A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention

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“That summer of striding out towards a life of open fields and sacks of corn, I brought a confused black hole of something pernicious but not yet acknowledged along for the ride.”
 
This was supposed to be the year that Rebecca Schiller, her husband, and two young children finally achieved The Good Life: moving onto a 2-acre homestead in the English countryside, waking with the sun, milking their own goats, and eating sustainably from their own field and orchard. No sooner do they begin to put down roots, though, then Rebecca’s own health begins to crumble. Faced with a constellation of bewildering symptoms: frequent falls, uncontrollable rages, and mysterious lapses in memory, Rebecca desperately searches for answers, even while farm and family hold together by increasingly tenuous threads. After months of fighting to be seen and believed by a range of medical specialists, her diagnosis, when it comes, is utterly unexpected: severe ADHD.
 
As tenaciously as she seeks the truth of her own mind and past, Rebecca also digs for the truths of the land she farms: a place where wolves and lynx once roamed; where other women gathered eggs by candlelight and raised children whose fathers never came home from war. Her mind processes the world in prismatic abundance: she's aware of multiple points in history, different life-forms, science, and art all in one rush of sensation, a reality she brings breathtakingly to the page.  No matter how difficult the truths she uncovers, Rebecca’s commitment to the land in her care testifies to the power of one deeply known patch of nature’s power to solace when everything else falls away.
 
The narrative that emerges across Rebecca’s harrowing year is ferociously candid and compulsively readable. In her quest to be seen--and see herself--as whole, Rebecca gives a clarion call to the growing number of neurodiverse people, especially women, pushing back against a simplistic narrative of minds that are either normal and good, or different and broken. Just as one plot of land’s capacity for beauty and life has little to do with ordered perfection, one mind’s apparent chaos, understood differently, might also be a powerful gift.