Intricate Beauty: Part 2 of 2

Quinn Gormley
March 20, 2024

By Quinn Gormley

If you missed Part 1 of Quinn's reflection, it's here.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
—Maya Angelou

Lately, my ADHD coping mechanism of hyper-fixation has been about seaweed.

Seaweed is incredible, and I go through a seaweed phase about once a year. I've amassed a collection of seaweed and intertidal field guides. I often go digging through it whenever I'm near the water. I even took a marine botany class just for fun a few years ago. And my delightful sibling got me a book for my birthday a few years ago: the product of someone else's hyperfixation.

We went to the beach together recently: my family and some old friends. I was excited. The beach is full of things to wonder about, especially all the rockweed and dead man’s fingers that wash ashore. But on the way there I couldn't shake the fear: Would I be too much?

Before we arrived, I felt the need to warn those around me how excited I was about seaweed, and to apologize in advance. They know me. They love me. It would have been fine. But once on the beach I held back. I didn't go hunting. I tried to read a different book. I ate some cheese. I pretended to be interested in other things.

I didn't go on about the incredible structure of seaweed. I didn't explain that it's actually just a colony of single cells: unlike vascular plants, all the cells in a seaweed plant are entirely independent of one another. They know where they are only through interaction with the cells next to them. With this information, and detecting the direction of sunlight, they form incredibly intricate patterns together to optimize access to nutrients and light in their particular ecological niche: one cell talking to the next.

I think this is my favorite thing about seaweed: it feels so much like my neurodiverse brain. One thought jumping to the next, rarely with order or purpose. I'm excited by this, and then, "Ooh, what about that." Over, and over, and over again. It's chaos, I imagine, to witness. But inside my head it's like Ascophyllum nodosum: There is order in that chaos. And it thrives, reaching ever closer to the light.

Next time, I hope I can trust those who love me to see the beauty with me too. My husband asked me if I was okay when we got back to the car. “I thought you’d be more excited; the beach was covered today.”

All I could do was apologize: “The doubt got to me today.”

Not every story of neurodiversity is one of overcoming. But it doesn’t mean I can’t try again. Those voices in our head that give us doubt can be so loud sometimes. But an embrace of the holy gifts we’re given requires that we move through doubt and into grace.

Prayer

God, please grant me the strength to love all you’ve given me without doubt or shame. May I remember that I am your blessed creation, each quirk of my being a sign of your delight. I am grateful.