Sunday, August 17, 2014
Stop—And Smell the Gardenia
“Ohhhh, smell this gardenia,” I said to my husband, lifting a freshly picked specimen to his face. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. SniffSniffSniff. His quick succession of inhalations over the ivory-petaled flower produced no reaction. Continuing at that pace, however, he'd soon be hyperventilating.
What a shame, that he couldn’t partake in the pleasure of the rich fragrance, a fond remembrance of my growing up in the South. In the summers, the scent of gardenias—along with their larger cousins, the magnolia tree flowers—would hang in the warmly humid air. It was practically the only good thing to come from that oppressive heat; our house had only spotty air-conditioning back then.
That little gardenia bush had produced nothing but leafy growth for the past eight years. They are notoriously finicky bloomers in the Bay Area, I've been told. And, this summer marked the first success: a constant profusion of velvety blossoms against shiny, deep-green foliage. The bush is pictured here, along with a metal goat stuck in the rose pot behind it. It is fitting for this post, because my husband’s nickname is Dr. Goat. Here, the goat looks like he might eat the gardenias, fine-smelling or not.
This wasn’t the first time when my husband could not share my appreciation of scented flowers. “I must have blown out my olfactory receptors in the lab,” he always says, speaking of his time spent studying to become a biologist and dealing with various chemicals during experiments in the lab.
For years, I left it at that, though sometimes wondering if a zinc deficiency also might explain his poor sense of smell. Yet, he doesn’t seem to have any of the other signs of a zinc deficiency, and we eat a fairly zinc-rich diet. Plus, he is always quick to pick up any annoying scent, including scented laundry detergent and fabric softener, chemical deodorizers, colognes, and the like.
Finally, as I continued to extend that gardenia blossom before him, I noticed the manner in which he attempted to take in its scent: SniffSniffSniff. That’s when I realized: He’s not focusing on smelling! I shared this stroke of insight with him: “Okay, now close your eyes, take a deep breath…” My husband always erupts into chortles when I make that particular suggestion, so I change tactics. “Okay, just try to relax and leisurely take in the scent of the gardenia.” He did.
“Oh, that’s lovely.” he said. Eureka!
After 16 years of studying ADHD, I still learn something new every day. Reading a book, listening to a lecture or a member of our CHADD Silicon Valley Adult ADHD group, or reading posts from the online discussion group that I moderate for the partners of adults with ADHD, I hit upon some small understanding that adds to the larger picture of comprehension. Who knew that we had to “focus” on smelling a flower? Even if a micro-focus, it’s still focus. For me, it gives entirely new meaning to the phrase “Stop—and smell the roses.”
Speaking of roses, I hope you are having a lovely summer. My summer (and, in fact, most of the last two years) has been spent finishing a professional guide for couple therapists treating ADHD-challenged couples (Routledge, 2015) and writing the chapter on couple therapy for Dr. Russell Barkley’s “gold standard” clinical guide, ADHD: A Diagnosis and Treatment Handbook (Guildford, 2014). So, I hope you will forgive my absence over the past few months, as I’ve been digging even deeper to understand and synthesize for professionals and the reading public the vast range of issues presented by ADHD for adults and their loved ones. I look forward to more regular posting in the coming months.