This is what my daughter Drew said to me the other day during a phone conversation. She is correct but perhaps her context has a little more to do with who I am and how I think rather than the world around me.
Throughout my life I have become bored easily. And yet, I am not a hedonist nor am I a thrill seeker. I am not much of a planner and I prefer impromptu events. I am rarely the person who organizes get togethers yet I am a go along gal. I don’t dream of visiting far away places although I do travel now and again. I live more in the mindset of creating a life I love. I must admit I am seldom bored when I am alone. My boredom comes from television commercials. I get up and leave the room during a commercial and forget to go back. I am distracted by other tasks. Perhaps a book. Or I might fold laundry. Hours later I wonder what happened in the show I was watching. I have been known to get up and leave a book club gathering midway through. I fidget during business meetings. I lose interest in all that happens around me. I hate meeting with my broker because its truly boring but I love to chat with his assistant. My broker is all business. Once I hit that point my focus is gone and I look for an escape. I have always wanted to take a houseboat trip but there are very few people I could be with for that amount of time. I realize that it isn’t really boredom but there is an overwhelming amount of energy in crowds. It wears me down. I loved football games when I was young but the drive home found me sad and tearful. I absolutely love concerts of any type but the energy from the people around me is often overwhelming. I end up spending days alone in order to soothe my soul. As a child, when I lost interest in whatever was happening around me I would wander away. Do something else. During a recent lunch with a gal from boarding school, she brought this up. In a sudden flash of guilt I apologized if I seemed rude. She laughed. For her it was just the way I was. I was there and then I was gone. Turns out things haven’t changed much.
I have come to understand that my lack of interest is actually related to Attention Deficit Disorder. People joke and say we all are a little bit ADD but if you live with it every day it really isn’t a joke. We live in a world where conformity is huge and being a little different isn’t acceptable. Growing up I had no idea I was a little different. No one made me feel it. I was a chatterbox but now I realize my mind is reeling so much that it is hard to get all of my thoughts out. My mouth can’t perform at the same rate as my brain. As I grew older I came to realize that being talkative doesn’t create a persona of brilliance. Rather, I know I appear to be quite ditzy to the general population. Sometimes it bothers me but it can actually be a benefit. Being underestimated is a useful tool in life. For the most part I saw my family as a warm and comfy place. Somewhere I could retreat to when the world was too much. My childhood wasn’t all roses and sunshine but I chose to recall the good. And when it comes right down to it, I understand now that most of the scoldings or punishments I received were really a consequence of my own actions. While I did the normal childhood things, it wasn’t unusual for me to recede into my own personal space after a time. Even then too much time with others was hard and going home to play alone was healing. The truth of the matter is that life was relatively pleasant in the years where I lived with my parents. There were some expectations but nothing that wasn’t attainable. The emphasis wasn’t on succeeding in a financial or educational way. For my parents it seemed the goal was to make us into good people. Honest. Do the right thing. Both parents had their personal foibles and in the end they seemed to accept ours as well. I am grateful that I came away with that foundation. Values over possessions.
Leaving home for my last year of high school was exciting and a little scary. Living in a dorm at a Christian School softens the transition between child and adult. Lots of rules but lots of freedom as well. Again the freedom was partially due to my parents. It became very clear that year that I was the one who had to live with the results of my choices. A semi-controlled environment was the best thing for me and being given responsibility at a young age helps the decision making in later years. It was also good to see how other young people chose to spend their time when on their own. My room mate studied hard and partied hard and managed her time well. Of course both of her parents were teachers so failure was not an option and their tentacles reached all the way from home to the school. I on the other hand lived life whimsically. I would study when I felt like it. Exams were taken whether I was ready or not. All homework or papers were done the night before under pressure. If someone suggested an outing or a game of backgammon, I would say yes. Drop everything else. If I needed space I went home for the weekend. I managed to pass everything but always with an eye to the pass grade. Never more. Days passed without a care for the future or anxiety about failure. It was a peaceful time of transition. Eventually I grew a little more serious about school and after my first child was born my marks went up. Substantially. I think I learned a valuable lesson from the approach my parents took. It didn’t matter what others thought. Motivation must be intrinsic.
Getting married was the eye opener to the whole ADD situation. My husband was mystified and quite annoyed at times with my way of being. I always lost my keys. I put them down in odd places because it was just convenient. Wherever I was at the moment I needed empty hands, that is where the keys were placed. Leaving the house was another matter altogether as time was wasted as I looked for them. Wasted was my husbands thought. I had to retrace my steps from memory what I had done on my last return to the house. Then I would wander through the house. It never caused me anxiety until my husband got involved. His annoyance caused me to become upset. He would often say to me “Just put them in the same place when you come home.” What a great idea. Easier said than done for someone whose brain doesn’t instinctively do that. Alone, I would wander around, find the keys, leave the house and most likely be late for something. With my husband there would be words, anger and tears. He felt I was disrespectful since I knew how important being on time was for him. In later years we would often take separate vehicles. He didn’t like it but it was less stressful for us both. Living with another person day in and day out really points out your differences. I must admit that when it became apparent I was ADD, Rene’ read more about it and as he became more informed he became kinder and gentler with me and my particular oddities. I in turn tried harder to use coping mechanisms in my everyday life. I have always been anal about closets and their contents because it helped me know where to look for things. Storage was important for harmony in the home. I made sure all of the kids things were stored for easy retrieval. Ikea boxes were labelled. All items required for a sport were stored together. Snowboards and boots in one spot. Helmets, gloves, goggles and related paraphernalia all in one location. The kids made it hard because they weren’t great at putting things back. But it created a little more calm on those busy mornings when we were off to the hill. I created a cupboard with storage boxes. One contains cards for any occasion and the other has anything needed to wrap a gift. This was to save me time when we had a gift to bring someplace. There was tape, scissors, ribbon, bows, wrapping paper and anything else needed. Periodically I would impulse buy these items and toss them in the box. Always prepared then. You know what they say about the best laid plans. I don’t remember either but it’s not good. You see my kids would use the box. Bring it to the dining room table, use the contents and then leave things scattered all over. My husband would come along and put things away. Rather than dump it all in the box he would put the tape where he thought tape should go. A drawer in the buffet. Then the scissors would end up in my office. A logical place in his mind but not mine. I remember the morning we were in a rush and I was getting ready to wrap a gift. The box was out and of course it wasn’t as stocked as I thought it would be. My husband is in a hurry and I am frustrated. I sit on the floor and sob. I did all I could to make sure I would be prepared and I felt sabotaged. We were really late that day as it took quite a bit of pleading and cajoling to coax me out of the bathroom where I declared I was staying home!
In the work world I was able to manage life as a consultant. Your hours are your own and so the clock isn’t forever causing anxiety. Meetings were always a struggle because I would become bored quickly and I always felt not much ever was accomplished. They seemed to waste my time. I hate to leave a project or task because when I return to it I can’t just jump back in with the same intensity. I am easily distracted but I also have the ability to hyper focus. Get it done while you are absorbed also saves time. I can’t easily jump from idea to idea. Every job became a timesaving project for me. Once I was working on installing a new accounting system for a small Oil and Gas company. I was finished with the data and was about to begin the testing phase. It is always the most exciting time for me. That’s when you see not only if you did things correctly, it also can pinpoint flaws in the prior system. I am very nut nut about doing it right. A young lady was going on maternity leave and they needed someone to take over her desk for a few months. It was ridiculous to ask me to do it because I was making so much more money than someone outside would be paid. The powers that be decided I already knew their system so I could transition easily and the project could be done on a part time basis. Well, you do what you are told. For the first month I did things her way. The next month I changed things. Simplified the processes in place and managed my time based on my own personal skill set. In other words, I waited until all information for her desk was available and then spend full days dong her job. Then I dedicate the remainder of the days working on my project. No going back and forth. It was great. I spent approximately one week a month on her job and three weeks a month on my project. The good news was my contract was extended to include streamlining each job. The bad news was all of the girls being streamlined hated me. Management loved me and it was all because I just needed to fit the work into my way of thinking. I jumped around a lot in my career and did many things in Oil and Gas and I always seemed to have a job. I preferred having my time as my own. I was often at work before many of the others but it was my choice. No one demanded it so there was no pressure. I am fresh in the morning so I could start work and get lots done before anyone else arrived. I usually took my lunch from 11 to 12. I would leave the office and eat in a food court while it was relatively quiet. Find peace in the solitude with a book. When I returned to work the office was empty for lunch so it was nice and quiet. I quite often worked on trading floors with open concept designs so quiet depended on how much money the company paid for the set up. My brain would slow down around two so that was when I would make notes on what needed to be done the next day or week. Review the project timelines and see where I was behind or ahead. Then I would do the mindless tasks. Anything that needed filing or returned to another place. Photocopying. Emails. It became my own personal recipe for success.
These days I am retired and I am quite good at it. I don’t get as much accomplished as I used to but I am less rigid as well. No one is demanding anything from me. One day a week I try to do a small list of things that I put off for one reason or another. These items are silly to others but for me they are quite real. Mailing a letter is hard. It seems to involve too many steps so I just don’t get around to it. I get the mail once a week. I drive or walk past the mailbox daily but I don’t stop. The amount of junk mail annoys me so I just don’t bother. I do lots of laundry on a day I feel like doing laundry. Usually when I run out of yoga pants. That’s all that happens that day. Laundry and movies. I have two sets of bed linens so laundry twice a month works out just perfect. Usually it is the day I want to change the bed linens and they are all dirty! It works. Very little is regimented in the life of retirement. There are still projects as there always were. This stems from little money in our young years. Old things needed to be spruced up. Second hand was our go to in most things. After Rene’ died my life was filled with projects. They filled my time and helped my brain. Of course its been over a year and some stuff still sits half finished. But I am okay with that. In Ecclesiastes it says there is a season for all things. Spring is the season for the garden so all projects inside cease whether completed or not. If it gets done it gets done. If not, well there is always the fall. Or the winter. Or next year. It really doesn’t matter. This summer I might finish the garage. Or not. It was a big project as well but then a bright shiny thing flew by and I was distracted. Perhaps I will work on the garage this summer. Or not.
In sixty years I have learned an awful lot about what it means to be ADD. Some from reading. Some from personal experience but mostly from other peoples actions and attitudes. ADD is attention deficit disorder. A disorder. Medically speaking a disorder is a disease or abnormal condition. It has a negative connotation. Something that needs to be fixed or cured. When I see myself through the eyes of the world I understand why they judge my actions but from my side, I am okay. It all starts at a young age. Kids are inattentive in school. I never was hyperactive or disruptive. A little chatty but mainly just quiet and bored in school. That’s ADHD without the hyperactivity. Assignments never done. Poor work and study habits. Easily distracted. I spent a lot of my life looking out windows daydreaming, wishing I was somewhere else. These kids aren’t a problem in themselves. They are a problem for teachers. There is a misconception that these dreamy types are lazy and a little slow. Well I have an IQ of 152. So, I’m not stupid. I found I was always bored at school and then my brain would tune everything out around me. Luckily I love to read and so I was able to learn in a different way. I seldom studied but I found I did very well on tests. My marks dropped when assignments were to be done at home. I just didn’t do them. As I said it was more of a problem for the teachers. I was fortunate to have some attentive teachers along the way. Mr. Hughes in grade four knew I needed glasses within a couple of days in his class. I was switched from the advanced math class to the remedial class that Mr. Hughes taught. After a few spot tests, he was confused. I was good at math and my tests were completed quickly and with no errors. You see, the other teacher wrote the questions on the board for us to copy down onto our sheets. I couldn’t see so I copied the questions incorrectly. Which made my answers incorrect. Mr. Hughes handed out the work already written on the sheets. Of course that’s why my answers were correct. Ta Da. Not stupid. Just blind! I don’t mean to lump all teachers together but frankly today we treat kids who are a little different as rejects. They need behaviour modification or medication in order to stop disrupting the class. Perhaps we need to find other ways of teaching these kids.
As an adult life became harder and harder. My home life was chaotic with full time work and three kids who needed shuffling here there and everywhere. The day the youngest turned 16 and had his own car, was the greatest weight off my shoulders. In laws were tough. They had their way and I was this big neon flashing light that just didn’t fit. They were a critical bunch which can destroy a young Moms self esteem as well as create tension in a marriage. I always say I was never bullied until I got married. Fighting back makes things worse though and in time you become bitter and resentful. It was apparent that being different was not a good thing and conformity was the only accepted way to go. I didn’t try to be different, it just happened naturally. I believe it was my differences that first attracted my husband. I had the qualities that were missing in his life. I’d like to say things changed for the better but they didn’t at first. I however changed. My attitude. I took charge of my life and accepted there were people I had to see sometimes who thought poorly of me. I plowed forward and together Rene’ and I created the life we always wanted. Outside interference was not tolerated and we succeeded in so many ways. Together. It just took a long time. At work I thrived because I was always trying to improve things. Do them better or faster. Create efficiencies and streamline things. The only thing that hampered me was the rote workers. You know the ones. They say things like “But we have always done it this way.” My contracts usually dealt with new system installations or transitional work with takeovers and mergers. Things change. As an employee my tardiness was usually overlooked because I could be counted on to go above and beyond. Good managers recognized I may be 15 minutes late in the morning but I would stay two hours late to finish an important project. As a consultant the clock didn’t matter. Just the calendar. There were date timelines that needed to be met. Much easier for someone like me. I struggled with daily and monthly deadlines. I even had a sign on the wall behind my desk. “I love deadlines. I especially like the swooshing sound they make as they go by.” My attempt at humour. I often looked good at a new job because I would be hired for a specific time to do one clean up task. The timeline was usually set by the employee responsible for the task. They always overestimated how long it would take because they wanted to make sure they could get it done. I would be brought in, finish it long before the deadline and look like a genius to the boss. I was then their go to consultant. Being ADD I am comfortable with just jumping in with both feet. I don’t fear repercussions. People with ADD are often think outside the box people. I got a reputation for being able to start a job and not need training or supervision. Just jump in, figure it out and go for it. Recognizing your skill set is important when you are different. In the end I was fortunate to have had the career I had. But it wasn’t all luck. I went to school forever. Each thing I took complimented my education and helped me get to the next level. If I didn’t know something I asked. I was always reaching out to others who might know. Even if you aren’t that smart, you need to be smart enough to go to the guy who has the answers. The worst employees are those who fear they will be found out.
In the end it saddens me to see people who struggle with this diagnoses. I have felt their pain. Society needs to change their mindset. Rather than fix these people with therapy, rehabilitation or even medication, perhaps its time we embrace who they are and what they bring to the table. People with ADD are smart. Their boredom makes them search out new ideas. They are innovators, creators. Always looking forward. They live life in their own minds and struggle with the social dynamics in an office situation. What they really struggle with is not wanting to do what “society” wants them to do. They struggle with anxiety because society makes them feel bad. About everything. These people are often loners but people try to make them out going. They are good with being alone. Being outgoing is hard. I was the girl who went to a party and chatted with total strangers and then moved on to the next. I usually met one person who I would spend the evening with because they were like me in some way. I never forget them but never see them again. I don’t need that many people cluttering up my life. I have a few people who I dedicate time to. It is a small group. I like it that way. I was also the girl who wandered off from a social thing and went home alone. Bored. Why stay? I seldom told anyone because I wouldn’t think about it. And often if you say you are leaving people will try to convince you to stay. Somehow your presence is quintessential to them having fun. After 60 years I have learned I don’t need to be fixed. I am fine. And I don’t have patience for the mundane. I am never bored when I am alone. But I can get bored quite quickly when I am with others. People who get me stay in my life, accept who I am and cheer me on. I treasure those special few. They are pure gems that all folks struggling with ADD need. What needs to happen in this world is more acceptance of the different people. The ones who are unpredictable. Who zig when the world zags. Who follow a different path without fear of the unknown. The seekers of the world. The ones who look drunk on the dance floor because they wave their arms and move with abandon. No inhibitions. Instead of wondering what others will think about them, the world should wonder what the eccentric think. They are never thinking about you. Because it is quite an active world going on inside their heads. And they have no time for the mundane!