03/28/2008 02:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Living And Loving ADHD

My husband, Kevin Wall, and Al Gore just won an EMA (Environmental Media Award) for their creation, Live Earth. I was with my husband on one of our daily walks to Starbucks last year when he had the idea for Live Earth. A month later I found myself visiting Al and Tipper Gore in Nashville and before I knew it, we had become great friends, Live Earth happened (7-7-07), and here we were in its aftermath.

This is pretty much the pattern of life I have experienced with my husband whom I met when just 15 years of age (I'm now 52). He is a person of experience, he lives life to its fullest; he cherishes each moment, rarely thinking of the past or future, and he is full of Ideas. In my academic life, I practice science with my topics of focus Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and mindfulness ('attention to the present experience'). Not too ironic that I study exactly what my husband embodies - the mind of someone with ADHD - creative, novelty-seeking, a 'connector', intuitive, and happy - while sharing the challenges of that way of thinking (a bit dyslexic, underestimates time to get places, forgetful, etc.), and mindful to the core.

Although ADHD is still classified a disorder because of the challenges individual's face with it, I'm more convinced everyday that it is a way of thinking and processing the world that is so beneficial to humanity, we must turn our attention to it. In many ways, our attention has been focused only on the disorder side of the condition, at the expense of the strengths, and science is just beginning to discover what those strengths might be. There is a popular book out right now, The Black Swan, about how all major changes come from 'outliers' in the world of ideas, the strange and misunderstood ideas that don't fit into conceptual frameworks of the day but prove to shift humanity to new heights.

I'm pretty convinced that if you want to find a Black Swan, an idea that will shift us to new heights, you should turn to someone with ADHD for it. They are the great idea generators of our day. Don't necessarily expect them to take their ideas to completion as that falls under the areas that can be challenging (i.e. planning and organization); but do turn to them for novel ideas, new ways of connecting information.

I recently attended a workshop designed to find an 'idea' that will lead to a paradigm shift in health care. Funny though, the attendees were mostly scientists who practice 'normal science', the day to day process of moving science along normal paths. It felt pretty unlikely a 'paradigm shift' would arise from the group, largely because few were the 'ADHD' kind of mind, few were the 'outliers' of neurodiversity. Science, like most professions today, values productivity and less so creativity; although we all recognize that science leaps humanity forward from rare but creative paradigm shifts.

So my life has been full, full because I live with someone who sees the world differently from the norm. He is an 'outlier' if you will, in how he embodies and embraces life. He is also perhaps the most mindful person I know; but he doesn't practice any formal method of meditation, mindfulness training, etc. He just is. What makes him so great is that he doesn't even know that about himself, he just enjoys each moment of every day, each tough challenge he faces, each new idea he creates, and each new person that he meets.

He's kind of just a happy, kind, and caring guy who believes that whatever he wants to do can happen. Our lives are full of the benefits of seeing the world through the eyes of ADHD but not bumping into the pain that can accompany it if expectations are set on the wrong behaviors. Together we have learned to appreciate the strengths of this visionary way of seeing the world and just dealing with the challenges that may accompany it with a good sense of humor (e.g. we cherish uncertainty and forgive ourselves for 'being late', 'missing events', 'losing things' etc. and we have a great support network....thank you Betty!).

When I met my husband at age 15, I knew I had found my soul mate, the person with whom I would spend my life. He was a fresh breeze of life that I knew would take me wherever it may and in each moment there would be a depth of uncertainty that would keep me present. As the Beatles said, "Love is all you need!"