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The Secret Is To Know When To Start

Location for my first experiment with 2 voice track production on Audacity

Hyperfocus has been called the ADHD “Superpower,” and lately, much has been made of that.

As someone who has ADHD, and who managed to get along without the aid of medication for 55 years, my perspective is that hyperfocus has its drawbacks.

The only way I ever got things accomplished, before getting treatment, was to just stay at them for a solid block of hours, often foregoing sleep and food for unhealthy periods of time. Hyperfocus was my coping method. Since my “executive functioning” was pretty messed up, because my “working memory” was really bad (trust me, I am very, very, forgetful), I found that if I just stayed in roughly the same place and did just one thing at a time, I could get it done. If I left that one place, I would forget what I had been doing, where I put my stuff, what needed to be done next… essentially, I would have to start over.

Over a period of decades, I developed the habit of avoiding any task until I knew that I could work at it uninterrupted for a really long time. Procrastination wasn’t just avoidance of the task – I was unwilling to waste time and try to do something inefficiently.

In the long run, what that really meant was that I didn’t get much done. Life is complicated. Sometimes, you have to ask people questions, and then wait for them to get back to you. Sometimes, computer programs break down. Sometimes, learning a new process, or a new program, takes a lot of time. Sometimes, people rely on you to come and help them out at particular times, especially when you have a family, and it just doesn’t work to devote blocks of time to your own projects.

So, those projects didn’t even get started.

Even after I started treatment for my ADHD, my old habits stayed with me. I didn’t want to commit to something until I knew that I could finish it. Then, I started to accomplish more, and I over-committed… but that’s another story.

Now, though, I’m starting to adapt. My meds do allow me to keep focus. I can record my progress on a project, put it aside, and come back to it.

The secret is to know when to start. And the best time to start is right away.

Now, I’m starting a lot of things. I am learning to do a lot of things. I’m starting on an e-book series about life with late-addressed ADHD. I’m learning to produce my own music. Together with local chef Crystal Fossheim, hired as an Educational Assistant, I’m developing a new way of doing a Culinary Arts and Enterprise program in a rural high school.

The projects that I do won’t be perfect when I’ve started. But it will be a lot more than what I’ve done up until now.

My latest effort, an experimental audio and video project in which I just harmonize with myself to the spiritual “Let My People Go,” is now on YouTube.

It may take me a decade, but – if I’m allowed to stick around long enough – it will get done, and when I’m done, it’s gonna be good.

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Dead Sentinels; Inspired By A Family Hike To Stanley Glacier

The summer of 2018 had been hot, dry, and smoky in British Columbia and Alberta. There had been many forest fires. Recent previous summers had also known significant forest fire damage.

As a family, we had chosen to do the Stanley Glacier hike. The area had been affected by fire in a recent year. Rain had fallen earlier in the week of our hike, so the air was clearer than usual, and so we took the opportunity to get out to the mountains.

Early on, our hike went past many short young coniferous trees growing close together. Some of the cones of evergreen trees actually require the heat of a fire to crack them open and make the seed available for germination. The fire that had burned away many taller trees and left charred stump also had eliminated the canopy that prevented sunlight from reaching younger trees, and now the new growth was plentiful.
There were, however, the blackened and barren remnants of the tall trees that had once dominated that landscape. They stood out like sentinels watching over the newer life below them – the new trees, the fireweed. A poem began to form in my mind, nearly spontaneously. It’s a rare occurrence for me, but it does happen- perhaps the result of a lifetime’s fascination with words and ideas, how words sound, and how ideas are shaped. So here it is.

Dead Sentinels – by Art Koop (September 1, 2018, during a hike toward Stanley Glacier, through terrain scorched by a huge forest fire just a few years previous)

Dead sentinels still standing guard
Over nurseries of toddler trees and fireweed
Determined in their youth
Asserting life within
Their rockstrewn charred domain
Certain in some grander scheme, they win.

We, wending our way over, through, and past
Begin to feel our circulating breath and blood,
The warmth of working muscle pushing us ahead.
And start to feel we too are more alive than dead.

The intrepid potentilla, bursting into bloom
While holding fast its roots in molecules of dirt
Between the rocks, bears witness to our wandering
And seems to cheer us on, while we,
Amazed at its endurance, hear its positive prodding
And proceed.

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Disencumber; a time to let go

“I should have….” There’s such a weight attached to words like that, when you let them sit in your mind.

How much of our busy-ness is what we create to distract us from having time to think of the negative thoughts, doubts, guilt, or regret we may carry with us? But if that’s the case, then a life-disruption – like a significant injury or illness, or loss of steady employment, can lead to a devastating term of confronting all the negative issues that we’ve tried to avoid by scheduling our time full. At least, that can be a danger for me.

There comes a time to give ourselves at least the same grace, the same opportunity to rest and/or move forward, as we are prepared to offer others. There is no burden so great as one that people of conscience place on themselves.

If there’s something that a person has done wrong, then – if the person learns from it – that’s experience. You can castigate yourself for an error, but if it’s an error you could then avoid on another occasion – that might put you ahead of a new person without that experience. Anyone can make a mistake. Everyone can grow. So we need to give ourselves permission to let go of past errors and let ourselves continue to grow and thrive through whatever changes are ahead.

Here are the lyrics to my song ‘Disencumber’.

Disencumber

No one can judge me more harshly
than I already judge myself.
The bar of my own expectation is higher
than anything others expect.

I need to leave that big box of deficiency
right up there on that high shelf.
The daily rocks that I add to my pack
accumulate so I’ll get wrecked.

There’s a time
to disencumber…
a time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

There’s a time
to disencumber,
to put aside how we self-reject.
Don’t look for bad news
you can do nothing about,
and find some good tunes to select.

I’m not saying to walk around blindly,
but it don’t help to stare at the light
in the interrogation room inside your mind
because it won’t leave you feeling so bright.

There’s a time to disencumber,
a time to walk around free,
among people who maybe I know nothing about
but at least they also don’t know me.

Disencumber – we are human,
equally valuable, all of us flawed.

Disencumber – it’s okay.
None of us can claim to be God.

There’s a time to disencumber…
time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

We need some news of release.

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The Writing of Get Back Up (Resilience)

I wrote the song ‘Get Back Up (Resilience)’ partly in response to a friend going through a difficult life transition which was not under her control. I wanted to write a song which could be encouraging. One thing I have in common with this friend, is that we are both parents. I’m not sure the song provided the necessary encouragement, actually – her situation is way beyond anything I have ever experienced, and I really hope it doesn’t come across as a ‘pull up your socks’ message, because it isn’t intended that way at all.

Kids are incredibly resilient. Aided by a very short memory, little children try to walk, and they may wham into some furniture and bruise themselves something awful, but before you know it they are up and trying again. Their determination to walk seems to be far beyond their experience of the pain of trying. So, watching little kids trying to learn is inspiring to me, because they don’t know quit. My hope is that others are also inspired.

The lyrics go…

When you see a little baby learning how to walk
at first she fall a hundred time a day.
She will not say maybe this wasn’t meant for me –
she get back up until she learn the way.

She got dirt on her hands, bruises on her face,
but she know deep down that she has got the power.
She don’t know quit, she stay with it
until she find her pace,
and then she go at 50 miles an hour.

She get back up. Don’t you see she’ll never stay down –
she get back up every time she fall.
She may be half the size of anyone else around,
but she get back up and she show ’em all.

Been quite a while now since I was a baby,
but I still stumble, sometime I still fall.
I don’t always know how (I’m) gonna make it through the day,
and I just lean my head against the wall.

I got dirt on my hands, bruises on my face,
but I know deep down that I have got the power.
If someone offers help, okay, but I am gonna find a way,
and then I’ll go at 50 miles an hour.

I’ll get back up. Don’t you see I’ll never stay down?
I’ll get back up every time I fall.
I may not reach the mind of everyone else around,
but I’ll get back up and I’ll show ’em all.

We’ll get back up. Don’t you see we’ll never stay down?
We get back up every time we fall.
We may not reach the mind of everyone else around,
but we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em,
we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em,
we’ll get back up and we’ll show ’em all.

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