Last week, I began telling you my money story. So many of us carry so much shame around our money stories that I thought it might be helpful to just “put it out there.” That it might be worthwhile just to own it, to act with authenticity, integrity, and compassion for myself and for others, all in the service of wisdom—that elusive quality for which we strive.
So today, I want to write a little bit about the Why that lies behind a life of chaos, or can. I want to show you a little bit about the underlying causes and exacerbating factors that kept me locked in chaos for so long.
Chaos with money.
Chaos with physical objects.
Chaos with paper.
Chaos with time.
The line at the top—a book title that has stuck with me for years—is one about realizing that one had adult “Attention Deficit Disorder.”
I bring up ADD because, in addition to the salad of other mental health and learning issues I have, learning about ADD explained so much. So much about money, organization, and memory.
Ned Hallowell, one of the aurhors mentioned above, says something like this in his book, Driven to Distraction: Having ADD is like driving with no headlights in the middle of the night in a snowstorm with one windshield wiper working. And oh, with the radio on, full blast.
I remember the first time I heard that and I thought, yep, that’s so it.
It’s not that I have a deficit of attention. It’s that I’m attending to too many things at one time.
Too many things.
Too many relationships.
Too many projects.
Too many worries.
And too much left undone, half done, or never started, as a result.
ADD/ADHD is what is called an Executive Function disorder. It is like a learning disability, in that no matter how much energy or willpower you throw at it, for most of us, it returns again and again, roaring back, wrecking relationships, destroying our self-esteem.
Because we forget. We have now and not-now, as Hallowell also says.
We have every intention of cleaning up our dishes. But then the world presses in, and something else becomes imperative. Something else reminds us of something else left undone. Something else pokes at the side of our brain and we jump into a creative project.
When I wrote about the chaos of my twenties and early thirties, I was writing about a classic case of “now and not-now.”
The warning notices about my speeding tickets would come. I would look at them with fear and anxiety, put them aside, and within a remarkably short amount of time, they were simply gone from my consciousness.
The bills would arrive, I would know I couldn’t pay them then. I’d think I’d cover them next paycheck, but by the time of the next paycheck, I was busily planning my next trip to Four Quarters, writing a new project, and head-down in relationships, creativity, and work.
In addition to “lazy, stupid, and crazy,” people with ADD are often labeled, and often believe ourselves to be, assholes. People who don’t care about others, especially their partners.
But that’s not it. We do care. We do love you.
Remember how I said ADD is like a learning disability? How it’s an executive functioning disorder?
That means that we have to learn how to manage things that other people find to be second nature.
So nowadays, I s.me things that help/
One of the most important things I’ve learned about managing with ADD is “Time not task.” What does that mean?
Well, let me explain something about how chaos erupts in the lives of some people with ADD.
Organizing and tidying brings on horrific overwhelm in me. It makes me itchy, I’m so overwhelmed and anxious.
So it is with tidying the house or fixing up my study, or UNPACKING AFTER MOVING. (ahem.)
I don’t know where to start. There’s so much GOING ON. There’s so much that the objects in the complex visual field before my eyes seem to move around and swim in my vision. Remember the Hallowell idea from above, about how it’s like driving in a snowstorm. The snow come down in giant drifts and obscures my vision. I cannot find my way.
So there are two things that have helped to change my life. One I have written about before – Pick up one thing. Just one thing.
The other is what I mentioned above: Time, not task.
I can do almost anything for fifteen minutes. And so, when it’s time to clean the house, that’s what we do. Fifteen minutes. And then we’re free to watch an episode of a show or play on facebook or take a phone call for 45 minutes. Yep, fifteen of working and forty-five of open time. Fifteen-forty-fives, we call them.
Getting past the shame of doing what seems like so little hasn’t even been that hard. Why? Because working in bursts is GREAT. Working in bursts GETS THINGS DONE. And I know the timer will go off—yes, use a timer!!!—in hardly any time at all.
It generally takes us 3 fifteens, and sometimes 2, to get the house tidy and neat. It’s amazing!
But before learning workarounds for what had for years, decades, even, stopped me in my tracks, I had to recognize that the shame I felt, the horrific weight of shame that I was a bad person, that I was “missing a chip,” that I’d never live up to what teachers and authority figures always insisted on calling “potential” (please don’t use that word with your children…), and that I was just broken.
I came to recognize that I was none of those things. I wasn’t lazy, stupid, or crazy (at least not in these ways). I wasn’t uncaring. I wasn’t an asshole. I didn’t need to be stuck in patterns of broken promises and tearful apologies.
What I needed were tools, education, practice, and patience. For one thing, there were things I had never been actively taught as a child—like how to clean my room, for example. I had just been expected to know how to do them.
Happily, I have been given many of those things over the course of the last ten years, and the lessons continue to evolve and change and help more and more.
Now I arrive early for appointments to compensate for my tendency to be late.
Now I use my phone to remind me to do things—and I try to pay attention when it goes off, lol!
Now I tidy in fifteen-forty-fives ad I don’t care if people think fifteen minutes is too short a time or it’s evidence that I’m lazy.
Lazy isn’t simply a descriptor of one’s behavior. It’s a judgment of one’s character, and it’s shaming. It will NEVER change behavior. NEVER.
If these things sound familiar to you (whether in you or in a loved one), I recommend to you two books. One is ADD-friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, and the other is Is It You, Me, or Adult ADHD?. Both of them have made a huge difference in my life, and maybe they can for you too.
All the love, all the peace, all the compassion—