It’s grey and rainy and my back hurts and I need a shower and I have some Adult Problems with Only Expensive and/or Scary Solutions, so my brain has been looking for a dopamine fix even harder than usual today. ADHD does, after all, generally come with a built-in sidekick of dopamine deficiency. For me that deficiency gets kicked into high gear when I feel like I’m struggling with something or feel uncomfortable in some way. I have been both struggling AND uncomfortable lately, so that explains a lot.
Here are some places I haven’t managed to find any dopamine today:
– in my coffee cup (neither tea nor coffee)
– in half a chocolate bar
– in a bowl of cereal
– in a burrito
– in a handful of trail mix
– in Medieval Dynasty (a video game I’ve been playing lately)
– on social media (which is weird bc social media is basically engineered to reward people with dopamine pellets but it’s not working on me at the moment)
– in work (that’s one of the things stressing me out so no surprise there)
– in conversations with real human beings (although I’ve been talking to my non-preferred humans (ie: coworkers) rather than actual friends so that’s probably the issue)
I think movement is going to be my best bet for getting some kind of go-juice into my brain today, but it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm for that when my body hurts. The idea of hurting myself even further via exercise gone wrong also makes me very anxious, which further saps the juice reserves.
What I really need is to just suck it up, break the seal, and do some of the Adult Things so that they’re not hanging over my head anymore. It sounds so simple to someone without ADHD, I know…but trust me, breaking that seal is a real challenge sometimes.
In New England, we have these orange daylilies that are pretty ubiquitous in the summer. They pop up all kinds of places: yards, abandoned lots, fields…and they’re especially common growing in ditches along the sides of back roads. A lot of people actually call them ‘ditch lilies’ for exactly that reason.
My neighbor hates ditch lilies. He has several flower gardens around his house that he tends meticulously, and one of his spring rituals is to find and dig up any ditch lilies that have somehow found their way into his beds. They grow via bulbs, but sometimes they don’t all come up at the same time, so it often takes years of successive diggings to get them all out. The last three springs since we moved here, I’ve watched him ferret out any burgeoning patches of ditch lilies and carefully dig all around them. He pops the whole clod of soil out, (presumably so to not further spread the lily bulbs), loads them into his wheelbarrow, wheels them down to where our driveways merge together, and dumps them down over the bank toward the brook.
The thing about ditch lilies is, they can grow just about anywhere. They need barely any dirt, they don’t need a ton of direct light, they’re pretty drought-resistant. There also happens to be a really nice layer of mulch in the form of wood chips from last year’s fallen tree that was cut down, chipped, and the chips dumped along that bank. So this year, right at the juncture of his driveway and ours, we now have a big cheerful new stand of ditch lilies from all the clods of bulbs he’s been dumping over that bank for the last few years.
I do kind of wonder if he glares at them every time he comes down his driveway, or if he’s fine with them as long as they’re not in his flower beds. Either way, I appreciate the symbolism: something discarded and unloved thrown into challenging circumstances takes root, rises up, and flourishes, waving its bright orange flowers at its oppressor on a daily basis, as if to say “you can’t keep me down, fucker”.
We could all use some help in the resilience department these days. May you find the ability to root where you’re thrown, rise up again, and tilt your face to the sun with a smile while knowing those fuckers can’t keep you down.
Me this morning, cutting strawberries: You ever notice how strawberries really look like human tongues?
Mark: What? No.
Me: They do! Look! (holds out strawberry)
Mark, shaking head, moving in the other direction: No. No, I don’t want to see. Once you see you cannot unsee.
Me: I know, right? But seriously, look…it looks just like a very red human tongue. (wiggles berry)
Mark, still refusing to look: Noooo! I don’t want to think about it! (shields his eyes as he leaves the kitchen)
I don’t know what he’s got against delicious disembodied tongues, frankly.
Sometimes it seems like my life is just a series of things I do to amuse myself that end up backfiring and causing me extra work or costing me more money.
Case in point: today’s vegetable peeler incident.
I have Fridays off for a while – I won’t bore you with why (it involves needing to use up a bunch of vacation time at work because I can’t roll it over). Just know for the sake of this story that for the last six-ish Fridays I have been largely home alone, with only the dog for supervision. Which, being an only child, a latch-key kid, and a social pariah for most of the 90’s, you’d think I’d be used to functioning under those conditions.
It’s not that I can’t function when I’m home alone, so much as that I have a harder time filtering the near-constant stream of questionable ideas that my brain produces. Especially the ones that I think are funny. This isn’t even a case of ‘doing it for the ‘Gram’ or making TikToks or whatever…this is literally me just indulging the stupid shit that pops into my head because I know no one is around to judge me for it (not that my husband would judge me for most of the stuff I do…not out loud, anyway. He IS British, after all).
Today I was making a batch of soup ahead for tonight’s dinner. I had my dance mix going and was grooving along to Jamiroquai (I know that guy is problematic – I assuage my guilt by reminding myself that he’s probably only getting like half a penny from Spotify whenever I listen to one of his tracks. And yes, I know Spotify is problematic, too. I assuage THAT guilt by reminding myself that I get to pay the student rate rather than the full monthly subscription rate because I take one measly college course per semester. Also, good luck finding someone / something that ISN’T problematic these days, mmkay?), as I peeled some carrots. I peel the carrots over the garbage can because I hate cleaning up carrot peels off the counter, but my garbage can is also across the room from the counter where I chop stuff and there’s no flat surface around the garbage to put anything down on, so I was taking one carrot at a time over to the garbage can to peel it, then bringing it back to the counter and grabbing the next one.
That makes it sound like my kitchen is huge. My whole house is like 1100 square feet. The kitchen is like three paces across, max.
So, carrot peeling got tedious very quickly. As I finished the last carrot and was half-dancing back to the counter, the song I was jamming to reached a funky breakdown part. Carrot in one hand, vegetable peeler in the other, I did a little twirl, then flipped the vegetable peeler up in the air with every intention of catching it.
Now, it’s worth noting here that I’m actually pretty good at doing this. Flipping things up in the air and catching them, I mean. It’s a random stupid human trick that I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember, with basically anything that has a handle. I’ve done it with screwdrivers, hammers, paint brushes, all manner of kitchen utensils, pans, a curling iron twice (once it was on…had to up the stakes, apparently. While home alone. I am very stupid)…you get the picture. There is literally nothing else physical that I’m good at, so I’ve really honed this one craft, trust me. As a result, I almost always catch whatever I flip.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
The vegetable peeler flipped end over end, almost up to the ceiling. I reached out with perfect timing, right on the apex beat of the song’s crescendo…and missed the handle by a hair’s breadth. I watched the bastarding thing hit the floor and, in seemingly slow motion, the blade popped out of the handle and skittered directly under the stove. I got down on the floor to try and fish it out with a wooden spoon, but the thing was so far in that I couldn’t even see it. It is officially lost to the Beneath.
So now I have to shop for a new vegetable peeler. I’ve had that one probably ten years. Have there been exciting new innovations in vegetable peeling technology in the last decade? I’m guess I’m about to find out.
Some days I can’t read.
Like…technically I can…but there are days where anything more than two or three sentences in one go turn to smoke somewhere between my eyeballs and whatever half-rotten corner of my brain is responsible for word comprehension.
Part of it is definitely interest-based: I can read what I’m writing right now, I could pick up the novel I’ve been reading and be perfectly fine getting sucked into that for an hour. But I have this 11-page instruction manual that I’m supposed to be reading (and understanding) right now and it’s just not happening. It’s not even that my brain is making a specific choice in that regard, either. I’m not sitting here saying “I’ll read this but I won’t read that”. Rather, what happens is that I go in with every intention of reading the thing I’m supposed to be reading and my brain is like “hey, here’s something else we definitely need to do RIGHT NOW”, and that just keeps happening until it’s 4pm and all of a sudden I’ve done everything except the one thing I really needed to get done in my workday.
Urgency is a big thing for a lot of people with ADHD. Many of us joke about leaving important things until the absolute last minute as a strategy for success and that tends to sound kind of unhinged to neurotypicals but the thing is…it works. It SUCKS, don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t enjoy sitting here knowing that I have six hours to do a thing and then waiting five and a half hours before I start it, but I’m so much more likely to get the thing done if I start it with half an hour left before the deadline than if I start it hours ahead. My brain literally needs that pressure, that sense of dread, to function some days. It sounds masochistic, I know. Trust me, most people with ADHD wish we didn’t operate this way as it causes us a lot of stress and aggravation…but sometimes you have to do the best with the maladaptive coping mechanisms you have, and some days putting things off until the last minute is the way that happens.
I sat down at my desk this morning with literally two things on my to-do list: deal with emails, and read this 11-page instruction manual with enough understanding that I could then put it to use in the software it’s for. The emails part was easy because it’s quick snippets of stuff with definite answers, and I get a nice little dopamine hit from each one that I deal with. But since I’ve finished emails, I’ve done the following, all in the interest of not reading aforementioned instruction manual:
- clipped the dog’s toenails
- made a snack
- made tea
- spent an unmentionable amount of time on Instagram (my dopamine peddler of choice)
- downloaded a video editing app I don’t need and will probably never use
- spent 20 minutes practicing German (another way I try to feed the dopamine beast)
- had two fully unnecessary chats with coworkers
- did some stretches
- did a circuit of planks, push-ups, and various other upper body exercises with a resistance band (which, to be fair, the physical movement did at least settle me enough so that I could sit down and write this, so…winning?)
- writing this blog post, which originally started out as an Instagram stories post but for once in my life I realized maybe writing on the blog rather than just word-vomiting on IG would be good practice for, you know, writing…which is a thing I claim to want to do more of
And probably other stuff that I don’t even realize, because that’s how ADHD works. See the shiny, chase the shiny, go back to the thing you were meant to be doing three hours later with sticks in your hair, missing one sock, a strange taste in your mouth, and the inability to think of sea anemones without shuddering in fear.
All because my brain decided it can’t read today.
I have a theory about long weekends. I developed it just now while standing by the microwave waiting for my burrito to cook. I guess technically it’s not actually a theory but rather a hypothesis. Also, full disclosure, I DID just have to Google ‘scientific method steps’ to come up with the word hypothesis because I knew it started with ‘hyp’ but all my trash brain could come up with to fill in the rest of that blank was ‘hypotenuse’, for like the full 60 seconds that I was able to devote to trying to remember that word. Also I definitely just Googled ‘hypotenuse’ to make sure I spelled it correctly. My brain may be trash but I still have standards.
So, my hypotenuse is this:
Long weekends that involve a Friday off are FAR SUPERIOR to ones that involve a Monday off.
Think about it. What’s better, a normal week that converts to weekend a day early, or a weird week that doesn’t start when it should so you spend the whole week slightly out of whack? A week where the routine is already basically set and you just have to adjust to get stuff done one day earlier, or a week where you can’t wrap your brain around what fucking day it is because everything that SHOULD have gone on YESTERDAY is happening TODAY along with all the TODAY stuff and it’s all just very confusing?
Mondays get so much hate, but Tuesdays are already worse than Mondays to begin with, and then a long weekend like the one we just had essentially converts Tuesday to Monday, and that seems like too much shittery to pile into one workday. As much as I dislike Tuesdays, I don’t want them to have to bear that burden.
So that’s my hypoalgesia. My hippodrome. My hypotenuse. Now I’m off to try and figure out what work I can get away with putting off until later in the week when my brain finally catches up to my body in time and I know what day it is again.
Last night I had a dream that I was on a rock in the middle of a huge body of water.
Not an island, but just literally a bare rock. Big enough to stand up and walk around a little bit…probably like 10ft by 8ft, tops.
There were other similar rocks around in the water, and I had this deep understanding that I really needed to get off my particular rock and on to the other ones if I wanted to live. But the other rocks were all just far enough away from mine that I’d have to get into the water and swim to between them, and the water was so, so dark and murky, and seemed incredibly deep (swimming in deep water has been a life-long fear of mine, even in clear water where I can see the bottom).
I kept thinking I could see sharks and other scary things zooming around under the water out of the corner of my eye. The water felt very very unsafe to get into even though I understood that, if I didn’t get in and get to the next rock, I’d eventually die there on my rock.
I’d love to be able to say that I mustered up the courage and jumped into the water, got to the next rock and the next, and on to better things…but I didn’t. I just sat there being petrified until the dream changed to something else.
And I’m not sure anyone could come up with a more accurate-feeling metaphor for my life, to be honest.
The pandemic has taken so much from so many people. Loved ones, jobs, homes, schooling, friends lost to disagreements over public health policies that have no damned business being politicized and yet continue to be. So, so much. And I have been so incredibly lucky: my job immediately and smoothly transitioned to fully remote and my employer has no interest in forcing anyone back into the office, and my husband’s job takes swift and proactive measures to keep everyone as safe as possible. Hubs and I were able to get vaccinations relatively quickly and easily. Neither of us had bad side effects from the vaccination. Neither of us has caught the virus so far (although that’s not fully luck as we are very, very careful). My folks got fully vaccinated and are conducting themselves relatively responsibly despite their having quaffed their fair share of the right’s thoroughly tainted Kool-Aid. Almost all of our friends and extended family have been pro-vaccine, pro-mask, pro-safety, pro-the-greater-good.
I have very, very little to complain about.
And it’s not that I’m complaining, exactly. It’s more of a…reality check? A personal “coming to Jesus” thing, but in slow motion, and without actually involving Jesus because I’m not Christian?
Basically what I’m trying to get at is that the pandemic has been showing me a lot of things that I should be grateful for, but it’s also been shining a big-ass spotlight on some themes in my life that I had not been previously picking up on. And that’s something to be grateful for, too…the opportunity to do better for myself. And having these realizations while I’m still relatively young means I’ve theoretically got time to work on things.
But I’m on that rock, you see. And the next rock is just over there, but there’s so much deep, dark water in between. And every time I turn my head I’m pretty sure I see a shark…
A few weeks ago…ok, probably a month ago? I’m bad with how time works. My brain reads hours as minutes and weeks as days more often than not.
Let me start over.
A month or so ago, I’m pulling out of my driveway when my neighbor flags me down. Our individual driveways merge into one small road that goes out to the main road, so we see each others’ comings and goings fairly regularly. I roll down my car window and smile.
“Hi there! What’s up?”
“Did’ya know your tail lights are out?” His voice is gravelly from years of heavy smoking. He’s got about four visible teeth in his mouth, presumably due to the same.
“Oh no, are they?” I had no idea. I’m never in back of the car when it’s running, let alone braking.
“Both of ’em. The one in your back window is working, but it’s small. Better get those fixed before you get hit,” he says sternly.
“You bet. Thanks for the heads-up,” I say. We pull away and continue along down the drive.
Of course I instantly forget about the tail lights.
A week or so later, he flags me down again, this time headed into our driveway.
“Tail lights still out,” he mutters. His rheumy blue eyes betray that he’s more disappointed than he sounds. And he sounds pretty disappointed.
“I know it, I meant to stop in at AutoZone and get them fixed but I’ve been busy, and then I forgot, and…you know how it goes. But it’s on the list, I promise.”
He nods and waves me along. As we pull up to park, I say to my husband, “You watch. One of these days he’s going to get sick of my shit, come fix those tail lights, and not even tell us”. We chuckle and don’t think much more of it.
This afternoon I’m sitting here working and my cell phone rings. It comes up with the neighbor’s name so I answer it.
“Hello. Your keys in your car?”
“Uhh, no. Why?”
“I was gonna come over and fix those tail lights.”
“Oh, I’ve got an appointment at the garage next week, I was going to have them do it then.”
“Not safe to drive around without ’em. I’ve got the bulbs and the tools. I’ll come do it for you real quick.” And then he hangs up.
Well. No sense arguing, I guess.
He’s maybe 15 years older than me, but he looks much older. Decades of heavy drink and smoke will do that to a body. He recently had part of his pancreas and stomach removed, spent six weeks in hospital, and was out mowing the lawn in ten-minute bursts within a week of coming home. Once he was feeling better and moving around more easily, he started in on trimming back the limbs along the shared part of the driveway because he wants to have it widened and re-graveled this fall. His flower garden is extensive and immaculate. The man truly doesn’t know how to be idle.
While he’s here fixing my tail lights, he notices that my tires were really worn down. I say I was kind of putting off replacing them because I’ll need to buy snow tires soon enough anyway and I don’t really want the expense of buying two sets at once. He leans down, brushes the dirt off the sidewall of a tire and reads out the size.
“195/65 R15. I think I have a set of used ones in that size at the shop.”
“Oh! That would be great, I’d be happy to buy them off you.”
“Used. They wouldn’t cost you anything. You couldn’t run them a whole season, you’d still have to buy a new set come spring. But they’d get you through inspection and last you ’til you get your snows put on.”
“Ok, well…let me know, I guess. My inspection appointment is Thursday.”
He nods slowly, then starts walking down the driveway, back toward his house.
“Hey, what do I owe you?”
He turns his head halfway back over his shoulder as he continues walking.
“Nothin’. It was just a couple lightbulbs. See ya.”
So I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re forgetful and not good at car maintenance, get yourself a mechanic neighbor with a lack of boundaries and a generous heart.
There’s a route I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday. I drove it regularly many years ago, then I switched jobs and didn’t have to drive it for like ten years. Then my husband switched jobs and we had to drive it occasionally but usually went a different route. THEN we bought a house south of the towns he and I work in and we started driving the route literally every day. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home but my husband is still learning to drive so he doesn’t take the car by himself, so I am still driving (or riding, if he’s driving) this route twice a day, pretty much every weekday.
It just occurred to me right now as I type that this information would probably be stalking GOLD if someone were motivated to hunt me down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not going to become an issue. If I somehow end up getting famous and stalk-worthy at some point, I’m going to need one of the six of you that actually read my posts to remind me to come take this one down, ok? Ok.
So, on this route that I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday, there’s several traffic lights. One stops at a highway off/on ramp, one stops at the entrance to a local high school, one stops near a bunch of sprawling manufacturing type buildings, and one stops at a cross-street that comes down from between the high school and a big medical clinic. That street passes in between two financial institutions on its way to the intersection. Those two financial institutions are where our story takes place. Sort of. Mostly it takes place in my head, but…you know.
One of the financial institutions is a credit union. The other is a small branch of a big regional bank. Both these places have big light-up signs with digital read-outs that flash back and forth between the time and the temperature. As an aside, why is this a service that banks specifically feel is important to provide? You never see a gas station or a McDonalds or a chiropractor’s sign flashing up the time and temperature in 2-foot-tall digital characters. Why have financial institutions taken up that mantle? Was it some sort of package deal that came along with the mini calendars banks give out every winter? Was the sales pitch to early bankers something like “here’s the thing: you give them a calendar to take home so they know what day it is, but if they wanna know the time or what the temperature is, they’re gonna have to come to…you guessed it! YOUR BANK!” These are fully rhetorical questions, by the way. I very much do not want you to email me the history of American banking. I know that of the six of you reading, at least three are unrelenting pedants, so I just want to make sure I’m very clear on that.
Get to the fucking point, Shelby. Jesus.
So these banks are right across from each other, separated by just a narrow two-lane side street. They both have the digital signs. The clocks on both digital signs are always the same.
But the temperature is not.
And it’s not just a degree or two of difference. You know, something you could attribute to maybe a passing breeze or a rogue shadow. No. The temperatures are a full SIX DEGREES different. And it’s not just an occasional thing. The one on the south side of the street is always six degrees colder than the one on the north side. I have driven by these banks, on average, 500 times a year (twice a day X 5 days a week X 50 weeks per year to account for vacations and whatever), for at least the last two years. That’s at least 1000 trips past these signs just in the last two years. Do I notice them every single time we drive through there? No. But every time I DO notice them, which is at least several times a week, they are ALWAYS six degrees apart.
And it bothers me. Clearly.
Now, rationally I know that it’s probably just due to difference in the sensitivity and/or location of the sensors. I have a rough grasp of science and I can accept that. What I have a harder time accepting is that likely the people who work in both of those buildings simply don’t care about this difference. They have probably noticed and just accepted the fact that one thermometer, less than 50 yards away from another, is reading a FULL SIX DEGREES different. I bet it doesn’t make their teeth itchy. They may, in fact…not even notice! I am mystified by this.
Instead of letting it gnaw at me that the temperatures are six degrees different for no good reason other than human ambivalence and/or possible electronic malfunction, I’ve made a decision: I am choosing to believe that the six degree difference is due in fact to a small furry rodent that has found its way into the space that holds the temperature sensor, and made itself a lovely cozy home there. Maybe it’s a clever red squirrel with bright eyes and a nice big cache of acorns. Maybe it’s a whole big family of tiny voles who each raise the temperature near the sensor just part of one single degree because they’re so wee. Maybe a possum squeezed its trash-smelling, tick-eating, screaming-at-their-own-ass heart of gold in next to the sensor for a long winter’s nap. Who knows.
All I’m saying is, this is how I’m coping with it. Things feel a little easier to handle if you can come up with a reason for them. Which is how we ended up with religion, of course, and look how THAT turned out. Hey, maybe my calling in life is to start a possum cult. Our central rituals could be going around to local banks to calibrate the thermometers on their digital signs, and screaming at our own asses because we exist.