Saturday, May 9, 2015

Living with ADD

I keep picking up and putting down this book, Driven to Distraction, by Edward Hollowell. His name was familiar to me when the book was recommended, and I soon remembered that he was a client at the literary agency I worked at in Boston. It was a tight knit, friendly group of agents, lawyers and some very high profile clients and everyone was loved and respected (at least while the going was good). I often had to re-organize the book closet and I now remember seeing his books, but at the time the only ADHD case I knew of was a kid my older brother's age who would climb all over us during carpool days.

When I first met my now-husband, he was in a definite state of high. He was newly out of a really destructive (and abusive, on her part, towards him) relationship. He now had his own apartment, he was connecting with old friends, and well, of course, he was dating me so was very happy (wink wink). He also told me early on in the relationship that he had just recently discovered he was ADD (without the H) and had been terribly frustrated and troubled in recent years but now that he knew what ailed him he was excited to treat it and get on track. His dad had diagnosed himself and then hinted to his son that maybe he look into it. My husband had gone through an all-art program since high school because he could not concentrate in traditional classrooms, and ended up with a degree at The Art Institute of Chicago (no small feat but he would not recommend anyone spend any money there), so it all made a lot of sense to him very quickly.

My husband is passionate about his interests, he is more handy that any other man I know (apart from his own father), he is dedicated and loving, a great dad and all around a very very good person. People with ADD like challenging situations -- they like cars, and driving fast. They are racers and gamblers and stockbrokers because there is no better clarity than living in that moment. I count myself lucky that my husband has a vintage motorcycle problem. All in all, it's very affordable compared to other vices. But living with someone with ADD has its teeny tiny little challenges. On the surface is doesn't look like much. But the culmative affect sometimes is very frustrating.

I work as a producer professionally. Have you ever seen 30 Rock? How Tina Fey's character has to corral all these creative types - writers, actors, producers and suits and make what seems like chaos into something coherent, and maybe even good? I loved that show because that's what we do. We work with difficult, brilliant people and make sure their idea shines through. We also have to make sure they get to the shoot, and we have to coddle them through casting and wardrobe and editing, and suit reviews and all that good stuff. I'm good at it because I grew up with difficult people and I am able to negotiate my way while keeping good manners. My mother has no idea where I got my manners. I look at people I admire and try to do what they do. I try to be happy, and accomplished, and creatively fulfilled.

Because I have a capacity for negotiating and corralling, I am good at dealing with the mind of my brilliant, handy, inventive ADD husband. But sometimes, like tonight, I feel like I have failed. If I am tired, feeling overworked, under appreciated and not respected, I will lash out. I will use harsh words, jokingly, but maybe not really. I will let him know I am mad and I won't really back down until he comes to me with a white flag. And god bless him, he usually does. But tonight we are both tired so we are best just parting ways instead.

I'm reading the book again, I gave a copy to a friend whose husband is ADD and not taking his meds (why are all our friends and friend's husbands coming out of the woodwork now in our 30s and 40s?). So I skimmed over the updated version to see if there were any new case studies, the case studies are the best because they are little slices of life that people can identify with. I could see aspects of our issues in a lot of cases, but it does give me some solace to see that we are not nearly as bad off as some. Reading the book gives me more compassion for him, and patience in our relationship, but its not easy. Our brains just don't work the same.

It comes out most plainly in our driving habits, so thank god we are not commuting together any more. It simply will not work. He's aggressive to my cautiousness and both styles drive the passenger crazy. His medication tapers off at the end of the day, so he tends to want to both talk to me, because his job is very solitary and not social, and also ask me to repeat myself when I am replying, because his mind has tired or wandered. He claims it is only his hearing (which as a former metal-head there is some truth to that) but I know that he is simply not focused. And repeating myself more than a few times an hour makes me a little bit crazy. I also get really tired at the end of the day. Being a working mom with a toddler will do that to you. Also hell, I'm getting old. For me, 9pm is time to do, well, nothing. I see what shows I've missed on Hulu or Netflix before I go to bed to read. He hates TV but can't focus on his other projects so sometimes he hovers, asking me about the show, why I am watching it, and pontificating on the state of TV in general. Sometimes I humor him and sometimes I ban him from the room. It's like he wants to be around me but he can't muster up the enthusiasm to make anything of it. I don't need enthusiasm after dinner. I need quiet. He gets that though and we will figure it out, eventually. This house is bigger than I give it credit for. I am currently enjoying a new attic space I just refinished and I'm a little bit in love with it. Obviously it is doing me good.

There are a lot worse problems for a couple to have. We have a lot of love here. We are both very headstrong though, maybe not the best at expressing our differences of opinion, but at least we keep it it interesting. We've accomplished a lot in the last three years, and I feel very enriched for it.

So on this eve of Mother's Day I guess I say -- bring it on. I'll executive produce the hell out of this one too.



Monday, December 1, 2014

Domestication Station

I had never done this before, but I actually told my freelance job when my last day would be.

This place was a hot mess. The woman who hired me quit four days later, she said the only reason she was able to get me in was because she gave her notice. She was overworked and unappreciated. I was disappointed because we had gotten on so well when we met for tea the week before. But I shrugged my shoulders and told her not to worry -- plenty of agencies had their issues but I was freelance and charging by the hour so what did I care? I soon learned better - trying to chat to people in meetings was fruitless. They looked at me in confusion when I asked how their weekend went. People didn't look up from their computers when you entered a meeting, they didn't look up during, or when you addressed them. I was the only production person there, so no one really spoke to me unless it was about work related things. And all the work related things were a source of frustration.

The agency was going through its umpeenth merger, its sixth round of layoffs in the last few years. One third of the work stations were full, the rest empty, yet I had to walk miles to find the people I needed to speak with about my productions. The only blessing is that I was able to commute downtown with motoboy so I came in close to 10 and left at 4.40. If I didn't have a meeting, I'm not sure it mattered that I was there, since no one spoke to me anyway. It was just an awful awful environment. And then there was that one creative who embarrassed me in front of the production company who I brought on board, a top director and a proper production company who threw hundreds of thousands of dollars into a job we could not pay for, and this person threw a fit over a tiny prop. I had to 'apologize' in order to save the day and keep moving because there is no way around it - this guy was a raging asshole and a bad creative and it just wasn't worth the fight. The thought of it though still makes me hot with anger and embarrassment.  The really hard part is that I think part of it was sexist. I saw how he treated men and women differently. Infuriating, but again, glad I was freelance and able to walk away.

So yeah, I told them I was booked after my jobs wrapped. My teeth hurt, my husband was neglected, my toddler was getting stressed out by potty training, the holidays were coming and was time for a break.

In no time I was home with my blonde moppet making pumpkin bread, brownies, beef stew, preparing for Thanksgiving, doing much needed laundry and tidying up. I wave good bye to my husband who still makes the commute, alone, and I take baby girl to day care and do the shopping or DIY around the house. I use multiple coupons and the phone app at Target, mentally giving myself a high five for saving $35. I go to my favorite grocery store at 9am when there is minimal traffic, plenty of parking, first in line at the deli. I'm organized enough to tip the bagboy for helping me out to the car. I arrange for another contractor to come look at our attic insulation. I research Christmas presents and power tools. I am executive producing the hell out of being mom in this family. And I'm good at it, of course.

Now I'm looking at the calendar, wondering whether to update my LinkedIn profile or email some more contacts and let them know I am available. But I just don't think there is time. My mom is coming for a long weekend next week. And then monster-girl's daycare is closed for two weeks. The in-laws are coming on the 26th. And I don't have the guest room ready yet. I'm going to NY on the 29th.  Looks like a little while longer is needed.

And my crown is finally going to be able to settle.

Happy holidays!


Monday, August 25, 2014

90 Degrees and the Summer Is Over

Well it is time. It always works in a convenient cycle like this. I have my downtime and can't even imagine going back to work. And then after abut 4-6 weeks I finally start to get squirrely. I realize I'm not doing the home improvement I said I would. I'm not taking the toddler all over town (too much traffic!). We are becoming lazy and complacent. I start to feel weird and out of touch with the world. Then magically, someone reaches out and says, want to come work with me? And I say, yeah I guess it's time. Ok!

So after one last vacation to Ohio we are ready to get back to the grind. But first, some lessons learned after spending a week with my family.

*I feel as though I have a wealth of patience - that's why I'm a good producer, and a freelancer at that. I have to walk into situations full of plenty of personalities again and again and make projects move despite all the conflicting quirks of creative types/clients/business needs. So with my family, I am good for quite a few days. I am patient, diplomatic, clear in communicating, enthusiastic. For some reason however, no one in my family can hear what I say the first time I say it. Perhaps I mumble out of frustration? Maybe they are on guard with me and need the buffer time to take in any one thing I say? ("Pass the butter," is hard to decipher?) Maybe they all have some genetic hearing disorder that is only susceptible to the particular wavelength at which I speak? (What luck!) Whatever the reason, it drives me absolutely bonkers. It gets to the point where I'd rather not say anything than say it three times. And when I do say something, I mentally wait for someone to ask me to repeat myself. 75% of the time one of them does. It is tolerable for a few days but absolutely maddening by the end.

*My dear brother lives alone, and works from home, and does not have many people over, like ever. So I have to give him a lot of credit for hosting me and a toddler in his home for 5 days. (This is actually easier than staying at my parents house, at any rate.) It was a big deal for him. And I'm sure he was not too heartbroken when I decided to go home 2 days early. Every night he was exhausted from the simple tasks of grilling a dinner for us, or going to the park. It was all a lot.

*That being said, I could also see that it was taxing to my parents. My toddler sleeps from 12-2 so there were only 2 windows per day to do fun city stuff with her- either first thing in the morning or after nap. So there was only a 2 hour window to do any one thing, and we never tried doing two things in one day. And my mom said she wouldn't be able to handle spending the whole day with us anyway. I think I know why I value downtime now, more so than my husband or a lot of active people I know. This is absolutely how my family functions. Downtime = you are doing it right. Get your work done, your chores done, lay down on the couch and read the Plain Dealer or watch Jeapoardy. Anything else is exhausting and out of scope. I'm glad in a way I married someone so active who pushes me to try new things. Go on exciting vacations. Do different things after work. Although he does let me veg out in the evenings. A bigger house allows us to tolerate tv noise vs power tool noise. He's accepted what he's gotten into with me. 

So when I got an email about work, I immediately knew I had to get home to regroup myself. Living among other people's quirks and stress is exhausting. I have enough of those of my own. Little things would bug me, like how my brother randomly keeps half of his fresh food in his dining room, on different buffet surfaces. Oh, the bread is over there? Also, I would have never set up my cupboards the way he did. He has this old silver flatware that needs polishing. Most of his stuff is just second hand from my parents house. Why does he keep his recycling bin in the basement?

I think it is good to be around family, because they remind you of the way you are and they also remind you of the ways you have tried to be different. I didn't have as much anxiety when I was a kid but I can see where the bad nerves were formed before they finally frayed. I know now why I went far away to college. I remember how family can make you feel completely stifled, negated, and silenced. I am so happy to be home, and finally when motoboy came home on Sunday and we had dinner, I felt complete again. Its nice to know you made the right choices in life. And I got out before letting on any of this to my people so we are all on great terms! It's just easier that way to keep it to yourself and keep everyone happy.

Back to work now, will be a little stressful for me. I always get anxious when I am walking into a new situation. This is a place I worked before but they have moved location since I was last there which will be different but exciting. I think its much more modern and light and fun now. I know a few people there, especially my managers who I am very fond of. It's a different sort of angle on what I do which is a much needed break from my last gig which got very stressful and client-need heavy. I'm looking forward to digging in and getting to work and seeing some good creative and helping to maybe make it even better. The waiting is the worst part, but getting my hair colored and a blow out today should help a bit. Even if it is 100% humidity out there.

It's seven years this August that I have been doing this crazy freelance thing. For someone with an anxiety disorder it feels quite brave, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The thought of a permanent job would make me more anxious and backed into a corner. I like coming in and out of the drama. Smiling because all you have to worry about is the work, and your paycheck.

Baby girl is back in 'school', still in the youngest kid's room until they can get her potty trained. I am all for keeping it up on the weekends once started but she is just not interested yet. We shall see what they get up to there, but I will be sad when she moves out of the 'teddybears' room. Sometimes she talks to me like a girlfriend, and runs around on these long fast legs and I can't believe my baby girl is a little kid now. But she is beautiful and fun and kind and sweet and wild and I can't wait to take on the world with her. I decided on our short flight from Ohio that we would some day go to Paris together. Because a 50 minute flight is quite comparable right? For now, its a good indication of lots of fun to come.

Happy end of summer?


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summa summa summa tiiiimmme.....

So that was a good long haul of work. Six months on a two week booking. Whoo hooo! Saving money for that garage rebuild we are bidding out. It's always fun to go into my old haunt ('the mothership'), have lunch with my friends, meet new people too. But there was a period of about 6 weeks there where I was covering a bit too much...and I kept thinking to myself: I'm so busy I am going to throw up. I was treading water so hard, trying to keep my head above the fray, and also take some planned weekenders that I had on the books, keeping in touch with work on the weekend and getting heat from some crazy people on top of that? No thanks. I am taking this break with much pleasure, thank you. I feel like it will be a few weeks before I can even stomach the thought of work. A friend of mine emailed looking for help at her company, and for the first time in my six years of freelancing - I said no. I said I am taking the summer off to spend time with my daughter. Thank god for kids! Now I know why politicians like to have families so much. What a great excuse when they need to step down from their posts from a sex scandal! Nothing like that here, of course. Ahem.

So I was sick the first few days of my break and Aoife went to 'school' to play with her friends because I didn't have much to offer. But we are making up for lost time. Backyard hangouts with the tiny blow up pool, finding the 'beach' -- 4 miles inland at Humbolt Park, going to our local parks and playgrounds and walking Elsa, having ice cream in the middle of the day, three picnics in one week! I've learned not to picnic too close to a playground though or there is going to be no toddler eating of lunch whatsoever. Just a constant yearning for the swings and slides.

So my mom and I both have big birthdays this year...she was 40 when she had me. In a way I am just beginning this part of my life. And I thank her genes for allowing it to happen in my late 30s at all! I am really exited to celebrate her and have made a commemorative book and also a slideshow movie. I love having time off to do creative projects. Or taking up linoleum. Or cutting down twenty 6 foot weed plants. Or plan for my girls to come and drive up to WI with me for a weekend of New Glarus beers, canoeing and hiking.

I have to say, right now, I count myself very lucky. But of course I am Irish so there is always a dark shadow or worry, wondering when it is going to all come crashing down. But I am optimisitic so I push it back. I have my health, my family's health, enough savings to enjoy the summer, a great house with plenty to work on, great friends...what more could a girl want?

Oh yes, a writing project. Sometimes contentment is not the best muse. We shall see. I might be stalling also by insisting on refinishing the floors in my office before I am fully 'situated.' You never know, that just may be the ticket to getting me going again! I am grateful for this time to write a teeny tiny blog though. Goodbye advertising emergencies, hello Chicago beach!