Rick’s Keynote address was titled “Friendly Fire – How ADHD Advocates Undermine Each Other, The Need to Find Common Cause Amongst Our Many Voices”. I was very interested in this because I am formulating exactly how I understand ADHD. Is it a disability? Is it a gift? Is it a cognitive style?

(I’ve even been playing with the concept that we have it backwards. The real disability is NOT having ADHD. Being trapped in a life that is all about repetition, predictability, and organization. Where security is King, where curiosity is a problem and creativity is a waste of time. Where spending an extra 8 hours at the office is a virtue but clocking out right at 5 so you can go play guitar with your friends is “self-indulgent”.

I’m not suggesting that’s the answer, just giving you a peek into my head.)

Rick made reference to a long-anticipated “summit” some years back at a CHADD conference. Russell Barkley and Ned Hallowell would be sitting opposite each other to talk about their view of ADHD. Now, if you don’t know these names, I’ll give you a quick (and much too broad) introduction: Russell talks about ADHD as a problem, Ned talks about it as a gift.

The audience was expecting a knock-down, drag-out fight between opposing viewpoints. But they didn’t get it. What they got instead was a well-considered discussion between two men who knew that they were talking about the same thing from different points of view.

Rick went on to talk about how the problem of Knowing complicates discussion and can impede progress when dealing with complicated subjects. Taking hard-line positions and defending them to the death leads to competition, belittling and insulting of the other, and keeps us from exploring new areas and possibilities. (OK, that’s my spin on what he said, but I think it’s pretty close.)

This all made sense to me because it’s the same way I’ve learned to understand religions and philosophical systems. If we want to be honest about it, we are trying to describe the unknown and unknowable in language that is finite, that is culturally and historically proscribed and that is limited by human intellect.

Making the religious analogy also helped me understand why neither the “disability ” nor the “gift” model works for me, but the “cognitive style” language does. Now, I do know that both Barkley and Hallowell understand the limits of their language – it’s not just a disability or just a gift – but I find it helpful to use the language that works best for me. So, just as I think of religious systems as being “more or less spiritual” or “more or less ritualistic”, I think of mental styles as “more or less concerned with details” and “more or less concerned with the big picture”. 

There are a lot of other things tied in with these categories and they don’t nearly do justice to the pain and frustration ADHD can cause – or the the excitement and creativity often connected with ADHD – but that’s not my point. My point is to recognize that these categories are approximations and that they exist on a spectrum.

My spectrum is pretty broad, but then I’m working in broad strokes. I want people’s relationships to move in the direction of “better”, I’m not convinced I can get them to “good”, but I can help them move in the right direction. And I don’t care what words we use to talk about that. I’m not going to get tied up in “Knowing” and “Competing” and “Taking Positions”. I don’t think they’re helpful. And neither does Rick Green.

So, I guess I’m in the right place.

Great first day for the 25th Annual Conference. 

The first item of the day was Linda and Victor Roggli’s “But That’s Not What I Meant!” session on couples communication. They are a treat to watch work together. They are very honest about the bumps they’ve had along the way in their relationship, what they had to work to conquer, and what they are still working on.

They opened with a short performance – Linda put a glass on the podium and Victor moved it. They started arguing about “I need it there” answered with “Well, I need it put away”. The argument escalates, they pull up past problems, and some of the other tricks couples use to “win” an argument.

They kept the audience involved with exercises and questions, regularly coming out to offer the mic to someone to ask a question or make a comment.

One big take-way for me was the special four-words they’ve learned work for them when asking for things. They begin the request with “would you be willing…?” It’s important in a few ways. For one, it shows respect and partnership. Also, it opens up space for the other person to say “no”.

Another was the suggestion that we say “ouch” early and often. When something in the conversation has hurt you, tell the other person. And make sure the focus is on how it made you feel, not that they did something they should not have done.

One of the slides recommended that we “have a beginner’s mind” as we deal with each other’s conversations. I recognized that as a Zen concept then, on reflection, started seeing helpful Buddhist concepts elsewhere. The whole idea of dealing with the relationship – with what is being said – as it actually is, not comparing it to what we think should have been said or how the relationship should be going. Staying grounded in reality – dealing with what you or your partner is actually saying or doing – is key to good communication.

And through it all, Linda made clear that the focus of her work with individuals and couples is not to get to some predetermined definition of “a good relationship” or even “a good life” but to help us be Real, to be Authentic, to be the best “me” we can be,

Late last year, I had an idea for an ADD-related T shirt. I had a few of the made and wore one to my “Who Am I Living With?!?!” performance in Taylor, Mich. I decided I would make a few of them to bring to the conference.

I like the shirt and the slogan “ADD/ADHD: because life isn’t complicated enough already”. It can be read a few different ways and I like that. Yes, it’s difficult having ADD/ADHD, but another way to read it is “do we have to have 2 different names for the same thing? Isn’t it hard enough just having it?”

(And, again, yes I KNOW that the DSM has retired the term “ADD”, but I [along with some therapists whose sites I visited] don’t like the new term “ADHD, primarily inattentive type”. – how is adding 24 letters to an acronym for people with attention problems an improvement?)

I was in contact with Linda Roggli about the upcoming ADHD Conference in Orlando. Linda has a great line of shirts, hats and other items, so I asked her if I could bring some of the T-shirts. She graciously said “yes”, so I had a batch printed up.

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I also decided they needed a tag, on the chance that someone might want to buy another one for themselves or a friend. So, I printed up a batch of tags and am attaching them to the shirts tonight, in time for the conference to start tomorrow.

I hope I’m not the only one who gets the joke!

Phew! (Do we say that more than neurotypical people?)

This is my last day to prepare for the trip to Orlando. My mom and I are driving down, leaving tomorrow (Sunday) morning. We’re going to visit with her cousin, then I’ll drive back up to Orlando for the conference.

I’m looking forward to the conference in a big way. I get to work with Kirsten from playDHD (I attended her session last year and immediately loved her style!), I’m bringing some printed t-shirts to sell (my first foray into free-market capitalism), and I am going to try to get the group singing along with a tune I wrote just for the conference. Lots to do.

So, this week was prep week. Except that it wasn’t. It got away from me.

We added computer shopping, printer shopping, software installation, swapping 2 old bass guitars for a new one (my “heavy metal” Ibanez and a little-played Yamaha fretless for a burgundy-red Fender Precision bass), some help at Art Fair, and a passel of other tasks to the list.

I have my day mapped out and – if I can accomplish each of the tasks in the allotted time – I will be ready to go before 10p.m. tonight.

That is…IF I can resist the urge to spent 4 hours wandering around at Art Fair…

About 2 weeks ago, Lisa said “hey, let’s go to the store and get some poster board and do some word pictures”. I said, “sure”. So, off we went to Michael’s (or some such) and bought 2 sheets of 24″X36″ heavy white drawing paper. We got back home, spread the papers out on both ends of the dining room table, gathered up our drawing and coloring tools, and got started.

Now, we hadn’t said anything at all to each other about what the phrase “word pictures” meant. To Lisa, it meant the kind of mind maps you might do when working on a new story or project. I took it to mean something completely different.

About an hour or so into it, Lisa was finished. I had laid out only about a third of what I wanted to do. We compared what we were doing and got a good laugh out of it.

I was tempted to toss what I’d done. We’d had a good time and besides, I had a lot more work to do if I was going to finish my drawing.

But, then I thought: hey, why don’t I keep going? Then, I can post it on the blog and tell people “this is a peek into what it  looks like inside an ADD mind!”

So, I finished and am posting them below. I designed it so any edge could be the top. I liked the landscape versions better, so I posted those 2 only.

If there’s a lesson here anywhere, it’s probably something like “if you have an ADHD dad, be very clear when you ask about an art project.”

The first one is Lisa’s. This is what she meant:

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Then, you have mine…version 1 based on “STAGE”…

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and version 2, based on “SIGNAL”…

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I wonder if this is a sign of getting better or backsliding?

I planned a picnic at Gallup Park for the ADHD group, date: Sunday June 13, time: 11:30 a.m. I made flyers and announced it on the meetup site. Then today, I added it to my calendar. Date: Saturday June 12, time: 11:30 a.m. Caught it right away and fixed it in my calendar.

So, does the fact that I put it in wrong mean I am not on top of things? Or does the fact that I caught it and fixed it mean that I am?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

One of the things I read about and hear from other ADD people is that we often get paralyzed by choice. Or we overthink things. This is hard for me to handle because with a background in philosophy and theology, I take for granted that very few questions ever get settled “once and for all” and that many signs and symbols are “overloaded with meaning”, so I am used to thinking about everything from a dozen different angles.

Which didn’t make this sign any easier for me to understand:

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I went to the post office to mail a stack of comic books to a buyer on eBay. My package looked like this:

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Is this a “box” or a “letter”? I asked 3 different people and they all said, “it’s fine, put it in the chute”. Makes no sense to me. Let me be more specific – it makes sense that it’s OK to mail the package there, but it doesn’t make sense that it seemed so obvious to them. Am I overthinking it or are they not thinking about it enough?

What I mean is this: I can read the Post Office sign to either mean “we only want boxes in this chute because of the way we handle them behind the scenes, anything without 6 sides and stiff edges in in danger of getting damaged” or “please don’t put your first class mail in this chute”. 

I ended up putting the package in the chute, but I left with another one of those “why is this so obvious to everyone else?” kind of feelings.