A few years ago, researchers at MIT showed that adults with ADHD have two brain networks that compete for their attention instead of “playing nice,” as they do for adults without ADHD. These networks are essentially a go, go, go one that lights up when we have a task to do (“task-positive network”) and a slow, slow, slow one that activates when we have nothing to do and can daydream or let our minds wander (“default mode network”). Without ADHD, when one network has its turn to be active, the other one turns down…they cooperate. With ADHD, they appear to often be active at the same time. Imagine what that’s like. If you have ADHD, you already know. If only others could experience your brain to know what it’s like….
This past weekend I attended a workshop on gratitude and joy at Esalen Institute on the coast of California near Monterey.
In the deep darkness, I looked up at the stars and felt awe and sadness as I noticed constellations I had long forgotten. It’d been several years since I’d seen them and I remembered how much I once loved them and loved space…knowing our world is much bigger and we much smaller than we usually acknowledge.
The stars, when I can see how numerous and bright they are, remind me to focus on what really matters…our connections to each other however far apart we are. We all love, we all suffer, and we all have the light of stars showing through, or beyond, the deep darkness above us.
This weekend, I am grateful for the stars, the deep darkness that let me see them, and for the reminder that they have been there all along. For all of us.
P. S. James and Jane Baraz led the workshop. James is co-author of Awakening Joy (link is to his blog).
Some intentions turn into accomplishments and some drift to What Might Have Been. What guides intentions one way or the other?
Yesterday, I remembered one guide when my guitar teacher asked me to perform publicly three weeks from now: a time-limited goal, with accountability. I have practiced the song I am to play, on average, five minutes every two weeks for the last three months. My goal has been to play the song eventually and sooner rather than later. Yesterday, “eventually” became three weeks from now. And, with this goal change, I scheduled a daily practice of at least 10 minutes. This is the power of a goal that has a near-future deadline…combined with accountability. My guitar teacher is counting on me and there will be an audience…my guitar-playing just got real.
Where can you add a near-future deadline plus true accountability to shift an intention toward accomplishment and away from What Might Have Been?
I have long loved carousels and, for some reason, began to love them even more after reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I find them enchanting.
But when I get stuck going round and round riding the same beast (or moving from one to another on the carousel), I know it’s time to get off it.
How does anybody do this? First you have to notice that you’re on your carousel. This means identifying what’s on it.
What thoughts, emotions, etc. are the beasts that call you to it? If you have ADHD, these may include boredom, frustration, the thought “Why bother?” or “I’ll do it later.” Once you jump on one of these beasts, what does going round and round look like for you? Watching movies, playing video games, going online? Nothing wrong with these things.
If you know, though, that one round on the carousel is likely to lead to many others without your even noticing while it’s happening, consider seeing your carousel from a distance.
When you are off it, go ahead and try to create a visual of your carousel, including what thought, emotion, memory, etc. each beast represents and what behavior follows. Then when you jump on your carousel, you have a better chance of noticing this and choosing whether to keep riding or step off. And, unlike the poor souls of Bradbury’s story, you’ll be only minutes or hours older.
Just the other day, my husband played this song to our daughter, and I said, “Hey, Mary Poppins had it right.” As a mental health therapist running groups for adults diagnosed with ADHD, I encourage members to have fun with their tasks as much as possible. Turn up the pleasure, excitement, interest. Some will work outside or somewhere they find pleasant, some pair a reward with tasks and some work with others, even just as company. Some do all of these.
If you struggle to start something, remember Mary Poppins. And that some of us need a little more sugar than a spoonful.
Children often say it best.
My child said this as he heard me speaking about ADHD.
I asked him what he meant, and he said it’s what a room seems like to him. I asked him what an empty room seems like, and he described how he will notice the shapes, curves, and corners of the walls; bumps on the ceiling; light seeping under the door; and the texture of the floor, adding that carpet’s like a maze of threads. He concluded, “Even an empty room is filled with so much. It’s insane.”
I’d already checked the freezer and cabinets and given up when I just happened to spot it.
Now I have to figure out whether it’s still okay to drink.
When ADHD is part of your life, life is full of surprises.