Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Common "Disorder"?

They tell us in school that we are not normal, that we don't conform. They tell us that we can't pay attention like the other kids, that we are distracted, distractible, that our minds wander. They tell us that we have too much energy and need to learn to sit still. They disapprove when we sit and stare out the window, lost in thought, thinking through questions or traveling in our mind to a far off place or living in a story of our own making. They are frustrated that we cannot finish a worksheet or long set of problems past the point where we get it and any more of the same is just tedious. And when we get absorbed into a project that we DO like, and lose track of time, and do not want to be interrupted or distracted on to something else, they get angry and call us stubborn and blockheaded. Sometimes, if locked into thoughts or concentrating on a treasured activity, we don't even notice their request and they wonder at our ability to hear or they doubt our intelligence. They called us melodramatic for our overly sensitive feelings, the ease with which we are hurt, and for our eager enthusiasm for beautiful and interesting and new things, our overexcitement in a rewarding social event.
Some of them insisted that we be medicated to make us normal, that we spend our school days in a conforming trance of boredom and vague disinterest, void of enthusiasm for much of any of it, waiting it out until we can go home and the drugs wear off and we can engage in some building or making or exploring activity on our own time. For some of us, the meds are a constant numbing dumbing thing and we never know we are failing to escape them.
But some of us got good teachers who left us alone to learn by doing projects exploring ideas and left us to read book after book about the subjects we loved and let us leave the worksheet unfinished if we could satisfy them that we understood the material and they let us fill our time with art projects and making things and trying things and leading others in study sessions.
If we are not so lucky, we have jobs that we hate that make us conform and do repetitive tasks that are torture to us. If we are lucky, we have jobs that are varied and challenging and interesting and we can thrive under bosses who value our quirkiness and creativity. And we have coworkers that forgive that we miss a meeting now and then because we lose track of time absorbed in the project.
If we are not so lucky, we have families who force us into routine pattern and make us conform to normal, but is we are lucky, we have spouses and children who tolerate our nighttime prowlings, our late nights some times and our early mornings others, who tolerate our project spread over the dining room table for weeks on end.
In the old days, we were the watchers, the keepers, the seekers.
We stayed up and watched for predators or invaders or bad weather and sounded the warnings. Only at the first faint light of dawn were we able to sleep peacefully, sure that the tribe or village had survived safely through another night. We lead the celebrations of the seasons and of the bounty of the world around us. We told the stories and made the art and brought pretty things into the village or camp. We were perceptive of the signs that said it was time to move on to some other area, that it was time to go out in search of game or to gather the food or other materials that nature provided for us. We remembered the signs of where to find these things and lead the expeditions to them and worked with fervor until the last nut was gathered and the last berry picked and the last rice grain harvested.
There are not a lot of us so statistically, we ARE not 'normal' but certainly to fall outside the norm must provide the village, the tribe, the family, society, some benefit. It must make society more adaptable, more flexible, more able to recognize signs and trends and to adapt and change to meet them. Surely we have some value today in the modern world. Can we stop calling it a 'disorder' and start valuing the watchers and keepers and seekers of today? Can we stop drugging our children and find ways to educate them that conform to their quirkiness and to their needs for hands-on and involvement instead of worksheets and memorization? Can we find jobs that are not driven by the clock and routine and that utilize our creativity and flexibility and dogged dedication to that which interests and challenges us? Can we find ways to appreciate that which we now label Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and begin to view this way of being as different but completely normal? Can we maybe even begin to accept that people like us might have some evolutionary benefit to society and some irreplaceable future value to the survival of humanity?

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