I wasn’t always a country girl, but living in the city drove me nuts (OK, that’s redundant, but you know what I mean). It was too much – the lights, the noise, the crowds, everything. It’s a wonder I could cross the street.
ADHD, animals and me
I finally moved up to the country, about 20 years ago.
Since moving here, I had the opportunity of working on an animal rescue farm. I noticed some interesting ramifications for my ADHD.
At the farm (which I thought of as “The Funny Farm,” as both the owner and I have profound ADHD), I had the responsibility of taking care of:
and 1 cow.
I’d only seen most of these on TV before, or silhouetted in a farmer’s field. I’d only taken care of cats and dogs.
Responsibility – who? Me?
The first time I walked into the garage where various garbage pails of food were, I panicked. Huge bags of cat food, pig feed, goat pellets, and so on, all sat in a row. Who ate what?
Along the walls were bales of straw. In the loft of the barn, bales of hay. Which was which? I knew one was for eating and one for sleeping on, but they both looked the same to me. How would I keep these straight?
I had visions of corpses of various sizes and colors laying around the barns, and the owner returning to a graveyard. It would all be my fault because my poor memory, distractability, disorganization and plain-old ADHD-ditziness would put an end to these beloved creatures, rescued as they were from the jaws of death, the slaughterhouse, their doom, only to die at the hands of an ADHD-incompetent. Gulp.
But the responsibility of feeding, watering, and keeping all these animals alive, and in their designated living areas (more or less – goats defy all attempts at being corralled, kinda like me), monitoring their health, and doing daily housekeeping, made me feel incredibly alive, focused, and useful.
ADHD advantages of working on a farm
I worked alone, so I didn’t get any criticism from a boss. I didn’t get into any conflict with co-workers, and I could set my own routine (such as it was).
I didn’t have to worry about fancy-ass clothes, or keeping up with organized, chic girls who get it together, looking sassy every morning, arriving on time, and somehow making it all look easy. Nope. All I had to do was throw on my overalls and trudge out to the barns. The wild turkeys who watched me walk the muddy field didn’t give a damn what I looked like, and neither did I. Ah, such freedom!
With no one but the cow breathing down my neck, I soon discovered that the goats LOVED being sung to, especially my Dionne Warwick medley of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” followed by a heartfelt rendition of, “I Say a Little Prayer.”
Funny thing, when it came time to do interviews for my book-in-progress on women and ADHD, one interviewee, married to a farmer, sent me a fascinating e-mail:
“In my opinion you have struck it rich. Stephen Covey calls it the law of the farm when we come to understand the rhythm of life. And for us ADD folk, the farm is a huge gift. You can not escape the routine or the responsibility. The routine nourishes us and gives us back so much. My farmer and my farm have been my salvation.”
So it’s not just me, then.
ADHD in its natural habitat
Many I’ve spoken with say that they feel their best when in nature. When around trees, birds, animals, we escape judgment. We can be ourselves. We can be nutty (and sing Dionne Warwick medleys if we want).
The simplicity of poop management appealed to me. The lack of a boss to tell me I’m doing it wrong let me relax while working. And the hard physical workout I got each and every day helped to keep me balanced and grounded.
The life or death nature of responsibility for the lives of others focused me, as did the thrill and danger of working with animals, especially animals the size of a VW bus. With teeth.
I loved every minute of it. And it seemed, in that world, like my ADHD did not exist.
The hay loft was fun too.