I love glitter, sequins and crystals. Anything sparkly and shiny, really. I know it’s inappropriate at my age to let my cellulite and extra tummy weight darn any such garments, but it doesn’t take away my desire to see them on someone else and wish that I could be young enough and svelte enough to wear it with all the dash and drama it deserves. I took up beading several years ago and could hardly choose between the sparkly colors and shapes available at the ubber trendy local bead shop. I got to the point that I wanted crystal studded everything – cell phone covers, key chains, eye glass readers – even though I didn’t really need them at the time. It was such a nice change from all the tribal and safari trend that keeps coming and going in fashion. Somehow those hard cold shiny crystals appealed to me in a way that seemed kind of bad…but not bad enough to be get-in-trouble-bad. They sparkle in candle light and sunlight and fluorescent light…
You see, I have been diagnosed with a psychological disorder called “Shiny Things Syndrome”. Not formally diagnosed mind you…just sort of “in passing”…by a psychologist friend of mine. And – for those of you who knew me when – it doesn’t mean I’m a gold digger – it means I’m easily distracted. When I see something that interests me, I have to immediately pay complete attention to that single detail until something else comes along to distract my attention. She said a lot of creative people were that way and it could be frustrating for those who didn’t share a need for single minded intensive scrutiny. We tend to interrupt conversation, finish other people sentences, and visibly drift off into our own mental outer space when out senses are not being constantly fed with what we consider to be interesting material for consideration. People with “Shiny Things Syndrome” rarely finish projects they start, partly because their projects tend to be grandiose and partly because the next interesting thing might be within earshot. My husband can attest to the unfinished projects portion…we have an entire room in our condo that is filled with my craft equipment and materials as well as notes and research material from more than a dozen books that I have started, edited, printed and then filed away under “Crap I No Longer Care About”. But he has the same syndrome. The only difference his attention doesn’t even last long enough to get anything on paper.
Now I’m OK with having a psychological disorder. It’s only one of many that I have carried around in my brain from year to year and it’s part of what makes me…well…me. “Shiny Things Syndrome” is to me like Kryptonite is to Superman. It really kicks in with me when I’m tired or nervous or unsure of my next step. It kind of my attempt to grasp something that is beyond my reach when I can’t really manage the conversation of the moment.
And it’s really obvious when you get “Shiny Thinged” by me. Michael says that he always knows when he starts to lose me, mentally, that is, during a conversation, because my eyes start to narrow and he can see me looking into the space behind his head. As if I’m desperately trying to stay at attention but it is futile to continue to try to engage my full attention without commencing some type of circus act. Preferably an upscale Circ du Soleil kind of act, if you don’t mind, please.
Now the worst thing you can do when trying to assist women in trouble is to “Shiny Thing” them. They are already under a colossal amount of pressure and interrupting their thought process or an attempt to verbalize their emotional angst can lead to them getting really frustrated and sometimes even angry. Understandably so. They don’t understand yet that I have faults too. Many, many, many faults. They think of me as some sort of Rehab in Shining Armour..some example to follow…some lesson to learn. They have no idea how many lessons I still have in front of me and that it is from each of them I gain more insight to who I am and what I am here for. They don’t understand that seeing them is like looking in a mirror for me. Older, wiser, sure. But scarred and still a little vulnerable. Still a little afraid of fire.
And, in my own dysfunction, when faced with the enormity of the responsibility I have undertaken to mentor them back to sound mental health, I am trapped by a selfish and desperate need to finish their sentences to disguise my insecurities and deflect attention from the fact that I really have no idea what I’m doing.
I just lost one of my girls back to the street about four months ago. I saw it coming for a full week. I watched her make choices that I knew would lead her directly into hell. I advised her against it. I pleaded with her to reconsider. I questioned her motives. I threatened. I cajoled. I would have danced naked in the street to regain her attention but – like me – the “Shiny Thing Syndrome” had already taken hold and her interest in recovery was like shutting off a light.
And now I had my own mirror to look in. It was ironically like a circus mirror where the image shifted and distorted, casting a very unflattering prism of light on my own life. I was forced to look a little deeper to try and remember who I was.
I was forced to focus
No easy task for those of us who suffer from “Shiny Thing Syndrome”.
What I saw was a deeper understanding of my reasoning for trying to undertake such an enormous task as this rehabilitation of women and I was able to see that my motivation was only slightly less pure than I might have originally thought.
My intentions were not poisonous…not even a little. As the weight of what I considered to be my own personal failure – to cure this woman from her addiction to self loathing – started to lift, I was able to see that I was motivated by the fear that she is what I could have become. And as I teach my girls at the class in jail every week, I remembered that faith must replace fear in order to become well – mentally, emotionally and psychologically.
And I was still a little afraid – even though my faith has become stronger through the experience and it will grow stronger with each passing day. The lesson to be learned from having Shiny Things Syndrome is to not be afraid of it. To acknowledge it. To embrace it. There is no cure – no magic pill – no vaccination. It has to be addressed daily with a prayerful attitude of releasing it to a higher power.
By admitting it’s there I can walk in a greater understanding of what walking in the light of Love, Joy, Peace and Forgiveness really is.
Dedicated to Lynda. May you someday find the peace that waits for you.