In any given context, I lack focus in the immediate. My mind wanders continuously among multiple variables and planes where I can seem extremely interested but I’ve actually moved on. Some times when I have conversations with my wife, I’ll start laughing for no reason. It isn’t because she said something funny, it’s because she said something that made me think of something else (a few something elses) and that made me laugh. It’s distracting and makes it seem like I don’t care. I do and I understand everything that’s said, it’s just that my mind works faster than people talk.
Here’s a good example. Let’s say we’re talking and the word orange comes up. For most people, the word simply means what it means. You might visualize it, you might think you smell it but that’s it. You hear the word, capture the word and move on.
I tend to stray at this point. I hear orange and I immediately think of 4-5 associated topics, and a few sub-topics each. I then focus on the most important one and continue down that path. So you might be talking about oranges but in about 2 seconds, I’m thinking about Christmas 3 years ago, the meal I had and what I thought was the best part.
This gets really bad when we’re talking about a particularly interesting topic that requires reasoning and factual argument – like why the financial collapse is the result of a multiple-system failure.
So there’s a good side to this and that’s that I do very well on association games, have a well above average memory and could probably make a fair amount of money on Jeopardy. Conversations are usually pretty easy since I’m versed in practically any topic that can come up. I also tend to look at the big picture, sort of seeing all the dominoes in the chain. Heck, it’s like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon but on everything.
The downside is that I am rarely surprised. I might be curious as to the inner workings of something and study it until I have a good grasp – but surprises are very rare since I can relate anything to anything else. I put things into categories and systemize them. Social events are simply action/reactions that I can navigate through. I can judge someone within a few seconds based on past experiences. I can control what people think and do to a certain extent, as I can nudge them in a particular direction with questions and suggestions. It’s manipulative and boring so I rarely do it but it’s exceedingly easy once you know how.
The worst though, above everything else, is that I can’t turn it off. The entire time I’ve written this post, I’ve been doing it. I will stare at the ceiling, every night in bed. Sports are a small distraction as the input is continuous, not giving me a whole lot of time to branch off but on the hockey bench between shifts, I do it. Heck, talking to a counselor or a doctor, I’ll do it. It can be exhausting.
So while I live with it, I need to find ways to cope with it. I play games, increase my input stimulation, put myself in situations where there is no advantage to doing it (big one here) and find outlets for when it does happen. This website is one of the coping mechanisms.
In the end though, if you and I are talking and I seem to either be rambling or lost in thought during a moment of silence, it isn’t because I’m not interested. On the contrary, I’m exceedingly interested as you’ve turned on the mental switch that will try and bring more to the conversation. Just be aware that once you get me going, it’s hard to get me to stop.