By Maurine Harrison
It's a cold, dark winter morning. You can almost hear the school bus coming, but not quite. Your child has just stuffed the last misplaced book into the crumpled book bag sitting expectantly in an open front door. The outside lights are glaring so the bus driver will feel guilty if he doesn't wait for your child to rocket out that door.
Without warning, a wrinkled paper waves frantically in front of your face, something that requires MONEY, something you "HAVE TO SIGN NOW" or today will be the end of the world. You dash for pen and wallet two rooms away and make it back just in time to scratch your name in the appropriate place (you hope). Money is ripped from your hand, almost before it's out of your wallet.
As doors the color of mustard close behind your child and the bus pulls away, you slowly begin to breathe again, but not for long. REALITY shatters your calm. You have to get to work! You're standing in the open front door holding your wallet and pen. Your first unconscious instinct is to lay wallet and pen on the first available flat surface.
At last, you're ready to get to work. You go for your pocket book and find it immediately. You've learned to put it in only one place, religiously. But wait, NO WALLET!! Your ADHD brain snickers at you and refuses to cough up any memory of where you had it last. Eventually, you locate it in its vague, unremembered place. You are back on track, but now running late. You had such good intentions. But, once again, you come up short, hopelessly flawed.
But, I have learned there is hope for the flawed. I was repulsed whenever our old maid dorm mother in college (a long time ago) snubbed her little nose up at us, shook her bony finger in our faces and reminded us, "Don't put it down!! PUT IT AWAY!!" Decades later I finally GOT IT!
Here's the "got it" part. You wouldn't do this to be a neat freak, goody two-shoe. You would do this because it makes life a whole lot EASIER. You would do this because time is too precious to waste frantically trying to find your stuff. You would do this to feel good about your ability to manage your life. You would do this because you'd rather not be beaten down daily by a relentless, merciless incompetence in the rudimentary, ordinary matters of daily life. You would do it because it is just plain SMART.
Remember, it takes about a year to re-wire your brain, to weaken neural pathways for habits you don't want and replace them with habits you consciously choose. For me, DON'T PUT IT DOWN. PUT IT AWAY has been more resistant to this rule of thumb. But, I now recognize it as part of the wisdom floating around in the universe. More and more often, a little voice gets through my AD/HD fog. I really don't put it down. I put it away.
Having almost raised my third child to adulthood, I've been through the previous scenario, or some version of it, more times than an idiot savant could count in two lifetimes. But this morning, a clear, firm voice -- a new neural pathway I have created -- broke through. The school bus had just carried my daughter away for the day as I stood in the open front door, snow glistening in the semi-darkness, front lights still ablaze. One hand was holding her cup of half-consumed hot chocolate (with soy protein and extra dry milk hopefully disguised by chocolate and sugar). The other hand held checkbook and pen. I didn't put them down. I put them away. I even washed the cup and put it away. I can't remember her name, the dorm mom from long ago, but I hope she knows she made a difference.
Make your life easier:
(2) POST IT! Remind yourself with signs in different places to do the smart thing.
(3) NOTICE how much easier your life is whenever you can actually find stuff because you put it away rather than putting it down!
There will be no easier time than NOW.
Homeless "things" are no fun.
For my purse I have a home.
For my keys I have a home.
Each "thing" of mine must have a home,
For each "thing" of mine
Homeless "things" are no fun.
Maurine Harrison has generously lent her work to our pages before. This article is an excerpt from her book in progress, almost done, for which she hopes to find a publisher this spring. Maurine is a teacher and writer with a husband and three very large children; she lives in a woodsy spot in Virginia and has had the help of a coach to get her book this far.