Adjusting Never Hurt Anyone

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. I sent a message to a (non-academic) friend yesterday that I had told her was “BIG NEWS” on the personal front. Later that day, another friend sent me this tweet and a few hours after that, the tweet showed up in a COVID parenting group I belong to. In other words, I think the universe was shouting “YOU ARE DOING THIS RIGHT!” to me and so, I’m sharing it all with you.

So, Dr. Aisha Ahmad tweeted about how many of us are talking about hitting the wall and how exhausted we’ve been throughout September. I mean, I have. I feel like my brain has just given out. Process thoughts? No thanks, I’d rather watch Cobra Kai (oh, c’mon, you know you loved every second of it too). Keep track of my to do list? No, I’d rather procrastivity-ly collect articles for my next project, which will only happen after I wrap up these projects in motion. But, as she points out, it is almost hard to believe that six months has passed since the pandemic began.

What have I been trying to do over the past three weeks? Oh, yeah, ram my head through the wall. And it is exhausting, mentally and physically. I can’t begin to count how many naps I’ve had in September, how my give a damn is busted, how many stupid arguments I have gotten into on social media because I don’t want to deal with what is right here. I’m *really* great at procrastivity: I look busy but it’s because I don’t want to do what I really want to do. So, if I’m facebook fighting with my county commissioner, obviously, I can’t read a book related to my research. If I’m writing my first novel, obviously, I can’t finish a project I’ve been planning for ages.

Oh, you never knew I was writing a novel? The truth of the matter is… I did, last summer. And, last fall, I shopped it around to agents and entered Pitch Wars, a contest where I would have been paired with an agented author who could help me revise my manuscript. Interestingly enough, I had a few agents (and one PW mentor) ask for my full manuscript, which I’m told is a good thing, but… no one liked it enough to pick it up. I got some feedback from some starting authors (Denise Williams is so generous with her time… be sure to get her debut novel in December!) but between my actual job, being a mom of two, and then the pandemic, well, nothing happened. Last week, I opened up my manuscript for the first time since March and decided I was going to enter Pitch Wars again. I honestly think I gritted my teeth and said “I’ll show them!”

Oh, wait. One of my goals is to stop caring what other people think and live the life I want. I had a goal to live without fucks by the time I turned 40, but it’s still a worthwhile goal to pursue. So, who was I going to show? The $6 billion romance industry? Academia? My own little gallery of haters? That’s a big old nah. That thought set me back on my heels. I also heard the voice of Patricia Sung, the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Motherhood in ADHD. Look, I don’t think you need to be a mother or have ADHD to take Patricia’s advice. She’s doing a series on executive function and last week’s episode hit me so hard when I was listening to it in the car during my grocery pickup time that I went home and actually took notes.

Patricia talked about how, for ADHD’ers like me, everything feels big and important because we can’t distinguish what truly is important. That makes prioritizing impossible because of our executive function disorder. She said “I used to tell myself how I didn’t get enough stuff done and I had to stay up to reach this ideal level of productivity.” Um, hi. It me. I have my fingers in way too many pies right now, not to mention this constant buzzing in the background of living through a global pandemic. So, Patricia advised her listeners to ask themselves: “Is this my priority right now?” By doing this, I should be able to get rid of the distractions in my mind.

Usually when folks think about ADHD, they think of hyperactivity– outwardly. That’s not me. I can be hyperactive but not in the “oh my goodness, she’s unstoppable!” kind of way. The Facebook page, More than One Neurotype, shared this a few weeks ago and I forwarded it to both my mom and my husband. Their reactions were the same: it fit me to a T.

Anyway, one of my ADHD superpowers is that I am an idea generator. I am incredibly creative and I have always wanted to be an author. I specifically chose not to go down that path when choosing my career, but that shouldn’t mean that dream is gone now, right?

But, is this dream a distraction? Why can’t I ever be fully present with my kids? I’m always thinking that I should be doing more 1) actual paid work and 2) writing fiction. I also find myself sinking into social media and getting upset over stupid posts. So, after listening to Patricia’s podcast, I have tried this week to be more aware of ideas that try to grab my attention as well as hyperfocus on something that isn’t important. Like, something will pop into my mind and instead of saying “OMG, I need to do that right now,” I can say “Hi friend, not now. Maybe later.”

Back to my novel: I spent a good two hours on Tuesday night writing up a draft for this year’s Pitch Wars (that writing mentoring competition) where I was going to submit my manuscript from last summer again. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the focus to write. I should be prioritizing other things that will make my life better, like family time and self-care. So… I think I’m going to set my “ooh, I really want to be a successful author” goal aside. Right now, it’s just a distraction. Also, when I look at other authors I adore, a good bulk of them either 1) don’t have kids or 2) don’t have outside jobs. And those that do are just plain old unicorns.

For years, I have had this high expectation for myself to be the best at everything I try and then I get frustrated when I’m just juggling way too much. Also, I’m trying to make self-care a priority. I’m trying really hard to exercise three times a week. I want time to relax… and actually relax not do some other work (ahem, writing) that is not relaxing. I want to be present, which is a good goal to have, because a lot of times, I am just NOT there, even when my kids are sitting beside me. I’d say this week has gone a whole lot better than I expected once I had that realization. But it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a journey. I don’t expect to get there all in one week.

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