Mindfulness and Adderall and a Way to Begin
I’m beginning this by saying that I’m thinking that it’s overly hipster and meta and pretentious to write about my inability to finish writing anything as a subject. Where it rings false to me is that my problem isn’t *just* with writing but with any project I might have in mind. I want to write a paragraph that begins and ends. Maybe another that builds on that first one. And then a conclusion. I sit poised to go. The screen saver starts.
I have things I want to say that aren’t grocery lists. To-do lists. My budget. Reminders. But those are what I end up writing. I had dozens of ideas that were to be started that I have nothing to show for. I wanted finished results before taking some small steps. It’s over there trying to get over here but I couldn’t just start. The story of not just my writing life, but my entire life: a familiar pattern that applied to any interest, activity, project, relationship. As a little boy I would play with a discarded manual typewriter that was my grandmother’s and I’d punch the keys in all at once and the letters and numbers and all the characters would just bunch up and be all jammed there at once. The creative block and bad impulse control and complete disorganization to the point of chaos and hostility to criticism and impulsive criminal activity were all happening in the background for years. Before I had a breakdown of sorts and was able to stop and step away from the whole thing I didn’t see any of it clearly. I stopped doing all these things that made me feel like me. But every once in awhile I’d do something that was dangerously impulsive or just morally questionable, and having removed myself from my old patterns of behavior; when these things happened they really drew attention to themselves in a way that would freeze the frame in my inner narrative for a moment and find myself considering which was the real me. I eventually came to the conclusion that my impulse control was simply shot and what led me to that conclusion was that these instances of behavior, which I had no problem carrying out, would leave me reeling and shaken for a few days, and would take me back to before I’d shut down. So I had a conscience. I decided to talk to a therapist.
Now it’s six years later and I had yet to write anything. But in approaching things that I wanted to do in small bites; an hour a day sometimes, making sure to do a little bit on a daily basis I accomplished a start:
Some restorations of small pieces of wood furniture
Can play basic piano with sheet music and trying to improve
I take pictures and edit them to display online on a daily basis
I wish it was all in place to where it was easy though. It’s not hard either though. Just stuck. For example: this post. I started the last paragraph two days ago. But I couldn’t reach the next words. I thought I’d abandon writing this because I was unsure what *this* was but *this* didn’t have to be some definable monumental cohesive statement that was too ambitious to ever even know how to begin. *This* could just be a series of observations loosely framed around a subject, it didn’t have to be some sort of masterpiece. It could just be a thought or two about something. A glorified diary entry.
Awhile back I bought scrivener; a program for writers. It has too many features to be useful to me without me having a purpose and comes with a tutorial that one could spend years going through discovering fine points and just tinkering. So nothing happened. Finally what made me start to be able to use it was using it to organize my ideas. Ideas were fine. I never had problems jotting down basic sketches. Where I ran into difficulty was where to then take the ideas. I started to just use features that I needed and ignoring those I didn’t need is when the software started to make sense and I followed an outline I had put together. Seeing the layout of my ideas in a different way suggested where to take them and I finally wrote this thing about cameras.
Whenever I discuss the last month with my psychiatrist, which happens when I see him at my monthly appointment, I tell him (and I believe) that over time I’m becoming aware that the principles of mindfulness and coping strategies that I’ve learned tend to go out the window in challenging situations, but little by little a new thing is emerging and that is that I find I think on my feet and pull these lessons from the back of my mind and put them into practice. In the past this meant dealing with idiot customers when I worked in an office, and by the time that job was eliminated I was getting pretty good at carrying on a separate conversation with myself at the same time as listening to whoever bitch about whatever I had nothing to do with, and that self-directed conversation became a skill and eventually I stopped experiencing the other person’s lousy existence as soon as I hung up the phone. I’d just leave all that shit at work. As I improved this skill in the last year or so of working there I started applying it in new ways such as feeling not just not guilty about calling off but rather entitled to whatever the day off was really for. There were times I wanted to watch the rain or snow fall all day, days that called for concentrated reading all day or an extended Grindr hookup. The day they sent me home with my severance people were saying “oh my god I’m so sorry” or “thats terrible what are you going to do?” and my answer was “it’s cool really.” It was a Friday and I was hoping it wouldn’t take long to get out of there because I wanted to go shopping and take a nap because that job was never my identity. I was happy it was over because there were things that I needed to work on that required breathing room and some time.
None of these things is perfect but I’d rather be able to do things without expecting perfection I’m talking about wasn’t that I thought that my ideas were flawless. I wanted the accomplishment to be at the point where I would be with a project if I worked at it for 30 minutes a day for a month) before I had even done anything at all and as a result it was too daunting to know how to approach anything. Adderall and mindfulness techniques have me feeling like I was never broken in the first place. But there was a time when I definitely was. I really was. And now I’m not.