline [writing, data analysis, etc.], being pretty darn effective in emergency situations) can be linked to different aspects of ADHD:

The lost jacket: people with ADHD lose things
The out-of-place talker: impulsivity
The inability to find words: retrieval problems
The agitation of changing plans: interference in compensatory systems (see #9)
The inability to complete tasks at home: shocker: also an ADHD symptom!
The complete overwhelm of minor tasks: distractibility makes stuff hard
The forgetful friend: poor working memory

This post could be a bad idea. Maybe it would be better to just keep this personal medical information to myself. 

But, the incredible relief of having figured out exactly why I am the way I am, combined with my impulsive behavior means – HERE YOU GO WORLD!