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Putting the Labor in Labor Day

It’s a lazy holiday weekend – so how does a workaholic with ADHD unwind? With more work, of course, on an unfinished long-term project.

We all recently enjoyed a holiday weekend. What does your average American with ADHD do at the suggestion of a holiday weekend? I don’t know about the rest of you people, but I freak out. I completely freak out. It is commonly held that there are three sub-types of ADHD, inattentive, hyperactive, and combined. I contend that there are four. I am the workaholic type.

I knew that the Labor Day holiday weekend was going to be a much-needed break for me, however. As previously discussed, I have two small businesses — hey, I like to stay busy — and my primary business involves setting up weekly an outdoor market, twice a week, every weekend. It’s physically demanding, and it also involves a lot of administrative work during the week. (I am rich in email…every day.) It also puts my schedule at odds with my family and all fun weekend events during the summer. I’m the only person I know that says “Aw, crap” when I’m invited to a wedding in the summer.

I honestly don’t know what to do with myself, though, in terms of leisure activities. I am normally afraid of letting myself recreate because I fear getting stuck in “off” mode — AKA that mode where my brain stops thinking and I get nothing done. Alternately, I get too hyperactive for sitting around. My husband doesn’t have this problem. His idea of vacation is a cute drink with an umbrella, on a sunny beach. I’m more likely to want to build a house for fun or hike — for 16 hours a day.

If we’re going to put all the cards on the table, my social anxiety sometimes pops up to complicate the situation. On holidays, people socialize with other people. I generally like people, but I’m not always psyched about socializing. Sometimes I’m downright panicked about it.

I completed my work for the day, on the Friday before Labor Day, and remembered that I had started painting the bathroom about 14 months ago. You know…the last time I had a “break.” I was utterly delighted by this realization. I pried the bucket of primer open (the supplies were still sitting under the sink in a pile from the last time I’d attempted this project), I picked up a paint brush, and I started the project. Within minutes I was consumed by an urge to paint not only the entire bathroom, but also the entire kitchen. I determined that it would be so. Then the mini-therapist in my brain said, “That’s nuts, stick to the bathroom. You’ll be happy when it’s done.”

She’s right – that mini-therapist is really smart. I have a pretty good relationship these days with the mini-therapist. But when I thought, “I’ll drink wine while I paint,” the mini-therapist popped up again and I burst that pesky little bubble with my paintbrush and drowned the mini-therapist with a glass of white wine.

The urge to paint the kitchen was persistent, but it subsided as I kept working on the bathroom, and as I got tired (not drunk, just tired). As the evening dragged on, I was content with my achievements in the bathroom. Content enough that I still couldn’t stop thinking about the kitchen and how ugly the dirty paint was.

I am generally extremely happy when I have a repetitive, physically engaging task to attend to. I forget this, and when I have the chance to remember, it makes me wonder why I didn’t become a house painter or something similar. Here I am struggling day in and day out with all these business plans and systems and emails and making myself sit at a desk — even though it is a desk of my own self-employed making. Maybe the grass is always greener after a glass of wine and a painted bathroom.

I may not have been happy sitting on a beach. But I was happy for those hours that it took me to paint my bathroom. Maybe people need to be more open-minded about the definition of leisure when they tell me to “relax.”