Compensating for the Shiny Objects

Posted: March 2, 2010 in Life

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a thoughtful guy.  So thoughtful that my dad once yelled at me in frustration for being in my head.

He had no idea what was going on up there, and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t be more outward and expressive.  I shrugged and carried on with my thoughts –  which was easy to do, as I was up on the roof, painting the eaves trough at the time, and he, at 350 pounds, was just too big and wobbly to climb up the ladder after me.

Sometimes you can go your whole life being a certain way, and not truly understand that you’re different from a lot of other people.  The way your mind works feels normal to you, so why would you question it?   And then when life turns a corner on you and you fail at something, well you go along with whatever society tells you is your problem.  Your “issue”.

Failing badly at history in Grade 13?  History?  HISTORY?  Your favourite subject?  Well the answer is obvious isn’t it?  It had to be a matter of being stupid.

What about the time your best friend sat there silently in the grass with you in his backyard when you were thirteen?  So silent that you began asking him what was wrong.   And when you finally guessed it, that he felt you spoke too much, he finally grunted “yeah”?   Well, obviously you’re just too flighty or something.

So you learned to keep your thoughts to yourself.  Instead of blurting them out all over the place, your thoughts flew around in your head, the rabid seagulls of your brain, banging up against each other incessantly.  This is how you learned to cope.

Or in later years, when your workplace decided to send you on a few technical courses to better enable you to be a better Information Technology guy, you found you couldn’t absorb half of the stuff they tried to teach you.   At the time you weren’t that self-aware (unlike now), and you didn’t realize that your mind actually found more interesting things to think about and consider.  No, you only knew you weren’t doing well at the course – and thank GOD they didn’t require an exam at the end – and you chalked it up to stupidity.  Even though you knew somewhere deep inside that you were as intelligent as the next guy.

You found yourself attracted to fast-moving stories.  Stuff where there is something happening all the time.  Video games where there’s lots of action.  Action-packed thriller detective and espionage and fantasy novels.

Without even meaning to, you found yourself shaping your writing to accommodate the easily distracted (like yourself).  That is, short paragraphs and lots of dialogue.  You were pretty sure that style made your writing more interesting.  (And you still think you’re right).

You gravitated to others who saw life the same way.  People who could follow and enjoy the flights of your thoughts as you both glided from topic to topic to topic, hitting all up and downdrafts of thought, all within the span of thirty seconds.   You didn’t worry about those who were thoroughly disgusted and annoyed by your conversational style.  You found their reactions amusing.

While you found things that annoyed you too – without ever stopping to consider why.   Like people – friends, loved ones – who phoned you up on the phone.  You thought you hated phones.  You didn’t.  You just couldn’t stand the slow-moving pace of polite conversation.   Not over the phone.  In person, such conversations were more tolerable because you knew you could read body language *really* well.  It was almost a subconscious process for you:  you could read people so well you often knew as much about them from what they didn’t say as from what they said.

You amazed people.  Like the girl you were with one day when you both visited a photography store, and she met a fellow classmate there.  Unthinking, you watched her friend’s reaction, and you later told the girl “she doesn’t like you.  At all.”   You smile as you remembered the girl looking at you in disbelief.

“How do you know?”

“I watched her when you first said hello.  She looked you up and down and there was a look of scorn in her face.  Right before she smiled and hugged you.”

“What? I didn’t see that!”

“No, it happened very fast.”

You thought afterward how quickly that had taken place.  Then you realized it happened in a fraction of a second.  Interesting.

Somewhere along the line you realize you truly aren’t stupid.  Just different.  Your quickness of mind shows itself in different, more interesting ways.  (Well, interesting to you anyway.  Annoying to others, obviously).

There’s a downside though.  You feel like you’re barely pulling your weight at work.  Big projects which demand lots of thought, planning and time are just beyond you.  You can’t sit at the computer for more than two minutes without moving through five or more different activities.  If you’re unlucky enough to find that one of those activities include getting on the web, then you’ll eat up two hours before you realize you haven’t made a start on the stuff you’re supposed to do.  Oh, and those five or more different activities?  Yeah – you don’t actually complete them.  So you find a way to make note of them so that you can give it another go the next day.

Weeks go by before you actually get around to completing one or more of them.

You put your earphones on and listen to music and you find that part of your mind can process the truly great music while the rest of your mind allows you to work away at those projects that are urgently waving their white-gloved hands at you in nauseous anxiety.   You’ve found a coping mechanism.  Music is your bitch.

And it’s only when you come to the end of a blog that you realized you’ve written about this before.   And you swear to yourself (damn it!).

That’s when you decide to make an appointment.  To get assessed for ADD/ADHD.

Have to admit though:   my life is *fun*.

  1. Roger's Place says:

    Beautifully expressed. Good work.


  2. Just Me says:

    Oddly enough I work in IT and my brain operates…..a little differently than most I know. I almost had to double check to make sure I didn’t write parts of this. Although I wouldn’t have been able to explain it as well as you did. Nicely done.


    • I wonder if certain personality types are attracted to the arts, and to IT? Someone suggested that ADD is “the comedians’ affliction” (though I almost hate to call it an “affliction” at all, since there are parts of this that actually appeal to me). I remember years ago my IT manager told me there had been some sort of scientific study done on the cognitive patterns of people in various professions, where it was found that IT people do actually think differently.

      I don’t know. I do find it fairly interesting though.

      Thanks for your comment!


  3. Holly says:

    Oh, how I have missed your writing…good to read your thoughts again.


  4. Susan says:

    Oh no… I think I’m ADD… this sounds too much like me!


  5. Carrie says:

    This describes me completely! My mom has been diagnosed with ADD, so I don’t know if I actually have it myself, or have merely learned her habits. At any rate, I find it much more difficult for me to get by than it used to be.


    • Ahhhh! You’ve given me a chance here to provide some knowledge – which I learned from attending an ADD workshop this past weekend.

      ADD is not a behavioural condition which you acquire over time (according to the psychiatrist who spoke about it). It’s something you’re born with. The symptoms may ebb and flow during your lifetime, but you’ll always have it.

      And…you inherit it from your parents. If your mother has been diagnosed with it, and you’re showing symptoms, it’s a good idea to have yourself assessed as well.

      That’s what I learned. In my case, I don’t know if either of my parents had it (if they did, they were never diagnosed), but my grandmother certainly showed symptoms of it.


      • Carrie says:

        Interesting. My mom has done a lot of research, yet she still maintains that there is a slight possibility that I may have learned some bad habits from her. So even if I don’t have it, I didn’t have a good example to follow. However, I should still get tested for reals. A long time ago I was briefly in counseling, which gave me some tools to learn better time management . Did they work? Of course not!

        Despite my lack of time-management skills and always handing in my assignments late, I’ve always maintained decent grades in school. But I attribute that to being a nice, reasonable girl who didn’t cause trouble. Hell, I wrote my senior thesis in one night and got a B! I would’ve failed me. And up until college started, I’ve had a pretty good attention span. But nowadays, forget about it. I spend the first two hours at work surfing the web and doing the bare minimum of my job. I also have a second part-time job which requires me to be very detail-oriented very late at night. Let’s just say that it’s not working out very well for me.

        And on that note, have to actually do some work!


        • I was talking with a few people (fellow IT staff) and they all have the same problem with wasting too much time on the net instead of working. So I’m guessing that’s not a good indicator for any of us. Not on its own anyway.

          Probably still a good idea to get assessed. If it turns out you (or I) have ADD, there are coping mechanisms that we can learn, and other means of reducing the background noise.


  6. contoveros says:


    Happy Birthday! (March 1st)

    From Nick’s dad, michael j, on his son’s 18th birthday, March 2nd, 2010.


  7. contoveros says:


    That’s another thing you and Nicholas have in common, besides being born at the beginning of March.

    He also picked up what we call “secondary” PTSD from his “old man,” me, who got it from either listening to too much hard rock growing up or visiting Vietnam a few years afterward. I get disability payments for the latter, but like to think rock and roll aided and abetted it. (Or was it the fluoride in the toothpaste?)

    Ever think of looking into some group called HSPs? Highly Sensitive Persons. It’s for some who feel “different” from others and sometimes have more “Empath” skills, so I hear. Only been to one official meeting thru Meet Up, but found a home with some of the shmucks I met there . . .

    michael j
    on enjoying your “Shiny Objects”


    • There’s an empath meetup group? TOO COOL!! I’ll have to check that out and see if such a thing exists here in Toronto.

      I would say sorry to hear that your son has ADHD but my guess is that sympathy isn’t required, since it’s a kind of unique condition that has benefits as well as pitfalls. A lot of comedians and folk in the various arts apparently have it, and it has enhanced their creativity. I’m betting a lot of writers and bloggers have it too. It only affects about 5% of the population.

      Thanks for the heads up on HSPs too. *checks watch* Apparently, it’s Google Time! :D


  8. Nadia Chyme says: did I miss this post? And how did everyone get here before me? (I’m getting very territorial now with my bloggy friends…hee! hee!) Okay, just kidding! But, wow! I like it. More insight into that fabulous chaotic but so streamlined mind of yours. Fun!


    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Nadia. Really, just talking about this is cathartic or me, in a way. I’ve noticed all of these seemingly disparate behaviours before and just never was able to relate them. It’s a bit of a relief actually. And like I said – they’re fun as well. The really great thing about being this way is that you get to be creative, and that’s always fun!


  9. Mungo says:

    Wonderful post. I’m just discovering ADHD in my life at the moment, going through diagnosis. I also work in IT – you describe symptoms overall that are uncannily my own.
    Cheers – will stay tuned!


    • Please do!

      I wonder if people with ADD are attracted to IT, as is the case with comedians and actors. Something to think about it (seeing as there are now three of us here who have that in common.

      Apparently I won’t be able to get diagnosed until May. Oh well. I’ve lived all my life with this, whatever it is, so a few more months won’t matter.


  10. Abe says:

    ADD, huh? I don’t know. I suffer from an overactive brain which likes to flood my brain with multiple “good ideas”, all designed to throw me off track and into a wonderful project…I’ve learned to filter over the years, but some nights–like the last couple–I just can’t turn it off!


    • That’s the worst, isn’t it? When your brain wakes pushes you awake in the middle of the night, and once you’re up, you’re up. That’s it.

      I used to try and fool myself back to sleep. But I think I wised up to myself so that doesn’t work anymore.

      Here’s the thing though: do you finish your projects, or do you start a bunch of them and leave them half-done when something else a little cooler, a little shinier occurs to you?


  11. Larynxa says:

    That’s the worst, isn’t it? When your brain wakes pushes you awake in the middle of the night, and once you’re up, you’re up. That’s it.

    That reminds me of the title of a stage show by the Frantics (of whom Rick Green is a member), many years ago. It was called “Ideas That Come to You In the Middle of the Night, So You Get Up and Write Them All Down, But Can’t Make Heads Nor Tails of Them In the Morning”.

    Suddenly, that title has a lot more meaning…


    • I can’t believe I didn’t see your comment before this. My apologies for such a late reply!

      I love the Frantics. I don’t know if you were at the seminar/workshop hosted by Rick Green about ADHD but man it totally *rocked*.

      I’m glad you came by Larynxa – I don’t know that many people who go through the same things I do, so it’s a real treat to encounter someone you like who does. :)


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