Anomalies as Strengths

Recently, Mariah and I encountered a stylistic variation that shows how differently our brains work. It was proof of a theory we’ve studied throughout our marriage, and much more intensively in the recent past. That theory, based on our ‘neuro-differences,’ has become more than just a parlor game, or an amusing pastime to divert attention from real-life challenges. It’s become the topic we’ve settled on to propel our nascent speaking career. Anomalies as strengths.

Mariah has ADHD & dyslexia, two so-called abnormalities that have bedeviled her all her life. (Yes, I have her permission to share this.) We’ve had breakthrough realizations around these ‘neuro-differences.’ One is that they’re real! She’s not making this S*#T up, not crazy, dumb, or stupid as certain people have labeled her. The second light-bulb moment was that Mariah’s brain-centered differences are not deficits; these real, weirdly wonderful machinations in her brain are benefits!

In the movie Apollo 13, the astronauts were halfway between Earth and the moon when a rupture in a fuel cell put them in grave danger. The team in Houston had to craft a device from incompatible equipment to scrub cabin air in the LEM not for two astronauts but for three, and not for a few hours, but a few days! Plus, they could only use items onboard the Apollo spacecraft 100,000 miles away.

Of course, they found workarounds for the challenge, and the Apollo 13 crew returned home safely. Here’s the insight Mariah and I derived from this. My style as a ‘neurotypical’ person is linear and orderly. My aviation career reinforced this, and the system works very well for me. I expect B to follow A. Every time! If I see O, I expect to see P. If I see O, and then H appears, I can deal with it, but it disrupts my flow. It also causes me to waste energy wondering why the H is there when it’s not supposed to be!

Mariah’s brain is non-linear, accustomed to disruptions and surprises. She sees O, then H, followed by R all the time. She wastes no energy wondering why F arrives after T.

You see where this is going. Mariah is much better and more comfortable with workarounds than I am. She anticipates the need for them and has honed her ability to find them. This is truly a gift that her neurodivergence provides. Mariah would have talked that Apollo crew through their challenge step by step. I would have wasted time wondering why the hell the systems weren’t compatible!

There are many ramifications to this we’ve yet to tease out. We’re on a journey of discovery like none we’ve encountered. Mariah and I have traveled the world, packing up and moving numerous times. With 15 addresses in the past 20 years, we’ve done a bit of exploring. But trekking around inside our heads has been more revealing than anything previous.

The biggest discovery is that as much as society tries to cure, marginalize, and label them, neuro-differences are not deficits. They’re benefits.

When we embrace that idea, we’ll be safely heading home from whatever disasters we might encounter.

Image courtesy of NASA Apollo 13 Mission


Byron Edgington
Byron Edgington
Byron Edgington was a commercial & military helicopter pilot for 50 years. Now an award-winning writer, and a featured contributor for BizCatalyst 360°, Medium Digest, and TravelAwaits Magazine he is the author of several books including the recently released collaboration with his wife Mariah Edgington of Journey Well, You Are More Than Enough (RE)Discover Your Passion, Purpose & Love of Yourself & Life. After his tour in Vietnam, Edgington became a commercial pilot and flew all over the world. In 2005, he received his Bachelor's in English and creative writing from The Ohio State University at age 63. In 2012 Edgington won the prestigious Bailey Prize in non-fiction from the Swedenborg Foundation Press. Byron Edgington is married to his best friend, Mariah. They have three daughters, and seven grandchildren. They live and write in Iowa City Iowa.

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