NOW/ NOT NOW- A Journey through time with the ADHD mind

My whole life has been a disorganized mess, literally, as my mother would tell you while pulling her hairs out examining my pig sty of a bedroom. Actually, it was worse than a pig sty. Ever watch the show “Hoarders”? It was kind of like that. It’s because I have difficulty in thinking about the past and future and putting those time frames in reference with the here and now. I really do live in the present everyday which is prescribed by many inspirational quotes found on mugs, in picture frames, fridge magnets, key chains and other knickknacks: “Live in the moment. Forget the past and don’t worry about the future.” Sure, it sounds great in theory. But when your mind is constantly in the present all of the time, chaos ensues. I know this, because my mind works in only two modes: “Now” and “Not now” and it always has. I am the ADHD poster child. So in this piece I’m going to prove with my own life experience why these “live in the moment” idioms are bogus. That’s right, I’m talking to you YOLOers- because, yes, you only live once, but you still have to think about consequences and use logic. For people who don’t have ADHD, I would imagine it is quite easy to encourage a care-free existence where little thought is given to past events and future consequences.

 

As someone who has pretty much always lived in the moment, I’m going to show you how living in the moment has resulted in some pretty awful consequences, some of which could have been avoided if I’d been capable of remembering things from the past and using that knowledge to prevent future catastrophes. I hope this table makes it easy to understand how my mind has worked since I was a child:

 

NOW NOT NOW RESULT
Now I am 4. I just got home from trick-or-treating. My parents don’t want me to eat all of my candy so I will hide some in the very bottom of toy box for later. I have to be quick because my parents are coming in to put me to bed. Shhhh… they’re coming.

 

Candy? Not now, I think everyday after this now that the candy is at the bottom of the toybox and my toys are on the top. The candy stayed in my toybox for months. The next summer my bedroom became infested with ants. Large ants. EVERYWHERE! My parents had to tear my room apart to find what was attracting them all. They found the ant nest at the bottom of my toy box, with the candy.
Now I’m 14. My bedroom floor is full of discarded clothes (too fat for this!) and paper (This poem I wrote sucks!). I’m busy doing homework while listening to the radio. They are playing the Top 9 at 9 and they are going to play the newest hit “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul. Homework? Not now. I dump my homework on the floor  so I can get out my boom box and wait for “Straight Up” to come on but I have to be really strategic about it so I don’t get the radio announcer’s voice at the beginning or end of the song. I hope the deejay doesn’t mess it up on me again by talking over the track.

 

My homework isn’t done the next day. I can impress my friends with my tape of the newest hit song that I was so patient for though. School’s not really that important, right? Reading, writing, who uses that?
Now, still 14, I am happy to have my tape of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” to impress my friends with tomorrow, but I might want to have a sleepover this weekend, and I need my room to impress my friends, so I decide I’m going to tape the latest pin-ups of Corey Haim and Kirk Cameron out of Teen Beat and tape them to my walls. My mixed tape and boom-box? Not now!  I throw the boom-box and tape of the song on the floor beside the homework and get out Teen Beat, scissors, tape and a chair to stand on. I can’t find my homework to hand in the next day because it’s somewhere in a pile on my floor mixed in with clothes, papers, and tapes.
Now I have some photos up on the wall, but I didn’t finish. But Degrassi Junior High is about to come on, so I can’t finish it now. I have to go to the living room because we only have one TV and it is on the floor in a giant wooden box. Oh, and it only has 13 channels AND you have to get up and walk to change the channels. Awesome new pin-ups in my room for a sleepover on the weekend? Not now! I throw the magazines, scissors and tape into the growing pile of things on the floor in my room. I can’t find my tape of Paula Abdul because it is buried in the pile of clothes, papers, tapes, magazines and scissors.
Now I am watching Degrassi and eating yogurt. The show is over and  I’m taking my yogurt into my bedroom. I’m going to call my friend Lorrie from the landline on the corded phone in my bedroom to talk about what happened on the show. Yogurt? Not now. I’m tired. I put the half-eaten yogurt container carefully on the floor with the best intentions of putting the container in the kitchen garbage in the morning. My posters on the wall are only half-done, my room is messy and my homework wasn’t done so my mother won’t allow me to have a sleepover on the weekend.
Now I’m 16 and trying to fall asleep. The pile of mess on the floor of my room has grown exponentially over the course of 2 years. I awaken to a clicking sound. Sleep? Not now! Every little noise is soooo distracting to me. What is that clicking sound? After several nights of hearing the clicking sound, I finally turn the light on when I hear it and search it out. To my surprise (but really, should I have been surprised?) I find a cockroach.
Now I’m 18 and I just received my $500 Visa card to use for emergencies as a university student. Now I’m wishing I had a nicer boom box than the Realistic  one from Radio Shack that I’ve had since I was fourteen. (For all of you who were born after the Radio Shack years, Realistic was Radio Shack’s generic band. I guess it was called “Realistic” because while the store brand electronics looked like the more expensive, brand name ones, they were actually just overpriced pieces of shit.) Now I’m going to go and buy a real stereo, a Panasonic, that plays both tapes AND CDs. Visa card for emergencies? Not now. Besides, having a Realistic brand stereo IS an emergency! And a life full of financial burden begins…

 

These are just a sampling of how life is pretty much a series of “now” moments for me. It still is even to this day, although I have strategies in place to help me now. I made a rule for myself to no longer allow food in my bedroom so that helps. Even if my bedroom gets messy, there will not be ants or cockroaches. Another problem not shown on my handy table that I have is keeping track of keys, purses, and bank cards. I got my first bank card at fifteen years old and by the time I was eighteen, they’d issued me 18 cards due to having lost them. I’ve lost purses or left them behind on the backs of chairs in restaurants so many times that now I only buy purses with long straps so I can wear them across my body and I never take my purse off. I even pee with my purse on because I’ve left purses on those hooks on the back of the bathroom stall before. I’ve actually considered getting one of those waist pouches but still can’t get past the stigma attached to them from their popularity back in the late 80s/early 90s. As for my keys, my husband makes fun of me mercilessly for it, and I’ve had people make comments to me “Are those for work?”, because I have attached my car keys to a lanyard that I wear around my neck all the time. I have to because I’ve wasted too much time in my life searching for keys.

 

The worst part of thinking in the present all the time is not being able to remember where you put things. So much of my time is wasted trying to find items that I put aside, no longer needing them, thus not paying attention to where I put them. Then when I do need them, it causes anxiety and frustration. So to all you fools with your inspirational “live in the moment” bullshit quotes, fuck you! If you truly knew what living in the moment all the time is like, you wouldn’t like it one bit. You people should be thankful for your ability to be aware of the past and future while living in the moment. It is a blessing.

 

And now to my most hated group of all, those YOLOers. I’m sorry if you are a YOLOer. But you people make me sick! You only live once. Here’s the thing about being in the present all the time, when you are always in the now- as I’ve said above- your time is constantly being wasted. Yes, I want to enjoy my life. I get the sentiment in the whole YOLO movement. But searching around for keys, purses, documents, rings, necklaces, mittens, laptops, cell phones, (you name it, I’ve lost it) is not an enjoyable way to spend time. If I will only live once, I would like my life to be filled with happy, joyful memories. Not memories of all the times I’ve lost things. And one more thing for all you YOLOs- what makes you so sure that “you only live once”? So basically, what you’re saying is Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists and Siks have it all wrong? What makes you YOLOers such great experts in life? For the love of Allah, stop passing on preachy clichés, trying to tell the rest of us how to live our best lives. Put an end to encouraging risk-taking behaviours! Stop glorifying a life spent at Lost and Found bins!

 

I think what I’m trying to say can actually be summed up best with a quote from Charles Darwin, which is ironic in a way. He revolutionized science with his survival of the fittest theory. Sorry, YOLOers, but the “You only live once” philosophy doesn’t bode well for the survival of our species. Or maybe it does? Imagine all the YOLOers dying in bungee-jumping accidents in their YOLO T-shirts hollering out YOLO all the way down until SPLAT. It really does give me a bit of hope. Anyway, Darwin said, “A [person] who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” At first glance you may think, “but it’s the same thing as living in the moment and YOLO.” I don’t see it that way- it is about using your time effectively- if you waste your time, in essence, you are wasting your life. Whether you agree with the theory of evolution or not, you have to agree that Darwin’s studies did contribute to our knowledge of many species of animals and plants. It seems that in our modern world, we have become selfish with this “you only live once, living in the moment” attitude. People are huge time wasters- taking selfies, posting on social media, playing games on phones, Netflix binges. Having a reason for getting up in the morning is what’s important- not having as much fun as you can before you reach the end. The value in life is being productive.  That’s what I find so depressing about my ADHD- the time I waste trying to stay organized. So I think a better life mantra is “Live with purpose.” In the advent of all this new technology, far too many of us are wandering around without purpose just YOLOing along, self-absorbed and living in the moment. I have an excuse for it- my brain is dopamine challenged. But I take drugs for that. So if you’re YOLOing along without a purpose, what’s your excuse?

 

LWP. Live with purpose.

 

Just one more thing… have you seen my keys?

 

-Ocean Hayward-

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