Permanence and Gratitude


Today I am grateful for coffee hot from the pot, mugs that remind me of special moments in my life, tool boxes full of crystals, water bottles with stickers, happy colored post it notes, and my cat who naps. I’m grateful for my ability to see colors the way I do, and to recognize weird smells as other more familiar smells.

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I start every day with a gratitude list as an exercise in permanence.

It’s maybe a little weird to hear it phrased that way, but it’s the truthiest truth. This is a way for me to remind myself that I exist and that my time here on earth makes a measurable impact on the world around me. Perhaps oddly, I need to remind myself often that I take up space and that I am truly alive. It’s something that a lot of people are unsure how to articulate, this uncertainty that they exist, this weird isolated space that could possibly be unreal, and I’ve learned to navigate it only recently.

Earlier this year I held a loose diagnosis of ADHD. This meant, to me, that so many things I had trouble with could all be woven together with a label that removed me from responsibility, which meant it removed me from shame. Took the guilt right out of my sails and filled it with relief, let me tell you. To no longer feel as though I wasn’t doing this whole life thing right because I was unable to process auditory information as well as the person next to me, it changed so many things. This disorder looks different for everyone who holds it, but for me I can trace it’s impact in my life alongside my circumstances like a road-map to independence and I call that a triumph.

Growing up, I moved a great deal.

I moved so often that I grew weary of telling people how to pronounce my name and would ask them to just call me whatever was easiest. I was a lonely little one, with a fear that I’d be forgotten so deeply ingrained in my tiny heart. It wasn’t just residential changes, it was also the different places I’d visit. My mother’s house on certain weekends, my father’s otherwise. When he remarried, it became more visits to his new wife’s family, and their family’s family. I had reintroduced myself to people who were legally my family so many times, it really did a number on me.

There was a time when I couldn’t remember my new cousins name, but I was in charge of handing out the holiday presents and in that moment I felt real humiliation. I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask, because I wanted so desperately not to make a mistake. I’d had my name forgotten so many times, I knew how wounding it was. I put the present gently down in front of who I thought it belonged to, but far enough away that it could have been looked over. I was shaking, and I felt sick to my stomach. I asked if I could be done handing out the gifts, but was pushed to continue. It’s one of my most poignant memories.

I know that there are many buzz-worthy articles written on Fear, and what it does to us psychologically and physically. But however irrationally, my greatest fear is being forgotten. That, and drowning in the middle of the ocean, but I think that one is very rational. The oceans are massive and old and have been here since before we invented time.

But! Back to my practice of writing gratitude lists, a few years ago I found that by writing little notes about my moments, I could remember them down the line almost to the second. I would be able to rediscover specific events with clarity and assert to myself that they really happened. It changed everything for me, and became a foundational pillar in the blueprint I wrote for my membership program.

One of the things that can happen to those of us who coexist with ADHD is our time can pass faster than we’re able to see it. (You can read a few things about that here, and here.) It can zoom right through us and we’re watching it slide by, wondering when we’ll be able to get our task done or when we’re going to find our productivity.

Because of this, we often find ourselves feeling impermanent or outside of existence itself.

We feel we’re existing outside of time, so why wouldn’t we feel isolated from existence itself? While it’s not often articulated this way, the crux of our anxiety around existence often comes from this fear.

But the speed of time, it can cause chaos for me. I forget things, and I stumble when conversations go longer than I was ready for. If I’m listening to something or someone speak and I feel myself losing my ground that I’m standing on, I try to focus on reading lips or I press my feet firmly to the ground to stay in the moment itself.

I have lived a weird life, but it’s brought me to a very independent place that resulted in me having eyes to see how on EARTH to deal with my quirks and neuro-diversity. So the simple act of writing a list each day about things that have made me smile in the last 24 hours, it’s an act of rebellion to the speed of time that I can’t measure, it’s a foothold that I add to everyday keeping me grounded in my timeline.

But writing out gratitude lists, writing out moments that I want to remember in a short hand just for me, it’s opened me tremendously.

I can handle my waves of uncertainty a little better each time I write down things that tether me to my moment right now. I can stand a little taller when I’m feeling uneasy because I know that I take up space, and that I’m here in this moment. It’s a little ritual I’ve brought on myself so that the uncertainty isn’t so close-by.

So to bring this story to a full circle joinery, I know why my mind is troubled at times. I know what circumstances have given my pathway it’s turns, and I am learning how to navigate them with more and more ease each day. I write out a little timestamp to the Universe that says I existed, and plan on doing so every minute that passes.

image copyright @scrappyradish, 2019, used with permission