In the U.K., journalist and maternal rights advocate Rebecca Schiller's memoir is known as "Earthed," much less self-help-y than the U.S. title, "A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention," and one that gets closer to the heart of her account of dealing with severe ADHD and life on a smallholding in the English countryside.
Her lifelong "tendency to think in many directions at once" has become overwhelming. She can't seem to maintain the mask that society demands of her, and her misery is stark as she finds herself lashing out and getting stuck in her thoughts — some of them frightening. Schiller looks to her family's small plot of land as a way to cope as she tries to sort out her mental state, a search that she documents over the course of a year and coincides with the pandemic.
As Schiller admits, this memoir "covers a lot of ground" in an attempt to "write in a way that shows how my brain works." Flights of imagination in which she talks to long-dead people connected to the smallholding's history, and tangents — or going down the rabbit hole, as she calls it — about climate change, the plight of women or words that grab her attention can be cumbersome, but they do provide a window into what it must be like to have her brain: exhausting, yes, but also compelling as we follow Schiller's journey of self-discovery.
Maren Longbella is an editor at the Star Tribune.
A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention
By: Rebecca Schiller.
Publisher: The Experiment, 304 pages, $25.95.