Greetings, friends, and welcome again to My Weekend. Weather report: cold and rainy. Prognosis: movies and Internet.
I don't actually mind the weather much -- though the winter sun is fabulous, of course -- because I know it won't go on much longer. At work, they're planning an excursion 2 weeks from now to visit the flowers in the countryside "at the peak of their blooming" and winter should be old news by the end the month. Then I'll be pining away at work, looking out the window and wishing to be outside. Followed pretty quickly by the inside-out version of Canadian winter: all hot, all the time, right through to October. So a little rain doesn't dampen my spirit.
I don't know what to do about my email anymore. It's not spam, but also not personal -- I probably don't receive even one personal email a day, on average -- it's all the lists I belong to that represent areas I want to know more about: writing, health, ADD, the neighborhood I live in -- it's endless. I was up to 116 emails by yesterday, and I had to just start deleting, willy-nilly, messages that I knew I'd never get to. I'm down to 94 now...
The interesting thing about this week at work has been the way my dormant learning curve suddenly shot out of the fog and leapt into action. I've been at the job six weeks now, and feeling totally out of touch with the technology I'm supposed to be documenting. Which is to say that I felt and looked very stupid. Anyone attempting to explain anything to me was met with a blank, if not pained, stare. Anything that was said to me went pretty much in one ear and out the other, as there was no brain-hook in place on which to hang new information. My brain was very tired and I wondered if this stuff was ever going to make sense. I desperately needed some foundation, and I spent most of the time (with copious "rest" breaks during which I tried to make a dent in my personal email) finding, printing out, and studying online tutorials in telecommunications. It was like studying latin terms in medicine, with thousands of acronyms taking the place of the Latin. Certain acronyms were repeated so many times that I had to try to learn what they stood for, but the words behind the acronyms were meaningless too. I pressed on, eventually discerning little patterns here and there; sequences started to look familiar; and then one day while someone was explaining a technical concept, I finished his sentence with the right word. Hurray! I could feel my IQ returning.
My boss has been exceedingly understanding throughout this period. She hired me to be more of a marketing than a technical writer, fortunately, and she knew what she was getting. In fact, in our very first conversation on the phone, I told her I wasn't very technical and she wasn't concerned. She keeps telling me not to worry, that she expects I'll be an excellent technical writer, but not for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, she's happy to have my other skills, of high-quality editing and proofreading. Not being a native English speaker herself, she's counting on me to make her look good. I'm doing my best. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give her about an 8 as a boss, since she's organized, clear about what she wants and needs, and very ballsy. On a personal level, she's a 6.5 -- being very opinionated and competitive, and often strident, histrionic and not a thoughtful listener. Plus, her response to my humor is rarely satisfying. I can live with this, but her loud posturing did start to grate on me a bit by yesterday, and it'll be nice to have her away on business for the whole next week.
On the home front, little ms. squarepeg has been struggling no less than ever. She brought home a report card that was filled with grades in the 50s, plus one 40, except for art and English. Although I'm certain that she is better in English than anyone in her class, she only got 80, while several others got 100! I don't know what's up with that, but dear hubby has finally agreed to pay to send her for proper "assessment" so that she can receive the special conditions for students with ADD or other learning challenges.
ADD (or ADHD) is often thought of as a "problem" but it's very much a contextual issue. It is indeed a problem in a regular school learning situation. But that is because schools are designed to control and churn out average kids with average characteristics. People with ADHD need different conditions to thrive than average kids do.
I discovered ADD when I was in therapy many years ago. I was discussing my daughter, and my therapist went to her crowded bookshelf, overflowing with books three layers deep, and handed me "Driven to Distraction," a book that has since become quite well known, by Dr. Edward Hallowell. When I read it, I was astonished by how accurately his description of ADD matched my daughter's nature, and knew immediately that she was a classic case. Even more stunning was how it described my own life. And my husband's. And my sister's. And one of my brothers. And my mother's brother, and her father.
I'm reminded of this now because of an interview with Hallowell
published today in Salon, in which he discusses his new book and the latest research on ADHD. The title of the latest book, Delivered from Distraction," reflects the optimism of the also ADD-afflicted doctor.
In his new book, Hallowell insists that ADD is not just a pathology and can actually be a source of creative and intellectual gifts, if treated properly. "The best way to think of ADD is not as a mental disorder," he writes in the introduction, "but as a collection of traits and tendencies that define a way of being in the world.
"I now really see the condition as a potential gift. It's a potential gift because people with ADD tend to have -- imbedded in the disability, imbedded in the problem -- sparkling qualities such as creativity, energy, intuition, the ability to think outside the box, tenacity, feistiness. Embedded in what's going wrong is a lot that can be made to go right. Take one of the core symptoms: impulsivity. Well, what is creativity but impulsivity gone right?
"So the point of treatment is to take this condition and unwrap the gifts. It's often wrapped in a lot of problems like disorganization, procrastination, distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness. You don't want to just curtail the negative symptoms. It's even more important to look for and try to promote and develop the positive attributes."
So what happens to ADD kids as they grow up? The symptoms may evolve into many varieties of coping strategies, but they don't go away.
"Distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness -- that same triad is present in both children and adults. [But] it can be a less obvious problem for adults because adults are allowed to do what they're good at, and they're not forced to do what they're bad at. Whereas kids are forced to do both what they're good at and what they're bad at. We ask kids to be good at everything, but adults don't have to be.
"Some professions are filled with ADD. Journalism is a hotbed. So is advertising and the stock market. Anything that involves creativity, risk, excitement, you'll find a lot of ADD people. Hollywood is ADD heaven. Actors and everyone out there thinks they have it. It's because it's high stimulation -- the structure is changing all the time and it's an adventure. Entrepreneurship of any sort is a great profession for people with ADD. A lot of doctors have ADD, a lot of trial attorneys, a lot of people in sales."Underachievement and a sense of frustration and feeling down on yourself and down on life are the hallmarks of undiagnosed ADD. And the older you get the more pronounced that becomes, and the longer you go without the diagnosis and treatment the more likely it is that you're going to suffer from this very negative version of yourself."
I'm looking forward to reading the book. But I already know that helping my daughter (and myself) find and concentrate on what we love and are good at is the main solution. It worked for Mr. Squarepeg, who's a maverick stock-trader and lives by his own rules (despite my frequent attempts to rein him in over the years) and it will eventually work for her too.
But the road is never a smooth one.