There's Always the Lunch Hour

There are two, exactly two activities I do that keep me sane.

1. Create something.
2. Do nothing or otherwise relax.

The ADHD part of me desperately needs to change tracks every now and then. Both activities do that for me, as they either let me relax or let me fire up my brain in a pleasurable way.

Too bad most of life is maintenance.

Maintenance drives me nuts, and I'm not talking the mechanical kind of maintenance either. Cleaning, errands, or anything else that is repeated ad infinitum just to keep life working is the worst kind of activity for me. It's boring, repetitive, and doesn't require any thought whatsoever.

It's also what I do most of the time. Hell, most of my job is maintenance.

I used to make this big mistake where I spent my lunch hours running errands or otherwise "taking care of business". I'd get back stressed, get home stressed, and then be useless.

Now lunch is for creation and/or relaxation. Writing, or problem solving, or reading, or anything else that requires actual neurons that don't fire during repetitive tasks.

My lunch hour is now sacred fucking territory, no matter how much is on my to-do list. Same if I'm working at home.

It works absolute wonders.

Every now and then I need to remember that my brain works differently, and if something "normal" doesn't work right for me, sometimes the answer can be found at the opposite end of the spectrum.

If I ever find the answer to world peace while taking a break from the laundry, I won't really be surprised.

Oh, the Joys of Learning to Deal with ADHD

I am domestically challenged. Let's just start there.

Cleaning, organization, lack of chaos, all require a quality that I am desperately short of: consistency.

I am TERRIBLY inconsistent. This is one part ADHD, one part variety of interests, one part high intelligence, and one part shiny syndrome. If it requires doing every single damn day AND it's boring as hell, the likelihood I will be able to pull off doing it consistently is next to nil.

Therefore I spend most of my days off of work trying to deal with the chaos.

Add a husband with ADHD (though a different manifestation, thank God) and 3 doggies without opposable thumbs and the chaos never ends.

I'm learning to deal.

One of the ways I learned to deal is by recognizing that for me to be fully engaged in ANYTHING, the work at hand must:

1. Be intellectually stimulating.
2. Involve my hands.
3. Require constant visual attention.
4. Require constant aural attention.
5. KEEP my attention a.k.a. not be subject to easy distraction.

Unless all 5 are present, whatever menial task I am doing with require the utmost of personal will to accomplish. This is mentally exhausting at the best of times, and almost impossible at the worst.

I'd developed many coping strategies before my diagnosis of ADHD, none of them particularly healthy.

One of the primary symptoms of ADHD is difficulty in assigning, changing, and continuing focus on what is at hand. There's a lot of chemical reasons behind the difficulty in managing attention, but that's another post.

Most coping strategies of undiagnosed ADHD involve "waking up the brain". Almost all of these end up as one form or another of addiction, including:

1. Alcoholism
2. Illicit drugs
3. Sex addiction
4. Adrenaline addiction
5. Gambling addiction
6. Shopping addiction
7. etc....

My three particularly biggest bugbears were (and sometimes still are) shopping addiction, food addiction, and our particular favorite in this household, drama addiction.

Drama is particularly good for keeping the brain awake, but particularly bad for quality of life. However, it's also EXTREMELY effective at keeping the brain engaged, and doesn't require money, time, or leaving the house.

Dealing with ADHD in my case means cutting off the drama addiction and learning new coping mechanisms. Oddly enough, medication is extremely helpful in this pursuit, but that's a whole 'nother post.

The first part of dealing is accepting reality. Yes, there are people who can spend hours on end cleaning and organizing and can get it all done in one fell swoop. I am not one of those people. My attention span at any one given activity is 30 minutes at a time, max. However, my tolerance for and interest in Activity A resets as soon as I've spent my time on Activity B and Activity C. By cycling my tasks, I am better able to keep engaged. Is this scattered? Sure. Does it require breaking things down into smaller tasks? Absolutely. But it works.

The second part is finding replacements for my coping mechanisms. In my case, replacing drama addiction meant finding another way to engage my brain while doing menial tasks. This took some testing. Problem is, menial tasks are so boring, and quiet.

Thank God for smartphones. Spotify, Audible, and Winamp are my friends. Multiple, readily available genres of music, audiobooks, and podcasts at my immediate command. Unlimited intellectual and aural stimulation at my fingertips.

Speaking of which, laundry and the Grammar Girl are calling my name.

So What is Behind the Concept of a Renaissance Wife?

So why choose to be a Renaissance Wife? Well, that's really one part choice, one part nudge from the husband, and one part cluebat yielded forcefully by life circumstances.

From the beginning Chris insisted on doing his part to train me to be either a. competent or b. understand enough to get help in everything he does for the household. Whether this is a holdover from his service (training a military wife) or just plain practicality on his part, you'll have to ask him.

There's a few levels of knowledge necessary to survive life in every arena, and the trick is knowing where you are in each area. Let's use setting up a wireless network for example.

Base minimum: knows that their computer can be completely fucked up by doing things wrong, therefore finds someone trust worthy to set it up for them and watch out for their interests. Knows enough to not assume they have the knowledge necessary to do it right, but can do enough research to screen what kind of help they need.

Base competency: can set up a normal network, but stops shy of messing with the advanced settings. Capable of explaining to tech support what they did and did not do.

True competency: can troubleshoot and deal with everything that won't require sending the damn router back due to equipment malfunction.

Expert: gets out the soldering iron and fixes the damn hardware.

The trick is knowing which level you're at, what is out of your competency level, and what your options are for getting help if need be without being fleeced.

Chris spent quite a bit of time working on getting me to at least base minimum in every area that impacts our lives, and some level of competency in some areas. He's still working on it and I'm still working on it. The goal is for me to be able to run the household and run our affairs without his input if need be.

There's quite a few things I do that don't fall under the normal purview of "housewife", "wife", or "working mom".

So September before last my brother and his wife and kids and in-laws visited us on their way to Seattle to visit family. My brother and his wife keep to a more traditional gender roles arrangement.

One of those morning my sister-in-law found me in the garage splitting wood the hard way, with a wedge and an a maul. We didn't yet have a wood splitter (situation now fixed) plus I really, really needed to practice.

SIL: What are you doing?
Mel: Splitting wood for the fireplace.
SIL: Why isn't Chris doing it for you?
Mel: Because I need to learn how to do it.
SIL: Why? It's his job.
Mel: Because I still might need to do it whether it's his job or not. I'm not going to freeze just because he's not here to split wood every time I need it done.

The concept was lost on her.

Just a few months later, the need hit home. Chris was diagnosed with cancer; the concept of being able to do everything if need be stopped being theoretical and starting being applicable. In many ways, that's still where we stand.

Which is why a few weeks ago a few hours before being due in to work at the bank, I found myself kneeling on muddy ground with a sheet of chicken wire in one hand and electrical ties and galvanized wire in the other. Houdini the Doberman, freshly escaped, watched me from the other side of the fence while I patched the latest hole he'd managed to make in the chain link.

The patch is still holding. It's not pretty, but it works.

I went straight from patching the fence to making breakfast to the shower to a sweater, skirt, pantyhose, and makeup.

Pro tip: remember your nails are broken from fixing the fence BEFORE pulling on pantyhose. Chris helped me put on my spare set because I kept tearing the poor things.

Life and necessity don't really care what your gender is, or how much you know, or whether or not you know what you're doing. Reality doesn't care what gender patched the fence and what gender tended the sick child, and neither does the satisfaction in a job well done or the joy in learning something new.

So why be ignorant and willfully incompetent when  there's so much to be learned and done?

So What is Renaissance Wife?

Renaissance Wife (the blog) is a practice in demographics and audience. There's about a billion things I want to write about that have nothing to do with a. the ranch (or lack thereof) and the businesses and b. the AnarchAngel i.e. the husband's blog. I don't think his readers are quite the right audience for some of the subjects I'd like to go into at length, though they are more than welcome here as well. Also the forum at the Gun Counter doesn't really have a category for makeup and lingerie.

A Renaissance Wife is a concept and title akin to Renaissance Man, but not quite the same. If a Renaissance Man is akin to Fred, the Renaissance Woman is akin to Ginger; doing everything Fred does but backwards and in high heels (and stockings of course!)

The Renaissance Wife is a Renaissance Woman with some "extra" responsibilities.

I hemmed and hawed over the title of this blog, mostly over the word "wife". Isn't it too restrictive? Doesn't that limit the potential of the Renaissance Woman?

Then I realized that yes, while a woman is free to date or not, become a mother or not, marry or not, chase a career field or not, and most differently screw around with whoever she wants (or not) that doesn't necessarily give more freedom than being a wife.

As far as I'm concerned, a wife has as many options as a woman (even the last, depending on her and her spouse's opinion on the matter) but with some extra challenges. If we're referring to a plethora of interests, disciplines, and competencies, being married is certainly a field of study all its own. and a most important field of study to me.

Also, quite a few of the interests and competencies I hold are directly related to my marriage, and would hardly exist without that relationship.

I am a Renaissance Wife.