I ran out of steam writing yesterday’s post. Probably just as well. When I first started on WordPress – and didn’t know any better – I used to write whole essays about stuff like French Romantic Poetry and The Meaning Of Life. Then I realised, there is a kind of natural limit with blog posts somewhere around 1,000 words. Beyond that nearly everybody – me included – gets bored and stops reading. Sometimes they will even stop at the sight of a too-long post, suffering from verbal sea-sickness. Usefully, after years of precis (sorry, still no accents) at school and attempting to write short stories for magazines I have an internal egg-timer for words. I can ‘set’ myself at the outset to produce 1,000, 2,000, 2,500, 3,000 or whatever and I do, give or take 100. It’s no more difficult than deciding to wake at 6 without the alarm.
The “third item” on the list – where I ran out of steam – was coffee with my neighbour on her patio, with her monstrous Great Dane. In fact, and strangely, her garden is all patio, like a series of stages of different heights. The plastic or resin variety you don’t have to maintain. I partly envy her, since I am having to pay someone to come and tackle my lawns once a month — but it is rather a sea of plastic.
So we sat there, under a kind of extended plastic pergola – still with our jackets on – drinking coffee and eating chocolate biscuits. Chocolate biscuits can make being anywhere worthwhile. And she told me about her horrible illnesses, and I told her about mine. And we decided which of the other neighbours we liked and disliked. We decided that a couple who recently had their quite young dog put to sleep because it had “developed a touch of rheumatism” had gone from the Like to Dislike, or at any rate Dodgy.
I tried not to start “meandering”, conversationally, but unfortunately I always do. As soon I begin to tire I lose my grip, tumbling from topic to topic, forever distracted by some new and irrelevant thought. I am fairly sure I have ADHD, but nobody’s going to waste resources to “diagnose” me at this late stage.
This is one of the reasons I avoid “coffee on the patio” and other such invitations – because they exhaust me and – unfortunately – others. I can hear myself beginning to lose the conversational plot, but there’s no way can I stop. It’s easier when I’m talking to my sisters and a couple of my oldest friends – they’re use to me, and patient. I can relax with them. The rambling tends to calm down, slow down, and make more sense. Conversely, with them, I can very occasionally allow myself to take verbal flight – into a wildly elaborate story, reminiscence or joke – and we all end up laughing. If only I could fly like that all the time.
I once lived opposite a childless, middle-aged couple on a housing estate. They were well-off – prosperous, even – but seemed to have no friends. At all. The husband was very kind to me when I needed to buy a new car and – for the first and only time in my life – was able to buy a new one. He got all the brochures for me. He went through everything. He came along to the showrooms. He took over and bargained with a slick salesman who would have made mincemeat of me.
But there was an ulterior motive, I discovered. He was “collecting” me as a friend/ companion/ distraction for his wife. She was a nice woman but – unbearable. She would start talking as soon as she got you trapped in one of her expensive armchairs, feet sunk into the overgrown carpet, and she just couldn’t stop. She would always get to the point eventually – how she managed keep it in her head I don’t know – but that “eventually” could be hours later. All this time I, as the audience, would be struggling to keep track of all these backwaters and bywaters of her thought. It was like drowning or suffocating. Her husband, meanwhile, would have escaped to his den in the attic, where he constructed plywood aeroplanes or something similar. I was the babysitter.
It wasn’t – strangely – till some years later that the penny dropped – he’d selected me because I was, essentially, the same. He had been married to an ADHD woman for twenty or so years. He recognised me. No wonder he was so helpful over the car.
Whilst this is a terrible disadvantage in “social interactions” it is – in some way I can’t quite analyse – how I can write. The creativity and the disability are completely entangled. You can probably sense the “rambling” element in my posts – but I can edit those to minimise the “exhausting” effect. I can edit minimally – so still retaining my own “voice” – or, if necessary, maximally. So if I had to write, say, a letter applying for a job or an essay explaining a scientific process I could do so. I would splurge the “ramble ” first – or better still start with a spider-diagram – then edit, edit, edit and edit again. You can edit writing but you can’t edit speech. At least, I can’t.
Anyway, gonna make myself a cup of coffee – and give you a well-earned rest.
“Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran
Then reached the caverns measureless to man
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean”
3 thoughts on “Five miles meandering…”
That is the beauty of writing: you can write it all down, and then edit before you hit publish, or send it off somewhere to be read. I’m not ADD, but when I get nervous, I definitely ramble, so I do understand what you’re talking about. I think the difference between you and your old neighbor, though, is that you know you tend to ramble, and make an effort to stop. She neither knows nor cares, she just wants an audience. At least that’s the way it sounds to me.
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I felt sorry for them both really. She was so ‘over the top’ they had ended up isolated, socially. Even her relatives kind of glossed over her, like an embarrassing child. But if you can’t save someone from themselves, sometimes you have to save yourself – from them. I moved house! And she did, accidentally, teach me something.
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You’re right, they both deserved your compassion. She probably couldn’t help herself, and it must have been painful for both of them.