Equal and Opposite

(Photo: I wish I had his equanimity.)

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One of the hardest things for anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder like me to do is acknowledge a difference of opinion. Not because we’re too wrapped up in our own opinions to notice (although there is a variant of ADD that elicits a knee-jerk opposition to the input of others).

More likely, we recognize someone else’s potentially dearly held alternative opinion. But by the time that sinks in, our focus is often off and running after some other, shinier tangent. We don’t mean to run roughshod over the requests, suggestions, and outright protests of our friends and loved ones. But a lot of the time, that’s what we do without realizing it.

That’s not exactly true. Usually we figure out what we’ve done a few hours–or days–later. After our miffed BFF or snubbed significant other has stewed for awhile and then (from our ADD perspective) unexpectedly let us have it. In most cases with verbal fits, although from time to time airborne fruit and/or furniture have been known to be involved.

If I had a nickel for the number of times numerous ex-boyfriends accused me of throwing to the wind their carefully worded suggestions, intensifying complaints, or screamingly angry death-match-level protests, I’d be writing this Chicago blog from a renovated two-bedroom atop the Hancock with a Lake Shore Drive vista, not a ghetto-rific studio halfway up the low-rent, blocked-view side of Marina City.

It’s enough to make an ADDer yearn for a gated community full of short-attention-spanned compadres. A welcoming place of sanctuary where every forgotten appointment, lost set of keys, and accidentally ignored promise or protest would be met with a sly grin and a knowing nod. A Whoville of sorts–only one where half the community would have to hum the Christmas Day lyrics around the Who tree because they never manage to remember the words.

If only our friends and lovers could roll out the same patience we ADDers have to unfurl for them. Talk slower? Write things down? What do you mean we said that already? So what? We’re just trying to make a point! You understand us, don’t you? You are aware our behavior is due to uncommon neurological pathways in our brains and not because we don’t “try hard enough,” right? Didn’t you know all of this came with the territory when you signed on to have an ADDer in your life?

Well, ok. Maybe you didn’t. But if you really care about us like you say you do, how about throwing us some slack? Do you really think your ADD loved one is trying to drive you up a wall intentionally? Especially considering how annoying it is from our perspective to have to hear all the time how we are quite possibly engaging in a nefarious plot bankrolled by big pharma to force you into therapy and a high daily dose of overly expensive anti-anxiety medication?

Actually, sometimes we do goad you just for sport, but in our defense, half the time we think you deserve it, too. If only for your lack of patience with us.

As with all things, there are two sides to every story. In any difference of perspective between people, no one has a license to claim theirs is the right one. All opinions are valid ones. I think that’s what gets ADDers and their loved ones into battle in the first place.

The Buddha Dharma would say one of the surest ways to get yourself in trouble with anyone is to go around defending your own opinion. In a perfect world, we’d all be secure enough in our own viewpoints that we wouldn’t feel a need to have them validated by others. (You did remember I’m a Buddhist, didn’t you?)

This is especially key advice for ADDers and anyone in their collateral damage zone. If every ADDer could just take it for granted that when their loved ones tell them they’ve forgotten to do something–like listen, especially–it’s the truth, and if every blast-zone denizen in their lives could get it through their heads that their beloved ADDers really don’t mean anything by their forgetfulness, there would be many fewer tumblers of eggnog flying across living rooms this Holiday season.

My plan–at least through New Year’s or as long as I remember, whichever period expires first–is to do likewise. Actually, it’s always been my plan to apply this particular Dharma to my personal affairs. At all costs. It’s amazing how often I forget to do so.

But it’s not surprising. I am an ADDer after all. And if you want to hang with me, it’s best to school yourself on the lay of the land. You’ll understand that in the heat of the moment I’ll likely be little help in that regard, so you better do your homework.

On behalf of my fellow ADDers, we promise to do our best to take our loved ones at their word and defuse disastrous differences of opinion before they arise. But we warn you, you better be as diligent in your efforts as we. Otherwise, next time you find yourself on the receiving end of our annoyingly forgetful behavior, it might be on purpose.

That might not be the Dharmic thing for us to do, but hey, no one’s perfect.

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