Hyperfocusing and Thrillseeking: Attention On Crack (But Not Literally)

June 13, 2010 Comments off

It was 10:03 p.m. last night when I suddenly became aware that a man was getting his face knocked in right in front of me.

My eyes had been stuck to the glowing screen of my laptop, and the only thing that finally caught my attention was the sudden rush of whoops and shouting from the crowd of restaurant goers as Richard Franklin practically knocked Chuck Liddell’s face in during the UFC match being broadcasted on ESPN. I barely glanced at the pummeling of flesh and carnage going on before me, then got absorbed right back into what I’ve been obsessed with these last couple of weeks- my blog.

Such is the power of hyperfocusing.

I have no words to describe what it’s like to get caught up onto these sort of tangents. Though we with ADD have trouble paying attention to our surroundings, we can also get hooked onto doing particular tasks that hold our interests.

Often, this may appear to others as if we’re selfishly doing only what we want to do, all while slacking off on everything else, such as chores, but our “selfishness” isn’t so selfish when you consider biochemistry.

The ADD brain is adrenaline-deprived. Some in the medical community, such as Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D., the author of such books as “Change Your Brain-Change Your Life” and “Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD,” have suggested (albeit tongue-in-cheek) that ADD should just as well be stand for “Adrenaline Deficit Disorder” instead. Read more…

“I Have A.D.D.”

December 7, 2012 Comments off

 

“Hey, Ryan,” Audree said as she approached me at the decoration station. “I was just stopping by to let you know that you missed our Wednesday 3 pm again-”

“What-?”

In an instant, my hand accidentally flew off my design, knocking over a pile of freshly completed paper snowflakes off the counter and scattering them all over the floor.

“Crap!” I yelled. “I don’t know what to- I mean- I’m so sorry, Audree. I can’t believe I did this again-I mean, I even tried to…God!”

“Whoa, there! It’s okay, Ryan. I didn’t hear of any casualties. All we did was run over a few decoration schemes for the commons area and the front of the bookstore. Liora stopped by and suggested you and Sara meet up this week to brainstorm themes for the display case.”

“Lau-Liora?” I asked, feeling the blood drain from my face.

“Yep,” Audree said. “And that’s actually what I came up here to tell you about, Ryan. She wants you to have a sit-down with her- today, if possible.”

I must’ve been giving off the worst look of dread from what she said next.

“Hey, it’s okay. Every new board member usually has one sometime during their first month. Just set up a time at the front desk before you leave for class.”

With that, Audree shoved off, leaving me simmering in my own juices.

“That’s it,” I said. “I’m dead meat.”

“No you’re not, Ryan!” Rebecca shot back from her side of the counter. “Liora’s really nice. I’m sure you’re not in any trouble, or anything. Like Audree said: everyone has to meet with her, anyways.”

“Maybe,” I said as I laid my tracing template out onto a new piece of construction paper. “I hope so.”

“I think you’re just being paranoid,” she said. I zoned in on my artwork, pretending not to have heard her.

Wait till tomorrow, then tell me how paranoid I was being when you show up to find me   no longer your chair.

I already knew I had shown up late for the last time.

***

“Hey Ryan! You ready?”

Liora was beaming her smile so warmly that I almost looked behind me to see if there was some other kid named Ryan standing at the entryway. Not at all the reaction I had expected for being 10 minutes late.

“Um…yes. Yes I am.”

“Okay then, let’s head over to my office.”

She took a last bite of her taco salad and popped up from her spot at the lunch table, without saying a word to the rest of the staff members who were also sitting there.

We crossed the front desk and into the staff hallway on the other side of the center, Liora leading the way. As the staff member’s voices faded somewhere behind me, I started going numb, only then realizing I had been clenching my fingers the entire time.

So this is what a processional death march to the guillotine feels like, I thought.

Without a doubt, this short little woman walking ever so briskly ahead of me was intimidating as hell!

She could kick me off IMPACT altogether if she felt I was dragging the team down, but what intimidated me the most was Liora’s energy. She never sat still! Not once!

When I had first met her, Liora had no more than shaken my hand before she was off bouncing in and out of rooms again. I’d only catch glimpses of her whenever I was at the Activities Center, always on the go. She could’ve easily been mistaken for a dangly little Leprechaun, or a hobbit on crack!

She was a real go-getter, and was so actively coordinating so many administrative details with so many organizations under her wing that it was scary. No doubt, she had to be a bottom-liner, someone determined to get the job done. And the last thing any bottom-liner would want to deal with would be a let-down slacker like me.

I already knew what I was bound to hear:

I’m sorry Ryan, but we can no longer have you as a board member. It’s just too much on      you. Maybe you should leave the organizing for people who are better able to do it-

Liora took a sudden right into a closet.

        Or…isn’t it supposed to be a closet?

It barely had a handle sticking out of it. From top to bottom, the door had always been covered with decorations, cards, envelops, and construction paper; glittery notes with bright red lettering reading “Hi Liora!”, banners and posters with various words of inspiration, such as “Success is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration,” “When it Rains, Look Up Rather Than Down; Without Rain, There Would Be No Rainbows,” and “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade”; origami made out of red, yellow, and blue construction paper taped up to the other objects; as well as anything that could be written on with markers. It was a jumble load, galore!

I followed Liora inside, and sure enough, there was an office in there- at least I was guessing there was. If there was submerged beneath objects similar to what I had found on the door, only now everything was three-dimensional!

Pictures and photographs from the IMPACT Team’s past and present were littered all around her horseshoe-shaped desk; autographed promotional banners from speakers and bands as well as awards, trophies and paperweights lined her desk everywhere!

        God, I thought. This looks just like my desk!

And caked in between everything was paper- piles and piles of paper. Paper stacked up next to the computer, paper stacked up next to the window; paper stacked up everywhere! There was even paper stacked up to where I stood!

“Go ahead and have a seat,” Liora said, “and sorry about the mess.” I took a couple of careful steps to the guest seat, being sure not to accidentally knock anything over.

“Well, right off the bat, have you seen your new box?”

“My what?” I asked, the image of a dark, black coffin popping into my head.

“You know,” Liora said, “Your board member cupboard in the main office? Sara and I finally finished clearing one out for you; Audree was even able to hash out a magnetic name strip for you. I’ll show you in a bit. So how’s everything else been?”

“Alright, I suppose,” I said, taking a deep breath.

“I saw what you and Rebecca had done this morning over at the decoration station, and I have to tell you I’m impressed, Ryan. Those are some awesome snowflakes! Are they for the game room downstairs?”

“Yeah,” I said, suddenly feeling a warm blush coming on.

“Sweet! I had our new president and vice president check it out. You should’ve seen the look on Michelle’s face when she came back. She said she stood mesmerized at your work for a good 10 minutes! Even Kale was impressed, and you know how little he shows much emotion!”

I felt completely thrown off.

Aren’t I supposed to be getting reamed, here?

“You know, you’ve got some really amazing talent, Ryan. And not to mention a musician to boot- don’t worry! I’m not psychic, or anything.”

Liora had caught my wide-eyed look.

“Krishna told me. She performed at last year’s Cultural Diversity Dinner. I still can’t believe anyone can have a voice that beautiful; anyways, and what she told me, you’re evidently a pretty gifted pianist, yourself.”

Now I was blushing.

“Well, I just hope I can keep up with her.”

“I know you will,” Liora said the sincerity and assertiveness to silence even the my harshest of my inner critics, and by now, one thing was pretty clear- Liora liked me, genuinely liked me.

For almost 10 minutes, we continued talking, and I finally started to put my fears to rest.

“I’m glad we got to finally sit down and chat, Ryan! I was originally hoping to do this last semester, but things have been incredibly busy; I’m sure they’ve been for you too.”

“Oh, boy, have they!” I said.

“And this is actually the part where I always try to emphasize to everyone I have a one-on-one with about the importance of handing out positive critiques.”

I suddenly froze.

“I like to be progressive about these things, Ryan, and I just want to emphasize that this is a critique, not a criticism. They are two completely separate things. I just want to emphasize that, Ryan, because I don’t want you to feel bad in any way.”

Crap.

The look on her face seemed to say it all: Liora knew of every one of my failures. I then realized that the last 10 minutes may have only been there to soften me up for the news that my days on the board were numbered!

“This is just feedback so you can know where you can improve at, because every one of you has some strengths that you bring to the table, but that also means you each have plenty of room for improvement in at least some areas. I just want us to help one another out so we can each achieve our greatest potential as IMPACT Team leaders.”

“I understand,” I said, my voice barely calm.

“Okay then,” Liora said. “I was just wondering about something, but let please let me know if it’s too invasive to bring up.”

I swallowed.

“We missed you at the meeting the other day. Did something happen?”

“Oh,” I said, my voice lowering down to a murmur. “Well, I…I guess I sort of forgot to show up.“

“Oh, that’s okay,” Liora said. “It’s just that, I’ve noticed you have yet to complete any of your assigned tasks on the whiteboard-”

My heart began to race.

“I’ve also noticed that you also seem to have a lot of trouble with keeping organized and remembering to do things-”

Just say it, Ryan…

“Audree even mentioned that you’ve had trouble remembering to meet with her-“

“I have A.D.D.,” I muttered.

Liora instantly perked up.

“You know, I was going to say: ’I wonder if he has A.D.D.?’”

“No, seriously,” I said. “I’m not joking. I have A.D.D..”

“Neither am I.”

For the first time that week my ears pinged up a few inches to full attention.

“Umm, how-ah…what?”

“You’re just like Jeremy,” Liora said.

“Um, who’s-“

“-My younger brother-“

“-What? Oops! Sorry, Liora-“

“-No, it’s okay, Ryan-“

“-No-I mean, you were saying- Oops! Sorry again-!“

“-No, no! You go right ahead,” she said definitively, “ And stop apologizing!”

“Sorr-I mean-okay,” I said. “It’s just…shoot! You know, I sort of forgot what I wanted to say again!”

“It’s okay, Ryan,” Liora said. “Just take a deep breath and I’m sure it’ll come back to you. It usually does, eventually-“

“-Wait! Now I remember!” I said, forgetting about the deep breath. “How do you know about A.D.D.? And that person you just mentioned?”

“Jeremy?” Liora repeated.

“Yes, Jeremy!” I said. “He’s-“

“-My younger brother.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

“Yeah, you and Jeremy seem to have so much in common. He’s got A.D.D. pretty bad. He constantly forgets appointments and loses his belongings. I’d say Jeremy’s probably the least organized human being I’ve ever known, and I’ve known a lot of people.”

It felt as if Liora were reading me out a quick synopsis of my life.

“So, were you diagnosed?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “Back in the ninth grade. Well, actually, you know, I’m not really sure. I don’t think the doc officially ruled anything out. He said if anything, I probably had a slight case of A.D.D..”

“Well, Ryan,” Liora said. “I’ve only known you a couple of months, but from what. I’ve seen I can honestly say that you’ve got it pretty bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your problems with organization, for one thing.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, I know I can be a little scatterbrained at times, but-“

“-Oh no, Ryan. You’re extremely disorganized. I can easily count five separate appointments that you missed the last two weeks alone, and that isn’t even counting your tasks for Frost Days.”

“Oh…crud,” I said, slumping back into my chair.

“No, don’t worry ‘bout it! We already know why, and I’m sure you would’ve done them, had you been able to; not to mention that you’ve already got a million other things to do, with classes and homework and-“

“-Liora?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“I was just wondering about something.”

“Sure. What were you wondering?”

“Well, since I can remember I’ve always tried to work hard. I mean, I work really hard.      I’ve always tried to get my assignments done right…even though I know I probably slacked off too much in grade school, but anyways-“

I could see I was getting off subject.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is- I was never some hyper, out-of-control menace growing up! I never hit other kids or set fire to the school, or anything. How can I have A.D.D.?”

“Well,” Liora said. “For one thing, A.D.D. isn’t just a disorder for hyperactive little troublemakers. How much do you know about A.D.D., Ryan?”

My thought processes suddenly stopped dead in their tracks.

“Um, not as much as I should, honestly.”

“Well, I’m no expert myself, but I do know that A.D.D. comes in two varieties- A.D.D., meaning Attention Deficit Disorder, and ADHD, meaning Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It seems to affect a lot of boys, but lately the disorder’s been increasingly getting recognized in girls, older teens, and even adults.”

I was dumbstruck. Somewhere in the back of my head, I KNEW I had heard of two A.D.D. types somewhere in my past, but it was almost as if the thought had never fully processed in my brain.

“But isn’t it supposed to fizzle out by then?” I asked. “I mean, technically I’m an adult, at least by most definitions. Shouldn’t I be outgrowing this stuff by now?”

“Well, most experts used to believe people outgrew their A.D.D. by adolescence, but I don’t think         that’s the case, anymore, Ryan. Somewhere, I read that half of all people with A.D.D. continue having it into adulthood, and most of them have it the rest of their lives. And by the way, I forgot to mention that Jeremy’s 26, now. And he’s not the only one who may have A.D.D. in our family. I’ve wondered the last few years if maybe I have it myself. I guess I should really get around to finding out, but anyways-”

“-I think you might have it,” I said, feeling a slight smirk coming on. “You sometimes seem to remind me; like, I don’t know- with how you’ve decorated your room, for example. That and you seem, well, kind of all over the place too, at times.”

“Ha ha! Yeah, I guess those WOULD count as a few A.D.D. traits, then!”

“Traits?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Liora said. “You know, symptoms?”

“You mean like never paying attention?”

“More like being UNABLE to pay attention; then again, I guess that’s why they call it Attention Deficit Disorder, right?” she said with a wink, and I couldn’t help smiling.

“Good point. But that doctor I saw back in ninth grade also told me a few other ones. I just wish I could remember them now…actually, wait! Wasn’t forgetfulness a trait?”

“Yep,” Liora said. “A.D.D. affects memory, big time.”

“But I remember lots of things pretty well!” I said. “My memory on the piano is so good that I don’t even have to think about what I’m playing! I just do it. Not to mention that I can remember lots of things from my past easily enough-”

“-But how’s your short-term memory, Ryan?”

Once more, Liora had me silent and dumbstruck.

“I- I never really thought about it like THAT before. Jeeze, that’s actually been one of my       worst problems lately. Like, just this morning I was 10 minutes late to class because I forgot my assignment back at the dorm. The worst part was I didn’t even remember it until I was halfway there!”

“And that’s where forgetfulness will get you,” she said.

“I always thought those things just happened because I was cursed or stupid.”

“Oh no,” Liora said. “I’m sure it had more to do with A.D.D. than anything else! And give yourself credit, Ryan. You’ve made it this far. When Jeremy started college a few years ago, he’d always call me up complaining about how hard and overwhelming his homework was. We kept encouraging him to seek help when his grades began to bomb, but one of Jeremy’s worst faults is that he’s too proud for his own good. After a dismal performance on his third semester finals, Jeremy finally decided to ‘take a break,’ as he said it.”

Liora leaned back in her easy chair.

“And that was three years ago. I keep asking him when he’ll finally go back, but he keeps putting it off. Frankly, I don’t know if Jeremy will ever return to school. All I know is the longer he waits, the harder it’ll get. But look at all you’ve accomplished, in spite of your A.D.D. And remember what I said about everyone bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the table? Haven’t you ever wondered why you’re the only board member with a partner, Ryan?”

God, I thought. How many times does she have to leave me silent and dumbstruck in a day?

“Sara can be good at logistical work and managing details, but she’ll be the first to admit she’s not a ‘people person’. You, on the other hand, bring in something else entirely as a leader.”

“Like?”

“Charisma.”

I nearly fell out of my seat.

“Face it- you’re a charismatic guy, Ryan. You have no idea how many of your committee members come up to me every week and tell me how there’s never a dull moment with    you in charge. You make it so fun up there that they forget they’re even IN a meeting! I only wish that half the professors had that kind of spunk!”

I was blushing again.

“I knew your unique, quirky sense of showmanship was perfect for FLIPSide, so I brought it back again. But I also knew you would only be able to thrive with the support and structure of a joint-committee. That’s why I teamed the both of you up to help coordinate each other’s meetings as a joint committee. You are both unique in your own ways, but you are still both superb board members.”

“Oh, um, well…” I said, my blush now increasing tenfold. “I guess I do okay, even though I think I could use a little more- um….I mean, what I mean to say is…um, thanks, Liora.”

“Don’t mention it,” she said, and this time I found myself returning Liora’s warm smile right back at her.

“But that said, you need help. We’ve gotta see what can be done to help you keep up with everyone. Have you been to the Office For Disabilities over at the library?

“Oh yeah,” I said. “My father took me there before I even started classes down here. They’ve been helping me with notetaking and test taking.”

“Great!” Liora said. “That’s a start. Have you also tried asking them for help with organizing your schedule?”

“Well, no. Not exactly,” I said. “I don’t really think they can help me with stuff like that.”

“Doesn’t hurt to ask, you know,” she said.

“It’s just that I’ve already been keeping a scheduler since last semester, but things keep slipping through the cracks, somehow!”

“Do you have your planner on you?” Liora asked.

“Yeah.”

“Mind if I take a look?”

“No, not at all,” I said, immediately fumbling with my book bag. After a couple of minutes worth of digging, I finally located the booklet and handed it over to her.

Liora opened up the planner, starting at the cover, and continued through the first few pages before jumping ahead to the day’s date.

“Wow. No wonder you’re having trouble prioritizing, Ryan! This thing’s a compacted mess! These basic planner always give you such a small box to cram so much information into entire days’ worth of work into. Look how small you’re forced to write- can you even read this?”

“Not too well,” I said. “Lately, I’ve tried using sticky notes instead, since they’re bigger.”

“So I see,” Liora said. “The problem with this is all these sticky notes here are loose- they’ll easily scatter and disappear. This won’t do at all. We’ll have to find a way to help you prioritize and set clear limits for yourself; otherwise, you’ll keep have problems. In the meantime, here-”

She slid open the drawer directly below her computer, rummaging through yet another stack of papers until she pulled a device out from the very back of the drawer.

“What’s this?” I asked as she handed it over to me. It was too thin to be a calculator.

“It’s my old Pocket Pro organizer,” she said. “I used it to keep track of my schedule till I   found that I work better with paper organizers. It’s yours.”

“What? I- I don’t think I can take this from you.”

“Oh no, keep it! I bought it cheap, and like I said- it’s of no use to me anymore. You’d give it so much more purpose than I ever could! Just a head’s up, though- it needs batteries.”

With that, I figured to just be grateful and take it.

***

Guest Post: ADD-Friendly Books

December 6, 2012 Comments off

Naomi Esterly, our guest poster today, is a mother to three kids and a wife to an army man. She finds time in between managing the house and writing freelance for companies like 1800WheelChair.Com to volunteer in her local community center to help troubled kids. In this post she recommends books to help people with ADD.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) makes life more challenging for those who suffer with it. An inability to concentrate, difficulty organizing tasks, forgetfulness, a tendency to lose things, and being easily distracted make attending school or focusing on one’s job difficult. An important aspect of coping effectively with ADD is educating yourself about the condition. Fortunately, several books aim to inspire and educate people about the best strategies for coping with ADD in order to live a more productive life.

Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD:

Healing ADD by Daniel G. Amen takes a new approach to diagnosing ADD. Amen asserts that there are actually six different types of ADD: classic, inattentive, overfocused, limbic, temporal, and “ring of fire.” His book includes a questionnaire that people can take in order to discover which type of Attention Deficit Disorder one has.

This book gives specific suggestions for medications, supplements, and dietary changes for all six types of ADD. Parenting strategies and tips for doing better in school are also covered in this book.

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life:

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life is a great book for individuals suffering with ADD who have a difficult time organizing their schedules, activities, or tasks. Judith Kolberg, a professional organizer, and Kathleen Nadeau, a clinical psychologist, are the authors of this book. They utilize their experience and knowledge to offer readers practical strategies for organizing their time, activities, papers, and things in their homes and offices. Additionally, the book offers advice on how to make decisions, set priorities, and learn to cope with chaos.

The Gift of Adult ADD: How to Transform Your Challenges and Build on Your Strengths:

Lara Honos-Webb takes a unique approach to Attention Deficit Disorder in this book. She challenges readers to transform the “negative” traits of ADD into positive qualities. For instance, she shows readers how to turn hyperactivity into exuberance. Personal success stories are also featured throughout the book, showing how individuals with ADD have succeeded in life because of their condition, not in spite of it.

Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder:

Delivered from Distraction is a comprehensive book. This book may be especially useful for individuals who have not been or have recently been diagnosed with ADD, as part of the book is dedicated to educating individuals about the condition. Self-assessment quizzes are also included. This book also explains how one can differentiate between ADD and Bipolar Disorder and educates readers about other conditions that commonly occur with ADD.

Treatment options, such as dietary changes, physical exercise, supplements, and medications are explored in detail as well. Strategies for improving concentration, getting through school, getting organized, and how to cope with worry are also discussed.

10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction and Accomplish Your Goals:

In this book, Stephanie Moulton Sarkis provides practical strategies for everyday living to those with Attention Deficit Disorder. Readers learn about ADD and medication options as well as strategies for organization, managing time, improving social skills, and enriching relationships. Additionally, tips on finding a job that fits you and self-care strategies are discussed.

If you are living with Attention Deficit Disorder, everyday activities, such as work, school, and engaging in social

Categories: Books

Of Lizst and Holly

December 21, 2010 Comments off

My hands cascaded across the grand piano, pouncing upon its keys with extreme accuracy, yet I rarely looked down at what they were doing. Instead, I kept my head level and forward to the well-worn music booklet on the stand before me. The title page made it clear that this was no pop song: La campanella , a Grande ẻtude by the classical composer Franz Liszt. Below the words laid a density of notes; they were packed so close together that their darkness eclipsed the white of every page, and that wasn’t counting the reminders that were heavily scribbled into certain measures, some even double-circled with red ink pens. Still, my eyes merely used them as checkpoints, as I wasn’t reading much.

Instead I was leaning back, absorbing the dance going on before me, thinking about how my hands felt. The sensations they were sending back told me they knew exactly where to go; on the ivory the fingers on my right hand kept pinging out melody lines, a staccatoed movement so quick that no onlooker could see what they were doing; instead, all a person could make out were the swift movements of their vapor trails. My left hand kept up the support with a trudging  allegretto rhythm, taking giant leaps across multi-octave chords in the lower registers.

This interweaving kaleidoscope of fingering made its way down the keyboard, and the music seemed to play itself; it seemed as if it were alive and thundering now, the auto-piloted keys booming lower and lower against the thick copper strings behind them as I made the sound fade into the distance with some well-placed pedal work. The storm seemed to have lifted.

And then I hit it- hard:

Forte Fortissimo!

The crescendo rocketed the ẻtude back into the stratosphere with an even greater ferocity, and by now my entire body was jolting back and forth from the velocity my hands and arms were putting forth as they wildly punched and pummeled the keys. I could just as well have been called a madman at that instrument, erupting tones and evoking feelings that I can never describe in words.

Oh, if my high school class could only see me now, I thought.

The soundboard rattled the charcoal-colored frame, and beyond that, at least in my mind’s eye, I could see my audience, their faces fading out into the dark auditorium. Though barely distinguishable from the glow of the stage, I could still make out their faces, which were staring on in quiet admiration and wonder. I had truly swept them up in the passion of my performance, and they were entranced by the hair-raising beauty of it all as I began the next section with a-

Tsk!

Wait a minute- a tsk?

Ting!

Was that a mistake?

It became more noticeable as the piece moved on.

Twang!

Thud!

Yeah, those were mistakes, all right. After all, as the old saying went…if you didn’t practice for a day you notice it…

Bonk!

…if you didn’t practice for a few days, your teacher notices it….

Boom! Boom!

Bonk! Plunk!

…and if you don’t practice for a week…

Boing-smack!

Boom!

…then EVERYONE notices it…

Clonk!

Rumble, rumble…

My wounded piece had now been downgraded to a limping status, the kind reserved for marathon runners who try to finish their races with broken legs. At last, like a house of cards, it imploded upon itself just three measures to the finish.

…Clank, clonk, klud, phoomp, thud, thwunk, BOOMPH!

Dead in the water- again.

“You really like playing the dramatic pieces, don’t you, Ryan?” Dr. Villari’s voice shook me out of my fantasy land. In an instant my audience vanished into the darkness of my memory, their faces being replaced with the coarse alabaster walls of my teacher’s instruction room.

“Yeah, kind of,” I said, squeamishly out of breath.

His voice, though calmly composed and intellectual as ever, was carrying weight today, the kind of weight that told me my professor was hardly impressed. Dr. Villari was giving no compliment.

The ensuing silence chilled every part of me, except for my warm red hands, and all I could do was look down and examine them, trying to hone in on their tingling numbness to take the edge off of my discomfort. The thought crossed me that I should straighten my posture, but I couldn’t. Nor could I look my mentor in the eye when he began to speak again.

“You know, I was hoping that, since you didn’t practice your other assignments, you would’ve been focusing your effort on this piece for next week’s recital. You said it was your favorite, right?”

I nodded my head, now staring at the music.

“Then why are we still at the same place we were at five weeks ago? You have yet to play this piece from beginning to end, Ryan. I mean, it’s only three measures to the finish, but you keep slowing down to a struggle, then stopping. You’re almost like a locomotive that runs out of steam right before the depot!”

He forced a hard chuckle, and for a moment I caught a glimpse of the Dr. Villari I was used to; the pianist who had more versatility in his left pinky than any musician I knew, the instructor who could play the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto as “just another performance,” the down-to-earth guy who took me in immediately upon hearing me play,  who believed in my abilities and talents, the teacher and friend whom I could even make jokes with and could even talk to about my girl trouble.

“Between this and showing up unprepared all the time, I know you may have problems keeping organized, but what about effort, Ryan? I just don’t see much effort to get your scales practiced, let alone your pieces.”

The moment had passed and Dr. Villari’s face had darkened once more. I could see I was in for it…

***

“The fuck I don’t apply myself!” I muttered after the office door had shut behind me, the memory of Dr. Villari’s words still stinging my ears:

“…so much natural talent…”

“…so much potential wasted…”

“…it’s a shame, really. I don’t think you want to waste either my time or yours…”

If I could do anything well in this world, it was music, and there was no way I was going to be told that I was wasting all my God-given talent away. There was only one thing to do. I ran down the stairs to the lower level where the practice rooms were.

Ten minutes later…

“Now that she’s back from the atmosphere.

Drops of Jupiter in her hair, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…

Tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?

Did you finally get the chance to dance another lighter day.

Right back to the Milky Way-?”

“Dammit!” I hit my fists on the keys with a loud dissonant boom. “What the hell am I doing?! Scales, Ryan. Practice your scales!”

But a tight sensation seized me the moment I opened the small thin exercise book and placed it on the music stand in front of me, and my eyes immediately strained in their sockets the moment they took hold of the entanglement of notes on the page.

I placed my jittery fingers on the keys, yet still couldn’t move. After a few minutes I realized I was still staring ahead.

“So do it, already!” I yelled.

My fingers hit the keys and I went rolling through the first exercise, yet it seemed as if I could hear nothing more than every awkward note, every misplaced millisecond in between the measures, every colorless complication.

After what felt like an eternity of labor, I suddenly became aware that, for all the messing around I was doing, I was still on my first exercise. I checked the pages ahead: 20 more to go.

Suddenly the nothingness of what I was doing was screaming into my ears; the uselessness of my effort; the pointlessness of it all. A jaded feeling wrapped around me, and the more I played, the tighter it got. Instead of getting into what I was practicing, my mind was instead locked on how small that practice room was. The walls seemed to be inching closer and closer and within no time all I wanted was to be out of there and free of it all- of the scales, of the burden, of the whole overwhelming thing.

Too much…It’s too much…

I must have gotten up at least four or five times, either to stand up and stretch or to use the restroom, and one to even go down the hall to the vending machines for a Snicker’s bar.  Still, every time I came back I was instantly overwhelmed, my thoughts going into lockdown once more.

Too much…it’s too much…! God! I could be anywhere but here! So many other places I     could be right now. So many other things I could be doing!

I ran both my hands through my hair and noticed they were hot and sweaty. When I looked in the mirror to the side of me, I saw that my hair was mangled every which way and that I was flushed. Then I caught sight of my hands once more- they had now gone to the shakes.

“Ah, fuck it.” It was time to pack up.

My emergency practice session had become like every other practice session before. I could do no more than focus on anything but my goal, and like a mouse on the wheel I had run all my energy out, yet had gone nowhere.

***

I went upstairs and entered the lobby. All around me the glass doors of the East foyer were pristine and welcoming, and I could easily hear the echoes of crowds from every performance in the lobby’s past reverberating all around me.

How great it would be, I thought, to perform to a sold out crowd at this auditorium.

Maybe I just need to try harder…

…or maybe…

…maybe you really DON’T care, an all too familiar voice echoed back to me. If you really cared, you would’ve been motivated enough to get your homework done, both here and with all your other classes…

I threw my bag on the bench next to the main lobby entrance  and pressed my nose against one of the cool glass windows. Outside I could see a still, picturesque landscape: the expansive front grounds of the center covered with snow; several sidewalks crisscrossed the memorial architecture, the dorm buildings beyond, and the wintery gray sky above the campus.

Fitting, I thought.

To the left was-

Yahhh!!!

The figure’s sudden movement made me fly from the window at least five feet. For a second  I tried to recollect my bearings. Someone had been right there, standing  next to the pillar on the other side of the window just a few feet away, the entire time staring right at me!

What in the-?

For a second I remained unnerved. Then I took another glance at the window, being sure to keep a few feet back. When I realized who the figure was I grabbed my bag from the bench and went out the front doors.

“Hey, Holly!” I said. The girl, who had been still standing alone with her walking cane next to the pillar and facing the window now looked up and turned her head to my direction, her sandy blonde hair revealing a confused, almost troubled face, her slightly-opened milky white eyes appeared to be ascertaining who was speaking to her. For a second I wondered if it had been a good idea to have disturbed her, that is till she gave a slightly uneasy smile and replied back.

“Hi,” she said. I suddenly realized she may not remember me from the other night.

“Umm…it’s Ryan. You know, from the talent show in the dorm café the other night? I was that guy who kept telling you how cool your impersonation of Mrs. Doubtfire was, even though you were still performing on the piano?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, her smile now widening and the rest of her face lighting up. “Sorry. I thought you sounded familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure.  Besides, I seem to have gotten a lot of people today saying hello to me as they’re walking by, but they don’t stick around long enough to tell me where I know them from.”

I gave out a laugh.

“No, I’m not the kind of person who would do that to you! I’ve learned not to, since I ALWAYS have to remind my friends who I am, anyways!”

This time Holly erupted out a good chuckle.

“Now I’m sure I remember you, Ryan. You play for Dr. Villari too, don’t you?”

“Yep!” I said. “In fact, I just got out of my lesson with him.”

“So did I.”

For a second it didn’t seem to process what she had just said.

“Um…sorry. What do you-?”

“I had a 1:30 with him today,” she said.

“Oh! I must’ve just missed you, then. Mine was at 2:30.”

“Yep,” she said. “That’s when mine wrapped up.”

“Were you down in the practice rooms this whole time?”

“Actually, no,” she said. “I’ve been…uh…well, I’ve kinda been here.”

“Here?” I asked. I could hear the startled sound of my own voice.

“Yeah. Say, are you by chance headed anywhere near the McElroy dorms?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I actually live at Crawford.”

“I was supposed to have someone meet me at 2:30, but she never came. I’m a little marooned right now and, frankly, a little peeved. Are you okay with helping me back?”

“Sure, no problem! Wait-“

It had taken another second for me to process what she was saying.

“Someone was supposed to meet you? Where are they?”

“That’s kind of what I’d like to know, too,” Holly said. I could tell from her creased brow and puckered lips that no one could ever want to know more than she did.

“So you’re saying that you’ve been ditched?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess that’s one way of putting it.”

“God, I’m sorry somebody’s being a jackass to you, Holly. I’m just a little surprised. I thought the Office for Disabilities was better than this.”

“Oh, well, actually, I have yet to call them.”

Another few seconds of processing seemed to go by, during which my legs almost gave out from under me.

“Oh,” I finally said. It was all I could manage to say.

***

I escorted Holly down one of the sidewalks, my arm extending out horizontally the entire time for her to hold on to. She held on, just enough to be guided, but mainly kept her attention on her cane, which she kept tapping out in front of her from left to right to left over and over again.

“So who was supposed to meet you today?” I asked.

“What? Oh, my roommate, Lacey,” she said.

“Doesn’t sound like she’s a nice roommate.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Guess?”

“Well, she’s one of the few people I know who are at least willing to come get me if I ask.”

“I don’t know,” I said, unable to hold back a mild sarcastic tone, “She kind of strikes me as someone who doesn’t always come through.”

Holly chuckled once more.

“Well, she can be nice. At times, that is. It’s just that we got into a big argument this morning, and I’m sure that’s why she left me hanging. There’s actually a couple other people I know who help me around a lot, but they’re unavailable some days. I knew     Lacey didn’t have class when I got done with my lesson, but when I asked her about it this morning she got angry and said she was ‘sick and tired’ of me calling her all the time and begging for a pick-up. Holly hesitated before finishing, “-and that I should ‘do right well to get places alone.’”

I felt my jaw almost hit the concrete beneath us.

“What in the HELL?!”

“Yeah,” she said dryly.

“It’s not like you can control it!” I said, my voice starting to rise. I felt my forehead flush and it was only then that I realized my guiding arm had tensed up as well. For a second I had to focus on letting my muscles loosen again before thinking what to say next. “Why aren’t you going through the Office for Disabilities?”

Just then I felt Holly herself tense up at the elbow before she answered.

“Oh, um, well- I know they’re there and that they can do that kind of stuff for me, but-“ she paused. “-Well, because I don’t want them to.”

I almost tripped over my own two feet.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I said. “Intersection’s coming up, though.”

We started moving again. For a moment I kept silent, my thoughts racing.

“I know,” she said.

“Wh-What?”

“I guess it’s kind of hard for people to understand.”

“Well, actually, I can kind of relate,” I said. “The Office for Disabilities kind of has a tendency of rubbing me in wrong ways, too.”

Suddenly my arm was pulled, almost backwards. Holly had stopped dead in her tracks.

“You go to the Office for Disabilities?” she asked, her usually calm and introverted voice sounding astonished enough to make me wonder if I was really hearing her talking to me. With that, I suddenly realized I had told her nothing her yet.

“Oh, shoot! Uh, well…” I hesitated a second, unsure what to say next or if I should say anything at all. “Well…”

She’ll just laugh at you…

“Well, they actually do some things for me too- I mean, I also go there, well-“ I practically mumbled the last part out. “-I go there…for ADD-related stuff.”  For a moment I braced myself, almost as if expecting to hear a big laugh in my face. But Holly didn’t emit so much as a chuckle.

“Well then maybe you can relate, then” she continued, as if I had just said something completely legit. “I’d just rather do some things on my own than to have somebody else always doing them for me.”

Her words had just hit a little close to home.

“Wow,” I said, giving an uneasy chuckle.

“What?” she asked.

“Oh, it’s just that, well, I seriously thought that you were just going to balk at it.”

“Oh, no! Not at all!” she said. I suddenly came to a startling realization:

She thinks I have a disability too.

“I guess it just gets embarrassing to see people going out of their way so much to accommodate me,” I said. “I can’t help feeling like some sort of an inept baby every time    it happens. It just doesn’t seem fair to them to know that I caused that.”

“Really?” she asked. Her face immediately brightened up. “That’s what I mean! Whenever I say anything, no one ever seems to understand. I mean, I know I’m kind of at a disadvantage at times, but it’s not like I’m incapacitated or something!”

“Yeah, exactly!” I said, still amazed at the coincidence. “There’s lots of things we can do on our own! It’s not like we’ve got to be bottle fed!”

But for all the enthusiasm I was     feeling at that moment, a thought suddenly popped into my head, and I suddenly stalled.

“Say, I was just wondering,” I said. “You said something earlier about your lesson at 1:30 just before I came to Dr. Villari’s room. I was just wondering, how long were you out at those pillars before I found you, Holly?”

“Oh…well, um, since my lesson.”

“But I was in the practice rooms for an hour after my lesson before I found you,” I said.

I felt her arm suddenly tug and constrict once more.

“Well, ah, yeah,” she mumbled with embarrassment. “Yes, I guess I was.”

I looked at my watch.

“Holy crap,” I said.

“Why? What time is it?”

“5:15 p.m. Holly, you were out there waiting for over two hours!”

“Well, I wasn’t out there the whole time. I came in and sat at the benches every so often.”

“Hmmm, I still think that counts as waiting, Holly,” I said. “I don’t know…I-I think that, since you couldn’t get a hold of anyone, well then- well then maybe the Office for Dis  abilities should’ve been the place to call. That’s what they’re there for. I mean-“

I couldn’t believe I was saying this.

“I mean, I know you want to prove you’re able to take care of yourself, and you certainly can. It’s just that, well, doesn’t everyone have certain things they are good at and certain    things they need help on? I mean, look at us. We can both play piano well, yet other            people cannot. They’d need a lot of assistance just to get one note played correctly. We can’t all be expected to do everything perfectly or the same, or, what I mean is- I think that everyone needs help at certain points, and maybe it’s the same here. I don’t like         having to get notes or to take special testing, but I’ve already found that, as embarrassing as it is to feel pampered, well… I’ve discovered that sometimes I need it.”

I had just echoed my father’s words.

“I guess I just hate calling myself ‘disabled,’” I said.

“I know what you mean,” Holly said. “I can’t stand being stuck to a label, either. Like I hate it when people refer to me as “the blind girl.”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked her. “That sounds like some goofy scene in a TV show! People have actually called you that?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Pretty fucking insulting! Tell you what- let me know next time somebody does that. I’ll go Tanya Harding on their asses! Then they can walk with a limp and see what it’s like to have a disadvantage.”

With that Holly gave out a guttural laugh that sounded as if it had come from deep inside her, as if she had been needing to release it for a long, long time.

“By the way, we’re approaching the crosswalk,” I said. I continued escorting her across the street and down the next sidewalk to the front of her dorm complex, the entire time giving her a play-by-play of what we were walking by. Though my escorting arm was feeling like rubber, I never allowed it to slip until we were in McElroy lobby.

“I should be good from here on,” she said. “Thanks for your help, though.”

“Oh, you too,” I said.

“Mine?” she asked.

“Yeah, it’s just…things,” I said. “Remember- Tanya Harding.”

Another deep laugh.

“Okay, I’ll remember to call you up on the Bat-phone when I need you, Ryan.”

With that we parted, and I went the other way down the hall, my thoughts now running a new marathon.

***

Book Entry: Geometry III

June 23, 2010 Comments off

Geometric Shape

I was now dreading the panging of the post-lunch bell.

By late in the year my situation with Geometry was becoming dire. Everywhere I went, the shadow of my ever-growing tower of homework “to-do’s” loomed over me, and in spite of my best efforts, I was still screwing my assignments up and losing the battle with each passing day.

I was so sick of being so far behind everyone else, of getting lost and of never knowing what was going on all the time, of always feeling so ignorant and dumb in my confusion, and of never making the grade. As that looming shadow grew, my hope of making it through Geometry dwindled, and I had finally fallen into the doldrums:

It’s no use, I thought, I must be the laziest fucker out there…

break

“He’s not lazy,” Mrs. Keiser said to my mother at an after-hours conference in her classroom. “He’s a very bright and pleasant student, but as you can see from what I wrote in his report card, his assignments are regularly missing. He just seems to have trouble with attention and with motivation.”

“Well, is there anything I can do to help him?” my mother asked.

Mrs. Keiser’ thought for a second. When she answered, she was looking at me.

“I think we should try a few alternative measures. For one thing, we need to develop a strategy for you, Ryan. If for any reason, you’re having trouble or need help figuring something out, I want you to come in here and let me know, and we’ll walk through things together, okay?”

I nodded, my head angled more to her feet than to her head.

It’s embarrassing enough to have allowed myself to become this defective, but why should I be letting everyone else down as well?

Why did she call me “bright” though? I know she meant it, but what does that say about me never getting my assignments in? Doesn’t that at least prove that I have serious issues with laziness? Even the “ADD troubles” I have can’t possibly account for that, can they?

break

Within the next few days, I found out what Mrs. Keiser had meant by “alternative measures.”

“We have to keep your homework pile from growing any larger,” she said. “That means we should find something to help you remember your assignments with.”

At first, she had me write reminders in my notebook. It didn’t work.

When I kept showing up with more missing assignments, Mrs. Keiser called me over to her desk after class.

“Aren’t you writing them down?” she asked.

“Well, um, yeah,” I said.

“Let me see today’s homework.”

I pulled my wire spiral notebook out of my bag and gave it to her. She inspected my notes, flipping through the pages as she went along.

“I’m, ah, not finding them in here.”

“But I just wrote them down 10 minutes ago,”  I said. After a couple minutes of scavenging through the pages myself, I had managed to locate them.

“That’s where you put them?” Mrs. Keiser asked, staring.

“Um, yeah,” I said.

Scribbly Notes

“What are all of these scribbles here? Were you using this as scratch paper?”

“Oh no. These are the notes from the overhead today.”

“What?” She inspected them closer. The words were scattered and the handwriting was rough and hard to read. In many ways it looked like some gnarly entanglement of vines. “Well, no wonder you’re losing track of them. Some of these assignments aren’t even written on the right day’s notes!” She pondered for a second or two. “I don’t even know how you managed to do it this way, but I’ll tell you what, Ryan. I have another idea.” She pulled a sticky note pad out of her desk, rewrote the day’s assignment on one of the sheets and stuck it to my book. “That should work,” she said.

I lost the sticky note as well as a few others.

When I kept showing up with even more missing assignments, I quickly fell back into hopelessness.

“It’s all my fault,” I finally told Mrs. Keiser one day before class began. “I’ve been putting those notes into my book so I don’t lose them so easily. Even then, I just can’t apply myself. I’m having problems getting around to starting my homework anyways, and even when I do I can’t seem to stay on it. I appreciate your help, but I don’t want to waste your time anymore. There’s just no hope for me. Maybe I’m just naturally lazy.”

“No you’re not,” Mrs. Keiser said. “I believe you’re doing everything you know is humanly possible to do well. We’ve just got to find something that works for you so you can keep track of things and complete them. Why don’t you give me a moment and I’ll see what I can think of.”

I sat back at my desk, but quickly checked the clock.

Ten minutes till class, I thought. I looked around me- only a couple of people in the room so far. Same as always. I automatically started my usual check-through, flipping through my book, allowing my thoughts to ricochet off of each other in my head like billiard balls.

Okay, what did you forget?

The habit of checking the clock always seemed to work for me…

We’ve just got to find something that works for you…

…works for you…

…WORKS FOR ME!!!

“Um, Mrs. Keiser?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve, been finding some things out too.”

“Really?” Mrs. Keiser asked. “What have you been finding?”

“Well, I’ve been noticing that , I mean, this is geometry, yet what does it have to do with geometry?”

Mrs. Keiser was looking at me with her eyebrow raised in the fashion of Mr. Spock.

“I’m not following.”

“Sorry…well, what am I trying to say?” I collected my thoughts a moment or two before continuing. “ I mean, I’m an artist. I love doing art. I thought that geometry was about shapes, not just about numbers and abstract stuff. We’ve been reading about equations over and over again, but I keep getting lost. Is there any way I can learn this through things that exist in real life?”

“Well, they do give you visuals, Ryan,” Mrs. Keiser said. “And there are the examples in the chapters, too.” I could see I wasn’t getting through to her.

“No, I mean…well, what am I trying to say?” I asked again, fighting to find the right words. I knew what I was getting at, yet I couldn’t get around to it in my head.

“Like, I really was into that video you showed us on Fractals last week, and what I liked about it were the visuals. I’m really into computer animation in movies, like what they did in Jurassic Park?”

mandelbrot-32

“…okay…” Mrs. Keiser said. I could tell I was getting her lost, but at least she was trying to follow me.

“Well, um, it was very interesting, and it seemed to keep my attention. It also motivated me and I seemed to stick with the assignments a bit more because of that. It practically sucked me in because I liked it so much! Anyways…um, well, where was I going with this?” I asked myself for the third time aloud.

“You were talking about how you learn things better when they are more hands-on, Ryan, but what I think you’re also saying is the assignment has to interest you for you to be able to get it done, as well.”

“Oh yeah!” I said. “I mean, people are always complaining about how math is something they never have to use in everyday life.”

“Well, that all depends on what you do,” Mrs. Keiser said.

“Exactly! There’s got to be everyday stuff that I can apply this to that’s more hands-on. And it seems I can only learn when I’m excited about it and making it my own. If not, then it seems like I’m never motivated- I’m bored, but I’m also overwhelmed and bouncing around from one assignment to the next without ever getting things done, but then again, I think it all depends on the task; so, what I was wondering was…” I bit my tongue. Was I rambling on again? I wondered.

“Go on, Ryan.” Mrs. Keiser said.

Ah heck, might as well tell her.

“Well, couldn’t I just be taught this by a professional painter, or something?” I asked.

“Well, that sounds like a neat idea,” Mrs. Keiser said, “and I’d let you do that if I could. But unfortunately, I don’t think the school would let you go to a professional painter to learn Geometry.”

I felt embarrassed. My imagination had been running too wild for reality again.

“There’s gotta be a way I can learn this stuff better, isn’t there?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Ryan, but as far as keeping it interesting, you’re going to have to find out what works best for you,” she said. “I can certainly help you with all that we’ve done so far, and I think that that’s truly what’ll turn your grade around in the end.”

I wanted to believe her, but I wasn’t so sure. I knew I wasn’t too thrilled to hear that when it came to these ideas, I was on my own.

“Still, there was something you said in there that caught my attention,” Mrs. Keiser said.

“What?” I asked.

“You said you get overwhelmed.”

“I did?” I didn’t remember saying it.

“Yes, you did somewhere in there,“ Mrs. Keiser said. “And it’s giving me some ideas. But in the meantime, how about I just have you complete the odd numbered problems on the next couple of assignments so you can have more time to catch up on your overdue homework?”

“What?” I felt my eyes widen and I looked at her incredulously.

“I-ah, I don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?” she asked.

“I don’t-um, is that…um…fair?”

“Well, Ryan, I know it’d certainly help you out a lot. Do you think you could get all three assignments in by tomorrow, plus the one we have to do today?”

My silence answered it all.

“That’s why I think we should lighten the load on you,” she said.

I felt twisted and dirty inside.

So I’ve got you giving me handouts compared to everyone else now? Great, now I’m lazy AND manipulative. I knew I shouldn’t have been asking for help in the first place. Now I’m using people to help me cheat!

Grudgingly, I allowed Mrs. Keiser to go through the day’s assignment with me and circle every other problem with her blue colored pen.

“By the way, the review questions are honestly not that important compared to the general assignment, so just focus on that. Do you think you can get these in by tomorrow, plus the new assignment?”

I stood, contemplating the massive amount of labor I knew I still would have to go through, but Mrs. Keiser seemed so sure of this plan, and with the hopefulness in her voice I knew I couldn’t let her down. I concealed my frown as best as I could and nodded.

“I hope so,” I said.

I did.

break

Overhead Projector

I came in early the next day to find something deposited on my desk- a small stack of transparent film for the projector.

“What are these?” I asked.

“They’re today’s notes,” Mrs. Keiser said from behind her desk.

I picked them up and immediately began thumbing through them. The type was warm and still smelled of burnt ink- these notes had come to my desk hot off the printer!

“You had said something the other day about needing things more hands on, so I decided we’d try it.”

And so began a daily routine. Long before she had shot its image onto the white overhead screen for the class, Mrs. Keiser was allowing me to copy down the day’s notes as far in advance as was possible. I wrote them down exactly as I saw them, even using the same red, black, and blue colors from my pen collection to mimic the way she had written the equation examples.

The routine did give me time to focus more on writing the answers, but I noticed that something was still wrong.

In the middle of a classroom discussion I’d be writing and trying to follow along when it would hit me.

Wait- where did that come from? In fact, where are we? What exactly am I writing here?

It kept happening throughout the next couple of weeks. I didn’t know why I was still having trouble, yet I didn’t want to say anything to Mrs. Keiser. She had already been bending over backwards for me, especially by allowing me to take down these notes, and I wasn’t about to tell her that it was still not enough.

“Does everyone understand this before we move on to the next section?” she asked one day, looking around the room. When she looked at me I must’ve given a wince or something, because she asked me to come up to her desk at the end of class.

“You looked confused during notes today, Ryan. Was there anything there you didn’t understand?”

“Well, a couple of things,” I said.

“Where?”

“I- I’m not quite sure.”

I finally told her what had been happening and we came to an agreement. During class, she’d occasionally try to make eye contact with me every so often during lectures to make sure that I was still there. If I had certain questions about the notes, I was to write them down or circle the question during her lectures, and we would individually go over them during study time. Because of that, she was able to slow some things down so I could process the information.

I also tried keeping myself on cue by writing questions to myself in the note margins:

What’s the point of this?

Where is it used?

Why are we doing this?

What’s it to me?

How can it interest me?

And especially, where is this going?

Because I seemed to have trouble with planning ahead and with remembering things, we also regularly touched base to ensure I was turning in my late homework as well. Bit by bit and day by day, we’d meet and go over the vital details of each assignment, one at a time. She continually gave me encouragement, pacing me as we went along.

By breaking things down into smaller chunks, the workloads didn’t seem as overwhelming and I was able to take them better. Because Mrs. Keiser kept as much routine as was workable for me, I found I was working more consistently and was completing my goals as asked without as many harsh dips in quality from day to day.

At home, my mother did her part by checking in with me about my homework. Although I still have regular problems with forgetfulness, we were able to keep it in check.

I started making progress and was handing in my assignments more consistently. Though I was often still rushing by the seat of my pants to get things done in time, I found it wasn’t as dire of a situation as it had appeared before.

What helped to motivate me was my respect for Mrs. Keiser. She had taken a lot of time giving me one-on-one help, and when I’d slip up I’d feel as if I was abusing her faith in me. I couldn’t let her down. When I’d turn in an assignment on time she’d be very happy and I’d feel pretty good, like I had accomplished something. I took it for granted at the time, but by showing that she cared and by encouraging me, Mrs. Keiser was able to positively reinforce my ability to turn assignments in.

I used the pressure of that respect to motivate me to get the assignments in. I now knew I could understand more when I liked the teacher and how she was teaching the class. I knew there was no way I was going to enjoy math, but there had to be a way to at least make it tolerable. What was most important was how I as a student got along with Mrs. Keiser as a teacher. It was the relationship that counted the most when it came to effective learning.

I was stunned by the last few weeks of class. Although the effort was something I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with every class, somehow, we had managed to pull it off- a B-. I had passed Geometry after all.

break

The Double Helix II

June 18, 2010 Comments off

My double helix project!

Damn it Ryan, you idiot!

Sunday night. 8:30 p.m:

I paced the floor in restless desperation.

A Double Helix Model

A Double Helix Model

Hadn’t I been dwelling on this science project all weekend? Hadn’t Mrs. Lang reminded me how important it was to turn it in on time Monday? Didn’t I realize how many points this venture was worth and what was at stake? So why was I here, the night before the Double Helix assignment was due, with no Helix model and a half-finished essay?

I knew I was liable to get lost in my thoughts, but an entire weekend?!

My mishap wasn’t the result of daydreaming so much as it was from distraction and sacrilege against Einstein. That’s right, Einstein.

From my point-of-view, the weekend had raced by as if an alternative law of Relativity existed inside of me that even the great scientific genius himself couldn’t defy. Time just flew by, and once more the world had managed to suck me into its tentacle grip through a million other tangents and campaigns; once more I was down to the zero hour- the hour of panic; once more it was time to work my ass into the ground.

Einstein Sacrilage

Einstein Sacrilage

Why does this keep happening? I thought. I did a recount of the last couple of days…

Friday afternoon. 3:00 p.m.

I came home from school, exhausted from a week’s worth of hardcore labor, needing to take some much-needed R and R. I knew I would need whatever reserves I could muster if I was going to spend the whole weekend on this project.

I wanted to play the piano, badly.  Just a little bit, I thought. I’ll give it an hour.

Upright Piano

Anatomy of a Distraction: The Piano

Friday night. 8:00 p.m.

“Whoa!” I said, “What happened to the time?!” I had gotten derailed- not only by getting hooked up on the piano, but also by the TV.

My one hour of piano playing had turned into three. I was just so caught up in what I was doing that I didn’t even think about it when I did it. Things just, well, slipped my mind! I sprang upstairs, grabbed my science book and started studying for the essay in my family’s living room where my brother and mother were watching television. I was studying and studying some more…and soon I found myself with a new realization. I had been sitting in that seat for three hours.

It was the TV set. Every time I got through a paragraph something on the tube would make a sound or flash a scene that instantly harpooned my eyes. During that time I had managed to read two pages worth of material. And of that material, I could remember nothing. Other times, I’d be sitting and thinking I was reading, but after a page or so, I’d discover, much to my disdain, that I hadn’t comprehended nor retained a single bit of information. I tossed the book on the floor when I realized I had remembered nothing. The next thing I knew, the night was over. Read more…

The Four Pillars of ADD/ADHD

June 17, 2010 Comments off

So what is this thing called ADD?

Well, that’s simple. Just ask most doctors and experts in the field:

ADD is merely a definition of hyperkinetic levels of cognitive functional impairments that are maladaptively high in such digressions as impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattention, and working memory, signifying premature and thoughtless actions; restless and shifting eccentricities of movement, and pervasive affects of disorganized states, which of course prevent sustained effort in individuals, all of which can be interactive into different extents within the context of a subject’s environment, as well as their own subjective constitutions.

See? Simple!

But for now, let’s keep it in layman’s terms. Remember these four pillars of ADD:

1)Inattention

2)Impulsivity

3)Hyperactivity

4)Forgetfulness

ADD pretty much revolves around these four things. Just remember- each pillar both affects and is affected by the other pillars.

Read more…

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