When my mother arrived home from her parent-teacher conference with my sixth grade teacher (a prim, straight-laced, older woman we students affectionately referred to as “Old Swamp Boots”), she cornered me to ask what my teacher meant when she said, “Mark has trouble staying in his seat. He knows what I’m talking about.” In that moment, I don’t think I did know what she meant. But thinking back on those days, picturing myself in that classroom, I seem to see an eleven year old boy who found every excuse to get up and move around. I suspect I sharpened my pencil far more often than really necessary. Reflecting on my behavior from this distance, I suspect I may have been ADD or ADHD or whatever hyperactive diagnosis we apply to “antsy” children these days.
If I was ADD back then, I would assume I grew out of it as I experienced the discipline of advanced schooling and a stressful professional life that required organization and efficient expenditure of energy. But I’m beginning to doubt that.
At the age of 65+, we decided to buy a new house and move back to our old stomping grounds. Getting that done today, of course, requires running the post-subprime mortgage scandal gauntlet, which involves a blizzard of paperwork and testimonials, including (I’m not kidding) promising the U.S. government that I’m not a terrorist. I am finding the process irritatingly slow and laborious. I run to the computer frequently to see if somebody has sent yet another form to be completed and if they have, I chafe until we’ve collected whatever data this one demands, and sent it back. I just want to get it done so I don’t have to pay attention to it anymore.
And as I observe myself jumping out of my seat over this fairly routine activity, I’m wondering if I’m not still a bit ADD or whatever. I have never been a poster boy for patience in any situation. That seemed to work okay when I was nipping at the heels of evildoers and malcontents as a reporter. It doesn’t seem as appropriate for dealing with the events of everyday life.
In terms of life lessons, I’m thinking that what I’m learning from these recent experiences is that we really don’t change that much inside our heads as we grow older. Yes, a lot of my attitudes changed once I moved away from the fairly conservative world I was born into (or else I just discovered my own attitudes when the influence of my family and home community lessened). But my personality, my essential approach to getting along in life, seems to be a lot like it was way back then. I still need to get up and sharpen my pencil more often than most people would. In fact, I think I’ll do it right now, and maybe get something to drink, and maybe I won’t get back to this, at all…