Thursday, March 20, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Still in Heart

The therapist I'm working with likes to say that ADHD has two times: Now and Not Now.

(I say "the therapist" and my Now wants to stop right there for a while and tell you all about him, and why I like him and how I watch myself interact with him. But that is not what this is about. Not Now)

I hyperfocus. I get lost in One Thing. Sometimes it means that I drop into a state called "flow" where I become unaware of my environment, my friends, my clients, myself.

(I want to tell you about all the funny things I do when I'm flowing, and how it feels, and how I crave it. But that is something for another post. Not Now)

Not all of the hyperfocus gets me all the way to flow though. Most often, it means that there is one thing on my mind, and everything else must be tolerated (not always graciously) until I can return to thinking about that one thing. Imagine having one question you're trying to work out as a physical thing, a floor to ceiling pole in your head with a stiff rubber band around it. Thinking about anything other than the One Thing stretches that band and causes stress. Life becomes about clearing those other things out as quickly and painlessly as possible so that I can return to the One Thing and take the tension off the rubber band.

(Obsession follows obsession, constantly demanding the Now, crowding out everything else. Not Now)

It's hard to connect to people when they aren't part of the Now. It's hard to stay connected to them. There is being part of the Now or being part of the Not Now. Physical proximity creates little instances of Now. Without it, my greatest loves cannot compete with my most minor obsessions.

(In my head, unless you are either the object of or the conduit for my current obsession, I don't have anything I want to communicate to you. However much I might respect, adore, value you, you are not part of my natural Now. You are real, you are lovely, when you call and push in to my awareness I feel real and lovely and loved. The only thing I want more than to connect with you is to return to thinking about the same damned stupid thing I've spent every moment I could beg, borrow or steal in the last month thinking about. Not Now)

This is not an excuse, it is merely something that I am still only beginning to learn. It is certainly not a comedy, but it is far less tragedy than it is history. I have understood about myself for thirty years that people, even people very dear to me, drop out of mind when they drop out of sight. Until I started to understand this as a quirk of neurological wiring, I'd thought of it as a deep character flaw. I didn't understand how I could let a year go by without making a point of visiting a friend or relative, but I do exactly that. I did not know how to process it that, a week after my father moved across the country, he had almost disappeared from my day-to-day consciousness. When my brothers moved three hours away I felt that they were becoming completely lost to me. It only takes me two days away from my husband before his absence stops being part of my Now. What is not present becomes fixed in time, part of my eternal Not Now: absence as preservative. When we meet again, if the interval was an hour, a day or a dozen years, for me, all is what it was when we last met. This is not offered as an excuse, but as a confession. I am beginning to understand the keys to forcing the relationships that matter to me into the Now, so that they do not get lost, but that is a puzzle that has, until now, been insoluble for me.

(I have on occasion spent hours and days and weeks trying to work out why I don't make more of an effort to stay in touch with people, at no point of which did I actually pick up a phone and call those people. I could very easily slip into wondering and working out why it's more important to me to understand why I don't call than to call, and after that ends, I could ask why understanding why I need to understand why is crowding out other questions Not Now)

I am learning this about myself too late to pick up a phone and call my Aunt Marilyn, whom we always called Mully, who passed away on Tuesday, March 18, at about 5:15 in the evening. In the thirty years previous to her death I had seen her maybe half a dozen times, and not spoken to her much more than that. She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul. When my younger brother and I were very young, Aunt Mully and Aunt Patty took us to Walt Disney World for a few days. We stayed in the Polynesian hotel and went to the luau and tried out all the rides. I think I spent as much time with Aunt Mully on that trip as I did in the thirty years since then combined. And there she is for me, Now and Not Now, caught in amber: in her late twenties, stunningly beautiful, beautifully kind.


1 comment:

  1. It took me a hot minute when I got to Richmond to realize how different our family is from some others. I have friends whose entire family lives on one street; our nearest relatives for most of our young lives were 4-5 hours drive away. I think it builds an expectation and acceptance that visits will be sporadic; its a norm, not an exception to see family members once or twice a year, and pretty much always has been.