Sunday Morning Robots

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table on a sunny, chilly Sunday morning, watching an episode of Vera and drawing.

I often find it hard to watch TV or a movie without doing something else at the same time. I don’t know if that’s an ADHD thing or just a people thing. Either way, it’s not a reflection on how interesting the show is.

And I often find it hard to get around to drawing all on its own , too. That *is* an ADHD thing, I find it challenging to start any new task that I know will require a lot of focus or that will take a long time. (And since I have a lot of trouble breaking projects into smaller tasks, it always feels like everything will take forever.)

So the TV/drawing combination works for me.

I just have to choose a show that doesn’t require full concentration and a drawing that is about process instead of about thinking up new stuff.

Hence this robot party that’s just getting started in here:

A series of brightly coloured rectangles drawn on white paper.
They aren’t robots yet but they will be soon. Image description: a photo of a drawing of a series of brightly coloured rectangles with a smaller rectangle on top of each one. They’re on a rectangular piece of white paper that’s resting on a wooden table and there is a pile of markers and pens at the top of the image.

Accessing Muscle Memory

In June 2022, I tested for my 4th degree blackbelt in Taekwondo and I had practiced the hell out of my last 3 patterns.

I had practiced them all, of course, but those last 3, my newest ones, those needed extra work.

By the time my test came round, I was pretty confident in them. I had to take the last one a little slower than it would normally be done but I still knew it.

My brain knew it and my body knew it.

Then summer came and I was working on other things.

And in the fall, I started a new pattern and those 3 recent ones didn’t come up all that often.

Should I have been practicing them regularly anyway? Of course I should have.

Did I practice them regularly? Sadly, no.

I think it’s hard for anyone to keep practicing things they don’t use regularly but my ADHD brain throws up some extra challenges for me when it comes to that stuff.

I have trouble prioritizing on the best of days so on any given day, I‘m probably not going to be able to prioritize something that isn’t urgent.

And with my, let’s call it fluid, sense of time, it can feel like I *just* practiced something and, in reality, months have passed.

So, basically, while these patterns are technically there, in my brain and in my muscles, they weren’t easily accessible.

I could do them step-by-step along with the group but I no longer had a feel for them and I knew I had to prioritize practicing them or I might end up burying them too deep to retrieve.

So, in the past week, I have tried 3-4 times to go through those patterns. The first one was no problem. The second one was rusty but mostly doable – just a few sticky spots.

The third one though? My brain was refusing to let me have that one at all.

I could do the first few movements but that was it.

Then, on Thursday past, my back was being a jerk so I couldn’t participate in sparring class. Instead, I went to the back of the room and practiced my patterns.

I did the easy one, just to warm up.

Then I practiced the rusty one and as I did, I felt it become more and more familiar, like my muscles were saying ‘Oh, right! This one!’

And finally, I worked my way through the elusive third pattern.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, with some input from my friend and from my instructor, I eventually managed to remind my muscles that we know this pattern.

And, before I left class that night, it was back, it was accessible to me again, it was something I can more easily practice from now on.*

I just have to keep reminding my muscles that “We know this. We know this.”

*Again, I know everyone struggles to practice but my ADHD adds extra challenges in the task initiation area so there are *bonus* layers to my frustration with getting started with these things. And when I know practicing will be really slow and especially repetitive, my brain throws up an incredible level of resistance to the idea.

TKD “Homeschool”

Last night was my final Taekwon-do class for the summer. Even though I’ll miss my TKD friends, I’m looking forward to the break from formal classes.I

But I don’t want a break from TKD itself.

Instead, I want to use my summer to improve my fitness in a few key areas and to work on my foundational movements.

I’m calling this TKD homeschool because rather than a vague plan to ‘practice over the summer’ or even ‘do a pattern a day’, I am putting together a kind of cumulative curriculum for myself.

The point is not just to maintain the skills I have but to make some measurable improvements in a few key areas.

I’m not getting too caught up in reaching specific targets, my goals are about inching forward a little bit at a time.

I want to go back to class in September with firm knowledge that I progressed over the summer – even if that progress is very small.

After all, I know my efforts matter, even if the results are minuscule. And my experience with TKD has shown me that literally any effort at all makes a difference.

Calling my practice ‘TKD Homeschool’ and making a specific plan puts me in charge.

And in charge is where I like to be.

A smiling woman in a white Taekwondo uniform. She is standing in front of a sign advertising her dojang.
This is me, on the day of my last belt test. This time next year, I’m testing for my 4th degree black belt. This summer’s work will help me get there. Image description: A smiling photo of me in my dobok with a green bandana in my hair. I’m standing in front of a sign that says ‘Downey’s Taekwon-do.’