Saturday, March 5, 2016
Sorry. What Did You Say?
Attention deficit disorder is a common, and commonly discussed, problem these days. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t know what it is, at least peripherally so. It, like phobias, sort of has become the punch line of many jokes. And, it’s certainly nothing I have ever deeply considered and, as it applies to me, never—until recently.
Allow me to relate a quick story that began this thought process. My wife and I were having breakfast with a dear friend and she was telling us everything that had been going on in her life since our last conversation. And, let me say this right now, I was indeed interested. Heck, she was simply responding to my question, so why wouldn’t I be interested? But, as I listened, here’s what happened inside my head: She said something that triggered a thought. I don’t remember what it was. What it related to, I can’t remember that either. I just know the thought was like the cue ball hitting the eight ball and smacking my attention directly into some other universe. It triggered a splay of alternate ways something might play out with various outcomes. When my attention returned to what she was saying, there was about a thirty second gap in what she was telling me. Of course, I embarrassed myself when I asked a question that did not at all pertain to what she had just said.
At first, I blamed it on being a novelist—dreaming up story concepts, plot and sub-plot arcs, characterizations, and all that sort of stuff. It does take a fair amount of concentration, often to the exclusion of things going on around me. But, over the next several days after that breakfast episode, I became aware of all the times in my life that this has happened and continues to happen, up to several times each day. Many of the episodes end with me being mortified by my rude, but inadvertent, loss of attention. I now know this is the reason I became the class clown all the way through elementary, middle, and high school. When the teacher asked a question about what she had just talked about, I had to laugh off not knowing what was going on somehow. Acting goofy was the preferred diversionary tactic. Needless to say, I was in the Principal's office a lot.
I have to admit, though, there is a bit of comfort coming to terms with it. I’ve always had it. I just never thought to give it a name—attention deficit disorder.
But that sounds too clinical. I prefer to call it daydreaming. And, now that my work and my world are wrapped up in writing the best novels I possibly can, the episodes are becoming more frequent and longer lasting.
So, I will take this opportunity to go ahead and apologize to all my friends and family. If you find yourself in a conversation with me and see my eyes glaze over, just know it’s not that I think you’re boring. You just happened to say something that I seized on and, without trying, my thoughts shot off in a different direction. No matter what it is, it will likely wind up written into a story. Now, that’s pretty cool. Don’t you think?