I have been feeling overwhelmed lately, at the scope and the depth of things that I need to “do” in my life. I have also been frustrated by my seeming inability to wrap my mind around how to attack it all – and how to balance it with my need to cultivate peace, and my need for rest. Even though I certainly have ADHD, I have always been able to operationalize (even if the operationalizing may be preceeded by a period of procrastination). Now wait, that’s not totally true. I have not ALWAYS been able to do this, but I did unearth this ability in my early 20s, when I needed to figure out how to get some things done. I am able to analyze and break down tasks that I find interesting. I slice them up into little tasks and make lists and boom! I was beginning to sink under the weight of being newly unable to attack my pile.
Then, the other day, for maybe the millionth time, my dear friend, who I’ll just call Frieda, because she’s a brilliant painter, says to me something about how it really is hard to get things done when you have a family and bigger responsibilities. How many times have she and I covered this topic? Geez. I guess sometimes you just have to discuss the same thing many times before it finally sinks in, in a meaningful way.
A wacky schedule doesn’t matter as much when you don’t have children who have scheduled needs – breakfast, school, lunch, dinner, activities, bedtimes. If you don’t get enough sleep because you were up all night writing or something (not that I have EVER done that…uh…) matters a LOT more when you need to put on a game face that is safe and fun for all ages. Just the mental energy involved in raising small humans is intense. And while I used to think my energy and abilities were limitless, I’ve learned, as a parent, that my resources are, in fact finite. I have to budget my time, my energy (my paycheck, haha).
Why do I keep expecting that what used to work, will work now? Why do I still feel in my gut that my inability to perform exactly the way I used to is a failing?
Paradoxically, I decided that the only way to really see my current situation clearly was to do exactly what I used to do – write everything down in a big list. I have tried, and I keep aborting the mission because…it’s so long. When I hit page two, I start to freak out. Mind begins to dull – and not in a “my ADHD is not interested in this” way but in the “this task is sending me into a pit of hopelessness and I need to stop” kind of way. I also get stressed about doing it because it takes time. It’s not a quick task. I HAVE THINGS TO DO! But I do some of my best thinking while driving, and the other day while driving, I had a flash of belief in my ability to get through this task.
Yesterday, I sat down and made myself do it. When I hit the point of feeling overwhelmed, I put it aside for a little while, and I came back to it. And I am coming back to it again today. Because: That’s what it takes. And if I am going to achieve what I wish to achieve, I have to push myself to get through this process. I cannot continue to be stuck. I cannot continue to allow this idea that “my family” is preventing me from doing something to trip me up – even though my newerish reality is a very real thing and it does come with challenges. I can still do the things I wish to do – but I have to put the time into the planning, in order to decide what to focus on, when to focus on it, and what to leave behind, because I may have to leave some things behind. But I can’t just assume that. I won’t know it unless I try to plan it all out.
Want to know what my list looks like? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s about three pages long right now. It’s painful. I had to be specific about the tasks – because my next step is that I’m going to pencil them all in on a paper calendar so I can actually see what it looks like. Is it achievable? This is how I’m going to find out. I also have some hard deadlines coming up and I need to see if I can put in the work relevant to those deadlines, in advance of the deadlines. This also helps me prioritize my overall list, because the things with the deadline are going to have to move to the front of the line.
Part of the challenge here is that I’m dealing with many layers – and categories that overlap. I’m choosing to try to ignore this part of it, because ultimately, it all just breaks down into tasks. Maybe sorting through the tasks in repeated passes, will help me to digest some of the layers.
I’m actually very anxious, thinking about continuing this process. But I have to do it. Until I have a picture of what to do, I won’t be able to un-stuck myself. I need accurate data!