That restless mind

It’s 2:18 am. I can’t sleep.

I’m not awake because I’m anxious about anything. Everyone is relatively healthy, although little one, E, has a cold and I am starting to get one and my throat is sore. But that’s not why I’m awake.

I’m awake because I’m wondering how many others have sleep issues, not due to anxiety, but because they can’t and don’t particularly want to turn off their minds when they have something they want to think about.

For me, right now, that something is the insatiable curiosity of a restless mind.

I am thinking of how that has manifested itself in me in different ways:

  • When I was a child, I used to pore over encyclopedias and dictionaries and National Geographics.
  • As a teenager, it was by reading a stack of books from the library every week .
  • As a young adult, it was by taking challenging math and science classes at university
  • As a 20-30ish year old, it was by learning all I could at my jobs, not only doing the lab-work, but taking on quality assurance roles and becoming an expert on the instruments I used, and giving laboratory tours so that I could share what I knew and loved about what our labs did.
  • As a 39 year old stay at home mother of girls, it is by searching the internet for what interests me – which is usually about learning styles and learning difficulties like dyscalculia, or gifted issues in children or adults, and human development across the lifespan, and math or science related topics, and finding out how to incorporate them into math and science activities for the girls.
  • As a mother of a recovering selectively mute child with sensory issues, it was immersing myself in everything I could find out about selective mutism and sensory processing therapies I could do at home, and emotion coaching to help her.  I even came up with a Kid’s Problem Solving Binder to help her with her emotional self-regulation and cognitive flexibility.

I’m sure this isn’t unique, and in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but the thing that is foremost on my mind about it is how to 1)  reconcile that insatiable curiosity with reality and 2) harness it into some socially acceptable way.

What exactly do I mean?

Well, with regards to #1, whether as a child or adult, there are certain responsibilities to uphold in order to be considered a functioning member of your family.  As a child and young adult, I procrastinated chores and certain types of homework because I would get interested in a book, encyclopedia or National Geographic.  This didn’t make my mother happy with me, and often caused me to do my term papers at the last minute (usually still doing well on them, but not without considerable distress in the process).  As an adult,  I find myself procrastinating a lot of the responsibilities in order to read or write about the more interesting things I discover.  Sometimes, when something keeps me up late at night, and I’m on the computer, my husband will wander out to find me, and while he’s not visibly upset I’m on the computer, I feel guilty, as if I’m doing something I should be ashamed of.

Sometimes, he has made comments that I lose myself on the internet, and I do admit I do that.  But what he doesn’t seem to understand is that I can’t help it.  It’s not an ordinary internet addiction, it’s a compulsion to learn something I did not know before or discuss online  about something I’ve learned because I can’t discuss it with anyone in real life.    There have been times that I’ve written things down on a notepad with a booklight, so that I could get my thoughts out without waking him up.   Twice this week I was in the family room, on the computer, late at night, unable to sleep, and so I was catching up reading and also composing an email to an internet friend I would not have met had it not been for this blog, and for the commonalities we share. 

I also have a number of half started blog posts as things I want to share have come into my mind but haven’t matured into anything really coherent.   But he woke up both times and found me and I felt I was being “checked up on”. I wasn’t but it still felt that way.

I find it really hard to talk about this compulsive information gathering habit and intense need I have to share what I learn.   Particularly because I don’t think it’s normal.   And I’m not entirely sure it’s actually healthy to stay up late in order to follow up on a thought process.   For me anyway. I get really tired the next morning, and those kids need mom bright eyed and bushy-tailed. But I’ve never been a morning person, even when I do get enough sleep.

Which leads me to #2:

Sometimes, I think, if I had a job where I had to research things and got paid for it, it wouldn’t be so problematic.   But, I’m just a stay at home mom now, and basically all I’m doing is goofing off/wasting time/procrastinating.  And setting a bad example for the girls (but THAT is a whole ‘nuther post of its own).

Sometimes I feel I’m just indulging in something that means something to me, but there are some (many?) who wouldn’t see it that way.  Never mind that I am providing a supportive environment to others who may have a child who has selective mutism, or issues with high sensitivity, or they themselves lived with a narcissistic, abusive parent.  I like to think I’m providing peer-to-peer support as I work through my own dilemmas, and receive support from others.  The 799 comments this blog tells me that people like having conversations with me.

And it’s not that my husband doesn’t understand, or at least tries to.  I just don’t think he really understands where the intense need comes from (and I’m not sure I do either).  He is content to come home (after commuting from the city in horrible traffic) from his engineering job, relax and either watch television or play the Wii.   I understand his need.  He’s used his brain all day and wants to unwind after work.  As for me, I don’t have a job that uses much of my brain, so I have to fill that need, and then some.

What’s tough to hear is something like this bit of career advice from US News.com:

Career Advice for Geniuses (not at ALL implying that I think I’m a genius, I just love hanging around those that are).

Find kindred spirits. Many gifted people feel like outsiders. That’s because they do think more rigorously than average people.Make the effort to find a job at a place that employs many brilliant people: top biotech companies, consulting firms, financial institutions, think tanks, law firms, and universities.

Wanna know WHY this is difficult to hear? Because I worked in biotech AND at a top-notch university. This kills me because I walked away from it (for very good reasons). Blech.

I wish I could channel what I do now into some sort of career from home, so that I can happily gather information and write my little essays to my hearts content and have a few dollars to show for it instead of lost hours.  Maybe then I’d feel I really could consider the time I spend helping others on the internet with what I learn is more like a respectable  job (though at the moment, a volunteer job).  Maybe other people wouldn’t look at me strangely when I gush at how much satisfaction I have gotten out of blogging or internet message boards.

And I have met some INCREDIBLY smart and interesting people through the internet. I’m telling you, it’s fantastic to hang out around you, even if it’s only in the cyber-world. 🙂

And…because I can’t hear this enough…I am reprinting one of the most affirming words I’d gotten from an internet friend, after I’d lamented that I wasn’t doing anything as a stay-at-home mom that I could quite put on my curriculum vitae.

The phrase (in Latin) means “the course of life.” There is a HUGE difference between a CV that I would prepare and present to a potential employer and my biographical CV. [“Biography” is basically the Greek equivalent of the L. “curriculum vitae.”]

I have to protest your assertion that you are “not achieving a whole lot right now…to add to a pretty extensive CV.”

This still, to this day, warms my heart.

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This entry was posted in career, gifted adults, gifted children, gifted support, intellectual stuff, Intensity, meet the smart girls, overexcitabilities, personal issues. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to That restless mind

  1. Trin says:

    Hi,
    I wrote you once before, lost the post, got carried away … there it goes :o)

    I would love to email you in a closer way than posting on this site. I must admit, I cannot keep up with the posts on my bloglist, I am kind of in October at the moment 🙂

    I feel so connected to you. I felt like you do soooo much. I had this ideals of how I should be, being a perfect mom or being the perfect mom for my kids. Hanging around with lalechelegue people and attached parents. After the birth of my little girl I started working a couple of hours when she was six month old. When I was pregnant with my son I felt that I should really stay home and that I probably was depressed with dd, and that I wanted to stay at home – thinking about waldorf, thinking about homeschooling – stuff like that. But after a while the longing started again … missing my job sooo badly. There was this sentence in the “Womanly art of breastfeeding” saying that not everyone is a brain surgeon and most woman ´don´t really have that important jobs…but what if you do? I am not a brain surgeon – but I am a pediatrician and I love my job.
    Than I got the opportunity to work as a pediatric surgeon – a field I always wanted to try, but ds only 13 month old. And I really did not know what to do…I felt so bad about even considering to start to work again – only for me (money was tight – but not that tight)

    I decided to go for it and am working since three month. It worked out beautifully this far. I really, really love my job. I have real good childcare, my husband is helping and giving his best. Life is cool.
    From reading your blog I feel that we have a lot in common. I would be glad to hear from you!

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you Trin –

    Actually, I think I would like to hear more from you, about how handling the work-home life in that kind of career.

    The thing of it is, I know me, and I tend to be a work-a-holic (well, that whole hyper-focus thing, you know). So that even when my husband was supportive of me when I worked up til the time my second child was 9 months old, many times I wanted to stay at work instead of come home to the girls. It’s not that I didn’t love them, but that I loved my job a lot and there was much that held my interest there and they were more demanding of me than I could handle at the time.

    Sometimes it’s hard to read what others say about work, especially when I have thought the similarly many times. Not every one is a brain surgeon, that’s true, and many women do have jobs that aren’t quite that important as that, but there are those women that do and what does one do about it?

    I’ve had a lot of tension in the area of my personal development and theirs. Up until this year, it would have been totally out of the question to put my selectively mute child in another setting where she would have to be stressed out. And I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I had with her so quickly if I couldn’t have taken the time to supervise her progress first hand and work with her.

    I do know had I been working, I would not have been able to take the time I needed to write my observations take videos of her at school and at ballet, write letters to her teacher giving them ideas on how to help her, give her therapy at home, take her to the park at the school so she could associate the school with having fun. All these things I would not be able to do if I had been working.

    What’s worse, I often forget and discredit my efforts to work with her because I’m not a professional therapist or special needs advocate. But it was almost a job unto itself.

  3. Heather says:

    This is ME exactly!!! You are not alone!
    “I find it really hard to talk about this compulsive information gathering habit and intense need I have to share what I learn. Particularly because I don’t think it’s normal. And I’m not entirely sure it’s actually healthy to stay up late in order to follow up on a thought process. For me anyway. I get really tired the next morning, and those kids need mom bright eyed and bushy-tailed. But I’ve never been a morning person, even when I do get enough sleep.”

    I was going to ask you if you are exhausted in the morning…because I sure am. I don’t allow myself to stay up past midnight, because even that is too late for me to wake up and be a competent mom the next day! The good thing for me is that after my 3-4 hours of computer “research” I do after the kids are in bed, my eyes are fried and I have no problem closing them at midnight, even if my mind is still going.

    I am struck by this comment that you made:
    “I wish I could channel what I do now into some sort of career from home, so that I can happily gather information and write my little essays to my hearts content and have a few dollars to show for it instead of lost hours.”

    Do you really think that your research and knowledge is only valuable if you get paid for it? I find that the more I research about the topics that help me and my family, we are actually saving money on something else. For example–I love nutrition and natural health. Therefore, I am saving us money on healthcare costs and even grocery bills if I research frugal nutrition. I research learning styles and other parenting topics and ways to teach my children. If I wasn’t doing this, my kids would NEED someone else, like a tutor or class to stimulate them in the ways they need. So to me, I am making money. I’m not getting a paycheck and I’m not getting external validation, but I am providing a service to my family, and I definitely do not count them as LOST hours. You are working hard to provide for your family and yourself in a way that NO ONE else can. I consider your job to be “Resident Expert of Casey’s Family, PhD.” No one else is qualified. I really pray for you that you would find value in the work you ARE doing, and not only be defined by the work that you have done in the past. It is important work and not without value. I think the more you focus on the discontent the more you feel it. The more you focus on the value, the more you feel that. Also, remember that this time in your life is a season. It will not last long. Before you know it, your girls are all going to be in full time school and you will have tons of time to hear yourself think and work on big and important things. Believe me, I’m saying all of this to you because i have felt like you do. I did not leave an important career, but I have BIG dreams for my future. I want to do a ton of great things. But this time, this very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, I am choosing to see the blessing in my circumstances and wait patiently for my time.

    And there’s my two cents. 🙂

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      “I’m not getting a paycheck and I’m not getting external validation, but I am providing a service to my family, and I definitely do not count them as LOST hours. You are working hard to provide for your family and yourself in a way that NO ONE else can.”

      Yes, I know you are right on that…

      This is what was suggested we find professionals for:

      1) sensory OT
      2) get a behavioral specialist to develop a behavioral plan and IEP –
      4) get into a movement program – specifically feldenkrais
      5) listening therapy
      6) Family therapy to help all of us cope.

      By doing it myself I saved on 1) the cost of whatever insurance wouldn’t cover 2) time having to take her to therapists 3) gas (especially in the case of the behavioral specialist and feldenkrais.

      Afterschooling math and science helps meet my gifted kids needs’ so that I don’t have to fight with the school for more accommodations (than they already have done).
      I sometimes think of those who spend lots of money on enrichment programs when I do a lot of enrichment at home (just not consistently enough).

      “I did not leave an important career, but I have BIG dreams for my future. I want to do a ton of great things”.
      I can tell the enthusiasm and conviction you have. I just wish I could share what I “do” now with my family and friends. I get no encouragement for being a stay at home mom – and its very hard to keep self-motivated when I constantly have different interests.

      I am probably as intelligent as my brother, who is a lawyer, in a small private firm making 6 digits by now, who is a part of educational public policy movements. He is living the life I once thought I was going to do. I’m not jealous of him per se, but he did get a lot more backing from my mother to get where he wanted to go, and on HIS terms.

      10 years prior to that, I had a lot more restrictions on how to get what I needed. I notice the difference in the paths our lives took.

      He’s living the “good life”, married to a doctor, living in the city, in a “high-powered” career. And his wife doesn’t plan on giving up her job to raise her child (she’s due in February). But they both have enough money to afford whatever childcare arrangements they want.

      I’m starting to google his name, and I’m afraid I’m going to get depressed when I find out all he’s accomplishing. Needless to say, he and I aren’t close. It makes me sad because he and I are the closest in intellect. I even worked at the U of C during the time he was going there for his undergrad. Occasionally we’d meet for lunch and chat and it was nice. But now he barely has anything to do with the family, preferring to spend his time on his friends.

      This kind of thing just adds to my feelings of isolation from the real people in my life.

  4. Heather says:

    PS:
    After God created man God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

    I’m valuable and precious to God not because I achieve success or because I perform well but only because God created me. I’m valuable because God created me and wants me to exist.

    This is what I want my kids to KNOW. That they are valuable simply because they exist and were created by God. Not because of the job they have or how much they get paid for that job. I want this for you too, Casey, so that you will be fulfilled and be an example of this for your girls.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      “I want this for you too, Casey, so that you will be fulfilled and be an example of this for your girls”.

      Thank you for saying that. I do want to feel fulfilled too. It’s very hard to look at anything related to gifted adults when you see everywhere you turn, no gifted woman being encouraged to be a MOTHER as a good example to their gifted girls. It hurts, very much to read what would be considered “useful” and “meaningful” work when you are a highly intelligent woman and realize that even though women who are as intelligent as me claim they could NEVER stay a home with their kids.

      It makes me wonder, why not? I mean, then of course they could use me as an example (being conflicted all the time) and say THAT’s why not.

      But really…I’m okay with a certain level of internal conflict. And I would say I wouldn’t be as conflicted if I could pick and choose what I want to do next. There are a few biggies, and yet I fear committing to them.

      So, instead, I go round and round with these thoughts and make myself a little crazy.

      On a good note, by writing these things out, my husband knows what’s going on in my mind and it has helped us talk about some things. Not that it solved anything, but that it helped us understand we are ultimately on the same page.

  5. shaz says:

    Wow i read with earnest your blog i couldnt believe what i was reading.. i came here with the keywords ‘stay at home restless’. How wonderful to meet you.
    Yes i have just begun to realise and question my want for information..feels like i am storing it up for something, although i do tell my two girls most of what i know. i especially encourage the thought to them of intuition and having faith in God, and believing in themselves and not letting what the world teaches sit in them for years. im very glad for my dad who was very harsh and strict. I kept out of his way by reading ALL the material in the house right down to my stepmothers Nursing books. I came to love those national geographics too and encyclopaedias.
    ……..i might find out by research that my-yours condition? IS a conditon lol and its something to do with that tree of knowledge. hmmn isnt that the tree that had the forbidden fruit? ill have to look this up. ……..good to meet you!

  6. shaz says:

    Oh forgot to say I came here -yes by those keywords- with the hope of finding the answer to making money at home,with what i know and could do. Have u had any luck in that area?

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Shaz –

    Hello and it’s so nice to meet you too. Unfortunately, I have not made money at home, but it’s probably because I haven’t really tried to. I think if I wasn’t so intimidated by writing with deadlines and all, I would try to embark on a freelance writing career.

    As it is, I procrastinate too much and am not sure I would have the discipline to write consistently.

    I may finish the novel I started a while back.

    Oh, and if you find out if the “condition” we have is actually a real condition, let me know. LOL!!!!

    Blessings,

    Casey

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