the soul’s greatest threat: ADD

This little disease epidemic is popping up everywhere. In disgruntled hearts. In ungrateful mouths. In slanderous conversations. In the broken public education system. Beneath the broken hearts of Christians.  On job (dis)satisfaction surveys. At restaurants. In my soul.

ADD: Attentive to Deficit Disorder.

I first learned about ADD–though not known by that name yet, well, because I didn’t invent it yet :)–when getting my Master’s in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Education. For students in our system who are emerging bilinguals, it is common to focus on what they lack (a foundation in English, parents who speak English, comfort navigating the American schooling principles, background knowledge, etc) rather than what they offer (flexible cognition, tenacity, diversity, varied background knowledge, a 21st century skill, etc). This deficit lens immediately and perpetually harms their potential–both for heart and mind learning in the classroom.

But ADD reaches into the adult hallways as well. Lingering in the air of my school lately is a heavy tension surrounding feedback. Teachers–me included–feel like there shouldn’t always have to be a next step. Can we just celebrate the good that’s going on in our classrooms? Just once? Of course, this stifling air is pouring in from beyond the walls of our building–a critical society of politicians and businessmen who in their ADD see fit to criticize our profession and demean our judgment. (Can I get a next step for them!?)

I saw and felt ADD in my Mom too. No matter what my Dad did, it wasn’t enough for her. No one at work could live up to her standards. We, her kids, strained to breath in the shadow of her martyrdom-to-negativity, encapsulated by her rally cry: “When it rains, it pours.”

Until she got breast cancer. The disease stopped her in her tracks, rewrote her map, and rerouted her direction. Did she become perfect? No, but her rally cry changed to “Well, I can’t complain; I’ve been blessed.” This will forever be one of the traits I admire most in my Mom: what should have proved to her that “when it rains, it pours” became a transition into a heart and life of thanksgiving. Even when she got cancer again, and then again, she declared her life as blessed.

Her prescription for ADD? Gratitude.

And this is without her earmarking The Secret or subscribing to “The Law of Attraction” or reading Ernest Holmes, who writes in This Thing Called You:

The barriers between you and your greater good are not barriers in themselves. They are things of thoughts. It is because of this that all things are possible to faith. Jesus summed up the whole proposition when he said, “It is done unto you as you believe.” In interpreting this saying, however, you must pause after the word as. Think about its meaning and you will discover that he was saying that life not only responds to your belief, it responds after the manner of your believing, as you believe. It is like a mirror reflecting the image of your belief.

As you believe.

Without using such succinct language, I’ve long pondered this with those closest to me. We’ve witnessed people in our lives with ADD: they never see good; they’re always complaining; their smiles are never deep; every good story has a “but” or an “if;” they seek commiseration from those around them; they are martyrs; they complain without changing; their conversations are tainted with passive-aggressiveness; they tear others down so they can feel better about their lives; they always play the victim but then conclude, deep-sighing “but, I’m okay.”

And as they believe, they just can’t catch a break, the sh** just keeps hitting the fan, spinning wildly above their heads on high, splintering the crap into tiny germs of toxic thinking that attracts more toxicity.

As they believe.

As you believe.

As I believe. This could be me. On my worst days, it is me, suffering from and for ADD. But I refuse to stay in this minefield-mindplace.

And just like my Mom learned and lived, I take my ADD medicine: gratitude.

My prescription as of late involves the delicious and divine words of of Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts:

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At the deepest diagnostic level of ADD is the distinction made by Tim O’Brien between the happening-truth and the story-truth. The events in my life are the truth, the happening-truth, the facts. But how I view them, how I count them and name them and interpret them, that’s the story-truth. Regardless of the events, I can tell the story however I want. I have that power, that choice, that authorship. Do I tell my story slanted with sorrow, burdened by ADD’s symptoms? Or do I tell my story, sanctified by sincere gratitude?

My Mom died last year. That is the happening-truth. But how do I tell that story? My Mom died too suddenly and how dare God do that?! or My Mom got what she wished, to end her life with her dignity in tact, dependent on no one, so thank you God! I choose the latter. Thank you. Again and again I choose the latter. Thank you. I refuse to succumb to the powerful hold of ADD.

My story-truths will be of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of blessing, as I believe.

Disclaimer: It would be negligent of me to conclude without a warning about the side-effects of ADD’s treatment plan of thanksgiving: DDD– denial of deficit disorder. There is a subtle but significant difference between positivity and faithfulness, between denial and gratitude. Positivity and denial leave a person consumed with “having to be happy” regardless of the happening-truth. They painfully push on (of course never on the surface, where there is always a smile) without the deep reflection and story-telling necessary to treat ADD. On the other hand, faithful and grateful people understand the severity of their happening-truths, while still instead scripting a story-truth of thanksgiving.

with just a word

I spent a night in silent retreat at Sacred Heart in November to process the loss of my Mother. While meeting with my spiritual director for the weekend, I remember vividly her advice “to speak aloud my desires.” This resonated deep within me then, and still does, since I spend so much time in my own head. Often what it is there (besides cobwebs and “that’s what she said jokes”) are negative words built on fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Speaking aloud what I want, rather than dodging what I don’t, gives power to the positive promise rather than the annoying avoidance.

This brings me to a song a dear friend introduced me to by Ben Howard, entitled “The Fear.”

I been worrying that my time is a little unclear

I been worrying that I’m losing the ones I hold dear

I been worrying that we all live our lives in the confines of fear…

I will become what I deserve

(Funny story about this song: until I looked up the lyrics, I thought it said “I will become what I desire.” Either way, it still applies.)

I do live my life in the confines of fear: a narrow box of vacillating boundaries, which provides me the illusion of safety and control. In my continuing effort to surrender and live a spacious life, I am trying to let go of those fears. Or at least to not let them define and oppress me. This effort brings me back to the power of words: I will become those desires I speak, say aloud, pronounce with words.

Words hold within them a butterfly’s beauty and an earthquake’s enormity to move the world. The wind carries the whisper of this wondrous truth everywhere.

I hear it whispered in feather-light pages of the Bible, where God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4). How did He do this?

Mere. Words. Throughout Genesis 1’s creation story, the phrases “And God said” and “And God called” thread in and out each time something new is formed. Through spoken word, pronounced desire, and expressed language, what was not once [not ever!], now was. Now is.

In fact, the word is so powerfully portrayed in the Bible, it is even revealed as the Divine personified:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emphasis mine, John 1).

I hear it whispered in my career. I teach high school English to empower my students with the language–with the power of the spoken word–they long for to criticize their current situation and delineate a different future. It is my students’ understanding and application of language that will allow them the choice and access to upward mobility. I recognize that literacy authorizes my students to question their current status, as well as to eloquently envision a future that is earned by them, rather than predetermined for them. A word can change their lives.

I hear it whispered through experiences I offer: I gave a student of mine a journal to process the loss of a close relative. I encouraged him to write as a way of therapy and discovery. He did. He came in the following week with a renewed light in his eyes. He shyly stayed after class to tell me of his experience writing and speaking the words in which he found healing.

I hear it whispered from experiences I receive: this past week, I ran into a colleague before work at the nearby coffee shop. While genuinely embracing me, she shared the most profound words that spoke to my heart, that broke my barriers, that offered a touch of healing balm for my soul.

What a beautiful and bountiful world of whispers.

Since the word is so powerful, as a way of professing them, allow me to write my desires. And may you do the same. And may the Word whisper strength to you, in you, and through you.

I desire to live a life in love, not fear.

I desire the spaciousness of grace.

I desire a deep connection with God.

I desire for mental and emotional healing, so that my body may be healed.

I desire to accept my brokenness.

I desire the unclenching that comes with faith, trust, surrender.

I

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