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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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When I See You Fly; Celebrating Youth and Their Accomplishments

Ultimately, what my children or my students do is their accomplishment, not mine. I can encourage, model, and suggest ideas, but I can’t and shouldn’t claim their success as mine. What I can do is celebrate that success and be happy for them.

Our children, our students, our mentees, need to know and feel that what they have done is a result of their efforts. To claim or point out a parental or educator role in that success is in some way to try to take it from them, to diminish their efforts – and that detracts from and discourages young people and other students from making those efforts. We are all better off when our young people and the lifelong learners among us are celebrated and acknowledged, because that pushes our whole society forward with their innovations and energy.

I originally wrote ‘When I See You Fly’ to celebrate my own kids, but I wanted it to be applicable to celebrate anyone’s accomplishments and growth. The first time I used it was for a video for our middle son’s grade 6 graduation party, along with slides featuring his classmates. That video was never made public, as a result of general privacy concerns. I made another video for my YouTube channel featuring our 3 boys, where the photos in the slides went with the lyrics of the song. This latest recording is music only. I wanted it to be available for others to use in the same way that I used it to celebrate our boys – for their personal celebration videos and occasions.

Here are the lyrics;

You’re so much more than just potential
Long ago, you burst out of your eggshell
And in the intervening hours
You were like that superhero
Learning to control the powers
Of the suit that you were building

Everyone has their moments
Of flapping, of falling, of faltering
The strongest winds may be blowing
Against you so hard, you’re not sure you can keep going

But the moments do pass
I see you take off, see you lift off
You are darting and gliding way up high

And when I see you fly, I fly
You’re soaring through the skies
My spirits also rise
As you’re free among the clouds
I want you to know
That even though I’m here below
When I see you fly, I fly

It’s not about keeping you on the ground
And not just to know that you are safe and sound
I’d love to see the treasure that you found
You stop, and then away you bound

And when I see you fly, I fly
You’re soaring through the skies
My spirits also rise
As you’re free among the clouds
I want you to know
That even though I’m here below
When I see you fly, I fly

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