I was talking to a friend recently who is Dyslexic like me and shares many of the same behaviors and traits common to many Dyslexics. We chatted about needing a “box” that held current projects, work from the office, “to do” lists, bills to pay, books to read, pictures, cards to mail for special occasions, letters to write, warranties to mail, personal journals, drawings, events to go to and the box often substitutes for a daily planner. There are limitless versions of the “box”, each designed to fit the owner’s needs and interests. The box can be portable so it can be carried everywhere and even on trips. Some people prefer a larger place to put their stuff and it will stay in one location. Moveable boxes needs to be sturdy, a good size and light – my friend and I favor banker boxes. Perfect size, weight and has a lid!
When I worked for our family business my box came home with me every night and back to the office every morning. Sometimes I would work on what was in the box or not. I have often taken the contents of my box and spread it through my luggage on the off chance I might need to do something with it. My ex-husband found my attachment to my box odd and sometimes insisted I leave it at work. I would feel uncomfortable all night concerned I might need it and maybe even drive out secretly to get it.
Okay, so it is a little weird but all people are a bit weird in one way or another. My box keeps my mind calm. My friend says that she and her husband were painting the house and he put her box out in the shed temporarily along with other stuff in the rooms of their house. She had to know its location so she could at least visualize where it was so she could be calm and feel safe.
What I have learned over the years is that many of the Dyslexic children and adults I have met have the their own “box”. What is in the box varies widely but the main similarity is their need to keep their currently important stuff with them or somewhere they think is safe. They generally know all the contents and where it is located in their box. They can also tell if someone has been through the box.
So the question is why do some Dyslexics have a box that holds so much importance for them? We are visual people that think in images – whole pictures of everything. What currently is of concern to us can cause us worry because we have to keep those pictures of our responsibilities together somewhere. Dyslexics have a tendency to lose things or forget about them and obligations, deadlines, events, important dates, things to pay or file can create a nightmare for them to keep under control. We are not great at remembering or seeing the details of our pictures of our daily, monthly and god forbid, yearly responsibilities so we fret about keeping them somewhere we can find them easily and sift through regularly.
Daily planners are so frustrating because we plan to write in them or use a computer diary but after a day or so we never look at them again. Dyslexics are right brain dominant thinkers and the right hemisphere focuses on the present and the left hemisphere keeps track of the past and future. We can think about the past and the future but tend to be living in the present so keeping track of what we are supposed to be doing in a diary is quickly forgotten and is not that important until we have to do it. Also daily planners are about being sequential and many Dyslexics have a terrible time with a sequence of any description. So we get a box to hold it all!
A silly personal example was trying to remember my wedding anniversary with my ex-husband. We are both Dyslexic and terrible at keeping track of special dates. We were married for twenty-six years and almost never remembered our anniversary. Days or a month later one of us would suddenly realize it had passed again. One year my sister tried to help. She called me in the morning to remind me – I thanked her because I had forgotten and then told my ex-husband. We planned to go out to dinner and then forgot to go!! We even made a reservation. My sister phoned me the next day to ask how the dinner went and I said, “What dinner?”.
When we are working with Dyslexic spouses and children we often talk about how many Dyslexics have a box for their stuff. They love to say, “See, I am not being lazy!” to their family members who have been annoyed with their “box” and forgetfulness. We suggest tolerance, understanding and a sense of humor from the family.
What I would love to see is other people’s version of the “Box”. If you would like to email us pictures of yours we will post them in a later blog. As I said before, the box can take many shapes and sizes. Doesn’t have to be portable. Maybe it’s a filing cabinet, closet, cupboard, plastic tote, whatever. Tell us your story about your “box” so we can share with others. Maybe your idea of a box will appeal to other Dyslexics looking for ideas to contain their stuff.
Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online