I love me a list.

If it involves bulleted numbers, due dates, and a checkbox that’s even better. Once upon a time, I was rigid about my schedule. Every fifteen minutes of my day was scheduled out in advance and I rarely, if ever, varied from the preset schedule for that day. A model of efficiency, this historical performance-driven behavior explains the shocking (to me) conclusion my family and some of my friends have drawn that I am an organized individual. In fact, I even believed it for a while there.

For about 15 hours in 2016, I considered becoming a professional organizer- like as an actual occupation. I met with one friend who was kind enough to let me practice on her. Four hours and twelve Target runs later it was glaringly obvious to both of us; this was not meant to be. I had so much fun that afternoon, but the reality was we had made zero progress and wasted a good deal of gas. I mean, it never occurred to me to map out the scope of the project as a whole before shopping. My sweet friend broke it to me very gently that she was no longer in need of my services. What she was kind enough to withhold was probably something along the lines of, “Thanks, but I can waste gas and time roaming the aisles of Target on my own, so why would I pay you to do it for me?”

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Based on my own circle of girlfriends alone, I am fairly confident I am not unique among women in craving routine. Structure. Beyond purpose, an actual plan for how the day will move from point “A” to point “B.” Maybe it's the hormones, but in about 2.7 seconds my thoughts/feelings can go from, “My children are the most precious things on the planet. I love them so much I never want to be away from them for a second,” to “Sweet Lord, I need 72 hours alone- 24 of them just to sleep...would it be normal to walk into a mental health facility and volunteer myself for a 72-hour hold?” You guys, I’m totally kidding. Mostly.

But seriously, the structure of a schedule ensures that I won’t get lost in every thought/feeling and since those change regularly, and often at the speed of light, that is a good thing. I wish I had $100.00 for every time I walked into a room to do a thing, only to find myself murmuring to no one,“Why did I come in here?” So I do the only thing one can do in that situation; return to the room I came from and try to recover the lost slice of my mind that informed me of what I intended to do next. And repeat.

Clearly, I need my schedule. It gives my days a sense of productivity. And productivity is key, right?  

By nature, I am not organized, but for years I managed to mask that fact with rigidity and sheer willpower. Also, I never cut myself slack. There was no question as to how I would get it all done - I just would. “Yes,” was my favorite response. I would have told you it was because I was capable and reliable. The truth is, I was terrified that if I said, “No,” I would miss out, or even worse, whoever was asking might not like me. (Gasp!) So, I scheduled myself to the minute, never varied, squeezed two day’s work or activity into one calendar day and was perpetually exhausted. I actually believed that productivity was more important than, well, anything. Unfortunately, this pattern continued through the early years of my marriage and into the first couple years of parenting. With my first, I was able to keep up the act and convince myself it was necessary.

Then I had two children.

Personally, nothing else in my life (and I do mean nothing!) has required me to address my innately selfish nature the way motherhood has. At the time I was entirely unaware that I had it pretty damn good with my firstborn. She essentially came out of the womb asking for instructions and clarifying where the boundaries are, so as not to violate them. Had she been an only child, I imagine I might have become an obnoxious version of myself that believes I am far better at this whole mothering thing than I actually am. My second child is my very own slice of humble pie. He has a heart of gold and wants desperately to please me and anyone else he loves. But two children to my one self came with a whole new set of tasks that had to be worked into a whole new routine. And number two, by nature, was simply less compliant than number one.

Turns out, number two has ADHD. I’ll give you two guesses where he got that from?

At 35 years old, I was finally diagnosed with ADD. Much to my own surprise, my first thought was one of intense relief. I finally had an explanation (of sorts) for why I have had to work so hard to stay on top of things. Having a name for this struggle gave me a sense of peace about my reality; without my list and the ability to check things off of it, I wind up feeling unproductive, but now I have a deeper understanding of why. Knowing that “Why” has allowed me to move in the direction of embracing the truth of my own reality instead of circling the drain of the comparison trap. TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK...