Monday, August 3, 2009

It All Started With Exercising...

Or we could call this long post Self Awareness 101. (only took me 45 years to get it.)

On January 1, I started exercising for my health and to get an insurance discount. Because I'm stubborn and nobody tells me I can't do something. So I started following along on some exercise shows on Fit TV, and that lead to watching a show that came on after it called Neat. Premise- a professional organizer goes to people's houses and straightens out their messes. She tailored some of the organizing techniques to their personalities and it got me to thinking that maybe there was a way for even me to get organized. I also realized that I put off doing so many things and miss out on so much better quality time with my family because of my disorganization. I started to realize how much it is holding me back and adding stress on top of it all. So, I decided that if I'm ever going to not waste my life away, I'm going to have to establish more order in it. I did one thing from the show that was so cool. If only I could post a picture, I would show you. But I can't so I will just leave that for another post someday when the planets align to allow me to upload photos again.

Anyhow, my first baby step got all the supplies everyone uses upstairs out of my armoire. Then I learned that a room can't have too many functions. It just turns out that this gave me a whole new understanding. The big problem with my office is it has the function of personal office, overflowing food storage and freezer holder, sewing, art and craft supplies of all kinds storage, keeper of book shelves full of books and all the photographs and memories that haven't been turned into scrapbooks storage, as well as the dumping ground for everything that has no home or needs to be hidden, like sharp objects and gifts. So, what I needed to do was move some (most) of those functions to somewhere else! I decided to set up a craft and sewing area at one end of my family room. And opposite that, add some food storage. This revelation came just in time because I'm afraid to say that this is what my office was looking like. A picture would do what a thousand words can't but every surface was piled up high, the floor was completely covered with boxes and things that got dragged in there by my daughter one day to make room for a party, and things were falling out of the open overhead cupboards. Usually my room is bad but not as bad as those clean sweep show before shots. This was worse, way worse.

So I hauled everything out in the open to the family room, and then went through all the actual cupboards and stuff, chucking things and organizing my office. I thought it looked so cool, till a week later I went to show it to a friend and realized it is not that awesome looking if you hadn't seen the before picture. Now it's already getting messy, and the family room is overridden with things that need to be separated into keep, give away and throw away piles and then the keepers need a new home. I separated things into categories and there it has all sat for 3 months now. Just can't get back to it. In about 2 weeks the kids will be back in school and I won't have any time at all to work on it. Because then we start the get everyone up, ready, and off to school thing followed by work, appointments and phone calls, followed by kid pick-ups, then getting them changed, snacked and de-stressed and on to their homework and chores, then dinner then get ready for bed routines and on top of all that, even when I have time, I can't figure out how to embrace it. Because of the next part of this story, which is...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as I was beginning my baby steps, I happened to go to the kid's doctor who happened to ask if I was aware of CHADD, which is an ADD support organization. Yes, I am. But when I first looked it up, there was just a puny website. That was in the infancy of the net, and considering how much info I got off the new facial deformity sites, a little idea hatched in my mind called re-check-it-out. It's huge, and I signed up, and I chatted: did anyone know of a good source of help for organizing a home full of ADDers? I was suggested Organizing From the Inside Out. Good book. I also checked on my local chapter. I wrote down the next meeting. Or two. The second one coincided with 2 other commitments, but when they fell through, I decided to go check it out. I was really late, but guess what? They had invited a PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER to teach us how to organize our lives. Is that serendipity or what? She gave us a handout with some reference materials. One book was called ADD Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. Awesome read, plus, I was right! Dressers DO NOT WORK if you have ADD. I suspected this. We need shelves (sturdy, unbreakable, bolted to the wall so they won't fall over kind, with rounded edges so we won't need stitches after we fly into them.) Then we need to have transparent tubs to put our things in. And since we don't have anyone under 5, we don't need to lock that all behind closed doors, either! And probably no one will pee in those tubs at this point, but that is a post for another day. Now to digress a little, with a reason.

Often I have had doubts about the whole ADD diagnosis, because really, for my kids the sensory issues, the anxiety, the depression, the ODD, have sort of made the other ADD issues seem like side issues. Science has now caught up with my kids and they realize there are all these related issues now. No one talked about that before and I could write a whole post on this issue...but that's a subject for another day too.

The point is, I was about to have one of those moments where all the little tumblers fall into place. As we finished up with the CHADD meeting, someone was mentioning a watch they saw in the latest issue of Attention! Magazine. It has like 40 alarms and messages you can add and stuff to keep you on track. Someone asked, "Is it submersible?" And that's when I knew I was in the right place. These were my kind of people. They got what was going on at my house. I was home. Of course, they need help getting their meetings more organized and getting the word out. It's sort of like the procrastinators club, where meetings keep getting postponed. Everyone needs someone else to organize the dang thing, but who can do it when living with all the distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, etc. that goes on in your life if you belong to this group? Not me, not yet anyways.

So, anyhow, I got home from that meeting, hunted down the book I just mentioned and read it, plus another one called Driven from Distraction that was on the list. It's all about ADD and how to handle it. It talks a lot about what it's like to be an adult with ADD. I started hearing "Killing Me Softly With His Song" in the back of my mind while I read this book. It sounded uncomfortably familiar. Sort of like someone's life I know all too well. When My oldest was diagnosed, I got an explanation about how they diagnose you as having a certain number of symptoms from a list of symptoms to a degree that goes beyond what is normal for the person's age, and starts before age 7 and lasts longer than a year and shows up in at least two areas of their life. Well, I wasn't born yesterday, I knew I was distractible enough, but the whole X number of symptoms by x age to x degree blah blah blah, I just didn't think I fit it. Well, since then there have been sub sets of types of ADD that have been defined and much more is understood about how differently it is manifest in females, and when you get done with those explanations, I don't have a lot of room to hide. I still thought I wasn't as bad as all that, till I started noticing that half those things I thought I didn't do when I was reading this book, I was in reality doing. Slowly I realized that not only was I a type add personality, the biggest struggles and stresses of my life are due to ADD symptoms, and even if I eliminate the ones inflicted on me by my kids, which obviously would ameliorate the symptoms, I'm still facing the same issues with myself. I've always thought my symptoms weren't as bad as a lot of people who have ADD, but I also realized that I have built in a lot of crutches to help me overcome the tendencies that would make me as out of control as others I see. At some point, if you are holding too many balls for too long, the crutches fall out from under your armpits and all the balls start dropping. That is one of the reasons why even though I have spent most of this whole calendar year trying to improve things, I'm getting worse instead of better. I just couldn't keep it all together anymore. Ironically, I think exercising was the thing that put me over the edge and threw my minimal organization of my life in the disposal. SO, lucky for me I have some great reference material to help me learn to simplify my life. Except as much as I want to change all by myself, it isn't working yet. I keep forgetting what I'm supposed to do and when to do it, and I have no real concept of time to begin with. I finally realized I need help. Which is real hard for me to accept. I'm terrible at asking for help.

That's when I connected some other dots. Many years ago, I was dealing with some issues my oldest was having, and I learned in the process that with this kind of child, they need an over abundance of consistency in your dealings with them to help them get themselves together and learn to do what they need to do. Simple things like homework, for example. At the time, this seemed ironic. Seeing as how I'm not consistent. Except that I'm consistently inconsistent. That's what I'm most consistent at. Get it? So, I whined at God: "Why would you give a child that needed consistency to someone like me?" And I swear, I got an immediate answer. It was a thought, without words, but basically, it was "Exactly! How do you?" and the other part of what it meant was basically- If I give my kid a kid like herself, she'll have to learn to be consistent in order to get her child to be consistent. This hopefully will trick me into being consistent, seeing as how I wasn't going to have any reason to work on it otherwise. Am I explaining myself? Who am I kidding? Unless you're my mom or have NOTHING to do, you probably dropped off to sleep a long time ago. Anyhow, for my posterity, at the time this happened, I thought that this was it. I had to learn to be consistent. For the love of Enigma, I had to do it. I was determined. Except I kept forgetting and getting sidetracked. I kept trying to love more so I would stop letting things distract me. For years I have carried around the guilt that I had not learned to love my child enough to be as consistent with her as I need to be, or the rest of my family for that matter. Granted, for the best of people, when you are inundated with 5 crazy kids and an overworked spouse, this is going to be tricky. That was my excuse, but you know what? That spouse has told me a million times that ever since he knew me, I've been like this. Ever since he's known me he has usually silently accepted my not following through on things he wanted or needed me to do. Things I always wished I could do for him. I wanted to be a more attentive and doting wife, but obviously, I hadn't developed enough love in my heart to focus on him and do those things for him more consistently, either. Until it finally dawned on me. After carrying around this guilt for about 10 years now, I realize it has nothing to do with how much I love or don't love my family. It has to do with the fact that my brain needs help in order to be more consistent. So, it only took me a decade to figure out what I was supposed to do with that newsflash from God. Maybe he tried to elaborate, but I was already distracted thinking about how my love was going to give me the will power to become consistent. He is super patient. Even more patient than Papi. Definitely more patient than my kids. Or me. SO, now I'm trying to help my brain so my motivation can be more successful at things like making sure Enigma did the dishes before she went out with her friends. I'm finding my search for solutions less than successful, so far but encouraging. Baby steps. I need to find just the right mix of things. It is giving me whole new insights into my children's minds so it's not a total wash-up. I'll keep working on it because I do want to be consistent- because I do love my family. That's why I won't give up. That's why I'm remembering to work on consistency more often. It's the most frustrating job in the world. It's also why I need to stop and go read a bedtime story to someone. Good night.

10 comments:

RAQ said...

Wow! Hang in there! I have been pondering on the "I will make their weaknesses strengths unto them" if "they humble themselves before me" because I really don't know how else I am going to overcome my weaknesses alone. I need to get really serious about asking for help, I think I have been dabbling in wanting help, so far! Baby steps, right?!

The Cranes said...

Baby steps... What about Bob? :)
I don't think I have ADD, so what's my excuse for not being consistent? I hope you can get the help you need to make your life easier.

Darla said...

So fun to get on here and catch up! Sounds like you're in the middle of a project similar to mine. We emptied out our room and one of the kids' rooms and switched. However, once we got all the kids' stuff out of the bedroom, I realized that I really needed to paint the bedroom before we moved in, so paint I did! Then after that room and switchover was done, I removed a cupboard from the bathroom that was broken...and realized I really needed to paint the bathroom. So paint I did. I just used whatever I found in the basement so luckily I found something that I liked decently enough. Now I've been slowly emptying totes and crates and such...

I have oftentimes wondered if I have a touch of ADD...for real! So now I'm off the google ADD! :)

mommeeof9 said...

My hubby is a packrat, which is a trait of OCD. He refuses to believe that it is an issue. He can not bare to get rid of anythinig that could be useful someday. I don't know how many old hard drives, sticks of memory or partially working keyboards he has in storage totes in our bedroom. He has bins of papers and bins of computer parts and books stuffed into our semi small bedroom. 15 ft by 15 ft sounds large, until you fit in a king sized bed, 2 bachelors chests, a tall dresser, a large cedar chest, 2 4 ft wide by 4 ft high book cases, another small dresser, a large computer desk/armoire, a recliner and Rosalies crib. We can barely walk through the room. Especially now that he is trying to sort all the computer stuff that has not made it into bins and is in boxes and put it in the bins which are usually stored under the bed.

If we had more room, I would just give him the smallest bedroom for all his stuff. We have only 3 bedrooms upstairs, so we are using the family room for our room.

In 5 years we will have 3 kids in college, so at least there will be less stuff/fewer people to make messes on a daily basis.

Jen said...

It sounds like a really good start! I love organizing, and I'm always looking for ways to get more organized.

For a good workout, try Gilad on Fit TV. He's hilarious to listen to, and his work outs are really good!

Shellie said...

Amy, even if you don't have ADD, it is hard to be consistent in raising kids, but if you're like me, you take it to a whole new level. For example, it's hard to be consistent with making sure you follow through on consequences, because some kids you have to watch vigil over their 10 minutes in their room, or not using the TV or whatever, and meanwhile you have dinner to get ready or another kid to handle, etc. But then if you add to that, things like you forget they were grounded, or you can't keep track of time enough to even try to get them to bed near the same time each night, that's a whole other area to deal with. The twins don't even expect the tooth fairy anymore. The first tooth she showed up about a week later and the rest we are going on months, they don't even bother to hide it under their pillows. And other parents feel guilty it takes them a week to make the switch!

Mary Ellen said...

The most important thing I got out of this post was that it's not a matter of how much you love your family - that's obvious. The fact that you care and want to be more organized, even when your brain is fighting it, is very impressive. I think you'll continue to find strategies that work for you and your kids as time goes on. I'm very impressed with the fact that you even started. I've been putting off similar tasks for years!

4boyzmdmom said...

Hey, I will have to check out some of those books about ADD--maybe I will learn some things that will help Tanner! I've always looked at you and thought that you have some incredible strengths where I have weaknesses...and vice versa. But being consistent is hard for everybody, I think. You just take it to a whole new level, as you pointed out. I hope you can find some strategies that will really help you. And I'm sorry you felt guilty about "not loving enough" for so long when that's never been an issue for you!

Jaina said...

This was an incredible post. You can totally do this! One step at a time, you've got this! Maybe posting about it on here will help you keep up with accountability? Just an idea. :)

Becoming Mommy said...

I used to think I was horribly disorganized.
Then I realized that *I* wasn't the problem. I actually DID have a place for everything and everything in it's place.
My Husband on the other hand...He's the reason ours is The House of Random Junk.
Beccause, you know...Belt sanders and old harddrives are just fine in the kitchen cabinet with my lead crystal.
Organizing is a lost cause if you don't have the whole family on board.