July 12, 2020:

I can't spell. Nohow, nowise. It's the first indication of learning disability. Perhaps an odd thing for a student in the gifted program.

It becomes clear I read far more slowly than the others. They're finishing chapters from the history text in just a few minutes. I take the entire study period, sometimes needing to read it more than once. When I'm done, though, my comprehension tests perfect. I sometimes have the sense my comprehension is actually markedly better than theirs.

I'm not sure the adults realize, although I do, that what I've elsewhere described as "my advanced reading skills" are about quality not speed. The others read more books than I do, some of them a lot more. I read more carefully and often with a very advanced vocabulary.

I come to realize, too, that when I have spelled correctly I've often used the British spelling rather than the American. It's interesting to speculate why this would be. Past life memories of spelling bees decades gone? I think more likely it's reading and re-reading and re-reading The Lord of the Rings, I don't know how many times in grammar school, certainly a dozen.

There's a moment of general consternation in fifth grade. I've earned the well-deserved reputation as a spelling disaster, so that when the entire class tries one after the other to spell "co-operative", and I'm the last but get it right, hyphen and all, there's unanimous demand for explanation. Strangely easy: I've spent the summer in Montana where I've seen it written on dozens of grain elevators, a curious word which turns out to have strong social resonance. So that it's burned into my retinas.

I'm in my fifties when spelling at last begins to feel natural. I credit computer spell-checkers, indicating with red underlines the words which are suspicious. It's a little bit like the flashcards people used to use for memorizing foreign languages: seeing the incorrect lettering called out by the computer, followed by the corrected version, eventually has the same repetitive impact on my visual cortex as grain elevators 45 years before.

And it's around the same time the relative mystery of my "learning disability" is resolved. My attention is disrupted by the multiple instances of my own "inner voice" carrying-on unrelated monologues simultaneously, sometimes overlapping in ways which make them hard to disentangle. My concentration is often interrupted, sometimes forcing me to start again at the beginning or at least the last place I clearly recall. I'd never spoken about it because I hadn't realized it was unusual. My ex — world's expert on all things depression, anxiety, and ADHD — told me of her own struggles with the phenomenon. Once described I realized that was me, too.