March Madness and Unmanaged Attention

Sunday night my wife asked if I would like to go out for a sandwich after working all afternoon on taxes. I was glad to get up and leave the house. As we approached the traffic light where we would normally turn left to Murff’s Craft Brews & Burgers, she asked, “Don’t you want to be in the other lane?” 

“Yes,” I replied, shifting abruptly from the right lane, to the left lane, and then into the left-turn lane at the light, all in one skillful maneuver. I was like a point guard penetrating the the lane in the NCAA playoffs. I asked my wife if she thought I wasn’t focused. Her answer was correct. Yes, I was focused, so focused on taxes and March Madness that I was on the road to nowhere, as if I did not know the way to a familiar watering hole. 

ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but an attention management problem. I was failing to shift my attention from an excessively focused state to open awareness. Once I pulled my head out, I was able to re-direct my attention to the road and make my skillful move into the turn lane. So, don’t tell me I can’t focus.

Open awareness may be more elusive to individuals with ADHD than the capacity for focusing. With all we know about attention management, we still focus too much on getting focused. We don’t give sufficient attention to the problem of failing to cultivate open awareness. Open awareness is where we notice both what is inside and outside of us, and where we also notice where our attention is going, which is necessary for intentionally directing our attention. If I had not been so totally focused when driving to Murff’s, I would have been more prepared for the left turn.

Normally, a few sudden turns will trigger my wife’s motion sickness, another understated hazard of being married to ADHD. She thinks I’m a poor driver, but I have never wrecked a vehicle when she was in the passenger seat, and I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket with her in the car…and I’m not defensive, of course. I’m a skillful driver, as I demonstrated last night. She’s just gets frightened too easily. 

We arrived at Murff’s with normal appetites, and no motion sickness, only to learn that Murff’s had run out of food! No kidding! The restaurant had run out of food and was closing early. The only comparable experience I can recall was one evening when Murff’s had run out of customers by 8 pm and decided to lock up and go home, just as we were arriving. I can relate to Murff’s; the restaurant appears to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. 

The evening worked out well for me. My generous wife let me choose a sports bar where I could get seafood gumbo and see the end of the Duke-UCF NCAA playoff game. I watched a UCF player drive the lane to the basket…lefthand layup…shot rejected. It was like my first shot…driving the lane to Murff’s…lefthand turn…then right to Murff’s…first shot rejected…Murff’s was closing…game over.

March Madness continues. I will drive to my accountant’s office this week. I am better prepared this year to be ahead at the buzzer and not have to make a last-second shot.   

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