Also an ADHD exploration note, here. I am thinking about the notion of aiming for integrity rather than reliability.

For a long, long time, I’ve beaten myself up a lot for being “unreliable.” I automatically get nervous when any sort of time is set and I’m not sure an external force will compel me to make it, because man, there’s not a set time I haven’t somehow blown past when left to my own devices.

Reliability has a time-based component (will X thing be done by Y time?) and ADHD folks, myself included, have a really, really screwy sense of time. I once read that ADHD people can only distinguish between “now” and “not now,” and my stunned response of “wait, there’s anything else beyond those two?” felt like discovering (as a Deaf adult) that hearing people could hear, say, breathing.

I have made it on time for deadlines and meetings but most people don’t know what that internal process feels like; more dumb luck and happenstance than a controllable and repeatable phenomenon. In fact, if you look closely, I am never right on time; I am either late, or very, very early.

The “early” is because my current best tactic is completing my obligation (making a deliverable, being at a specific location) in the “now,” which means I’ll be incredibly early instead. Sitting down and making the deliverable start to finish without stopping right then and there, regardless of whether it’s the best place or time or circumstance for me to do that work. Walking to the next meeting location and sitting by the door — on the floor, if I have to — so I’ll be there when the meeting starts (I have systems, but sometimes phone/watch/computer alarms are not enough). I know things will get lost if I allow them to sink into the haze of “not now.”

My other reliable tactic is quietly using others as external cues, whether that’s copying when hearing people laugh at jokes I miss (as a Deaf person), or making sure I can follow someone else to my next meeting (as an ADHD person).

Trouble is, as I get older, I have to do more and more complex, long-term things that I can’t just sit down and do “now” — and I have to do them by myself.

And so I have become afraid to commit to anything that’s time-dependent, solitary, and longer-term, because it always feels like a gamble as to whether I’ll make it or not. And sometimes I can minimize those kinds of responsibilities and redirect them into things that I am better at (deeply collaborative teamwork in the moment, which is where I excel).

But when I can’t — can I redirect the goal from “reliability” to something else? What if reliability (in the neurotypical sense) wasn’t the goal? What would it look like for me to run on the version of crip time I can run on, and still interface with time as others need me to?

In engineering (especially with software system), we work with subsystems and components that are inherently unreliable. We have ways to hook them together to make the system as a whole okay, even with the component-level unreliability. Backups, notifications, and so forth. How can I be part of a larger system that’s reliable, even if components of myself are unpredictable?

Or again, with software systems: we know nothing has 100% uptime, but we set up notification systems so that people know when they’re down, and backup systems and processes to kick in when that happens. We create dashboards where we can see what’s going on at any time. And for me, blogging and messaging and otherwise being “noisy” and doing thinkalouds in the open are all part of that transparency of status; people can see at least a little of what’s happening - and that things are happening. It’s the kind of broadcasting you do when you’re not sure where you’ll go - a constant stream of “here’s where I am.” And then the folks who need me can come find me, thus activating my best mode — interactive mode.

I’ll ask some software engineering friends to help me think through this analogy and see if it spurs any new ideas. And in the meantime, I’ll steer that big jet engine back to work now that this braindump allows me to stop thinking about this and start thinking about other things I need to do (hello, stack of grading).