I live at the limit. Can’t help it; It’s the kind of person I am.
On any other ADHD blog, this statement could, and probably should, be taken to mean that the writer enjoys extreme activities such as cliff diving, bungee jumping, or roller coasters (basically anything involving throwing oneself off great heights). Those are the people who put the ‘H’ in ADHD. I, however, am not the hyperactive type. My ADD leans toward inattention. Tetris is my idea of thrilling.
In my particular case, living at the limit is actually a strategy I employ in order to curb the negative expression of an underdeveloped executive function. In other words, limits help me get stuff done.
In my previous post (which started out as an intro to this post but quickly went in another direction), I mentioned how I, as a youth, resented having limitations imposed on me. I still think that a lot of the limitations people choose to live by are either silly or unnecessary. I consider myself to be a highly creative person. However, in my life, I’ve learned that limitations are not necessarily obstacles. Rather, they can be viewed as structures upon which –and inside of which– we can layer our own inspired visions.
Also, limits are a way to fuel productivity. You know that you’ll work harder when there is a deadline looming. In fact, perhaps you, like I, have stayed up all night just to get that paper in before the due date. A due date is a limit. Junk food manufacturers understand this concept. Today you can buy sweets that are packaged in calorie-controlled units. Presumably, they help you eat only a limited portion of forbidden fruits.
In my life I have consciously and subconsciously created limits as well– though I couldn’t tell you for sure which ones I took on intentionally and which ones I discovered in hindsight. I think that I’ve been at this ADD life architecture for so long that I don’t know what structures are standard code and which are new.
For example: I used to play DOTS on my phone. DOTS is a highly engaging game in which the object is to connect dots of the same colour. I used to play DOTS, but my relationship with it was borderline obsessive. The game was definitely taking up too much of my life and so I deleted it. I am definitely mature enough to discard things that are damaging to me. It didn’t hurt that I was also in the process of switching to a new phone just then.
Now I have a much more ADD-friendly game on my phone which I play all the time, but not without limits. That game is TWO DOTS and yes, the object of the game is to connect dots of the same colour. It is also highly engaging. The difference between DOTS, which I (OK, inadvertently) rid myself of and TWO DOTS is that TWO DOTS only has five lives, and those lives don’t regenerate for twenty minutes after you’ve lost them. In other words, TWO DOTS has natural limits. Unless I am having a particularly lucky streak, I can not play the game for more than about ten minutes at a time before I lose all my lives and am drawn– nay, COMPELLED to return to the task at hand. (there is always a Task At Hand [TAH] that I need to return to. I rarely feel truly free to recreate.)
Have you ever listened to a good radio show in the car and found yourself at your destination before the show is over? I listen to a lot of talk and public radio, so this happens to me quite frequently. Well, sometimes the topic is particularly relevant or useful for me. In these cases, which are not all that frequent, I will sit in the car with the power running until the conclusion of the program. However, in cases when I am merely interested in the program, but where I am unlikely to put that information to practical use in the foreseeable future, I turn off the car. I know that the radio will keep playing for a minute or two, so I don’t need to quit the show right away. However, when the battery switches off, that’s when I know I’ve reached the limit. I can’t spend any more time loitering in the car, and I need to get on to the TAH.
I learned about limit setting and how it would help me move my goals forward when I worked at an educational center in my early 20s. I was struggling to find dates to run my programming at the institutions I was affiliated with and to whom I had an obligation. My boss at the time coached me to set up meetings with each affiliate and plot out the next few months AND the next meeting date. Perhaps this is an obvious and well known strategy, but as I was just starting out, this was news to me. I took his recommendation and found that setting up programs well in advance forced me to work forwards towards deadlines, and created a two-way obligation between myself and the affiliate to fulfill the goal we’d set out for ourselves. Whereas prior to taking on this job, when I was still in school, I’d always relied on teachers or school policy to set limitations for me. Out in the real world, I learned, I was responsible for setting my own.
Life without limits might sound like fun to many folks, but I’ve definitely come to appreciate that limits can be my friend. When applied judiciously, limits are the walls that keep my time and my creativity from escaping me.