Ep 12 - 10_10_19, 12.52 PM
5:40PM Nov 12, 2019
Lee Skallerup Bessette
Welcome back to all the things ADHD, the podcast where to Gen X women myself, Lee Skallerup Bessette and Aimee Morrison talk about living life with ADHD particularly in the context of getting a very late diagnosis in life, all things considered, at least as adults. This is part two of the three part of season one finale where Amy and I go into a deep dive in a super cold take on Marie Kondo's, tidying up and the reality show on Netflix. In this one, we are going to start talking a little bit more about stuff, our relationships to stuff, how that intersects with us as academics in particular and our relationship to books, as well as the issue of gender. So we're going to just drop us right back into the middle of conversation that Aimee and I were having where she is going to talk about why tidying up to her is so important.
And this is why I will tell you, Lee tidying is so important to me because what these people in the show are manifesting is this level of exhaustion related to the management of their things, right? That they have been completely beaten down by the like, and it's a responsibility to like I have purchased this I need to find a place to put it and then once I found a place to put it, I need to find it to be able to use it and and when you make people like hold in their hands, every single thing that they own, the kind of exhaustion they feel simply from owning that many things often, like I mean, people's faces get sadder before they get brighter, right. And that is certainly something that I experienced that and again, maybe this is an autism thing of over attachment to objects, but if I have too many pens, I get upset because I can't love them. All the same, right? I need each of my pens to I feel like it is serving a valuable purpose in my life, to say, I hear it as I'm saying it. But I mean, it is important to me that there's a space inside my head for me to have a relationship with each of my friends. Like and that is the honest to god truth. And that is why I am a declutter because it feels like you know, the the bell Arena in Montreal, inside my head because of every single thing that I own. Is it like a stadium worth of relationships of responsibility and care that I need to maintain? And it's tiring, so I always when I get stressed or overwhelmed, or I feel like there are too many things for me to do. Or I'm upset about something that's, that's happening in my life. I need to pare down the number of relationships I have, and most of my meaningful relationships are with objects, right? And so I need to get that under control. And that's, that's why that's why i Love tidying. Yeah, and spaces, right and only having four pens because I can't have any more pens than that. If they won't all fit in my car to go on a road trip. It's too many pens. I know that sounds like a bit bonkers, but but that's that's very much the way that I that I found Kondo's methods really resonated with me was that that's what she was proposing was that, you know, not that you need more storage containers, you know, to keep your stuff but she's like, oh, when you put them in, you know, these boxes with lids on them. They feel squashed and unhappy, right. I don't like Yeah, they do. Right. So it's not about, you know, having clear surfaces because you've hidden all of your stuff. It's about actually having a meaningful relationship with the objects in your life. And I don't think that's a way that many people in the West particularly relate to their things, right. Yeah, because we're usually more about acquisitiveness and more stuff. Right, and not really about these things that I have purchased. I owe a duty of care to. Right.
Yeah. No. And I think that there's I think that that, so when you put it that way, and it's pretty funny and I'm like, is you're like, well, I can I can only care for these four pens and I'm like, No, I love all my pens. Right? Just like my number. Yeah, no, I and I, because I was joking about this on Twitter last night, where I was like, I tweeted out I said, I've just discovered this this new stationery store.
And even though I have three or four shelves, of empty blank notebooks, right? I need notebooks. And I look at that shelf and it doesn't make it like Yeah, I love all these notebooks and I get I'm exactly like my daughter and it, you know, because I will be at those notebooks when I remember when I bought this notebook,
right? Do they not actually used it? Yeah, so like your relationship is with the moment of purchase. Yeah, Not with object.
Yeah, right. Well, and I end the thing that I was like, especially with notebooks right, and I was going to use this to write this. But then I got distracted. So I don't have the thing that I meant to write, right. I just have the notebook that I've meant to write it in. And it is That's right. And in for the things I intended to do right.
Yeah. And I mean, like that feels. I mean, that feels real to me to write this, this tendency, I mean, and I have it as well to sort of really be attracted to store displays, right. And there's the store displays of stationery items to like really represent possibilities. And certainly, it is. It is a truism of ADHD mostly that the project we have just had the idea of is always more interesting and the project we're in the middle of right? Young and extend to our relationships objects as well. Right? Like, I have a potato masher that's perfectly good. I don't mash potatoes very often, but oh my god, look at this potato masher. If I have this one, I'd even mash sweet potatoes on it. Right?
And then you have to potato mashers that you're not using for anything. Like I see. I think for me, my tendency to fall in love with shiny things in stores until I create stories about the possibilities for amazing self improvements that they will open in my life, you know, held in check held in check by my deep, you know, feelings of not wanting to betray the objects that I have already invested my love in by purchasing more of them, right. So that's probably what keeps me from having 45 blank notebooks. I mean, which my daughter has actually so. And then
And we did like This is despite the fact that we have moved around a lot You know, my husband, and I love him for this. It is it is, you know, it's he's the ying to my Yang culturally appropriate something. But like he doesn't have an attachment to anything. Right? He's just sort of like he's not Zen and so far as like I have renounced all worldly possessions like he likes nice clothes and we eat really good food and he's, you know, we're going to buy something we're going to invest in and buy the best that we can for the money that we've got. Because, you know, so he he's, he's very rational, which is why he doesn't deal well with my daughter with our daughter. they have different very different definitions of rational let's put it that way. I mean, my daughter is highly rational as well according to her own world logic. which drives my husband insane. But his weakness and this is fine and we can also talk about this with Kondo and the The the controversy around that is my husband does hoard books.
And we have moved and this is the first time. This is the first time because often because we don't have enough space, we don't unpack all the books. And so finally, this last time, not that this most recent move, and this is this has taken three years between the space that we moved to Fredericksburg, and then the space that we moved here up to Northern Virginia, he finally uttered the words I never thought I'd hear. Holy shit. I have a lot of books. Maybe I have too many and I don't need them all. And so right. He made that. He said that when I finally made him unpack all the books because I was like I'm sick and tired of going into this room that we wanted to turn into a literal library.
That is just boxes above Like that, that stressed me out I'm like, and also because I my books were in there and I needed my books. I was trying to finish my dissertation and turn it into a book. I mean it the dissertation was finished, I was trying to finish turning my dissertation into a book, and I needed books and they were really badly labeled and so I'm just like crawling around half empty, or half unpacked boxes of books and a queen size bed. So finally I said we're unpacking them and even then we didn't manage unpack all the books we still had like seven boxes that we couldn't fit and we had shelves double stack.
Here's the thing. A lot of the criticism online you know, some of which has been critiqued as you know, racist, and so is around Kondo's assertions again of this relationship that we have with our objects and and I feel like the Americans in the show often want to construe their belongings Simply as things and they do not want to do things like tap their books to wake them up yet, right? They do not want to hold a pair of jeans and say like, thank you, right, but I do not want to bring you with me into the future. Because that feels whoo and weird. But then again, you know, people will pick up a book and hold it and say, like, how could you ask me to part with this, right? Like, this is an essential part of who I am. So I think all of the people in the show, and actually it sounds like Murray is like this as well have deep emotional investments in their objects that they're just not acknowledging. It's like they need therapy. And that, you know, there's a reason that you're holding on to these books that have spent like X number of years in boxes unopened, right? Like these are literally like the skeletons in your closet that you're sort of dragging around with you. They're performing some type of identity working for you. There's like some Picture of Dorian Gray thing happening here that there's some like essential or like suppressed part of your identity. That's That's living inside these objects that gave you sort of like, status as fetishes in some way, right? Like they're standing in for some other thing. And so it's like it's just struck me as so odd this resistance to like these kind of Shinto inflected ideas about objects and relationships of care that Kondo is producing and performing openly. And the ways that the people on the show had these like, kind of ridiculous emotional attachments to their Tupperware, right?
Or like the woman that had like 80 billion nutcrackers all over her den right? In April, and she's like, I really like Christmas. And I'm like, okay, but, um, so it's not like and people say like, Oh, you know, Kondo wants you to get rid of all of your books. And it's, it's not about throwing stuff out. Like it's really not right. Like when Murray says something like, I have too many books. That's a judgment. Right? It's something else to say. I don't need these.
In my Life. Yeah, right. And, and so like to try to shame yourself into throwing things away is a kind of violence, right? to sort of say I want to meet someone's you know, expectation of, you know, we were really about open concept planning and bare surfaces and stuff. And so, you know, I need to make sure that I can do that and you're sort of like, you know, whipping yourself into throwing stuff out, even though you don't want to, I think, to honestly interrogate the sets of feelings that we have about things that we're like keeping in boxes for years without opening, right would be to sort of say, what emotional work Am I having these boxes perform for me or what emotional work Am I avoiding by not opening these boxes is right if I do that work, like maybe I'm going to keep all the books but maybe I'm not.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that like I came to that realization, and again, it was a long process for me too where I am finally gave away all of my Canadian, not all of them I kept like some that were like, Okay, well I've written about this book. And, you know, here's the first edition of Anne Hebert's poems that my grandmother got me right like, but most of my Canadian and chemical literature course the collection that I had collected and sort of curated while I was doing a PhD and my masters and sort of getting into that, like I'm going to be a Canadianist and get a tenure track job as a comparative Canadian, so I was carrying that around with me right? Early carrying that around with me. And a couple years ago realized that I probably didn't need to but then took another couple of years to kind of come to terms with that and I found them a good home I found them a place where they're actually going to be wanted. And that was also key for my kids. Where I got them to give away a lot of their kids books, right because they grow up and or level up is a girl so fast sound like a but they love a lot So quickly, right? We're a book that was awesome. Now they've like they've surpassed that reading level. So it's just gonna sit there because they literally will never go back to it because it's a baby book. And so what I what we did is I said, Okay, you know what we're going to do, I said, you're going to, you know, we can keep some special ones and there are some ones that we definitely want to keep and that and that's fine. But let's let's try and get rid of a lot of these books that you are literally never going to read again because they're picture books or they're beginner chapter books or you know, you're just not interested in it anymore. And we're going to get donate them to the Children's National Hospital because they need books, right to for waiting rooms and children's rooms and all that. And when my son broke his arm, he got excellent care there. And it was a way for them to kind of think about giving back and giving to other people, which I think helped them work through it a little bit as well. It's, you know,
yeah, I mean, I can see that and I mean, it's nice to see That your things have all home and that you're not sort of, you know, garbaging them. But also, I mean, sometimes we can use that, like I'm donating, right? Yeah, as a way of avoiding that conversation with ourselves, which is, I am actually not a comparative Canadianist anyone, right? Like, yeah, I know exactly. When I collected these books, and that's okay. Right. Yeah, I'm not bringing that version of myself with me into the future, right? I don't need to carry those books with me into the future. And I think it can be really nice. When we let things go, you also sort of take the time to acknowledge you know, that we are different. I mean, like, they always say, like, you see this in like the self help stuff. They're like, Don't keep your clothes that don't fit on the chance that you're going to, you know, lose weight and fit them later. If you lose weight, get new things, but it's just kind of the same principle. Right? It's like keeping these ghosts of the past that really just served To show you that you are not that person anymore, and yet somehow you seem to desire to continue to be that person. Right? It creates a kind of cognitive or emotional dissonance, this mismatch between an ideal self that lives in these boxes of books or in this sort of collection of size, whatever, skinny jeans and those objects that we keep, because we say that we love them are actually shaming us for changing.
Yeah, yeah. No, and I think that that and I think that that's something that we, we came we all of us sort of in one way or the other came to came to terms with so I actually also got rid of and they made the move. But then once they were in the new space, I said you know what, we're going to get rid of them, all of my PhD, all of my notes in photocopies because it was the early aughts. All of that stuff from my dissertation. Right? Finally got thrown out.
I know. And I'm still getting a little emotional talking about it because so much archival research gone, but the archives and now I get digitized and emailed to me. So like, and I mean, part of it is I did carry them with me for a while because I was working on to change it into a book and thank God I did keep because, yeah, that works cited was a mess as it was, and it would have been even worse, but they still had them. But then it was like, okay, the book came out two years ago. Why do I still have all this stuff?
Right. It's done its work. Yeah, you know, thank you for your service. Yeah. Right. And now I release you. Yep. Right. To the written work here is done. Yeah. Also paper, right. Yeah. I mean, I think that's really, that's really powerful. It's really great. To be able to do that. I mean, like, in a more practical way. For me, like I'm getting all like esoteric About our feelings and stuff that like, I'm recording this with you wearing a pair of Apple earbuds that have the the original kind of headphone rackety thing, because that's what fits in my computer. And those are my daughters, because mine has the lightning thing now, and which meant, oh, I have to go find my daughter's headphones. And I walked into her room, and I got down on my knees. And I looked underneath her bed. And that's where they were. It's the first place I looked, because I saw them there last week and said, You need to take those out of there because the cat's going to eat them. Or you're going to step on them, or you're going to forget that that's where they are, and it will forget where they are, right? No, so I am like, both impressed and appalled. That I was like, Oh, I need this specific pair of headphones. I know it's underneath my daughter's bed right and I immediately walk there and got it and so for me, the the the tidiness is a gender thing because when things are a mess. It's always moms problem.
And like, Man, you are getting on a leaky boat. You are going to go out to see on the SS moms executive function, right. And I have the capacity only to remember so many things. Right. And if I hear one more time, like I will say, don't you think you should wear mittens today? Oh, either. And like you don't know where mittens are? Yeah. Do you know where my mittens are? Of course, I know where humans are. Right. I don't want to know that. You feel like if you put them back where they belonged, you would know where your mittens are. And I would not get these phone calls. Right. So there was that family in the in the series as well, where like the son I thought they have such a charming family. The son was like, to be honest, it was kind of nice when I didn't know anything, right? Yeah. Yeah, because like, you could just ask mom, and junk tell you where stuff was. And I thought, oh man, that's not a strength for me. So, this like, there's the social reproach that comes from being untidy, that will always attach to the woman in the family and not to the end, regardless of whose issue it is. But when you have a lot of belongings, and they're sort of scattered willy nilly all over the house, it's also seeming to be mom's job to remember where everything is all the time, and I can't so that's another reason that I kind of insist on tidiness. It's, you know, it's not because I need to love all of my coffee spoons, equally, Prufrock style, I just need them to be where they're supposed to be so that people don't say to me, where are the spoons right now? Please, I cannot and can barely keep myself on track. I cannot do this for you as well.
And, and that was part of the thing like also that coming from a neuro divergent point of view, and especially in interacting with my own kids, is that like, everything does have a place like it might not be a neat and tidy place, but everything does have a place and they know that the place is there because that's where they first go looking for it. Right?
You did not put it back there. It's not going to be there.
But But the problem is is that like it's so I use an example and I wrote about this about my son coming home from school. And there's a shoe rack as soon as you walk in the door, right the place. So it's like shoes go in the shoe rack, school bag goes like that, which is on your right, school bags literally go on your left, and then on the right again, there was a coat rack with hooks low enough that you can hook your coat onto, and you have all of that on your way to the bathroom, which is I know where trying to get to Yeah, yeah, every single day I come home and nothing is where it was supposed to be. And they know it goes there. It's right there. And then the next day they're like where are my shoes? Right? Not in the shoe rack mom
but again, I know what my son is thinking when he comes through the door. I you know, and he's gonna, you know be embarrassed for saying this but like, when my daughter comes home and and they're either starving or they got to go to the bathroom, and that
How hard to take your shoes off if the rack is right there.
Yeah, but they're not thinking of that and then as soon as they get on to they've done they're done going to the bathroom or they're done you know, eating their snacks they've completely forgotten about the fact that they didn't put everything away they do say and I know that will put it away once we're done. Okay, right. But do they completely forget about it, which I know is organic and executive sort of function issue that they they literally do forget because I do that. I forget things. Like what is it like burning? Oh shit. I was cooking something!
am such a creature of routine probably because I'm always losing stuff that Yeah, my keys are always on the key rack, like always, and I put the key rack which is right where I come in the front door. Right. And so there's really no reason for my keys to be anywhere except the key. Right? Yeah, that's what that's put the and so I've never wondering. I mean, I'm always losing my phone because there's no place that I've always Where's my phone? Right? My husband's like, Oh, boy. Yeah, mom lost the phone again right. Yeah, like I don't know where it is. It's like you never know where it is. I'm like no, because it doesn't have a place right? Yeah,
no one that's exactly the same thing. Like my family teases me to a mom lost your phone again. Let's look for it. The number one function for my Apple watch that are got. is defined my phone function. Yeah, I'll go my watch. Everyone listened for the beep Tell me where you hear it?
That is like the greatest accessibility feature on the phone. You could make it make a noise even if you put it on silent because mine is always on silent because it was like my stolen silent. I put it in the last mode because I BEEPBEEP I found it. Good news.
So for me like the the tidying is is kind of a self care thing is that I need other people to be tidy. And in fact, I even need to be tidy like at the office in the sense of like I will say to my students, I need you to have this stuff in on paper, because that's how I need to grade it. I also need you to hand it in on time, because it goes in the stack with everybody else's paper, or I am going to lose it. Right. So yep, I don't lose it have a tantrum. I mean, if you put it under my door later, I'm going to pick it up and put it down someplace, but it's not going to be with the other ones. And I'm going to lose it right? You can put it in the Dropbox and I'm going to lose it like I lose one off, right. So things need to be batched which is like the document version of tidy, right? Yeah, I need all my assignments to be handed in on the same day on paper and I'll put them in one envelope together, I'm unlikely to lose the entire envelope. But if I have like 37 students in my class and I get 32 things in at once, and then five people one of the emails to me, one of them tries to send it to me like through Dropbox and then somebody like gives it to a secretary like I am not grading those guys. I will forget that they exist.
oh yeah, no, I'm like that. I was like that too. Like that is that is so true, where inevitably I would lose someone's paper and they'd be like, well, why'd you lose it? And I'd be like, because you gave it to me like randomly?
Yeah, yeah. Like you put it in my hand as I was walking down the hallway. I have no idea what I did with it after that.
Yeah, I've gone through four purses since then. Maybe it's in one of them. I don't know. It's one of those bags.
Yeah, it's like that kind of thing. Like I find when things are organized and tidy, that I'm less overwhelmed and that I make fewer mistakes. And I am a less irritable right like so tidiness brings out like, you don't If I think the meds and the tidiness kind of work equally well to keep me on my game, right, because like, yeah, you know, medicated or not I can easily like we were talking before we started recording about we had a snow day here we've had three snow days in Waterloo in like, two weeks and it disrupted my routine and everything went right to hell. And I hardly got any work done. And I like missed a Grading deadline I hadn't told my students about and I was like, snapping with my family and everything was a mess, right? Because my schedule was it tight, right, and they just could not cope with that. So. So for me, I just really need everything to be in its place. And predictable. I need to have not too many things because then I become emotionally overwhelmed by having to be friends with so many different pens. Like it's taken me a long time to learn this about myself, but like just kind of leaned into it. It's a lot better like
and that concludes part two of our 300 finale of the first season of all things ADHD podcast. Next episode we're going to be wrapping it up and having some good conversations around a mess and just a whole bunch of other issues that I'm working through with Aimee as we talk about it. So again, please email us at all the things ADHD gmail.com visit our website at all things adhd.com or use the hashtag on Twitter, hashtag all the things ADHD. Thanks for listening and stay tuned for the next episode where we wrap up season one, take care everyone bye