My 16 year old daughter was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder and then, at the age of 57, so was I. A lifetime of struggle was placed into a context that made sense of a lot of failure and frustration. This blog documents and celebrates what has happened to me since.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

the clutch...

A psychologist I know who works a lot with children once told me that ADD prevents children from making transitions. He said that moving from one thing to another, for such children, is like shifting gears without a clutch.

I have thought about that simile a lot, especially when I have been trying to make a transition from one activity to another. It's a good description of what is going on with me. I often linger in an activity or while working on a project when it's time to move on because I am comfortable where I am, momentum carries me along. It seems like a lot of energy is required to move on as I should and I don't want to "get myself up" to do it.

There are always things to do--groundwork to be laid--before one gets to do that which one needs to accomplish. There are pencils to sharpen, or tools to gather. One does not, for example, simply take out the trash; one must first get a trash bag, then walk around the house to gather it from the various wastebaskets in the basement, on the first and then the second floor. Then, too, one must gather the recycling stuff (in our house it's in two rooms) haul it down and sort it. Then, and only then, does one actually "take out the trash."

When I am writing or reading all of that looks pretty daunting (and it looks so simple and easy laid out on the page like that) and so I want to stay with the writing or reading. That means that the time that is necessary to deal with the trash (twenty minutes or so) slips away and when I finally get into gear to do it I only have seven or eight minutes left. And since this is a part of the sequence of a Friday morning it both pushes the sequence into that ever so frequently attained condition of "late" and causes the performance of the task to deteriorate ("Well, the recycling can wait another week.")

This is a trivial example. Projects at work are subject to this same dynamic.

And it gets caught up in the procrastination. If there is a time in the future that I can imagine that I will do some task now facing me then I will tend to postpone it until that future time--not acknowledging, or not remembering, even, that I have already procrastinated some other task into that time slot or the almost inevitability that some other task, at that time, will claim it.

I can hear my father say, at this point, "Well, so just do it now," as he would say "Get off your fundamental--he, the father of boys, would use another term--and take out the trash." But rationality doesn't always enter in to it. In fact, unless one is working in a self therapeutic (what I guess my dad would call "disciplined") mode rationality never enters into it. It's about inertia, and about impulse.

Sometimes it seems that knowledge and insight is not enough to change behavior but I think it might be that it is--at least it is if it leads to "practice." It doesn't lead to instant change, and it doesn't change things in and of itself, I know that, now. I used to say that understanding ballistics will not prevent one from dying of a gun shot wound, and I think that's true. But I also think that insight into how one operates--or fails to operate successfully--is not the same thing.

Perhaps the most useful insight I have--in the light of which I do not always manage to operate--is that motivation/inspiration comes after, and not before, a task is begun. At least, that is true when it is not a task undertaken on an impulse--and impulse which too often arises as the result of a lack of motivation/inspiration to get off of my fundamental and do something else that I need to do. Maybe, better stated, it's the lack of motivation/inspiration to lay the groundwork--tedious, tedious groundwork--to do something I need to do.

Perhaps it is that laying of the groundwork that is the missing clutch. Perhaps I have habitually tried to move right into the task itself, without doing the groundwork (because I didn't think of the groundwork as part of the task), I have learned that it's "hard" to move into a new task and more pleasant to stay where I am.

About Me

My photo
I am a convinced Beanite Friend, a member of Bridge City Friends Meeting, Willamette Quarterly Meeting and North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Notwithstanding the doubts of some who claim the name, I am a Christian who does a Buddhist practice and believes that God talks to everyone, all the time. I have worked in the judicial branch of government, as well as being a trial lawyer, a public school teacher (counselor and coach), a kite merchant, and a Marine Corp Sergeant. I am currently working as a consultant to public and private agencies on issues of child welfare, juvenile justice, and substance abuse treatment courts.