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.