“Procrastination, Hyperfocus — and, Yes, a Story”
One dad with ADHD explains how hyperfocus can be a hazard on the road, especially on holiday road trips with the family. Read his story.
This is the fourth and, I swear, the last of this series of posts covering my family’s 2013 Christmas road trip from Georgia to Delaware and back. I also swear on a stack of diplomas of all the therapists I’ve ever had that I’m never doing a multi-part blog post again. It’s torture for all of us. I don’t know why I started chopping a story into pieces with teetering cliff-hangers in the first place.
Maybe I thought it would give me more writing energy, each ending inspiring me to write the next post’s beginning. Had I found a clean, simple solution to the procrastination virus infecting my computer? No. In the last year it’s mutated and grown stronger, slipping out of Microsoft Word, taken my keyboard hostage and infected my desk, covering stacks of to-do lists and bills.
Sometimes I manage a tactical retreat to the bed with a yellow pad and a couple of gel pens. But that puts me near the window overlooking the backyard, where I can see how badly the lawn needs tending. It’s not writing, but working outside is healthy and productive. I fight that urge and force myself back to my computer. Sometimes that works. But often I surrender and roam the Internet reading posts by people who have ideas and write and accomplish stuff until I’m so full of jealousy and self-loathing that all I can do is click my mouse for hours playing FreeCell. I hope my family will have me committed before I start posting my game scores on Facebook. So I don’t think it was that.
Then maybe I broke this road-trip piece into episodes because the story was too deep and epic in scope to fit into my thousand-word posts. After all, it’s about a trip where my then-18-year-old daughter Coco (who, like me, is big-time ADHD with dyslexia, headaches, and on and on) faced her fears instead of hiding behind her hair-trigger panic, and discovered that she may have some unusual wiring in her head that can mess up perceptions, confuse her, and scare her silly. That same wiring also gives her some serious intuitive skills and awesome tools like hyperfocus.
I hate to say this, but I talk too much when I write. That’s one reason I’ve been serializing these posts. The other is that my hyperfocus has busted out of the barn. I don’t know how it happened. I’m old. Maybe I was taking a nap. I know that ADHD hyperfocus is a tool that, if left to run wild without reins, can hijack an unsuspecting unusually wired brain to all kinds of places it doesn’t want to go. You get pulled down one rabbit hole after another following one solid well-lit idea that leads to another idea that’s not solid or well-lit, but can be taken apart and interestingly, has light inside, which tumbles down another offshoot hole, where near the bottom there’s a whole family of faintly lit related ideas waiting to be taken apart and examined to see if any can shed new light on the original idea.
They won’t, but it doesn’t matter now. My hyperfocused brain is humming, calm and happy inhabiting some deep twisty place, prying open little unrelated whys and what-nots. Until I lose interest. When my interest snaps off, I look up startled. I don’t know what time it is, where I am, what I’m doing, or how to get out of there. Sometimes that triggers a panic attack, but usually just a medium-long confusion spell and embarrassment. One rarely has much to show for a full-anarchy hyperfocus run. It’s hard to remember what was so interesting down there when you’re brushing off dirt, blinking in the full light of day.
I want to get into this – the different ways, times, and places I’ve tried using and controlling hyperfocus, but right now I’m going to finish the 2013 Christmas trip story. Right now.
It’s Christmas day and my mother’s house in Delaware is packed with family. My wife, Margaret, and my mother are making martinis in the kitchen and laughing as Margaret lays out the story so far. “Before we could get her dropped off for her visit with Patsy and Mary and get out of there, my mother had to tell her sisters the whole terrifying story of her near-death experience at the hands of Frank and Coco.” My mother turns to me as I open the oven and reach for the roast. “My god, what did you do?”
“Nothing,” I say. “Nothing happened.”
I pull the standing rib roast out of the oven. I’m making Christmas dinner, soup to nuts. I insisted. I don’t know why, except that it keeps me away from the holiday hubbub. Now the hubbub’s in here. My teenage niece, the observer from the vegetarian contingent, keeps a watchful eye from the kitchen door making sure no stray globules of “flesh juice” drop into the salad or mushroom pasta as I move the roast to the carving board.
“Frank’s right,” Margaret says. “He drifted into the path of a car coming up behind us, their horn blared, the van swerved into a skid…”
“A little skid,” I say, and I put the roast on the stove next to the carving board.
“Yes,” Margaret says. “Teensy, but my mother was dozing so she woke up scared out of her wits, screaming.”
“Oh no…” my mother says.
“Not screaming,” I say. “Yelps. Little yelps. It was no big deal, really.”
“You’re right, it wasn’t,” Margaret says. “But it wouldn’t have happened at all if you and Coco hadn’t been focused on the GPS maps on her phone instead of the road. Especially you, Mr. No-Accidents-Safe-Driver.”
“You’re right, you’re right,” I say. “Now please hand me that big sharp carving knife on the table beside you and get out of the kitchen, please.”
“Hmmm. Sounds like a threat buried in there,” my mother says.
“Not buried, sitting right on top,” Margaret says. She kisses me, and then turns to my mother. “Let’s go talk with civilized people in the living room.” She scoops our niece from the doorway as they head out and tells her, “Trust me; your vegetables are safe with your uncle.” As I carve the roast I think that after Christmas we’ll all be calmer and the drive back home will be less hectic than than the trip up. Of course, I’m wrong about that.
Note: Sorry, this is the last time I do this, but I just ran out of room. Next post: The drive home, the blowouts, the rain, the used-tire guy.