Ahh, summer…a time to let go of executive functions, let your hair down, and be spontaneous – right? Well, not necessarily. Summer might end before you get around to having fun.
I have an ADHD adult client who is working hard to gain control of her brain, and thus her time and her life. I admire her tremendously as she takes steps to free herself from focusing on her past or freezing in anxiety as she works to connect to future time. Her life history is a long series of spontaneous decisions, some of which have left wounds that have yet to heal.
We are at the place in the Seeing My Time workbook where we address making plans. Her response? “I had a friend who was always telling me that my problem was that I never made plans. She kept telling me to make a plan…she went on to become very successful.” My client paused, and then continued, “We’re not friends anymore.”
Planning is a process that my client finds challenging and difficult to accept, which is very typical for those with executive function issues. Yet after each session, little by little, she is taking steps to plan her day and now her week. She tends to think the progress is too slow, yet when I shine the spotlight on all that she has accomplished, she is now beginning to honor the changes she has made.
When we started working together a few few weeks back, one of her complaints was social isolation and a lack of fun in her life. So I was thrilled when she reported that she had spent the previous day mountain biking with a new friend. It had been a wonderful day and wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t planned to make it happen. It had required several steps, not the least of which was reaching out to a relative stranger, and finding a time when they were both free for such a day. The fun that she had acted as inspiration to order a new bike to replace one that had been stolen. They are making plans for more rides.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this balance between planning and spontaneity. My adult daughter is home for the week. It is a cherished time for both of us. She comes to Portland to unwind from the intensity of her life in D.C. She craves a lack of structure. And yet, we both know that if we truly want to can enough Oregon berries to have a year’s worth of heavenly jam, we needed to plan how and when to make that happen.
I am pleased to report that we have canned 40 half-pints of jam – little jewels of preserved bounty and heavenly memories of picking and hanging out in the kitchen together. Each jar we open this coming year will bring back these precious summer days.
As my daughter just said, you have to plan in order to have time to be spontaneous. You see, she is about to finish her work for the day and I am about to finish this article. With the jam done that means the afternoon is open to whatever feels good to do next. Pretty wonderful!
So, my friends, I suggest you pause for a moment to think of what you would like to plan to make happen this summer. A little bit of planning can create priceless memories and opens the space for spontaneity.
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.