I was relieved when I heard about ADD because it was something identifiable. Once I learned about it I had a better understanding of what made me tick. It certainly explained a lot of peculiar
habits and attributes. But once I had that knowledge I had to live with that knowledge and wrap my brain around being someone with ADD. I was happy to have a reason for why I am so forgetful and impulsive and creative, a good attribute after all having ADD isn't ALL bad. "Driven to Distraction" was a good book to read because it explained a lot and by the end of the book I was almost happy that I have it. There are some things that I just have to live with and not beat my self up about. Like my forgetfulness. There just aren't enough post it notes in the world to help me remember all that I need to remember. And my calendar will always be a work in progress, although I will be eternally grateful to those right brained Apple people for the calendar App on my Ipod.
The information and self help books that are now available have come a long way in the past 16 years or so. The first books on the subject were not ADD friendly at all. One of the best books
that helped me the most wasn't an ADD book per se. It was called "Right Brained Children Living in a Left Brained World" I don't believe they ever actually said they were talking about children with ADD but clearly the authors had a great understanding for "my people". After I read that book I discovered I had developed my own coping devices and strategies for learning on my own. It also talked about capitalizing on the things that we are good at to compensate for the things that we are not. Visual right brained children who were bad at math were taught methods of using their visual memories to do long math equations. Right brained children were taught to speed read because they discovered that children with this problem need to read faster and not slower. This book gave me validation and hope but I still had a long road to travel. Feelings of failure don't disappear over night and I had lots of anxiety about learning and reading and taking classes. I now know I was simply getting in my own way but I had lots to learn about myself and discovering ADD was the beginning of the journey.
Before this blog entry gets too long, I would like to talk about how my martial arts training once again gave me an opportunity to learn about my learning process and conquer some huge
stumbling blocks. In the book, "The Gift of Fear" Gavin DeBecker talks about how when women are constantly living in fear, their body will not be able to recognize real fear. The kind of fear that can possibly safe your life. I would have to say the same is very true for learning especially people with ADD. Class room situations unnerved me. I was so worried about not being able to learn that I created a self fulfilling prophesy. But if I was in a particularly hostile learning environment it became much much worse. At my old karate school that was the situation I had found myself in. So when I arrived at the school where I now train I was a little shell shocked from trying to learn and function in an environment that had become so "learning challenged".
I was excited to be at the new school and everyone was pleasant and kind. But every week before I'd walk out on to the mat my hands would literally shake. I was overly concerned about what they would think about the new black belt kid on the block. I was so far behind them in my Kenpo knowledge what would they think of me? I see now clearly I was getting in my own way and what I have since learned from my dog eared, highlighted, post it flagged copy of Eckhard Tolle's book, "A New Earth", about simply changing my thoughts and silencing the broken record of all my failures and fears that repeatedly play in my own head, I would have calmed down a lot sooner.
Luckily after about my third private lesson, before I had actually signed up to train at the school regularly, I asked my instructor if he would mind if I recorded my private lessons onto a voice recorder. What that did for me was to calm me down and lessened my anxiety about, "What if I can't write it all down or remember what he said." I was so eager to learn I wanted to soak up every word but I was worried, anxious and embarrassed. Having the voice recorder helped to free my anxious thoughts and I could be truly present during my lessons and classes knowing that if I missed something I could play it later and write it down. What a huge relief.
When I wrote last weeks blog I had another "aha" moment. Until I actually typed the words I had not realized that I AM a kinesthetic learner. I had never actually put that piece in the puzzle.
What happened next with my voice recorder I think reinforces my newly learned learning style.
I would get home and sit with my recorder and pencil and notebook. It has to be pencil, don't know why, but it does. The notebooks have to be the right size and shape. I'm rather fond of the marbled composition books found just about anywhere. The paper has to have a certain thickness not to rough of a texture or too smooth. I would record almost word for word what my instructor said. If he said, " Hit him, BAM, Pow, SMACK!" My notes will say, "BAM, Pow, SMACK! And what I discovered was as I listened to my lessons and wrote the words I could also remember how it looked in my head when it happened. I could almost relive it. AND when I go back to read my notes I can picture the lesson in my head again. Writing them a certain way helps me remember them too.
Because I write pretty much, but not quite, word for word, what my instructor says, I have also captured his voice because they are written the way that he talks.
Now, three and a half years and ten notebooks later, I no longer have anxiety about being in a classroom. I'm almost to the point where I am so relaxed about learning that I don't have to record every word he says. I can actually be in the classroom and remember what I am being taught. I finally trained my self to be an "A" student.
Having the right instructor helps too. Mr Price knows when to push me, knows when he can put me on the spot, knows when he shouldn't. He's very patient and when I mess up I'm simply given another opportunity to try again later. It also helps that our training focuses on breathing and staying relaxed. Another thing I have noticed when I listen to my recordings is that I hear laughter. I hear people having fun and that helps too. So I guess it's true what they say, "You are never too old to learn."
Here are a few quotes about learning from some other smart people:
"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." Mark Twain
"Learning is not a spectator sport" D. Blocher
"Retention is best when the learner is involved" Edward Scannell, Director University Conference Bureau, AZ
"I never teach my students; I only provide the conditions in which they can learn." Albert Einstein
"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way." Marvin Minsky
"What I hear, I forget.
What I see, I remember.
What I do, I understand."
Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius)