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Coronalone: Week 6 – Quarantine for the Well-Fed ADD Artist

"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.

And we currently find ourselves switching off blog authors for this week, to allow you to hear a different voice for a change.

What do you do with time? I ask this because right now, we’ve got a lot of it. These past few weeks have been an odd mix of emotions for me. I’m finding that there are a lot of areas in my day-to-day life that aren’t really working for me.

Using time wisely has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember, but I finally learned this past year that I have inattentive ADD, which explains a lot about my troubles with school and why I have so much difficulty staying on task. I haven’t had a 9-to-5 job since last May, so staying at home isn’t really new to me, but now that I am sharing all my days and nights with my wonderful, patience, loving, and very structured wife Robyn, our shared self-isolation is forcing me to learn some— much-needed— structure of my own. I’m truly blessed to be partnered with such a soul. I know that we need to work together, and seeing day after day how much she does to keep a million balls in the air is inspiring me to be more proactive.

When I started my last job more than 16 years ago, it was in a new position for the company. This meant that there was a bare-bones outline of the system that I would need to use, but that it would be up to me to flesh it out. Looking back, I can see that this is what works for me. I can create a system if there is some outline in place. Without some basic outline, though, I flounder.

When ownership of the company changed two years ago, my system was gradually dismantled and replaced— over and over again in a rapid-cycling rotation— with “new and improved” ones. I found myself unable to keep pace. It felt like trying to run on marbles… with no hand rails! The constant changes under new management left me reeling, and they shined a light on some of the executive function weaknesses that I now know are tell-tale signs of ADD. The struggle— and the panic attacks that came along with it— led me to seek answers for what was happening to me, which is how the long-overdue diagnosis of inattentive ADD was reached. Losing my job was definitely a shock, but out of that chaos, and self-doubt, and grasping for understanding came clarity about who and how I am. That allowed me to release any resentment or blame that might have come from the situation.

In learning about ADD, I found that scheduling, time management, and task initiation are my “Big 3”— the executive skills on which I most need to work. Although, while trying to write this blog post I am realizing that I should also work on collecting my thoughts and articulating them in a cohesive way as a top priority, since I’ve re-written and reorganized several paragraphs just trying to convey these simple thoughts. It’s funny, because I am fairly good at drawing schematics and writing instructions, but not a compelling story line. I prefer to distill ideas down into bite-sized pieces. I guess that’s why I draw mostly one-panel cartoons: a moment in time captured, instead of the daunting slog of telling an entire story. I really love it when something compact and simple— something bite-sized— delivers a “KAPOW” moment. It’s what I appreciate in art, too. Keep your sonnets and give me haiku. Never mind Tolstoy; I’ll take Lao Tsu!

Many people have suggested that I do a children’s book or a comic book but, to me, that seems like a Herculean task. Even though I have had opportunities to do those very things on a professional level, I have blown them because I was simply overwhelmed by the very idea. And when overwhelmed, I don’t act. I just stand still. It always feels like that Herculean task, trying to manage too many things at once, and the dampening of motivation that washes over me at that moment is akin to the sound effect we hear in Star Wars for the powering down of the Death Star, as everything shuts down in the (subconscious) hope of not having to deal with any of it. I’m sure there’s an unconscious element of, “If I do nothing, then at least I can’t do it wrong.” I’m learning that I have to break things down into manageable steps to avoid the defense mechanism of shutting down.

Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned so far:

Life is a process. It’s not so much about reaching a particular goal and considering it done, but an ongoing tweaking and tuning in to a more efficient way of being. I want to be able to balance whimsy with structure. Up until now, my “ideal day” might have played out kinda like this:

Wake up and have some coffee, meditate, contemplate the nature of existence, draw for a few hours, eat, draw some more, take a nap… shall I go on? I think you get the idea. And it’s a wonderful idea in theory, but not very practical or fair to those around me. Now, I see that I can complete the mundane tasks of everyday life while also enjoying the free expression of my artistic side. It just takes a little planning. One does not have to be sacrificed for the other, which brings me back to one of my favorite sayings from illustrator and founder of “InkTober”, Jake Parker:

“Not perfect, but finished.”

Much like this blog post.

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