The Gifted Lifetime

Stone tower

Pamela Price at Red, White & Grew asked a hugely welcome question about Giftedness beyond the child-stage:

How do we begin to talk about the gifted lifetime in fruitful ways that benefit a maximum number of people?

She invited comments, but I expected mine would be too long (in full) so I started here.

I have a few bullet points that shape the rest of my thoughts.

  • Have a common definition (so we can unblushingly agree that humanity contains both gifted and non-gifted individuals).
  • Create a safe place where understanding is the primary goal. Competition or one-upmanship needs to find an outlet somewhere else.
  • If the non-gifted want to observe, they must assume good-will (the gifted people in these discussions are working out their own issues, not denigrating people different from themselves).
    • We will get so much farther, faster, if we don’t have to saturate our observations and discoveries with disclaimers.
  • Trust each other: our experiences will be different, and if we expect to police each others’ diagnoses, that leads to insecurity and back to competition.

Stone towerSome adults (without using the word gifted, or acknowledging their own giftedness) say that feeling alone is just part of adolescence, or part of the human condition. Religious/Christian people will have very specific ideas about what’s missing in one’s life.

These two bits (smart– in my experience, gifted— people who acknowledge the ‘off’ while invalidating the accompanying confusion, and religious people who expect their tested formulas to fix things) are the two halves of my own experience.

Between excellent honors-track teachers in high school and talented professors at college, I was surrounded by a very comfortable level of challenge and growth. I was kept busy enough through that era of my life that the discontent buzzing in the back of my mind was kept decently managed.

I’m one of those who can’t not-believe in God (and I think that’s a good thing). All my life I’ve been involved in Church, and done what I can to make it (find it?) challenging. So when I started learning about giftedness (well into adulthood) I was giddy to realize that the small church I currently attended was easily 70% gifted. More if you included the mass of kids.

That explained to me why we were so many on the same “wavelength” in intensity, intellectual demands, high conviction, with a level of educational rigor (sense of personal responsibility) for our children, many of us homeschooling, many of us eschewing the Standard American Diet.

[To this day I’m convinced that the cohesiveness of the group is tied at least in part to the shared giftedness, and the feeling of having found one’s “tribe.” This was especially notable because we varied, sometimes significantly, in our theology– usually a reason to “break fellowship.”]

According to the one book on adult giftedness I’ve read, the level of giftedness in the general population is 10%, so I imagine finding a group where nearly everyone was your kind, well, I will personally attest it is hard to walk away from (and I’m still trying to find my land legs).

The odd thing to me is that when I tried to have this [Yay! Look at us, we’ve found each other!] conversation with various gifted members of the congregation (much more calmly and maturely, I assure you), I was immediately shut down.

I can see, now, some sociological/psychological reasons for their dismissal and denial, but at the time I was deeply confused.

It is in this background that my summary of “conversation-starters” is rooted (with a tiny bit of repetition).

  • Provide a vocabulary. Tie it to everyday living.
    • I think the best way to start this conversation is to include people and give them a context for this “otherness” they’ve felt much of their lives.
  • Let people identify themselves– and believe them.
    • Yes, some will be wannabes, but as long as we manage the competition/one-upping side of things they will either benefit by association, or drop out on their own.
  • Validate– agree that there are good things and commiserate with the disappointing stuff.
    • My first two years investigating this topic I had this imaginary conversation in my head: “So you just figured out you’re gifted, huh?” “Yup.” “Just now? Are you sure you don’t need a second opinion?”
  • Provide models (alternatives to the TV-reinforced stereotypes) of successful gifted-lifetimes.
  • Brainstorm how to become those models
    • My primary motivation for trying to convince my fellow church members about giftedness was that nearly all our children were gifted. I felt we had a unique opportunity as a close-knit, gifted population to raise our children in a way that might inoculate them against the shame or embarrassment we received for our eagerness or “over-achieving.”
      • All of which that continued into adulthood, by the way…
  • Create a culture of mutual creation rather than comparison.
    • I keep harping on this angle, but I think it’s crazy-important: we are all so different from one another (along with having things in common) that if we are going to make progress in any meaningful way it will not be through propping ourselves up via the battered bodies of lesser mortals.

So there you are: Where I think the conversation should start. Where it goes from here I’ll be fascinated to watch.

The Necessary Fight: Helping My Depressed Child (Wyn Magazine)

I had to have enough conviction for the whole family when I knew it was depression. That effort on top of the grief, guilt, and personal disappointment was so draining, I couldn’t do anything beyond the naming. I felt helpless, and was silent.

As has been true in so many areas of my life, it was a story that brought clarity and gave me the images and language to move forward. Bearskin, a picture book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, crossed our collective laps at this very opportune time.

The title character is raised by a bear, and early in the story he chooses to fight a dragon (“I will go myself if nobody better is to be found.”). The interesting thing is that his Mama Bear does not fight for him. She’s not that sort of mama bear.

She has raised him on bear milk (making him strong), and before his fight, she provides him with armor and weapons, but then he faces the dragon on his own.

I remembered the dragon that stalks me.

Recognizing that it was now going after my kids, my first response was fear, because I knew I would not be able to fight the dragon for them. Even if I had unlimited strength rather than my present weakness, there is not enough “environmental shaping” or help I can give them to keep the dragon away. It attacks from inside them.

Somehow I had to train them. I had to make them strong. And how could I do that when I can’t slay my own dragon?

(Read the whole article at Wyn Magazine)

What Connects with…Me

Image courtesy of Liana Bitoli via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Liana Bitoli via stock.xchng

I found a “coach,” at the end of last year, because most of what I do with my counselor seemed to be coaching, anyway. I was looking for an “outside” voice and perspective that was sharing a brain/time focused on me.

Becky and I have talked about how this is the reason to hire someone: friendships are more mutual, and we don’t want to muddy those relationships to work through our issues.

The coach got me thinking about some good stuff, and some new angles on older projects that have been marinating for a while.

~  ~  ~

Then I got my heart stomped on, and I was back in the counselor’s office.

I had a double bomb in an exhausting 48 hours: First, someone I already guessed didn’t like me confirmed they didn’t like me, and second, someone I love very much– who has a degree in an industry not supported by our local economy– told me they were saving up money to move away to do the work they went to school for.

Both totally make sense, were almost predictable, and so it took me 4 or 5 days to realize I was deeply hurt and grieving. I was so scared by my response (it felt like my depression was returning- freaked me out and you don’t play around with that!) I visited my counselor the day before my coaching appointment.

The counselor gently reassured me that that this wasn’t my depression returning. She affirmed that I was grieving, and validated my experience that just because someone is a jerk, or someone has beautiful dreams that don’t need to include you, intellectual assent doesn’t necessarily change how others’ choices affect you. Continue reading »

Holding the Fear — January’s Life & Fiction Column

If you’ve been around a while you’ve probably seen me reference The Perilous Gard, a book I feel deeply connected to. This month’s essay combines that book with one of my personal wrestlings: How do we respond to something too big to fight?

[Excerpt:]

I am very interested in those characters who are “stuck” with responding, because that’s where I live much of the time: I am faced with circumstances that are bigger than me, and the best I can hope for is that I find and climb on a sort of surfboard and ride the waves as they come. Preferably without wiping out.

When we’re in crisis mode, simply responding is pretty much the order of the day. Strategizing our way around a problem requires energy or clarity of thought that often is out of reach, and it turns out that’s the case for my favorite characters.

All my favorite characters are very much caught up in something bigger than them. Every one is much weaker than the forces arrayed against them, and barely keeping their heads above water, but I love them because they prove a match for those impossible odds—and that’s why I read!

One example: Kate Sutton.

In the young adult novel The Perilous Gard, Kate is sent by the Queen of England to the middle of nowhere. Kate is utterly alone, has no friends, and ends up trapped probably a mile underground.

My throat closes up in the cloying tightness of the memory.

Kate didn’t know if she’d ever see the light of day again. She was a slave, and the only moment of independent choice she had came at the opening of each day. She had a choice to receive or reject “the Cup,” which contained a drug that would bring an artificial delight and mute her senses to the suffering and isolation she endured. She chose to reject it.

Read the rest at wynmag.com

Editing for Wyn in January

Image courtesy of abcdz2000 via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of abcdz2000 via stock.xchng

I’m so excited about this opportunity.

The Theme for January is Self-Care, and we have a collection of topics to get you thinking, and practical stuff to apply to your own life, as well.

Here’s an excerpt of my “Letter from the Editor.”

Visualize stuffing an elephant into spandex.

That’s the way I feel about the word “Self.”

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the blind men at the elephant? Five men touched five different parts of the creature (tusk, tail, ear, leg, trunk) and an argument ensued as each fiercely asserted they’d identified the essence of this mysterious creature.

That is the way I feel about the Self. It is an elephant-sized concept with all the wrinkles and warmth, the inflexibility and folds of the various parts of an elephant; and still it is one coherent (if improbable) whole.

Read the rest at wynmag.com

January 1, 2014

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.

— John Carmack

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

I am |this| close to making a resolution to not learn anything new this year.

But that would be silly.

I’ve made “not” resolutions before (like NOT buying books). That didn’t really work/happen/exist very long…

And I didn’t feel bad about it, either. HA!

Last night I updated my Writing page, and for the first time actually made a list of what I’m interested in– what I research, pursue and actively learn about. And it wasn’t a mile long!

Though I admit to some deceptively concise labels.

I used to think this complete listing was not possible, since I’ve watched myself latch on to any new idea that enters my line of sight. I’ll chew and taste and explore– and that willingness has sometimes made me feel like and intellectual toddler who needs to be protected from my own curiosity.

That unnamed image actually made me vulnerable to the type of person who was more interested in telling me how to think than strengthening my own ability.

It was my untrained, but still existing, ability to resist this attitude that taught me I wasn’t an intellectual toddler.

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

I was an explorer– an occupation which requires intense levels of maturity, initiative, adaptability and courage, words that, until last year, never entered my mind as ways to describe myself.

Much of my adult life has alternated between delighted and frantic exploring. I see something I don’t know, and rather than just enjoy it’s existence, I need to understand it– to explain it– to participate in it. Sometimes I feel behind and deficient until I am up to speed with usable information about whatever just hit my radar.

[I should qualify this to say not everything-everything is this way. I always love it when an experience completely “misses” that absorption instinct– fly-tying, bell-choir, crochet, singing alto. It allows me to absorb– and release!– that topic in a completely different way.]

Sometimes, if I cannot deliver an extemporaneous lecture on any topic (no qualifications– any topic) that leaves me feeling deficient.

Today I’m declaring that unrealistic.

I have my brief (deep) list, it encompasses more to study than I can ever use up , and it provides quite enough meat and sugar for my life and brain.

I don’t need to keep looking for new things to know.

~ ~ ~

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

For many years I have been in the pursuit of the “right” system– that magical *something* that will make life “work” where it hasn’t before.

I’m convinced such a system exists– there are so many books about organization and time-management with great (This WORKS!) reviews– but I think now that this system is something as effective as medication for brain-based disorders. That is, about 40% effective at best.

40% is a pretty high number, and nothing to dismiss– That is a LOT of people with improved lives. Unfortunately, if any of those lots-of-people found their peace (or method) without difficulty or pain, their level of understanding and compassion or grace is diminished toward the remaining 60%.

The rest of us must learn to live in ways that schedules and methods may inform, but not master.

In 2013, my future-focused, planning-addicted self began to ask:

What if this life didn’t change? What if this is who I am, what I’ve got, and it’s everyday? Then what? Would I choose this?

I’ve found this way of thinking to be incredibly helpful for me. It actually keeps things from getting too big. As someone who goes meta really quick, it’s about the only thing that’s ever been effective:

One day at a time.

Take food as an example. We all KNOW that we’re not supposed to “diet,” as in change the way we eat, just for a little while, with the plan to return to our old ways.

If we want to be healthier we must find a way (meals, timing) to eat that we are willing to continue forever.

One day at a time.

So this is where I’m beginning the new year:

I write. Every day. Already. I don’t need a resolution to do that.

Sort of like I eat. I don’t have to plan for it to happen.

I do have to have some sort of  plan if I want to reach certain goals, but this plan doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.

The beauty of a plan, of any plan that’s worked for me, I mean, is how many decisions are already made.

And this loops back in to What you already know.

Decisions that don’t need to be made.

I do have goals, because I know where I want to end up.

But the difference this year is that I’m focusing exclusively on what I already know to do.

I know a whole. heap. of a lot. I have had experiences that worked, and have learned from things that didn’t work.

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

For the month of January, I am doing many things (like pressing on with the writing plan I began in October), but counting the days, I am returning to a few food principles that I know work for me.

  1. I’m writing down what I eat– holding myself accountable for the good decisions I know I should make.
  2. Decide that every every meal (or snack!) I eat has to include protein.
  3. I will still eat deserts (while following #2), but only on the weekends.

These are all things I’ve done and sustained before. This is not an “experiment” I hope will work. These are proven strategies I’ve been too [fill-in-the-blank] to stick with.

So here it is: not a new-year-resolution, but a plan to remind myself

I have enough. already.

Ten Tasks for Healing from Trauma (Wyn Magazine)

Oh, and I forgot to mention, here’s another entry at Wyn Magazine– my review of a book I think everyone (seriously. everyone.) should read. If you are blessed enough not to have experienced trauma yourself, this is a terrifically focused (aka short) survey of very important concepts that doubtless affect someone you know.

Jasmin Lee Cori (MS, LPC) has provided a tremendous resource with her book, Healing From Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life.

TRAUMA is an enormous topic, about which countless words have been written. The beauty of Cori’s book is how she distills the massive topic and its many relevant areas to their solid core. I never felt like anything I read was “fluff” or more explanation than a particular topic needed to get the concept across.

On the one hand I was thankful. I already felt like I was behind when I started the book because I am one of those women who did not recognize the trauma until after the fact. At other times I was annoyed, because I’d barely wrapped my mind around one idea when she set it down and moved to the next one.

Overall I believe Cori took the right approach: by introducing us to “industry standard” terms, she provides the means (vocabulary) to research any individual area further on our own.

In chapter five, The Journey of Healing, Cori has a list titled, “The Tasks of Healing.” These suggest a cluster of areas to strengthen that is supplemented with more detail throughout the rest of the book. These elements do not have to happen in order, but I found it helpful to see them untangled enough to lay out in a single line.

The headings are hers, and the summaries are mine, from the notes I took as I read the book.

(Read the list and more in the whole book review at Wyn Magazine.)

Combatting Depression (guest post at Devotional Diva)

For me, combating depression has been about my relationships as much as my biology. Especially my relationship with myself.

I know there are people who make it look like you have to pull away from your real life in order to “find yourself,” and those single-minded individuals can make folks like me suspect. But I honestly believe I’m as healthy as I am right now because of the digging and asking and finding and O-Kay-ing I’ve done about myself.

Read the rest at Devotional Diva.

Life & Fiction: Grieving Through Fiction

I love how this column I wrote a month ago teams so nicely with the poems I posted last week. I was thankful to have a friend staying with me while Jay traveled, because there is heaviness in writing hard things. She was a loving presence that kept me company as I read my words about losing friends to distance.

She listened with respect and intensity, letting me try the words aloud, never commenting on the meaning-obscuring fog in my voice. Then said the last thing I would have guessed.

“That sounds so sad [a word that I later realized I never actually used in the original article]. I’ve never known anything like that.”

I might have laughed (cheeks still tear-damp from reading). I hope I said, “I’m glad for you.” What I remember is being glad for the shift in me, to speak openly and let the tears fall without apology.

Tears really are a gift.  And so are good, good friends.

In grade school, I read the book Bridge to Terabithia, a story that has been called a modern-day-classic by some, which basically means enough people were surprised by a book they discovered themselves that they insisted other people read it as well.

It is a story about loss. It was written by Katherine Paterson, in response to her son’s grief when he lost his best friend at a young age. I cried when I read that book.

I cried like I didn’t know I was allowed to. My mom did the right thing. She redirected my siblings, held them off. She let me cry.

But I couldn’t figure out why I was so sad. I thought this kind of emotional reaction was wrong. The story wasn’t real. The people I mourned with never existed. I didn’t understand this empathetic sadness, and it scared me.

From then on, I spent most of my conscious reading and movie-watching avoiding anything that might invoke a similarly intense response.

I forgot that I’d ever cried at a story. I prided myself at having a firm grasp on reality and separating myself from the sentimentality of those lumpy, leaky women who cried at weddings. Who cried even at movies with weddings in them.

Then, in 2006, fewer than three months after my youngest child was born, my dear-friend grandmother died.

Later that year I read The Thirteenth Tale, and I cried. I didn’t even identify that closely with much in the story, but I cried hard.

I began to consider that tears might not always be about exactly what started us crying.

Penelope Trunk, a career coach and blogger, once said something that I’ve co-opted in the paraphrase: “PMS is your body telling you to cry about the stuff you’ve been ignoring all month.”

This is beautiful and freeing because it starts by assigning value to the tears: the stressors that break us open, showing what’s inside, did not create the emotion in some mysterious alchemy. The reality has always been there.

 

Read the rest at wynmag.com

 

 

Busy Mind, Busy Life (Reading Notes)

Image courtesy of Timo Balk via stock.xchng

Jay got home Friday after a month away.

I’m starting to feel re-stablized, and ready to pick up whole books again. But this has been an interesting month of idea collecting (along with overwhelm…).

Every now-and-then I think I might start an INFJ blog, but then I do a bit of Googling and see there’s scads out there, and they make me notice more of my ENTP side, so I refrain from publicly claiming a “type” anymore.

For the most part.

But, for all you intuitive types who find yourself stuck between the “real world” of details and the “more equal” world of your thoughts and discoveries I will give you a peek into some of what my month of (blogging) silence has been steeped in.

It always seems like a crazy-huge variety while I’m reading and collecting, but sitting down in the (relative) peace and quiet of a school-isn’t-started-yet morning, I find a few broad headings can umbrella the frequent settings of my thoughts.

Even so, rabbit-trail chasers: you’ve been warned.

Body Thoughts

Writing Thoughts

Thoughts on Story/telling

Thoughts on Being/Belief/Behavior

From Sarah Bessey: We use words like “true” and “real” in reference to womanhood or motherhood or marriage, and I think it’s wrong to do this.

We use these words like they are freeing or universal or helpful, but they are forging new chains for a new law.  There is no such thing as “real” woman or a “real” man. If you are a man, you are a real man. If you are a woman, you are a real woman.

In an Unspoken Voice is based on the idea that trauma is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather an injury caused by fright, helplessness and loss that can be healed by engaging our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotions.

Such an encouraging, hope-offering thought.

Thoughts on Book-Reading

I’ve signed up for Net Galley‘s reading & reviewing program, so I’m excited to make Reading Notes a more consistent feature here at Untangling Tales. My favorite non-fiction titles are about mental and physical health, and how they intersect with every-day life. The fact that these books are being written, and that they’re available to me = lots of warm-fuzzies.