Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pourin' rain

You called that pourin’ rain? The weather responds to me starting of my morning blog by intensifying it’s water coming down. Instead of a running shower outside we now seem to have a high pressure water compressor pounding on the house. The sound is overwhelming. First I ran around in my underwear to make sure all the important windows were closed. Now, entertained by the sound of the water on the angled roof of my kitchen and the one open window underneath an awning, I am writing you. It is not hard to imagine that I am back at the walkways of the “Maiden of the Mist” at the Niagara Waterfalls.

I awoke this morning from what felt to me like an earthquake, but turned out to be thunder. Amazing how a body can translate things in a physical way, like translating sound as a tremble. When I was feverish as a kid the fever was translated in my dreams as the ground shivering. And my imagination had created the illusion that the ground was shivering from a giant that was on his way to me to crush me! Yak! Nightmares! I can genuinely say I am happy to be at an age where I have better control over my dreams and myself!

My cheery self has found a reason to be happy with the downpour today. The chimney man was here this week to repair a leak that started three weeks ago in my chimney. But after he moved my woodstove and had crawled around, and had invited me to do the same, we both concluded that we had no idea where the water had come from. Everything was so dry that only the pan half filled with water and the water stains around the chimney showed that we had not imagined the leak in the first place.

“This amount of rain should help to make the leak visible again”, I think cheeringly. I chuckle when I notice my excitement to go leak hunting today! Life is funny, don’t you think!

I wish you will enjoy whatever you are hunting for today!

Bodies In Motion

One of the more silly beliefs that most people cling to, one that is so ingrained as to be "true", is René Descartes distinction between mind and body or what is sometimes referred to as "mind-body dualism". Descartes argued that the natures of mind and body differ fundamentally, the mind being a thinking thing and the body being a non-thinking thing, and that they can exist independently of one another.

The pervasiveness of mind-body dualism is evident in everything from education to medicine to daily language. We talk about diseases that are physical (in the body) and psychosomatic (in his head), the former being real, the latter being fake. Our educational systems place higher priority on developing the mind than the body. We distinguish professions that are mind-oriented (white collar) from those that are body-oriented (blue collar).

The distinction is artificial. Thinking is simply another bodily function, one that depends upon the entire body, not just the brain. In fact, one could think about thinking as a whole-body function.

You might argue that it's all academic or semantics; it's just philosophical masturbation. However, our penchant for mind-body dualism limits us significantly and it does so on a daily basis.

Thinking is not the primary reason that our brains developed the way they did; it's just a side-effect. Our brains developed as they did in order to process the vast sensory data generated by walking and then running upright over long distances. Bipedal motion is an extremely complex function (just ask anyone who's tried to create a robot that can walk over varied terrain.) As we walk or run, our brains process vestibular, tactile, aural and visual information and then send signals to other systems in order to keep us upright and to avoid hazards.

It just so happens that a brain that can do all that can also think. Further, when a system is compromised in its ability to process and respond to sensory data, thinking is one of the first things to go. When this occurs, the solution is not to try harder to think, the solution is to get the whole system back on line by correcting the sensory process issues. (If your hearing has ever been compromised by clogged sinuses, you know what I'm talking about.)

However, when you buy into mind-body dualism, you miss this. When a kid struggles in school, it's rarely due to his mind or his general capacity to think. It's about his sensory systems being out of balance. This general incapacitation affects his specific capacity to think (i.e., his capacity to think when his sensory systems are compromised.) If you tell him to try harder or to focus or to behave, he may start fidgeting or act out. Why? Because he's trying to regulate his sensory systems in the best ways he knows.

He knows it's a sensory processing issue. He can't tell you that in so many words, but his actions tell you.

This phenomenon is not limited to children; we all think better when our sensory systems are regulated and quiesced. Want to focus better? Take a ten minute break and run a mile. Want to feel more calm and relaxed? Drop to the floor and do twenty push-ups. Want to see things more clearly? Go juice yourself some vegetables. You'll be amazed at how well you can think when you recognize thinking is a whole-body process.

Want to become a better thinker? Take on activities that require you to process multiple sensory stimuli or to employ both sides of the brain simultaneously. I swear, playing drums (a process that requires tactile, vestibular, and auditory systems as well as coordination of left and right brain) has made Iris smarter (not to mention that a chick playing drums is just plain sexy.)

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How You See It

For years, I talked with Iris about her ADD and how she might find medications such as Adderall helpful.

For years, Iris concluded that since she doesn't share my hyperactivity, she doesn't have ADD.

Recently, after months of not being able to maintain focus, of being endlessly distracted, of completing very little of what she set out to do, Iris decided to do a little googling on ADD and ADHD.

Low and behold, Iris' symptoms, actions and reactions exactly resembled those of someone with ADD and not those of someone with ADHD.

Iris set up an appointment with our doctor who prescribed Adderall and I must say that it's been a godsend.

With Adderall, Iris is more calm and focused, she listens better when people speak, she's more patient and easy-going, she's open to new ideas, she's more productive and, she's happier. It's quite amazing, really.

My experience with Adderall is similar to that of Iris, though perhaps more pronounced.

Given such great results, you might find it curious that we both still experience some reluctance to use medication, some residual judgment that medications are bad or wrong.

The reluctance takes different forms, e.g., holding out until later in the day, or taking half a pill, or skipping a day, etc., but nonetheless it's there.

So the question would be, "Why?" Why be reluctant to take a medication that works such wonders?

For me, the answer lies in judgments. I believe I should be able to maintain focus, etc. without chemical help. I believe that pills are a crutch. I believe that use of medications should be limited. Basically, I believe that pills are bad.

In fact, for years I avoided Adderall. After using it successfully for several years, I decided to stop. I decided to do other things to help control my ADD.

Before I stopped taking the medications, I would record the experience in my mind. I'd take a pill and then close my eyes recording all the sensations in my body: my breathing, the relaxing of my fingers and wrists, the flow of blood through my shoulders and arms. Then I'd try to reproduce the same sensations sans pill. I got good at it.

I also increased my workout regiment going from three or four days a week to every day and increasing the time from 40 minutes to 90 minutes.

All of this worked well, but it was expensive, at least in terms of time. It could also be difficult to maintain when traveling or working longer hours.

So one day I started thinking about again taking Adderall and I realized a few things.

First of all, I'd let some arbitrary sense of right and wrong become more important than doing the things I claimed I wanted to do.

Second, I realized that in the end, it was all about manipulating my body's chemistry. Whether using biofeedback, long hours of workout, or taking a pill, the effect was the same. All these were simply different levers on the same mechanism.

Third, I realized that I'd abandoned my first principle of decision making, i.e., measure cost-benefit, not just cost and not just benefit.

Putting these together, it was a no-brainer to see that, for me, Adderall ranked highest in terms of cost-benefit. It doesn't take a lot of time, it's easy and, it works, really well.

So, I called the doctor, got an appointment and we talked. I do remember how amused she was that I'd done so much work to avoid taking a pill that worked so well for me.

And it does.

And still, I sometimes experience reluctance.


Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Agree

Yesterday was remarkable.

It all starts with Iris who in the midst of arguing with me, stops, thinks, and then says, "I agree."

That may not seem remarkable to you who know Iris. You've probably experienced her as easy-going and agreeable. In many instances she is. In others (especially ones where she feels that someone is telling her what to do or telling her how it is), she's not; she just keeps her objections to herself. To avoid a messy build-up of unspoken disagreement, she tends to vent the back pressure with me. At those points, she becomes the woman who will not take "Yes" for an answer.

For example, the other day we're driving to town; I comment on how well Iris played the previous evening, on how she's become a solid drummer with a strong sense of time that doesn't vary. Iris' response? Argue how she isn't becoming a good drummer and that maybe she ought not be playing.

Ahhh... but yesterday was different. Moments after embarking upon a line of reasoning designed to prove a point I'm pretty sure she doesn't actually hold as true, Iris stops, thinks, and then says, "I agree."

My jaw drops. She looks at me, smiles and says, "Yes, you heard me correctly. I agree."

A few minutes later, she does it again. That's two in a row. Who knows what the day may hold.

As we continue talking through breakfast, Iris pulls up mid sentence, thinks, and then says, "You're right; I agree."

Four times in one morning.

I ask her, "What changed?"

She thinks for a moment and says, "My awareness. With the Adderall, I'm much more aware of what I'm doing. I can see how I'm becoming resistant just to be resistant. When I see it, I stop myself."

With so little time spent on disagreement for disagreement's sake, our conversation proceeds at light-speed. We touch on all sorts of great topics, cover what each of us has planned for the day, and explore some new ideas in music.

It's amazing how much more you can do when you're not spending time on where you disagree.

Happy Tuesday,

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Always Worked Before

They walk onto stage for sound-check hours before the performance. It's a waste of time, but the promoter has been adamant. You guys of have got to do a sound check, and you have to give yourselves plenty of time.

It seems silly. They've played a thousand venues like this one. Sure, the addresses change, but nothing else.

Tony pulls the high-hat stand a bit closer to the drum throne and opens up the clutch assembly to ensure a nice splashy sound. Phil powers up his Ampeg combo, waits for the amp to light up, and then slides his bass cable into the quarter-inch jack like a navy pilot slamming the deck of a carrier. Frank flips the switch on his Stage 88 and dials in his favorite B3 while Steve gently torks the tuning machines of his original-parts 57 Stratocaster, his eyes fixed on the tiny strobe hidden among his multicolored array of foot-pedals.

Yeah, they've done this a thousand times before. Different address, same place.

The band launches into a familiar jam, something easy to get warmed up. However, like the engine of ancient Crown Victoria fighting for life on January morning in Minneapolis, the sound labors heavily, growing louder and more percussive, but refusing to catch. Where's that satisfying purr of a groove firing on all eight cylinders.

Not ever having had to establish a groove on their own, the bassist and drummer, in simultaneous (if not synchronous) and uncharacteristic displays of personal-accountability, each attempt to take one and three by force. The drummer's kick distorts the diaphragm of the D6 microphone that wobbles precariously each time he slams it to the floor. The bass player's strings vibrate wildly, physically slamming into EMG pickups, as he slaps them furiously, desperately seeking a downbeat. Their heroic attempts at synchronicity degrade into a tug-of-war for the beat that oscillates back and forth across the center line, a half cycle out of phase, the efforts of one canceling out those of the other.

Something seems different. The all-too-easy sound check has degraded into an impossible situation.

Steve raises his arms, sweeps his hands back and forth and calls for the band to stop.

"What's up guys? Stop goofing off. I wanna get this done and get some dinner before the show."

"Nothing's up. Something's wrong."

"What do you mean wrong."

"I mean, like, didn't you hear that. We sound terrible. What happened to our groove?"

"I thought you guys were just screwing around with me. C'mon, let's just take a breath and start again. I'll count it. One... Two... Three..."

Tony and Phil watch each other closely trying to lock in the kick-drum and bass. They form the foundation on which the rest of the music is constructed. But the foundation shakes and teeters, threatening to crumble at any moment. Steve strums a simple R&B rhythm, that bounces in and out of the pocket. Frank looks for a point of entry for an organ riff, but finds none.

They stop.

They've played together for ten years and nothing like this has ever happened. It's never not worked. Now what?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Five-line Experiment

In our writing group we use daily prompts to motivate ourselves to write at least ten minutes a day. In response to the prompts, we write short stories, quick character sketches, biographical essays, etc. Some of these stories we then share in the weekly group. It's a great way to receive feedback and learn new things.

This week we played a little game at the end of our get-together. We wrote poems, but not by ourselves. Each of us wrote just one line. The next person was allowed to see only the last line written and none of the previous lines. Working this way, we created five poems of five lines each that were very, very unique and weird (in a beautiful way).

Driving home I digested the exercise and started to wonder if a writer (not a poet) could create a short story in just five sentences. As a starting writer I have no idea what is possible, and so I decided to conduct an experiment. Here it is...

A growling sound rises from my empty belly while typing these first words.

“I am not willing to cave and give up before I finish my first five-line story”, I tell myself and I continue with the task at hand.

“Can I paint a picture in five lines?”, I contemplate amidst the chaos of television and cricket noise in the background and my bladder that has started to urge for a bathroom.

Mark’s shiny head in the next chair informs me that his fever has not yet passed and in my mind I plant a soft kiss containing healthy thoughts on his forehead .

It is willpower that keeps my legs squeezed tight until this story is finished while looking forward to relieving myself in the bathroom with a very big sigh and the words “Good job, you did it.”

“That was harder then expected”, I conclude after finishing my first five-liner in one hour and five minutes.

I try to remember Jenny’s instructions about creating a want and fulfilling that want while writing stories to help me decide if I can call my first epistle a story.

“Do we understand the want of the subject and do we cheer the subject on along the way?” I ask quizzically.

“Using the words “while” and “and” in almost every sentence is no good” I criticize as a pro.

When yawns roll past my lips I look at the clock to see that another hour has passed and finally I decide that today’s experiment has ended!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dysfunction or Superpower?

Yesterday morning I began writing about a time when my daughter Joy and I traveled together to Asia. I ended up rambling into our shared experience of OCD and how each of us struggled with and learned to manage it.

After I posted, I kept thinking about the idea that what we see as dysfunction is simply a matter of perspective. If the dominant perspective calls it, "dysfunction", then dysfunction it is. However, without that perspective, dysfunction is simply, "different" or perhaps, "difficult".

As I considered that, I drifted to the idea of superheros. A superhero begins life as a typical, everyday Jane. One day like any other, something happens that triggers a latent capability that she never knew she had, a capability so powerful that it scares the bejeezus out of her. At first, she assumes that she simply imagined it, but she doubts the assumption. As it becomes clear that something did happen, she assumes something's wrong with her, but she doesn't know with whom she can share; people will think she's crazy. So she denies her power or tries to forget about it, but she can't. The power within her calls out to her.

He googles his power trying to find anything that will explain it to him. He attempts to use his power, to test it, to see if it's real, but he can't control it. He can't make it come and go at will. When it does come, it won't obey him; he can't make it stop. He flies into buildings or drops from the sky. He burns holes in the kitchen wall. He teleports to Paris, Texas rather than Paris, France. He accidentally dumps his sleeping dad from his recliner while attempting to levitate him across the living room.

The power is compelling, but it's also scary. She comes to see it as a curse. She decides to move on, to fit in, to try and live a normal life.

Another catalytic event and the power emerges, this time in front of witnesses. There's no turning back. It's either embrace the power and learn to manage it, or continue seeing it as a curse and try to eradicate it.

How is that so different from a child with ADHD or OCD or autism? A child with ADHD (or just ADD) is capable of processing significantly more sensory stimuli than one one without it. In the absence of those stimuli, he manufactures them either externally (acting out or being "hyper") or internally (daydreaming or fretting). Superpower or dysfunction?

A child with autism may be so sensitive to one realm of sensory stimuli that she can recall every detail of anything she's ever seen, or heard, or felt. However, her extreme sensitivity makes her wince or scream, when the stimuli are too strong. Superpower or dysfunction?

I'm oversimplifying, but I believe there is merit in the perspective that views these so-called dysfunctions as superpowers. Sure, they're powers that need to be managed and integrated, powers that can cause some undesired side-effects along the way, but powers nonetheless.

Just a perspective.

Happy Saturday,

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Room for OCD

We pass through the South Bronx on our way from Boston to Manhattan. My cell phone rings. (At this point we still call cell phones and we use them for talking.) Rene calmly tells me that Joy has been admitted to the Psych Ward at Morristown Hospital. I think WTF and ask, “why?”

Rene explains that Joy experienced a sense that she might experience a suicidal thought. She didn't actually experience the thought of suicide, just the thought that she might experience the thought of suicide. It scared her so much that she insisted on being admitted into a psychiatric facility.

I'm still thinking WTF, but instead ask, “Is she OK?”

Joy's fine. She just got this thought in her head and OCD'd herself into a total panic. She'll be spending seven days in the psych ward.

We talk some more. I explain that I'll leave the conference right after my presentation in the morning and be home in the afternoon.

As we drive on, I try to remember at what age I started scaring myself with the thought of suicidal thoughts. Was it 15? Maybe 16? Joy's 17; seems about right. I think, "Well, this is good. It will give Joy a better perspective on how sane she is."

One of the things that my daughter Joy and I share is what today would be called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). When I was a kid, they just called it, "being annoying". I would worry and I was good at it. I could turn any silver lining into a dark cloud. I'd watch Marcus Welby, MD and know that I had the fatal or debilitating illness portrayed on the show. Overhearing an urban myth was pure torture. My mind brought it to life creating a logic that not only supported its existence, but its existence in my house.

I did a lot of your standard OCD stuff (e.g., washing my hands until they were raw) and some less standard stuff. After going with my grandmother to a Sunday School class at the Southern Baptist church in Chesnee, South Carolina, I couldn't stop thinking about hell and taking measures to ensure that I was indeed "saved". My concern extended to my brother and my parents. I'd badger my mom with what-if's and but-then's. This led to a more general concern about eternity and infinity. I would lie awake at night trying to grok infinity. I was five.

I'm pretty sure that I was the only fifth grader at Whittier Elementary school who was certain he had a venereal desease. I couldn't tell you which one or how I'd got it, but once they described it in health class, it sounded so awful that all I could do was to think about how not to get it and how I might have missed something.

The poor adults who would try to console me were out of their depths. First of all, by the time I was seven I knew that adults would say pretty much anything to get you to do what they wanted. Second (as is probably the case with any seven year-old) I was way more creative than any of the adults who earnestly tried to satisfy my concerns. No matter how thoroughly someone explained the unlikelihood of my concerns coming to fruition, I could explain ways that they could.

In high school, I started to wonder about reality. How do you know that all this isn't just a dream. What if I'm totally alone and all the people in my life are just a fabrication? I scared the crap out myself.

The problem wasn't that I'd think about it; the problem was how I think about things. I emerse myself into the process and experience it. It's not an objective, arm's-length experience; it's something direct and real.

Slowly I learned not to share my concerns with others. I would keep it inside and mull. I mulled and mulled and mulled.

Over the years I learned to manage my OCD and eventually to transform obsession into empowerment. Joy hadn't learned that yet.

I sit with Joy at a small table in the Psych Ward. She's cheery and seems to have forgotten about the whole suicidal tendencies thing. She talks about all the interesting people she's met, what their challenges are and how they deal with them. She's fascinated and genuinely interested in each of her newfound friends.

She's fine.

As I listen to Joy talk, it occurs to me that her bought with OCD is a result of boredom. Joy's intense. She's creative. She's imaginative. She has what some might call an "overly-active mind". In the absence of raw materials to process, she manufacturers them from stray thoughts. The thoughts get rolled into themes, the themes into obsessions. However, when her mind is fully occupied, there's no room for obsession.

I tell Joy, "Hey, I've got to go to asia next week: Hong Kong, Soul and Tokyo. Why don't you come with me?"

Joy looks at me to see if I'm kidding or not, and then wide-eyed says, "Sure! What about school?"

"Don't worry about it, I'm sure we can work that out."

The trip to asia is another story. One thing to be said is that there was no time or space for OCD.

Over the years, each of us has learned different ways of managing obsessiveness. For me, it's become a form of empowerment. I can lock onto concepts and tasks with such tenacity that nothing can shake them from me. Put a microphone into Joy's hand, and you'll see all that imagination channeled into song. One night at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Joy won a battle of the bands. This may not seem noteworthy except that she won a battle of bands singing solo, a capela: just her and a microphone.

As kids, we often discover capabilities that overwhelm us. They're so powerful and unwieldy that we see them as forms of dysfunction. Perhaps, that's not the case. Perhaps any number of things that we see as dysfunctional (e.g., OCD, ADHD, autism, dyslexia) are simply capabilities that are difficult to harness and manage?

Happy Friday,

Can you say blubber without smiling?

Can you still remember when you first learned to speak or write? You probably don’t; if you do, you probably don’t remember the details!

Most of us learn to speak at such a young age that our memories about it have been buried. However, not all of us learn to speak at a young age. For example, many children on the autism spectrum start to use verbal language at a later age. Some children never learn spoken language, but use typed language or learn to speak with their hands instead. Luckily there are lots of different ways of communication possible these days.

The two lovely boys I have worked with for the last couple of years both started to speak later, and both are still developing their skills. Today, I had the fantastic opportunity to enjoy the excitement of exploring language in such a fun way that the word "blubber" now has a totally new feeling associated with it. When I say blubber, I can't help but smile; I just have to think about the silliness of the word.

Two brown eyes look at me. With a big grin he says: "b-b-b-b-b-b-b-boat". We have just been reading a story about lost pirates and their treasure. My friend uses some of the words from the book to enjoy the beginning sounds of the words. He is exchanges those sounds to create other words rhyme: "b-b-b-b-b-b-b-boat, c-c-c-co-co-co-co-coat."

We have so much fun taking turns in saying the words and finding rhyming words this way. We laugh and exchange eye contact and hugs out of excitement of what you can do with sounds. Sometimes we use the same words, at other moments one of us makes a change and we start to explore the new words.

“b-b-b-br-br-br-br-br--braid beard”, he says. I thought this very cool because the pirate captain’s name was Braid Beard, and that is not an easy name in my vocabulary! From braided beard we went on to “b-b-b-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-blurt”, and at that moment in my mind I went to “bl- bl-bl-bl-bl-blubber”. Maybe you have to try it to understand it, but blubber is a very weird word to pronounce. It is just totally silly to try to say it with a straight face. It makes you wonder how this word came to be!

Some blubber background information: in Dutch the first meaning of blubber is mud. In English the word means the fat layer between the skin and muscle of whales and other cetaceans, from which oil was made. In Dutch we also use blubber for that meaning, but because mud is more used in daily language, a Dutchman will always first connect the word to the dirty brown stuff!

Can you say "bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-blubber” without smiling? S-s-s-s-s-s-see you later, argh!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I Value Most

I think the thing I most value in another person is when she points out exactly where I'm missing it.

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate encouragement (at least informed encouragement) and affirmation. However, these pale in comparison with absolutely nailing what I've got wrong.

Perhaps my sense of value is based on frequency. I mean, how often do you encounter someone who after observing you for a few moments is capable of specifically informing you on what exactly you've screwed up (read, what you're doing that is inconsistent with your stated goals)?

As I write, I realize that this experience might be the reason I live for Thursday nights. Thursday night is when our writing group gathers to, among other things, listen to and provide feedback on what each of us has written over the previous week.

In most of my daily encounters, I am the highly skilled expert, the one to whom others look for advice and guidance. However, on Thursday evenings, I am the rookie, the novice, the one without depth of experience, the one just scratching the surface of skill-development. I am surrounded by people who, well, who know how to write. It's sheer joy. I read what I've written, someone comments, and before they've finished the comment, I've learned volumes. Indeed, the comment need not be about what I've written. As others read, I listen, conjecture, and then take in what the more skilled and experienced writers have to say.

There's nothing better than knowing that something's not quite right with your approach to something, not being able to put your finger on it, and then having someone who knows what they heck he's talking about point out what you're missing. It's exhilarating.

It's not that I mind being the the expert or goto-gal in other situations; it's just that it can become a little wearying when others begin simply to defer to you rather than developing their own skills and expertise. Surely, the weariness is of my own making; my sense of responsibility seems to increase proportionally to the gap in expertise between myself and my colleagues (something for me to work on). Nonetheless, on Thursday nights, I release any sense of responsibility for providing insight and guidance, and simply enjoy the experience of reading, listening and writing.

As I think about it, I realize that my experience may be different than that of others, that someone else might hide when in the presence of perceived experts. I see it all the time with musicians, happy to play until someone "really good" walks into the room.

What about you? In what areas are you the perceived expert? It might be something that you've never really acknowledged. How do you respond when in the presence of experts? Do you lay out all you have in the full light of day, or do you hide?

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What to wear?

The last weeks have really challenged me in my beliefs around what to wear. In the Netherlands, where I grew up, I wore long pants all year. I wore layers where possible, and would bring a coat except for the months July and August (if we were lucky!)

I tell my friends in the Netherlands that in May the coat goes in the closet, and that I don’t really need it till late in the year (October/ November)? I love this. I also have adjusted my summer style. Now I wear many skirts and shorts for as long as possible.

Normally halfway September (in my eight year USA experience) we are not yet thinking about fall, but this year the weather is very different. I have felt so cold at night that I would pull out thick sweaters and put on trousers and socks. In the last weeks I slowly have started to put my long pants back on and since a week and a half I am cold enough in the morning to want to wear socks.

But right now, at two in the afternoon, I wonder what I was thinking this morning. I wish I had put on sandals this morning instead of socks and warm shoes. I have a couple more hours to go before I get home, and wonder how I will make it without passing out from the heat!

Maybe I should pack an extra little bag with clothes to change into, when the weather changes so much during the day.

So, I wonder: how do you deal with this quickly changing weather?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dutch Heritage

Yesterday I dressed up and I put make-up on my face and eyes. I have quite sensitive eyes and avoid make-up most days. So, at the end of that day I made sure I cleaned my eyes as good as possible before going to bed.

This morning I was standing under the shower and when I realized that my eyes felt thick and tired. Immediately I knew that it was a leftover result from the make-up and the make-up remover. A Dutch expression popped into my mind and I blurted: “Wie mooi wil wezen, moet pijn lijden.”

Translation: Who wants to be beautiful, has to endure pain. This expression means that if you want to be beautiful you may have to endure some things that are less pleasant.

This expression had me drift into a memory of me being about eleven years old, where my mom is trying to make braids in my hair. I had and still have a low tolerance for pain and those moments where mom tried to get my hair to behave were sometimes a struggle for both of us. We both would try to stay calm but after a bit I would try to get away. But if my mom had set her mind on getting it done, she would howl the expression “Wie mooi wil wezen, moet pijn lijden” to let me know that there was no way out until she was finished.

I have no idea when and why this expression was created but it has embedded itself deep in the Dutch culture. And even though this expression is clearly still at the top of my tongue, I want to state here that I decided today that I no longer want to use this expression to motivate myself or others to do something we otherwise wouldn’t do.

Now I just have to find the right replacement belief. Any thoughts anyone?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Iris’s Kattebelletjes

(The meaning of kattebelletjes is scribbles)

Every day I have many thoughts. Many good thoughts. Many amazing thoughts even. But I do not take the time to note them down, because I made up the belief I am too busy to stop ten minutes to sit down, open my computer and do it.

Mark has told me regularly over the last months: “Gosh Iris. You should share this with the readers of the blog, they would love it.” I would nod and then let go. Too busy was my excuse.

Over the summer Beliefmakers has been on a holiday schedule. This meant that our authors could write, but that there would be no schedule and there was nothing expected. What happened is that most of us took a break, except Mark! Knowing that he is so much busier than I, I slowly started to look a bit more at myself. What were my habits, what were my wants, what were my goals, what were my actions etc.

I realized that I wasn’t that busy at all in specific hours of work or projects, but that I was just very busy managing me being busy and that I needed more and more time to recuperate from keeping me doing the things I wanted to do. I felt ten steps behind all the time (while I slowed my schedule down more and more) and finally I got to the point over the summer that I felt stuck and not able to balance the things I had.

I finally decided to follow up on Mark’s request for me to see the doctor and discuss with her ADD. I am not an “H” like Mark, but if you Google the ADD description online you will find a perfect characterization of me.

Right now I have been taken ADD medication for three weeks and I am so grateful that Mark asked me to talk with the doctor. My moods have balanced, my thoughts have calmed and cleared, my actions have improved. I am no longer looking for my keys every morning. I do no longer drive to the wrong family for work. I have become aware of dishes and dirty clothes. I now check in with my husband to see if he wants something to drink or jI might walk by to give him a kiss, instead of spacing out on him. Mark says I became aware of the world again. I surely feel I am the best of myself right now in a new unknown way. This is the first time in my life I seem to be able to multi task, and that's very exciting.

And so, halfway September I feel I am ready again to share stories with you. And instead of completely rounded stories my idea is to share with you short ten minute writings about whatever comes to mind. I am back from my summer break and am looking forward sharing with you.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Cigars, Whisky, Wasabi, Tabasco and Espresso

What do these things have in common? Words that comes to mind are sharp, strong and spicy. Another qualifier would be not sweet. (No sugar in my coffee and you can leave the sweet whiskies for others; I like the peaty flavors of Laphroaig.)

Another thing they have in common is the sense of calm they provide me. It seems that stimulants don't stimulate me; in fact they seem to relax me. A good cup of coffee late at night and I'm ready for bed. Go figure.

This morning I Googled stimulants and relaxing and ADHD. I found that I'm not alone in my response to stimulants. I decided to share some quotes from people who posted their experiences. Perhaps you'll relate to some of them.

  • I find it amazing that people can take medication for ADHD and feel like it gives them more energy or stimulates them. For me, they make me more relaxed and able to deal with things calmly and rationally.

  • I have just started medication and can't believe how calm I feel!! It's the strangest feeling, I don't think I've ever been this calm or relaxed.

  • I had my usual dose of Ritalin but because I felt it wearing off in town I decided to have a coffee, which almost put me to sleep.

  • When I got prescribed Ritalin I thought it was going to speed me up and keep me awake all night. My first dose I felt really relaxed and my second dose I fell asleep. This medicine has changed my life. Now that my mind has slowed down and now that I have ambition and drive, I have gotten so much accomplished. I have also sorted out most of my disorganized life.

  • How it works for me? It brings into focus what makes the most sense. Helps me tune out the extraneous info that would otherwise distract me.

  • I think straighter...I walk straighter. I'm not a 'hyper' unless you consider the occasional racing thoughts that sometimes lead to my blurting. Gotta say what i'm thinking before I forget.

  • Many people can relax on the beach with just a bottle of sunscreen, a beach chair and a good novel. That's not the case for most with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). For us, laying around in the sun all day reading can be stressful. To relax, we need a surfboard, snorkeling gear, a Frisbee or two, and half a dozen beach-game balls and paddles. People with AD/HD don't relax in the usual way - which is why vacations don't always relax us.

Happy Friday,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My dad is a changed man!

June 2005

I am waiting at the bar at Christopher’s in Cambridge for my dinner of steak tips and beans when my cell phone rings. The caller ID shows it is my dad. I get up and sign to Mark that I will take the phone call outside.

“Hi Dad, what’s up” I say while my sandals click under my feet and my skirt is flapping in the soft ocean breeze. The pink flowered hanging baskets create a beautiful entrance, and I feel grateful to live in an area where spring means that you can keep your coat at home.

My fathers voice booms through the phone “Hi Iris. I am so glad to speak with you”. It is like he is standing right there next to me. I know that he just has been on a holiday with his boat and I assume that his excited demeanor has to do with that. He had been in a dip for a while, and I am happy to hear him so cheery. “Dad, you sound great. How was your holiday?”

He tells me a bit about his adventures on his sailboat. He sailed to the Oeral Festival on Terschelling, which is one of the Dutch Islands. For a whole week artists perform all over the Island. There is music everywhere. There is theatre everywhere. You can find painters show their work in outside expositions etc. There is activity all day and all night.

“I had a great time” he says. “That’s awesome dad. I am so happy for you. I am glad you decided to go this year.” My dad has always been a man of ideas but not a man that executes them. In June 2005 he had been living for thirty years in the same house where he started with my mom. They did not have a happy marriage and when they divorced, I always thought he would start over somewhere else, but he never did.

“Iris, I have to tell you something” dad continues. My stomach clings together. When my dad says that, it normally isn’t good. “Ok, dad” I respond apprehensive.

“I... I... I...” he stutters and then almost shout through the phone “I think I am in love”. I start laughing from relief and he continues with a very serious voice. “You know, I loved your mom a lot. I also loved Ellen a lot. But you know, I am sixty years old and I have never felt like this before.” “Dad, I am so happy for you”. I respond and we continue our conversation.

What happened next...

The love my dad found helped him made changes to his life in ways he always wanted but never did before. In a fairly short time he sold his house and moved into a new apartment with his wonderful girlfriend at the other side of the Netherlands. They started a new life based on respect, direct communication and love. I can say that I never saw my dad so happy as over the last years. My dad, who had been disappointed to hear that I was not planning to have children, became the stepfather of two wonderful young women (my half sisters). My oldest half sister made him the proud grandfather of two grandchildren. I am proud that my dad decided that he could make changes at sixty. I am proud that he has expanded his horizons and is continuously creating a new life full of love and excitement.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My dad left a short message on my answer machine. He is back from holiday. He will call again. I put some lunch in the microwave and give him a call. “Welcome home, dad. Did you have a good time on Curacao?” I ask. “ It was absolutely fabulous” he responds with more energy than I have ever heard before. “We had such a wonderful time staying with the family. We walked in our shorts all day. We hang out with so many of the local people. We didn’t want to go back home. And I think that a year from now you might have to call to Curacao to reach us.” he says.

Before I can respond he continues, “We love it so much we want to move there”. “Dad. That’s amazing. I love that idea. We are looking forward to coming by.” I respond happily. He laughs. He is happy that I am happy for him. He says “There are some things to arrange and to be thought about, but we really want this”.

He tells me about the rules to move as a retiree to Curacao (which is part of the Dutch Government); about selling his condo; about traveling there again at the beginning of next year to look around for places they would want to live; about learning Spanish and Papiamento; about the things he wants to figure out before making the decision.

He shares with me a memory of the day that he showed my husband and me his new apartment. He told Teflon at that time that this probably would be his last house. Tef responded with “Your last house? Why? How do you know that?” Dad laughs and said Teflon was right again. He seems thoroughly exited to realize that he is on the verge of changing everything that he thought would be.

Jokingly we set a date for a holiday in their new Curacao home at the beginning of 2013, and then we hang up.

Dad is actively creating a new life, with new dreams and I am in awe. This man is not the dad I grew up with, the man that would get stuck in concerns and disbelief. This is a man with a plan. This is a man with a want, and he is going to do what is needed to see if he can fulfill his want. Pursuing wants makes people look at themselves, and recreate who they are. I believe my dad is a better person today because he jumps in these days and pursues his wants with a new dedication. He is more loving, more accepting and more exited then I have ever seen him.

Dad, I am cheering you on! I love you.

Things My Mom Taught Me

My mom taught me many things

Some, I remember and apply daily

Others, I recall only when I find myself sharing them with others

Some, I hold as true

Others, I've discarded as not so

Whenever you become aware of someone in need, then it's your job to do something about it

Coat the counter with flour before rolling out the dough

Humble does not mean hiding

When singing or talking, focus your voice in the mask of your face. You'll be clearer and your voice won't tire.

There will always be people who don't like you. That's their problem.

When combining flour and liquid, start with a little of each until you make a nice paste. Then slowly add the rest. That way, you won't get lumps.

The scariest thing in the world is a mom who looks scared for you.

Everyone has strengths. Not everyone knows what they are. With some, you have to look a little harder find them.

Once the pan is hot enough to cook the eggs, you can turn it off. The eggs will cook on the residual heat.

Desire is more important than skill. If skill doesn't result from desire, one must question the desire.

You can get too thick with people. Don't be too open.

Don't tell Daddy-John (my grandfather) that dad drinks beer.

If you really listen to what others say and say nothing about yourself, they will find you fascinating.

Invite everyone. There's always plenty of food in the house if you know how to cook and are creative.

How to make corn bread in a cast-iron skillet. How to make a soufflé. How to fold an omelet. When to turn pancakes. How to tell when food is cooked by sound and smell.

Sometimes moms forget that they were gonna pick you up at school.

Wash the eggs before you crack-em, otherwise what was outside ends up on the inside.

Niacin is a rush.

The right combination of beans, corn and tomatoes provides a complete amino acid chain.

You can always do better. Being the best where you are now, doesn't make you best. Better is better than best.

Flash cook vegetables. Slow cook proteins.

There's goodness in everyone. Some people work really hard to hide it.

Happy Tuesday,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Enough Already

How do you know this is going to work?

I don't know it's going to work.

Then how can you be so confident.

Well, first of all, I don't know that it's not going to work.

That's a double negative.

Yes, it is. And second of all, if it doesn't work, I'll just try something else.

But what if that doesn't work?

Then I'll just... wait a minute. Why is that you're asking all the questions. Let me as you a question or two.

Ummm... Okay.

What if it does work?

What you do mean?

What if I am able to do it? What if I'm able to do it the first time I try?

Well, uhh, I guess, ummm... I never really thought about that.

Think about it now. What if I try it and it works? How would things change.

Well, you definitely wouldn't have to worry any more about whether or not it'd work.

I'm not worried now. So that wouldn't qualify as a change.

Hmmmm... Well, at least I wouldn't have to worry any more about whether or not it'd work.

You don't "have to" worry now.

OK, I wouldn't worry any more.

You sure?

Sure I am, I mean, umm, no. I mean, I might still worry.

Even after you saw it work?

Yeah, because just seeing it work once doesn't mean that it'll work again.

Since you'd probably still worry about it working, you still haven't answered the question. What would change?

The only thing I can think of is that you'd be done, and I still be worrying about how to do it.

What if that happened every day for a year? What if every day I try something that works, and every day you don't because you don't know whether or not it will work?

Uhhh... I guess that you'd be pretty far ahead of me by then.

Even if what I tried didn't work half the time?

Yeah, even then.

So, what does that tell you?

Happy Monday,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ready, Go, Set

In the January, 1977 I made a decision that would redefine me. It was simultaneously one of the most difficult decisions I'd made and one of the easiest. Despite all the advice I'd received to pursue a practical college degree (i.e., one that would lead to employment), I decided to pursue a music degree.

You've probably noticed that when working to free a tightly bound object, the force of your exertions can result in serious acceleration when the binds finally break. The effort put into my decision had a similar effect. I would not only become a musician, I would shoot for the moon. I applied to the best school I knew, the Berklee College of Music in Boston. I declared myself a composer and arranger. And, since composers need to know piano, I declared piano as my principal instrument.

The last one doesn't seem so extreme other than the fact that I didn't play piano, but planned on learning it before I got to school in the fall.

It's a crisp and cool early morning in September. My dad slams the trunk of his chocolate-brown Lincoln Mark III (the one from the French Connection). My mom hugs me as tears fill her eyes. She tells me to be a good boy and that she is proud of me.

We drive from our house in suburban Wheaton, Illinois to O'Hare to catch a plane to Boston. By noon, I'm standing on the corner of Boylston and Mass Ave. A sheet of paper taped to the door reads, "New Student Registration".

I'm excited. I'm terrified.

What were you thinking? Telling them you're a piano player is one thing, but leaving your sax back in Wheaton just so you have no choice but to go forward? Are you crazy or something? They're going to think you're the lamest musician, ever.

It will be OK! I'm a composer, not a player. Not all composers are great players, right?

I will myself through the doors, walk up to a lady sitting under a sign that reads Q-U, and say I'm Mark Tuomenoksa, T-U-O. She thumbs through a file box, hands me a manilla folder stuffed with registration papers, and then gestures to a guy standing by the wall.

This is Derek. He's a third year student. He'll be showing you around.

My dorm room is a 12x7-foot trapezoid that is nearly rectangular. It has a bunk bed, a desk and a chest of drawers. There's no airconditioning, just a window that opens on a center alleyway that is closed in by buildings on all four sides.

My roommate is a 320-pound trombone player from Connecticut who likes to eat sardines late at night. His family lives close enough to school to drive him, so he's brought lots of stuff: a stereo, records, clothes, and lots of cans of sardines.

I've got my suitcase and no saxophone. I ask if he wouldn't mind me taking the top bunk.

The first week at Berklee we have no classes. Instead, we all take tests and evaluations. We test in music theory, arranging, composition, ear-training, analysis, etc. The goal of the testing is to segment classes into groups with common skill levels. Each class has thirteen sections, A-M.

For the first time in my life, I do well on a test. In fact, I do well on all the tests ending up in sections L or M of every course. Exciting and terrifying.

Week two, we begin classes. My first class is Ear-Training. The goal of ear-training is to completely unify your aural, visual and tactile systems, to be able to see and feel what you hear, to be able to hear and feel what you see.

The room is abuzz with speculation about the class. What will we learn? How will we be evaluated? Who's gonna quit first? I sit quietly in the back of the room taking it all in.

At 8:45, the teacher walks into the room, tosses his backpack onto his desk, places a record on a turntable, drops the needle in the middle of a song, looks up at us and says, "Write this down."

I recognize the song; it's John Coltrane. The teacher has dropped the needle right in the middle of his solo and Trane is all over the horn. I assume he's kidding. Who could possibly write that down? Maybe this is some kind of music-nerd hazing or a form of shock therapy.

I make a comment to the guy on my my left, a real piano player from Long Island. He doesn't hear me. He's busy scribbling away. He's transcribing trane in realtime.

I close my eyes trying to get a handle on the solo. The notes are moving so fast, I can't even hear them all, let alone write them down. I'm doomed.

Over the next three months, I spend lots of time on ear-training. I wave my hands in the air conducting as I quietly sing solfege on the Red-Line. I transcribe and re-transcribe hours and hours of music. The metronome becomes my best friend as I practice new pieces, scales and arpeggios.

Ear-training and piano playing are challenging and I simply don't keep up with some of the guys in my classes. Still, by the end of the first semester, I'm able to transcribe a Trane solo as I hear it.

My arranging and composition classes tell a different story. I feel like I've come home. I'm amazed when other students start asking me for advice and guidance. They're the best musicians I've ever known and they're asking me questions?

The guys start looking forward to playing my charts when we get together each week to play through what each of us has composed.

You can't play for shit, but man you sure do get composition and arranging. How do you do it without being able to play?

I have no answer.

Late December, I've learned more in the past three months than I did in all the years that preceded them. I can even hold my own comping chords and playing a short riff here or there. Flying back to Chicago, I think about all that I feared prior to coming to Boston, how I'd been tempted to sit out a year to prepare and practice before applying to school. I'm glad I didn't.

Happy Sunday,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It Ain't All That

"Congratulations on your retirement, Lee. We're both so happy for you."


"Gosh, you're only 59. You've got plenty of time to do whatever you want. The possibilities are unlimited. You can do anything!"


"So, what are you going to do with yourself?"

It was 25 years ago. A large gathering of business colleagues and family members wishing my dad a bon voyage as he sailed into retirement.

During the cocktail hour, I was introduced to people with whom my dad had worked over the last thirty years. At dinner, I heard war-stories about the good old days when my dad and his colleagues would change the world of telecommunications.

After dinner, corporate big-shots took turns at the podium roasting my pop. His friends conveyed their envy and spoke of all the opportunities that awaited him. My dad delivered an amazing farewell speech.

As people spoke of the limitless opportunity that awaited my dad, I got excited for him. He was young. He had plenty of money. He had nothing that depended upon him being here or there. He really could do anything.

However, my excitement wasn't shared by my dad who appeared more and more like a deer in the headlights. The idea that it was all up to him now, that he could do anything he wanted, that he was free of structure and dependents, was terrifying.

This morning, as I thought about my dad retiring, it occurred to me that, when it comes to unlimited potential, there are fundamentally two types of people: those who are inspired and those who are overwhelmed. Although the impact is significant, the difference in process may be minor. It's simply the recognition that being able to do anything, doesn't mean that you have to do everything. It doesn't mean that you must evaluate everything. You needn't even pick the best thing. You just need to pick something.

I don't mean to cavalierly dismiss all the other things or to suggest that you not thoughtfully consider your choices (though in some cases, not thinking so much might be an improvement). It's just that there are very few decisions in life that are permanent. Even ones that seem permanent at the time they are made can be remade or unmade. Knowing, really knowing, that you can decide one thing today, and then change your mind tomorrow is freeing and the perfect companion to unlimited potential.

Sometimes it's impossible to know what your ultimate decision would be until you've made some other decisions.

Take the piano, for example: eighty-eight keys with unlimited potential to produce music. Over the years, I've got to point where I can play pretty much any song that I hear in real-time. Someone wants to sing thus and such, they hum a few bars and we're ready to perform.

The thing is this, although the piano has unlimited potential, 99% of all music composed since its inception explores less than 1% of the potential.

Consider all songs written in the key of C. The key of C has seven notes: C-D-E-F-G-A-B.

Each note defines a chord. To play a chord, you simply pick a note and then simultaneously play it along with the notes two-steps and four-steps above it (every other note). For example, to play a C chord, you play C, E and G. To play a D chord, you play D, F, and A, and so on.

The key defines whether or not the chord is major, minor or diminished. The first chord of the scale (the one built on the first note) is major, the second and third are minor, the fourth and fifth are major, the sixth minor and the seventh diminished.

This is the case for all the major keys, each key has seven notes. Each of the seven notes has an associated chord. Since there are twelve major keys, there are only eighty-four possible chords (twelve times seven). However, since the patterns of the chords are all the same regardless of the key, many musicians learn them in terms of their position within the scale. The chord built on the first note of the scale is simply the "one" chord, the chord built on the second note of the scale, the "two" chord, and so on. These are often notated in roman numerals. I, II, III, IV, etc.

To play any song in any major key, all you need to know is seven chords, not eighty-four. Most pop songs don't use all seven chords, just three: I, IV and V.

Some songs use II and VI. Fewer use the III chord.

Although the potential is unlimited, you can get by with just knowing a few basics.

As you play more, you'll encounter chords that don't fit. However, even these behave according to a relatively predictable pattern. There are chords that are "outside" the key, i.e., they use notes not found in the major scale. Most of the time, these chords are the major versions of the II, III or VI chord which within the key are minor. To make a minor chord major, you just raise the second note by one half-step, e.g., D-F-A becomes D-F#-A. The use of this technique is even less frequent than the use of the II, III and VI chords.

There are some cases where you composers make the major chords (I, IV and V) minor by lowering the second note by one half step, e.g., F-A-C becomes F-Ab-C. These occur infrequently.

Although you have unlimited potential in those eighty-eight keys, you can play 90% of pop songs by knowing thirteen chord patterns: seven basic chord patterns plus a variation on six of them.


Some songs seem more challenging because they change keys in the middle, but it's still all the same patterns. Once you got the basics down, you can learn all sorts of variations that make the music more interesting, but they're not required to get started.

You simply combine unlimited potential with a simple, progressive approach.

I guess it's by limiting the unlimited potential that we unlock it.

Funny, that.

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What can you do ?

I think about our son Rithvik, this remarkable boy on the autism spectrum, and I wonder:

- What do you do with someone who spends his waking hours predominantly in these modes: peaceful, radiantly happy and deliriously happy? He starts every day with a jump out of bed and ends by vaulting back onto it. I’m sure we all have days where we feel like that, but every single day?

- What do you do when aforementioned modes abide in all kinds of external situations – fun & relaxed, as well as difficult and hectic?

- What do you do with a person with autism that completely personifies ‘go with the flow’? Aren’t they typically attached to routine, even compulsively? Our first family vacation (last month) was a prime example: over the course of two weeks, we stayed at 4-5 different homes/hotels, ate meals in various settings (at the table, out by the grill, in minivans and airplanes, etc), took in a Broadway show, walked the streets of Manhattan, participated in a 100-person-strong family gathering in 110-degree Dallas heat, and so on. No problem. Start attending school? Wonderful. Move to middle school? Great. Return to homeschooling? Sure; what else you got?

I’m sure there’s a lot one could read into all this. I’ll tell you what I do. To me, it is real, live, breathing proof that happiness is indeed a choice, that it is completely independent of one’s immediate or extended environment, past habits or tendencies. I now know for a fact that one can create one’s state of being, and maintain and carry it around at will.

What else could one do?



Friday, September 2, 2011

The Artificial Ceiling

The primary question is: Why would you ever want to spend time doing things you already know how to do?

A corollary is: Never take a job for which you're fully qualified.

To be clear, this question and corollary are effective only when applied to someone disciplined and skilled, someone who is passionate about her pursuits. The reason to ask the question is that, over time, the trajectory of most skilled and disciplined people tends to arch from something nearly vertical to something nearly horizontal. Although his skill level may be higher than ever, the rate at which it is developing is in fact lower than ever.

In effect, the more skilled you are, then the less quickly you learn.

The phenomenon is so pervasive, that we often think about it as a fact of life. We accept that there is some kind of developmental ceiling past which no one can grow. It only make sense that someone who knows nothing would grow faster than someone who knows much, the former having so much more to learn.

This is pure fallacy. The retardation of growth in highly skilled people has nothing to do with potential, it is limited by the skilled person shifting energy from development and growth to maintenance of success and status. An unskilled person has nothing to lose and therefore takes more risks, tries things that are unlikely to work, thinks nothing of failing and trying again. It's the nature of learning.

The skilled person has much to lose (or at least she perceives it that way). People expect her to succeed, to do well, to perform. In response to these perceptions and expectations, she plays it safe staying well within the bounds of her capacity.

Her growth trajectory slows and then stalls and then, eventually, plummets. It's the plummeting part that we fail to notice. When someone is unskilled, growth is easy to see. Any number divided by zero is large. However, when someone is highly skilled growth may only be perceptible to others highly skilled. Similarly, decline is almost imperceptible and certainly on a day-by-day basis. So, the shift from positive to neutral to negative trajectory goes unnoticed.

The answer is: never take a job for which you're completely qualified.

As long as there are tasks that exceed your grasp you'll develop and grow, the ceiling will continue to rise.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Iris on Drugs

Yesterday, Will and I received this email from Iris...

Hi guys,

Started Adderall today and decided to log my experiences in a doc. Wanted to share with you my first notes.



Prescription 10mg, once a day. Doctor says it will work 4 to 6 hours. I decided to take it after my playroom sessions in the morning to be able to get things done at home and work afterwards.

She recommends not taking it too late in the day to avoid not being able to sleep. If it doesn’t seem to work enough, I can give her a call in a week for adjustment of the doses. I have to get see her again before the prescription of 30-days runs out.

Day 1-3:30 PM

Took it at 2:30 PM when I walked out the pharmacy. By the time I got home I felt relaxed and comfortable. First thing I noticed was that I stopped squinting. Second thing I noticed that I had a more friendly loving view towards people around me. I was thinking about the band and wanted to make sure I mention that everyone knows we love and support each other--funny that! At home I notice that I am tired from being so worked up all morning, but after about half an hour the tiredness starts to slowly disappear and I don’t want to lay down like I normally would want to.

I play my daily Lumosity brain games and had four out of five games very high or highest scores.

5:30 PM.

I can’t say that I am focused on the things that have to get done first, but I feel relaxed and have noticed a couple of “weird” actions. 1) I noticed the trashcan in the bathroom is full (which it has been for a while) and decide to change it with a clean bag. 2) I notice that the kitchen garbage is full, so I change that one at the same moment.

I decide later to bring the garbage bag down to the garage and cleane the screen of my computer which has been dirty for months. While doing this, I think it is just as easy to use that same paper to also clean the tabletop quickly (and the legs and the sides!).

On my computer I clean out the Things program removing all the uncompleted tasks from the last year and adding all the upcoming tasks and things that have been floating in my mind. I am curious to see how I am acting by the end of the week and am curious to see if I have been able to make some headway with the tasks I am so far behind on. The fact that I take time to note down my experiment is quite amazing to me!

I think I am going to share this with Will and Mark.

I feel like a rock has been lifted from my shoulders and there is nothing to worry about. Man. It feels good!

Another thought came to me while reading back the 5:30 text: Maybe those things were the unimportant things that I got done where the most important things to be done first, but normally I don’t see it that way?