Ordinary Thoughts, Essays and Short Stories

Mischievous Minds

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. This came as no surprise, but receiving an official confirmation was a bit of a relief. I used to feel guilty for my lack of focus…thinking I just wasn’t trying hard enough. But the diagnosis helped me realize that my tendency to zone out or get sidetracked isn’t the result of a lazy mind that simply refuses to pay attention. It’s because I’ve got some funky wiring going on upstairs that makes it a real challenge to fire on all cylinders.

This disorder manifests itself in various ways. For example, more often than not, my brain would rather wander hither and yon than zero in on one particular subject or situation. I lose focus easily and sometimes find it very hard to concentrate during a conversation. It’s not because what the other person is saying isn’t compelling. It’s because my mind has a knack for chewing through its leash and galivanting about. Pulling my attention back to the present feels like a physical struggle inside my head. In an attempt to stay in the moment and retain what I’m hearing, I’ll often silently repeat what the person has just said. It generally works, but it’s exhausting. My mind will even float away on a stream of consciousness during my nighttime prayers, and I wind up apologizing to God for getting distracted. For whatever reason, it seems the only times I’m fully focused are when I’m engrossed in a book or lost in writing.

At the end of the day, if I try to inventory all I’ve done since rolling out of bed, my brain freezes up. The same thing often happens when I’m asked a question about something I did earlier in the week…or even that same day. It can take some serious concentration just to recall what I had for breakfast because basic information retrieval is, quite often, a downright struggle. I should probably be used to it because this isn’t something that started happening after I entered the golden years. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. (Of course, you can take that with a grain of salt since it’s been pretty well established that I can’t remember squat.)

I also have a habit of getting sidetracked while doing things around the house. I’ll be working on a task, go into another room for a moment, notice something there that needs attention and then start in on that. The fact that I’ve left a half-finished job in the other room completely slips my mind. What makes this even more bothersome – and not just for me – is when the initial task was something I was working on with another person. For all they know, I simply abandoned them.

Decision-making is another challenge because I tend to overthink things. Once I finally do make a decision, I almost immediately second-guess myself. This trait definitely gets in the way when I’m facing a particularly multifaceted project. It often causes me to become so overwhelmed that I simply throw in the towel. I’ll usually start up again somewhere down the road – and even bring the project to fruition – but it drags things out unnecessarily and, frankly, it’s mentally taxing. I keep thinking I’ll finally get into the habit of staying the course but, so far, my intellect is the only part of me that considers that the best way to accomplish something. My nature has yet to jump on the bandwagon.

I am, however, second to none in at least one area…I’m a master procrastinator. Take this essay, for instance. I like to post new blog content every other Sunday. As I type this, it’s already past 5:00 pm on the “every other” Saturday. And, as you may have ascertained since we’re only midway through the essay, it’s not even ready to proofread yet. This is pretty much how I roll, but it’s not the most effective way to handle deadlines. And, yes, I’m well aware that, since I’m no longer in the workforce, most of those deadlines are set by me. That means much of the stress in my life is self-imposed. But that’s a self-help project for another time.

When it comes to ADHD, I identify with most of its laundry list of symptoms. But when I was diagnosed, I did question whether I truly fit the “H” aspect of that acronym. I mean, compared to me, a sloth looks like the Tasmanian Devil. I learned, though, that the term “hyperactive” doesn’t necessarily mean you spazz out and spin around in circles. (Although considering my lack of grace, that might be fun for others to watch.) Hyperactivity sometimes presents itself in much less noticeable ways. For example, I move my hands and feet a lot. Not because they’re uncomfortable or I feel nervous…it just seems to happen. I’ll also find myself chewing my tongue, particularly when driving. Sort of like Bessie the Cow chomping her cud…but behind the wheel instead of out in the field. I make a conscious effort to stop these behaviors when I notice them, but they generally start up again in short order. You’d think all that movement would at least burn a few calories but, if it does, my waistline hasn’t gotten the memo.

I envy people who seem to absorb and retain things easily because I have to consciously work at it, and it rarely sticks the first time. My husband has trouble understanding why I repeatedly forget directions to various destinations. He’s one of those people who can mentally file away this type of information and immediately access it the next time he needs it. For me, it becomes automatic only after I’ve taken the route multiple times.

I know it’s frustrating for others when I ask them to repeat what they’ve already told me – sometimes more than once – or when I forget what I was doing because I get distracted by something on the sidelines. But what they may not realize is that it’s frustrating for me, too.

Over the years, I’ve tried self-help books, tapes, and videos but, as is typical, I’ve never followed through enough to reap any major benefits. I realize there are effective pharmaceutical treatments available, but I’ve opted not to take any of the medications because I’m not all that keen on the potential side effects.

I’m fortunate that, while my level of ADHD (and its sidekick, OCD) may be an inconvenience, it’s far from debilitating. It hasn’t kept me from enjoying the important things in my life, so I figure I’ll just continue to navigate my happy little world as best I can. It hasn’t failed me yet.

Now let’s just hope that, when I’m ready to publish this, I’ll remember which folder it’s in…and what I named it.

Care to Share?


  1. Susan Deveaux

    Well ! I never realized you had ADHD ! At least 3 of my 4 children do too. Some how it escaped me ! I definitely relate to over thinking ANY decision, & I mean ANY ! An artist I follow has it too, & defines his as “fast brain “. There is a Doctor out there somewhere who has a whole theory about ADHD, & that’s his description of it-fast brained !

    • Virginia Boshears

      Fast brain? I’ll have to look that up. 🙂

  2. Jan Dalton

    When I have had to discuss these behaviors with parents, I was not allowed to use the term ADHD or ADD (only a doctor could make the diagnosis). When their child was not making academic progress, I had to try to explain what was happening that prevented their child from being to retain and retrieve information. The best explanation I came up with over the years was to say that our brains are like a very sophisticated filing system. For most people, they take in the information and then it gets filed away to be retrieved when needed. Their child’s filing system looks like a tornado swirling all the information around like an exploded filing cabinet. So, as they attempt to retrieve what sound a (g) makes, they could actually be thinking about the bus ride to school and the big cow they saw. In a 5 year old, the hyperactivity looks like their attempt to sit on a plastic mat, but I look back and it is on their head, they’re holding the sides and hopping around the group, or I see it sailing across the room. Impulsive behavior is very common and it looks like a child who cannot just walk around a chair. They climb over or under, jump it, or shove it out of the way. Or, it looks like a child who cannot stop clapping, talking out, or touching others. As an adult, you are aware and understand what this is all about, but for a 5-6 year old, it can be a frustrating and even a little scary. I think we all have a little bit of attention deficit depending on what we have to be focused on. We all are better focused when it involves something we love to do.

    • Virginia Boshears

      Yeah, it definitely presents itself differently in adults. Interesting that you mention the brain’s “filing system.” I’ve always said that everything I’ve ever learned is filed away in my head but, unfortunately, most of the cabinets have fallen over and the contents are dumped all over my brain’s floor. It’s a real mess up there. 🙄

  3. Darlene Dalton

    Reading this I thought it sounded so much like me that it might be a family trait. I suspect mother might have had the problem. I don’t have to worry about it. Now I can blame it on old age and happily bounce through life, or what’s left of it

    • Virginia Boshears

      Say what you want, Aunt Darlene, but I wish my memory was half as good as yours! ♥️

  4. Shelton Weiler

    It’s likely God receives a multitude of apologies from folks attempting to pray. Amazing how far one’s thoughts can stray!
    Thanks for helping some of your readers realize they are not alone when these things happen. Indeed – misery does live company!!!

    • Virginia Boshears

      Hi, Shelton! Are you any relation to Sharon? 😝 (Sorry…I just couldn’t resist. 🤗)

  5. Cheri Wickham

    I certainly related to much of what you had to say about the way that your brain works! I actually meant to respond after reading this but got distracted. It is interesting that problems with executive functions show up differently depending on context. I would have thought that your last job before retirement would have been so challenging for you since each day was filled with different problems and circumstances. It is so unusual to be diagnosed later in adulthood- would love at some point to hear more about that process.

    • Virginia Boshears

      You’re right…my last job was definitely challenging. My brain was pretty much fried at the end of every day, but I never regretted going to work there. The great group of people I worked with made it worth it. 😊

  6. Pamela Binge

    I related so much to this Virginia. We are definitely related because your description of a day at home happens to me all the time!! Start in the kitchen with something and go into another room and find something else to do leaving things unfinished in the other room. I too have trouble focusing on what I am being told and ask to hear it again. Never been tested but I seem to use my hands a lot while resting too. Loved this post!!

    • Virginia Boshears

      As they say…”The struggle is real!”

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