Aggressively Dressed Dandy

Anguished Death Dealer. Assertive Diagnostic Device. I’ve spent the last few years coming up with anything in the world to accronymize the letters A.D.D. Besides “attention deficit disorder”. Because over the course of the last few years, a little bit before being ADD became a fad, I have slowly but surely come to the realization that when doctors and concerned parents discuss ADD, and list symptoms of the “disorder”, I don’t know what they’re all abuzz about. I mean, doesn’t every human being have a problem with being distracted, especially in this day and age? Don’t they all have thoughts constantly racing through their brains, like speeding trains, and catching one of them takes a great deal of mental effort? Or, on the flip side, be able to focus so intently on a project that hours and hours slip by without your knowing it, and you realize at the end of your trance that you haven’t eaten, you haven’t even gone to the bathroom? Am I the only one that has piles and piles of projects that they’ve started and never finished, because there’s always a point where ‘the motivation stops’? Doesn’t everyone have the unconscious need to tap fingers, shake legs, and otherwise fidget constantly? Finish sentences, or incomplete? Isn’t it difficult for everyone to wake up in the morning, and feel utterly overwhelmed at the amount of things that need to be done in life, to the point of not even being able to get one single done in a day? And doesn’t that feeling, when it’s at its worst, lead to a constant and debilitating depression that sucks the very life out of Life?

Oh, it’s not all bad: there are times I’ve been so frustrated at my brother’s complete inablility to do more than one thing at a time… and secretly proud that I could. Thinking on my feet? Easy as pie, always has been. I’m rarely surprised. And can very easily roll with punches. Big life changes–the ones that involve a number of little changes–are more difficult to deal with, but ask me to completely shift my way of thinking to another, and I’m fine with that. Which makes me a great diplomat, a perfect “middle man”, and a very empathetic person to talk to. After all, when I say I understand, I really believe that I do, because it’s not difficult for me to put myself in your place; I can see most sides of any situation. I’m not saying I don’t have strong opinions (obviously), I do… I just don’t mind putting them aside for a second to listen to someone else.

These are apparently symptoms of ADD, which I know is a fairly fad-dy disorder (but not quite as much as “Restless Leg Syndrome”), but one that I think does exist, for the most part. It’s been a topic of conversation, and a concern for some, for a lot longer than PDAs, Wifi, laptops and cell phones have been. I remember the classmates I had that took Ritalin; the kids in school that were almost literally bouncing off the walls. And Elementary School was a long time ago, for me. I don’t remember people talking about “ADD”, necessarily, but I remember those kids. They bugged me, for the simple reason that they didn’t have the willpower to keep it together, and I could.

I wasn’t a hyperactive child, as my Mom likes to remind me whenever I talk to her about ADD. And I really wasn’t, compared to most. I haven’t changed much. In some situations I can be very frenetic and gregarious, which could probably be construed as hyperactive, but lots of times I’m fairly quiet. But I do feel that I could be more frenetic, more consistently, if I wanted to. I’ve just always been the type that doesn’t love to lose control. And that’s why I didn’t like the way my hyper classmates zipped and zapped around. I knew how they felt. But I knew that it was good for me to just keep it cool. Fewer people got hurt that way.

Mom also likes to point out that I got straight As in school, and didn’t seem to have any problems doing so. I’m not trying to paint a picture of my mother as a ignorant monster, by the way– she’d be mortified. I cannot imagine anyone better for the job of Matt’s Mom, then, and now, than Mary Lucy Bivins. Anything that she doesn’t know about my childhood would be things I actively kept from her. Like the days that I would sit alone and do the incredibly tedious homework and sob at the futility of it. And the genuine problem I had keeping still (I still sit on my hands to keep from jerking around like a puppet, sometimes) and staying focused on what teachers and classmates had to say (I imagine that a lot of kids like me got very good at filling in the blanks of fragmented information gathering). But I wasn’t a complainer, and also just figured that everyone was dealing with the same frustrations.

The specialists say that bright kids can easily get through school without ever being diagnosed with ADD. I guess, then, I’m just going to say it, outright: I’m pretty darn bright. But I think that it’s pretty easy, in fact, to live a lifestyle that is very pro-ADD (like, for example, being in a full-time rock band) and never ever think twice about it.

I certainly didn’t think about it until much later in life. When I started comparing myself to peers that seemed to be equipped with skills that I didn’t have: productive organizational skills, functional listening skills, and the ability to get up and get going, no matter how frakkin’ daunting the world seemed to be. Being on the road was fine. My job wasn’t easy, but it maximized my creative productivity: wake up, get in the van, arrive at the venue, play show, go to bed, start over. Or… wake up, go to the studio, write songs, record them, go to bed, start over. Constant change in surroundings, constant change in stimuli, constant change. That’s for me. It got hard when I actually had a long span of time at home. Strangely enough, paying bills wasn’t nearly as easy as playing the accordion. The more mundane jobs in my life just barely got done, if at all. Sometimes for lack of financial means, sometimes for no good reason except “I forgot… yes, for two years. Whoops!”

This was fine in my early 20s. You’re allowed some time to be a goof. But it started to concern me as I got older. And then it started to depress me. When Dad died, it got worse. I couldn’t focus on anything. As I have worked through the mourning process, I’ve found lots of things have gotten better, but not much has gotten easier. And I think when friends in the know alluded to me that I might be the posterboy for ADD, it was time for me to learn more about myself.

In fact, there’s one theory in particular, popularized by writer Thom Hartmann, author of Beyond ADD and Healing ADD, that I have gravitated towards in my attempt to understand what makes my brain function a little differently. A theory that what is going on in my brain isn’t really a disorder at all, but simply another way of thinking.

In every burgeoning society there is usually a group of farmers, and a group of hunters. The farmers were chosen at early childhood because it became obvious that these children were adapt at cultivating something, slowly. Patience was in their genetic makeup, in fact, and the little farming kids could focus well for long blocks of time. What they weren’t so good at was spontaneity, and less long-term problem solving.

If spontaneity was called for, the tribe called on the Hunters. It was also obvious at at a young age which children would be good hunters. They were the ones that constantly had to be moving. That got depressed when they had to wait on things. They were able to focus intently on a prey, some slab of bison burger-to-be, and if said prey got away, they’d just as easily be able to shift this focus to the next walking meal.

In these early tribal societies these two types of people–the Hunters and the Farmers–co-existed because one couldn’t survive without the other. But things have changed. Our society, for example, has evolved to a nearly all-Farming society. So to speak. We don’t usually grow our own food, but we do cultivate, rather than hunt. We make the money, slowly, in order to go and buy the food that has been grown or produced for us. We work eight hour days where we are expected to focus intently on work that is due sometime in the future, be it near or far. When we are not working, we are allowed to rest, by watching episodes of television shows that depict teenage vampire slayers… in other words, we might dream of hunting, but we’re no hunters. Except for once a year: the day after Thanksgiving, when all the Christmas sales start.

I think that this is fascinating. And it feels so right, to me. I’m not actually deficient in something; I’m just old-fashioned! My brain is a holdover to the Good Old Days, when a man with ADD would be the guy that everyone wanted to see, come dinnertime. Not like today, when I beg to the gods that I might get to somewhere I’m going on time, for once. I’d rather romanticize this little eccentricity of mine… and pretend that I’m dressed head-to-toe in skins, face blackened with charcoal and mud,
blood from my fresh kill clotting in the fur wrap on my shoulders… than hate myself for locking my keys in the car for the fifth time this month.

I’m getting used to this “new” way of thinking. New only in the sense that it’s a new thing for me to think about; that I am comfortable thinking about it this way. I have a prescription to use drugs, but I don’t really use them as much as I’d like to. I’m always trying to find new and better and more efficient ways to do things, sometimes to the detriment of getting things done, but at least I no longer feel like worthless and lazy at the end of the day if nothing does get done.

It took me a long time to post this little entry, for example. The tale of it became something that I stopped wanting to tell, midway thorough. I kept going back to this journal, seeing this post in my “drafts” folder, and closing the web browser. It’s laughable, but that’s OK, I think. Maybe an earlier Matt would just let the words go; I’m OK with just being late, as an Ardently Delayed Dude should be.