Last night, I saw the astronomical phenomenon known as the Christmas Star. Just after sundown, on the winter solstice, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn hung like a glowing orb over the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Callisto, the second largest of the Galilean moons but the outermost in orbit, was visible as well, all of this backlit by the vestiges of a brilliant orange sunset. It was an absolutely magical beginning to the winter season.
I have a lively geek girl aspect of my personality that loves astronomy. When I was a kid, my dad had a telescope that we’d set up in the backyard to look at the moon and other celestial bodies. We’d observe stars in the constellation Orion, especially the red supergiant Betelgeuse, and the trio forming the asterism of the great hunter’s belt. We’d search for Sirius, the Dog Star that flashed blue and white at the same time. And, in December of 1974, my sisters and wrapped ourselves in blankets and winter coats to stare at the lunar eclipse, astonished by its burnished orange glow.
My father encouraged my nerd girl sensibilities, and also seemed to have some of my neurodivergence. More precisely, I’ve come to believe that each of my parents showed neurocognitive traits that point to some of the neurodiversity that impacts my life. I have a formal diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from a psychiatrist who holds an MD as well as a PhD in psychopharmacology. One of the hallmarks of my ADHD is getting geeked out and hyperfocused on a project, then neglecting to clean up after myself or tie up the loose ends from said project. My father was like this as well. After our winter star party, that beautiful telescope got left outside on the patio near our pool. After a few days of rain, it was ruined. Left out to rust, it ultimately landed in the garbage can.
I think my dad was furious with himself for the lack of followthrough that lead to the destruction of that telescope. My mother asked him to bring it in multiple times, and I remember asking him as well, which was a dicey proposition. He was demand avoidant, a common trait among people with both ADHD and Autism, and his rage could flare up in an instant, another ADHD and Autistic trait. Reminding my father that the telescope was going to get destroyed was unlikely to motivate him to action, and worse, could result in me becoming the target of his anger. It was a lose-lose situation.
I thought of my father yesterday as I gazed at the Christmas Star. If he was still alive, if that telescope was extant, or replaced with a modern upgrade, we would have gazed at the solstice skies. I know myself to be like my father in so many ways, including the tendency to move through this world in fits and starts, pushing on to new tasks before completing the first. I made a wish on the Christmas Star last night, a hope that in 2021 I will be more mindful of my ADHD, more compliant with my medication, and more compassionate with myself as I continue to explore my neurodivergence.