Be Patient or You’re Going to Hell

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom .

I’ve just hired someone to tell me what to do. Oops, no, that would be a spouse. Let me clarify. I’ve just hired a coach.

I’ve been an advocate of coaches for years and have done a little life-coaching for others to some degree, though you can’t really coach yourself. I know of many successful businessmen who employ coaches anywhere from once every few months to twice a week and are extremely productive. When I was in marriage counseling by myself, my counselor had recommended that I suggest one for my spouse, particularly to help him advance in his career, which I thought was a great idea, but I wanted one, too!

A coach isn’t exactly a counselor, though there are aspects of counseling involved. They tend to be from two schools of thought: either a drill sergeant or a cheerleader. I’m not in the mood for someone domineering, thank you very much, but I also don’t need someone who does nothing but tell me I’m great. If I need a pep talk, I have friends for that. If I need emotional support, I have friends for that, too. But I cannot go to friends for objective advice. It just doesn’t work.

So why now? Because things have changed in the past couple of years. And mainly because some of the obsessions with work and schedule have been cleared out and I’m so much less stressed these days that I’m sometimes having trouble staying on track. I’m finally stopping to smell the roses, but then I just want to stay in the garden and avoid going back to an office that pumps in artificial air and where I rot under fluorescent lights.

This year, as opposed to last year or the year before, I have a much better understanding of who I am and why I am the way I am. In March of this year, I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD. Funny that that would happen at my age, but it explains so much!Flying By Night novel

Ironic, too, how the diagnosis came to be. My counselor had asked me about it before, but I didn’t have a childhood diagnosis. After all, with such strict parents and such a staunch religious upbringing, I was well-managed by the adults around me, even if I never was able to sit perfectly still in church and always but always found myself swinging my legs to the consternation of the adults on my pew, writing stories on the back of the offering envelope, biting my fingernails, scrying at the pulpit until the church walls turned purple, and coming really close to astralling right out of my body because I was a million miles away and still hearing every word of the sermon and able to repeat it back and expound on it when asked. I was told more than once to be still or I was going to Hell.

But when my counselor inquired originally about the possibility of being ADHD, I’d shrugged it off as something rambunctious little boys had, not a successful businesswoman with a history of straight A’s.

In January, I noticed there was something “different” about an acquaintance but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Not different in a bad way, but just something unique and…familiar. It hit me a month later that he was an ADHD child all grown up. I wanted to understand him better so I started doing the research and found…me. Truly an omigod moment.

He seemed a little embarrassed about his own diagnosis, as if it makes him deficient in some way, which I think is a shame because the positive aspects of it are so many of the things that I admire and enjoy, particularly the creativity associated with ADHD. But then, he’s probably always seen it as something to overcome while for me, it was a relief.

Mine hasn’t manifested in quite the same way as his, and I don’t have a talent for forgetting to show up at appointments or forgetting to return phone calls, but then, I also live by checklists and calendars. If it’s not written on the calendar, don’t expect me to be there. Or as I told Aislinn tonight, “If your sleepover isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.” So maybe I am just as bad but I have more coping mechanisms.

I think back now on the way my mind runs on four tracks at all times, the absolute torture of having to wait in line, never feeling I’ve gotten enough done even when I’m the poster child for productivity, impulsively volunteering to help someone when I’m already in a time crunch, the insomnia because I can’t quiet my mind long enough to fall asleep, the sense of being in constant motion even if it’s only in my brain, the tendency to multi-task and juggle better than anyone else around me, the you-oughta-be-a-doctor penmanship that usually turns into printing, the inability to just watch TV without also doing laundry, dishes, and paperwork at the same time, my hatred of detail work and tendency to make mistakes if the work is dull, how many times I’ve locked my keys in the trunk or thought I hadn’t turned off the iron or locked the door, my quick boredom with the same old stuff, the bane of pre-designed office cubicles that are both uniform in appearance and can’t be rearranged when I “need a change” every couple of months.

And what happens every single day of my life? The words I’ve heard more than any other phrase: be patient.

Well, guess what? I can’t be patient. I’m not wired to be patient.

I don’t want to hear that maybe my life’s lesson is to learn to be patient. Sorry, too Judeo-Christian for me. That’s what parents tell their children to make them shut up and be good.

Maybe my lesson is to not be patient. To not wait. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I can do anything about events or circumstances that take time and maybe it does mean that I’ll have to wait, but I’ll do so impatiently. Because I’m not wired to like the process of waiting. And I will no longer kick myself for not liking the waiting game or feel I’m spiritually deficient in some way for not accepting the old “patience is a virtue” crap. I still wait for some things and I accept that I have no choice but to wait for some things, but I refuse to enjoy waiting.

The problem is, I’ve taken care of a lot of the obsessions I had when I was younger, like the angst over deadlines and how I’d die if I missed one and how I could never let anyone down and how I was somehow responsible for everyone else’s happiness even when they were determined to be unhappy. I suppose I’d struck a certain balance between the obsessions and compulsions and the ADHD I never knew I had.

So in getting rid of obsessions and compulsions, the ADHD side of the scales is more emphatic…and my mind is all over the place and it’s harder to focus now than ever before. While writing a single sentence, my mind’s already been through a whirlwind of other things that need to be done. Hence, the decision to look for a coach who could keep me on track and help me figure out what to be aware of and what to work on.

So I went coach shopping.

The first candidate for a coach was one that many writer friends use, specifically for writing. Her main emphasis was on time management, something I already do fairly well. Since Shannon was a baby, I’ve carried a tape recorder and dictated several million words while driving, waiting in line, walking, whatever. The words go straight from my brain to tape—and don’t get lost in my fingertips—so they can be transcribed later and it’s massively productive for me. This coach’s focus was a little too narrow, and I felt I could probably give her more tips than she could give to me.

The next candidate seemed to be what I was looking for but she focused too heavily on God and Jesus. There’s a place for Christian coaches, but it’s not for me. I don’t want every tidbit of advice to be coated in religion, and “Just pray about it” doesn’t answer all my problems. I believe that the Higher Power gives us the intelligence to get things done on our own and it’s insulting to Deity for us to sit back and wait for God to do it all. We’re supposed to use what we’ve been given.

The third candidate I interviewed spent too much time complaining about how visitors to her website happily take her freebies but never hire her. Sorry. I can find negativity without paying for it.

I decided to go back to a former counselor of mine, who had helped me through my depression when my marriage was falling apart, and discuss the possibility of his acting as a coach to me. I spent an hour on the phone with him, but most of it was aimed at how I needed to forgive myself for having ADHD and not to beat myself up about not forcing other people to stay in relationships with me.

None of it felt right. I wasn’t beating myself up about either. At least half a dozen times in an hour, I said, “Well, actually….” My ex used to say “Be that as it may” when he really meant “You’re right but I’m not going to admit it.” For me, I often say, “Well, actually…” When I mean to say “You’re wrong but I’m trying to tell you in a nice way.” So with this counselor, when I realized how often I’d “well-actually-ed” him, I knew he wasn’t the right coach for me.

The coach I settled on is not one I’d thought of as a coach, yet in talking to her last week, I realized that our relationship has already been established as a coaching type. She’s a very spiritual businesswoman I met earlier this year, who promptly gave me some great personal advice just because she liked me when she met me. Every time we’ve talked since then, she’s given me great advice.

I’ve written it down and used it as a checklist of what to watch out for and where to focus my energies for the most impact. I have a major new project going because of what she suggested I look for. Her insistence that I start adding photos to my online journal has tripled the email responses I get to my entries. Her understanding that I can’t not multi-task was followed by a suggestion of concentrating on doing only three things at a time, which was effective for getting me out of a stressful situation.

I’ll probably call her once a month for an hour. I think I’m going to be happy with this arrangement. She has a serenity and wisdom that’s gentle, even when she’s telling me how seriously I need to watch for something or delivering what others might take as negative or bad news. And yet, there are no putdowns and no sermons. She’s a “What the Bleep” sort who believes in bringing Heaven to Earth and making life what you want it to be. I like that about her.

And the only thing she’s said so far that would qualify as telling me what to do is that I’m to celebrate every moment for the rest of the calendar year.