I used to joke “If I were focused, I would be dangerous.” Not so funny as the years have gone on and I have since discovered something about myself that helps me understand so much of my life. Teachers threatening to tie me to my desk, the continual thread of ‘could do better’ that wove its way through my school reports from my first to my last one, Linda talks too much, is too much … even an adult friend saying, ‘sometimes you are just too much,” shaking his head as a spurt of ideas poured out.
Too much. Too talkative. Too restless. Linda can do better .. for 12 years. Always in trouble at school, which was one long documentary of forgetting things, battle to focus, wondering why the teacher was labouring a point when ‘we’ had ‘got it’ in the first five minutes, or wishing she would just move on and I would study it later. The tedious documentary was dispersed with short snippets of holiday in the form of trips to my parents north. Meetings in my adult life near killing me with their length and cacophony of ideas, thoughts, voices.
Forgetting to eat for long periods of time. Ideas streaming through my mind on an almost constant basis. Freelancing, so I did not die of boredom and routine. Juggling the stresses that come with that. Mounting deadlines as I battled to focus and watch them go ‘whooshing by’ – as one poster so aptly put it. A task or job taking double the time due to the lack of focus, and feeling the need to charge what I thought it should have taken me, and not what it actually did. Games that help me finish tasks, one reward at a time. Longer periods of extreme focus that left me feeling alone and exhausted. Sitting in church, for what felt like eternity most Sundays – sitting still, listening to someone talk for nearly an hour. Creative ways of managing the stream of information and thoughts that flood my mind, in times of quiet, when I need to rest – thinking this is ‘normal’ and everybody has to master this.
Except I ran out of steam eventually. I suddenly could do it no more. It had become something like how I often felt … too much. I was tired of swimming upstream. Beyond the realms of ‘normal’ personality issues that did mean I swam against the current, and mixed with my faith in a God who invited me to such adventure, I found myself washed up on the shores of ‘no more’, spent from the constant holding back, the intuition that saved me, also exhausted me – knowing that I had to not interrupt others, control my mind, try to sit still, attempt to focus on the person I was having coffee with, in a room full of interesting things, or the job I was trying to finish, or focus on the person who was leading a meeting, trying to fit in, to be still, to conform.
Swimming against the current that threatened to draw me away from the safety of the shores, or going with the tide and finding myself washed up on some distant and lonely shore on my own after a time of hyper-focus, common to those who struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Inconsistency Disorder.
On the shores of ‘no more’ exhaustion, the words that keep going through my mind are … “I’m done.” I am done. I am done. No more. Enough. I have felt like an under-achieving loser for too long. The ocean of the world had finished me up, and spat me out.
But God … and I find myself discovering that this is not ‘normal’ – that the extremes and combination of these things point to something beyond my current control. And I resist that for some time, gently guided by a fellow sojourner and counsellor, who points out the ‘signs’ of something greater than my set of weaknesses I have been battling for my entire life.
And I rest on the shore for a while, wondering what it will feel like when I am able to set out again with help and assistance that goes beyond my coping mechanisms developed over years. Will it be a life-boat that causes me to feel safer on those tidal sweeps, or will it be a life-jacket that helps me not to have to kick so hard to remain with my head above water? Will it help me regain my strength. Will knowing this about myself give me more grace and self acceptance? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am not alone in this, that others have walked this road, and are some of the most inspiring people I know.