Sometimes it’s important to know why you’re failing.
No, seriously. And it’s important to admit when it’s something, if not external to you, so intrinsic to you that you can’t do a hell of a lot about it.
Not as an excuse, but as an engineering problem. And so that you can figure out how to go back and this time not fail.
I have problems with this. My kids have problems with this. My husband has problems with this. Most of my friends have problems with this. This is why I decided to talk about it, even though it’s a bit cringey and it feels like I’m making excuses. I’m not. You need to admit what is making you fail, before you can do the thing and not fail. And even when it sounds like an excuse, it isn’t. It’s just a factor most people don’t have.
It’s been a shock to me as I get older to find that a lot of the issues I’ve struggled with since childhood are either physical or really bad training at a time when I couldn’t do anything about it.
It’s even harder to accept it.
Look, there are two problems here: one is that I often forget I have a body. My mental image of myself is fairly disembodied. I even think of physical tasks without taking in account the fact of my size, height or age. And feel vaguely guilty when I can’t reach the high shelves, despite that being something I can do nothing about.
Admitting that the body has other, more nebulous limitations: like ability to pay attention, or a quirky brain that scrambles digits between seeing them and writing them down …. that’s even harder, because I feel like I’m making those issues up and that I am at some level giving myself stupid excuses not to be perfect.
Nobody is perfect?
Well, that’s the second problem. I never really expect ANYONE else to be perfect, but I get very upset at myself for not being so.
And damn it, I know I’m smarter than the average bear. So there was never any excuse for not having perfect grades, when I was in school. Except that of course, I did all my studying and school work in short little intervals, followed and surrounded by vast oceans of time in which I roamed around in my own head. This might involve physical stuff, like taking notes, reading on something that I had no business reading on (up to and including rabbit holes of finding all the books by x in the house, and finding out if his characters all looked alike, as I vaguely remembered) or simply sitting with my brain doing the equivalent of having too many tabs open.
It wasn’t till 57 that I got treatment for ADD. Mostly what convinced the doctor is husband’s explanation that if I’m in line at the grocery and it takes more than two minutes, and I didn’t bring something to do, I’ll wonder off randomly, and leave the cart there.
This drives him — and me — insane. And all my life I thought I SHOULD be able to control it. Only of course, I couldn’t. Will power only goes so far, and as older son puts it “Mom, you’re not ADHD. You’re ADHD AF”.
Taking meds — which I hate, btw , but that’s life — gave me the range, and helped me see the difference between being on and not. This means when husband is trying to get me to choose something he’s showing me on the computer, or whatever, and I space out in the middle of his sentence I can point out the meds ran out, and I don’t want to have caffeine late at night. It’s not that he’s not interesting, or I’m not interested. It’s that my mind is flitting around like a cat on LSD. I CAN’T keep my attention on it, no matter what I do.
Is this an excuse? Well, I could use it as such. But what I actually found is that now I know what I was doing wasn’t normal, and where normal is, I can fake it for a time after the meds run out. And get stuff done. Tiredness though, means my will power goes to pieces, and that’s fine. At that point I can’t do serious, intellectual a follows b work, be it writing or buying something I need, by evaluating three different models. It just won’t happen. And if pushed, I revert to bad habits from when I was vaguely aware I wasn’t normal, but was trying to hide it, and pointed at one thing and bought that. (Don’t go there. No, really, don’t.)
Now I know it wasn’t normal, and I couldn’t make it normal by will power, though, I can work around. It’s like any other physical disability. You work around it.
Some disabilities are easier to deal with. Once I found out I was mildly dyslexic and PROFOUNDLY digit dyslexic, it started being easier to control both, and I worked out a great deal of tricks so I don’t confuse digits, or don’t measure twice and cut– Oh, hell did I do that again?
Sometimes knowing “thing” is there and working around it is all it takes.
The weirdest thing is finding out at 58 that a lot of the things I thought were moral failings are actually and for real physical issues. I could no more will myself to pay attention to something not fascinating to me for hours at a time than a deaf person can will themselves to enjoy symphonies.
There are other things, too. Weird food dislikes or avoidances that turn out to be the fact I have an issue with that food, and/or with a texture. And other minor stuff.
It’s a relief to stop beating myself and going “I have to try harder” and instead go “Oh, yeah, that’s because of x. Can I work with it? Do I want to?”
Does it make life easier? Yes. Is it a cop out? Oh, no. If I still want to do thing y I have to come up with a way to do it, despite and besides x.
But it means the reasons I fail are no longer “mysterious” given my status as brighter than the average bear. And it means that I can try again, in a different way, avoiding the definition of madness.
And sometimes I can even fake normal for long periods at a stretch.
Now do I wish I’d known this … oh, let’s be generous… 40 years ago? Damn Skippy I do. I’d have got so much more done with the time I’ve been given.
But you know, better late than never, and at least now I KNOW. And I want you to know as well.
Forgive yourself for what you can’t help, and work with, over and around things too. And yes, that also means your body’s sudden, irrational “I don’t wanna.” Find ways to bribe it to do what you want. Or get someone else to do it.
You’re not a floating brain bubble. And the ape must be appeased. And when you learn to appease it, the brain can reach much further.
Now stop beating yourself up, and figure it out. Even if it involves doing that ickiest of all things: forgiving yourself.