Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chaos Theory

Once upon a time, while reading a book on journal-keeping that featured sample entries from volunteers’ diaries, I came upon one entry penned by someone working on self-esteem issues who devoted a page in her journal to a cataloguing of “Ways That I’m Mean To Myself.” And she was mean to herself, mostly through small but nonetheless life-diminishing acts of self-neglect.

I think that we can all be mean to ourselves at times, especially if we’re in a state of profound dissatisfaction with our lives, when we feel that we don’t measure up to a particular standard.

One of the ways that I can be mean to myself is by living in chaos – clutter; an unordered daily schedule; chronic procrastination. In my case I think part of it is simply due to some sort of low-level ADHD that keeps me constantly in search of intellectual and creative stimulation, so much so that I actually do forget what I was doing just minutes ago, and that I also sometimes just don’t see the wreckage of my previous distractions lying around me – the books on the floor; the mail on the table, the half-completed paperwork, the kitchen utensils on the counter. But part of it, I think, if I’m truly honest with myself, is some sense, deep down, that I am not worth being taken care of, including by myself.

Now, on a theological level I know where this feeling comes from, and it’s not from the team that’s on my side: It’s the Adversary, the Accuser. In the Accuser’s scheme of things, “THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO!” The Accuser lays down the Law, right on top of my head, with extreme prejudice, then gut-checks me for good measure, and laughs as I’m sprawled out on the ground: Loser!

But the Accuser, according to the Christian paradigm, doesn’t get the last word. As Paul puts it, for us God always has a YES! And the One in whom and through him and for whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together is working constantly to wrest order out of chaos, to mend the broken places – including the ones in our psyches.

So – I find myself developing tricks to manage my own chaos. At work, my day planner is my friend. I don’t try to micromanage every half-hour block of my day like some of my Franklin-Planner-cultist friends do, because that doesn’t work for me; but I do have my to-do list, and it’s important for me to make the little checks next to the items every day. At home it’s been trickier, without the external reality check of my mother (whom I suspect, ironically, had something of the same malady), to keep myself grounded in some type of schedule and daily system of neatening things up. Sometimes it comes down to, “If you’re in this room, pick one thing up and put it away. Just one thing.” But I’m trying. I feel the compulsion. I feel the slow, steady pull into order even as I sometimes still jerk away. And as I find myself living into myself, living into the person I believe God wants me to be and listening to the people around me who respect me and are rooting for me, I feel more of an incentive to respect myself by respecting my space and my time.


RuthRE said...

yes, have ADD.
I think I know enough about you to say that with certainty. Not that I have a degree....but I DO have ADD.

There's nothing wrong with accepting that as the case.....the only thing left to do is accept that it is....and realize (as you have) that you need to find ways, different ways in your life to make things work *for you*. And you definately are doing that.

You're not spacing out on probably would be hard pressed to ever truly control that. Your brain just fires differently.

The beating yourself up part would be thinking that it's your own fault that you function that way.

(It's going to take me a few days to get caught up on all of your posts that I've missed! I've been sans computer for a few weeks)

Verdugo said...

the odd thing is, I find that I'm mean to myself in exactly the opposite way. I'm one of those "franklin planner cultists" with every moment of every day meticulously scheduled. I thrive on order-- find my security in it, in fact. The the degree that I become a slave to The List. It owns me. If I'm not "working" I lose my identity.

what I'm finding is that the more I follow my Monk-like (Monk, not monk) obsession, the less open I am to the inconvenience of what Margeret Gunther calls "holy interruptions"-- the Spirit of God breaking in. Whether that's my kid wanting to break in, or a friend in need, or the presence of God-- if it's not on The List it doesn't get thru. My struggle is to allow room in my Almighty Schedule-- and my heart-- for the unscheduled, unexpected suprise.

Funny how we're all broken and twisted in a 1000 different ways, but all broken nonetheless.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Ditto Ruthre. Ditto Me. There is a book called You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! : The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Kate Kelly.

The title says it all. This isn't something one can control. It is hard wired. And it is hereditary. So that Mom had it is not ironic.

ADDers often have low self esteem from thinking that they somehow "should" do better, get it together. On Psyc tests, ADDers often score as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to chronically beating themself up over not being good enough and sometimes from others dumping on them for not getting it together.

I am so "inefficient" because of the distractibility. Some people claim that ADDers often have a creative bent. I know it is hard for me to stick to the tried and true. I've also read that the higher the IQ, the more likely the person is to have ADD.

There are other problems and conditions that cause a mimic of ADD traits and symptoms, including anxiety, sleep problems, depression, and true post traumatic stress disorder. I wouldn't be surprised if grief was on that list. The difference is if the symptoms are life long or just when these other problems exist. In addition, hormonal changes, monthly, as well as the changes that occur as we age, can cause an swing or increase in the symptoms.

The external reality check you mention is a well know help for ADDers. They often can work better if there is another person present. And they often find the need for external stimulation to help quiet the mind and thereby focus better on a task.

In addition, ADDers often have a state called Hyper Focus in which they can get a lot done by tuning everything else out.

ADD or ADHD is sometimes said to be misnamed. The H people (hyper active) are only a segment of the group, and more likely to be boys. Girls who are ADD but don't have the H may be overlooked for having this condition. And
"Attention Deficit Disorder" may not be a deficit of attention but a lack of control over what to pay attention to, ie see hyper focus above.

I'm not diagnosing you because I don't know the long term you. I AM saying that you are beating yourself up over things that aren't worth that effort. Not picking stuff up, etc. isn't the same as the confession about not doing the things we are supposed to do.

I hope you don't think I'm belittling your feelings. I know those feelings all too well. Hey, would you really rather be Ms. Prissy White Glove with no imagination?

Trish said...

That was a really good post. Thanks.

Kathryn said...

You and me both!
Chaos is only ever inches away in every area...The odd thing is that until I was 30, which is when we left London, I was absolutely the efficiency/organisation incarnate. Not sure what changed, as I already had 2 kids by then. Bizarre...but that's the way it is.
Try not to beat yourself up. We're rather fond of you,- just as you are.xx