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True Brilliance, Sandwiched Between Blunders: An Analogy for ADHD Life

Learning to forgive yourself for small ADHD mistakes frees up mental and emotional energy to focus on your strengths and successes. Recently, I was struck by the evidence of my progress on this front.

It’s human nature, I suppose, to focus more intently on our mistakes than we do on our successes. Little good ever comes of this, but it’s a psychological habit that’s hard to break. Last week, I realized how far I have come at my neighborhood book club meeting, of all places.

I had been meeting with these ladies for more than 5 years and had been to Jody’s house at least that many times since our group formed. I was sure I would recognize her house when I saw it.

When I showed up at 7 p.m for book club last month, the hostess was surprised to see me and said, “The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.” So this month, I remembered the later start time and was driving to the meeting when Jody called, asking, “Are you coming?”

I wondered why she sounded frantic on my voice mail, but decided it was because I was to lead the discussion and she wanted me there early. I didn’t call her back; I was too busy trying to remember which house was hers. I drove around the block twice and finally decided that my first instinct was correct about the house. I parked several car lengths away, quickly got out of the car and hurried to her door. That is when I learned that we always meet at 7 p.m. (and have for 5 years) but the prior month was later because the discussion leader would be late. Duh!

I led a great discussion and did it in a new, creative way that got everyone involved in reflecting on the book. (You can contact me if you want to know what I did.) I got lots of compliments and we all stayed longer than usual. At 10 p.m., when I was ready to go home, I couldn’t find my car keys in my purse. I looked and looked, and then decided to just quietly check the car rather than alert the other ladies.

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I walked outside and saw a car parked halfway up the hill with its lights on. As I got closer, I saw it was my car! The headlights were on, the car unlocked, and the keys in the ignition. At least this time, the motor wasn’t on, but that is another story for another time.

But here is the really amazing thing about my embarrassing discovery: I took it in stride. It was no big deal. I didn’t beat myself up. In fact, I didn’t even think about it.

Did you see Elon Musk host Saturday Night Live? If not, Google his monologue, in which he announces that he is on the autism spectrum. He might talk to you without looking in your eyes, speak without much intonation, and talk about strange things, he says. But then he adds this: “I’ve invented electric cars and sent people to the moon. Did you think I was going to be a regular guy?” I love that.

I haven’t invented electric cars or even fantasized about going to the moon, but I think I have done some pretty awesome things, so I forgive myself for leaving the lights on in my car and the keys in the ignition.

Forgive Yourself: Next Steps

Cynthia is the founder and Executive Director of the Inattentive ADHD Coalition with a website at Check it out to learn about their special project for ADHD Awareness month, how they will increase awareness one letter at a time to elementary school principals and physicians.

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