I just finished reading The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child, by Thom Hartmann.
Oh man was it eye-opening.
As Hartmann ticked off the behaviors of a “hunter” child, I felt like he was describing me. It really resonated. Always sensing the environment, given to periods of hyper-focus and intensity, individualistic, motivated by fear/fight-or-flight, prone to addictive behaviors, not very competitive, not willing to follow the script…that was me.
My interpretation of Hartmann’s basic premise — most of the behaviors that get labeled as ADHD are consistent with a genetic profile (the hunter) that was extremely valuable thousands of years ago. He argues that ADHD is not necessarily a disorder of the individual who has it, but rather a disconnect between the individual’s strengths and the environment in which they are in. Furthermore, the people with this sort of “hunter profile” (like Thomas Edison) are often the best innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs.
Then I started thinking about my past experience through this new lens — and a lot of previously confusing things started to make sense. Why in the world was I never able to succeed working at two big, bureaucratic companies? Why did I migrate away from road racing into trail/mountain? Why was I so motivated for my first Pikes Peak when I wasn’t for my second? Why am I able to run for hours without needing to listen to music as a form of “distraction?” Why do I treat my kids as if they are my equals? This offered a bit of an explanation.
For the past few years, I’ve been in a pretty deep funk. I thought I was really messed up…and at least one doctor had me believing I was suffering from depression. Medication, psychologists, the whole nine yards.
Through this new lens I think that was wrong. Sure I felt like crap but in my case it wasn’t some sort of disorder. It was just my way of dealing with the world — I was hyper-focused on the negative stuff.
I’ve come to believe that I have this sort of “hunter” genetic profile….and even more important … that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a disorder, and I’m not messed up. There are just times when who I am conflicts with the environment I’m in.
As I started thinking about this, I felt this huge weight just start dropping off my shoulders. I’ve got a whole new outlook on things, and my major goal over the next few years is to get rid of all these disconnects between me and the environment I’m in. That means changing the environment, as I’ve spent enough time trying to fit in.
From a running / fitness perspective, I’m starting to explore the spiritual aspects of running and riding.
NOTE: I realize that mine is an over-simplified version of ADHD and even depression. I’m understand that there are people at the extreme ends of the ADHD spectrum and people who have severe forms of depression, for which this logic might not apply. Here I’m just talking about my own experience. Please don’t read this as any sort of expert opinion on ADHD or depression; it’s only one guys opinion on his situation.
People who run or cycle have lots of different reasons for doing it. I’d guess that one of the most common reasons is mental or emotional. It’s good to just get out and clear your mind of all the stuff that floats around in there while you’re going through your life. It might be physically tiresome, but most would say that running or cycling is mentally and emotionally invigorating.
I’d agree with that.
A few years ago I worked for a guy who knew I liked to go on long runs. The day or so before I ran long (usually on a weekend), he’d literally sit down with me and throw a few ideas out there. He was hoping I’d spend some time on them while I ran. He eagerly looked forward to the following week when he’d sit down with me again to get my thoughts on those ideas. That worked pretty well as I usually had a handful of suggestions to make his ideas better.
For a while now, though, I really haven’t been getting those mental or emotional benefits. Why? It has a little something to do with what goes through my mind as I’m out there. Most of the time my brain gets hyper-active when I’m out running or riding.
There are so many ideas bouncing around my mind it’s hard to actually control it. Typically those ideas fall into one of the following categories:
- Obsessing about something that happened during the day. I churn and churn on something that happened, trying to figure out why it happened and what I should do about it.
- Self-analysis. “Wow, I’m really out of shape. How did I get this far out of shape? How did I let this happen? I’m just feeling really heavy right now and I can’t stand this.”
- Planning big things for the future. “Here’s how I’m going get back into shape. I’m going on a strict dietary program. I’m going to work out every single day for the next 30 days. If I do all that, I should be able to drop X pounds every week, so I can probably get back to normal weight in Y days. That isn’t too bad. I can do that.”
- Checking the data. “What is my heart rate right now? How many miles have I gone? What is my pace? I’d like to be able to kick the pace up, but I really shouldn’t right now. How far do I still need to go? When should I kick up the pace? What time is it?”
It isn’t too hard to figure out why I’ve struggled to get out there consistently with these kinds of things rumbling around in my head. When I get back from a workout I’m mentally and emotionally drained.
I should say that the occasional insight still pops into my head. Every now and again I come up with an interesting idea, but those have been few and far between over the past few years.
Today I got on my bike for the first time in 2 months.
I decided to change the mental approach — to go for mindfulness as a primary goal. That meant letting all those random thoughts that typically bounce around in my head just float away. Instead of fostering the typical incessant dialogue, I decided to make it as much of a sensory experience as I could.
- Sight. What new things could I see that I haven’t seen before? The sky in the southwest was filled with clouds, but in the north it was clear blue. Someone installed new roadside cameras on Rt. 173 in Bloomsbury NJ. I saw a section of I-78 that I had never seen before. I saw hundreds of American flags, an 800-pound pig and open fields that had been full of corn the last time I passed.
- Smell. Lots of people burning fires — I love the smell of fireplaces burning (not forests burning). Each one has a different smell. I passed lots of farms — distinctive smell there too. I smelled some dead animals; luckily I couldn’t see most of those.
- Sound. Mostly the wind in my ears. I also pay attention to the sound of cars on the road — it’s the best way to know when one is approaching. But I also heard the sound of trees and reeds blowing in the wind.
- Feel. The wind was different depending on the direction I was going. At times it was straight in my face, and at other times it was at my back (much better that way). My hands were cold until I changed gloves.
- Taste. Not much here … water, that’s it.
Making it a sensory experience had a dramatic effect on my overall enjoyment of the ride. Taking an outside-in approach helped me avoid the brain overload that I’ve experienced in the recent past. It reminded me of some of the mindfulness meditations I’ve been exploring in the past 6-8 months. Whenever I found myself drifting into one of the negative cycles, I tried to re-center my focus on the senses. I was really happy with the outcome, and when I got back I felt much more mentally and emotionally recharged.
It’s going to be a focus for me in the coming weeks and months.
It’s been a while since I posted anything up here. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to get back to this blog, but I think I’m gonna give it another go.
I won’t be explaining the past year in a single post. But I did want to to illustrate one thing I’ve been working on for a good portion of the last year.
A little over a year ago, Hurricane Sandy made her way through my neck of the woods. It did some pretty big damage to my property, although luckily nothing hit the house. We lost power for about 2 weeks, but (again luckily) we had the generator to carry us through.
Here is what the yard looked like in the days after Sandy.
Then the cutting began…
On to the splitting and stacking …
Here is the latest … starting to get some real wood stacks …
Got a good variety in those stacks — ash, hard maple, oak, hickory, sassafrass. We have a wood stove in the house, so the wood will get put to good use once it’s seasoned. I’m also looking into a wood burning furnace and hydronic radiant floor heat — then things would really be cooking.
All of this moving, splitting (by hand) and stacking has left me with quite the strong core. My aerobic strength sucks and I’m still over weight. I can address all of that stuff in due time. I still have plenty more wood to cut, split and stack. Soon I’ll be at a steady state where I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming (running & riding) and use the work with wood as strength training. It’s much better than going to a gym.
One last thing…as part of all this, I discovered this amazing place for info on fire wood, wood stoves, etc.