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  • Nora Buckley

Starting Over

“In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurge of nature”

--Edna O'Brien

I had the greatest hopes for the year 2020; I had goals and plans and even “resolutions” if we want to use that word. Mostly due to the global pandemic, not a single one of these hopes or goals was accomplished. Not one.

I do already know that “New Year’s Resolutions” rarely work for anyone, let alone those of us with ADHD. I’ve read studies that say only eight percent of those who make resolutions manage to keep them. There are many reasons for this -- often we plan “big changes” for ourselves and forget our need for novelty, our difficulty with sticking with a boring task, the forgetfulness and inattention that are so much a part of ADHD. After a while it all becomes too much and we forget about it, usually by mid-January.

In 2020, granted that I tend to overestimate my ability to get things done and underestimate the time it will take to do them, the forced isolation and constant worry due to covid-19 made it impossible for me to be productive. There were several good things that happened in 2020 but in terms of my own productivity or fulfilling my goals, I consider it a lost year.

The last week of December, The New York Times ran an opinion series on life in 2021 called “Let’s Start Over”, and I thought “my sentiments exactly. I want a redo. A restart, reboot, reset!” I entered the winter of 2021 with great caution, gingerly feeling my way along, afraid to hope too much lest something jinx it all once more.

Then I came across a CHADD article from ADHD Weekly from January 2019 which resonated with me. It suggested that rather than “resolutions” or even specific goals, that we try setting a “theme” for the year. According to Megan Poorman, a biomedical engineer, “what makes a theme so special is that you don’t have to stick to it every day. You don’t have to check a box; you don’t have to guilt trip yourself. There is no task to fail at, no rubric to measure yourself by, and no waiting for next year to try again.

Having a theme for the year is almost like setting a mantra. It serves as a guiding principle when making decisions and reflecting on events. Setting a theme removes the daily pressure of measuring yourself against something you wish you were and encourages a holistic approach to self-awareness”.

Ms. Poorman suggests keeping the theme as short as possible -- an idea, a word, a simple goal. Journeying through your year, keeping the theme in mind can help make decisions or evaluate choices as they come up. An example of a theme would be Time, which could include making decisions about how important it is to spend our time with purpose, rather than squandering it on unimportant things. (Having squandered the better part of the last year on worry, this idea really spoke to me!) Setting a theme also allows for mini-goals to support the theme throughout the year.

January is a great month to set a theme for the year. An outline to help pick your own theme is offered from Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, who writes Wander Woman for, below:

  • Learn from the past year (I would add possibly from previous years as well, since 2020 was atypical)

  • Clearly see the Present. Is this where you want to be; are these the people and things that make you happy?

  • Declare what lights you up. Be honest with yourself about what makes you happy, what you want to do in life.

  • Decide on your Theme. Choose something that will offer guidance and support to you.

  • Commit to your theme. Even though some days nothing may fit your theme, keep your theme in mind when setting daily goals and short-term plans, and use it to help move toward things that support your long term goals.

Now, in mid-January, I see signs of fresh starts everywhere -- the Presidential Inauguration in the United States speaks of a new beginning; people are being vaccinated against covid-19; houseplants are noticeably moving toward the sunlight. After the Inauguration, Bon Jovi sang “Here Comes the Sun” and I felt exactly that, along with these wonderful words from the young poet Amanda Gorman, "The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it -- if only we’re brave enough to be it”.


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