Dumbing down is not an option

Yeah, I know I should be organizing my house.  I’m really feeling run down with the cold I contracted from my daughter.  So I am resting and nursing my health and blogging instead.

***

I’ve wasted no small amount of energy feeling sad about the lack of quality people around my parts of the big blue marble I call home.

I have invested quite a bit of money in ‘self-help’ books regarding giftedness and creativity.

I know plenty about how to “be my own friend”.

After 42 years, I realize what an outlier I am in my neck of the woods, which isn’t saying much, because I don’t think my IQ is all that high. What strikes me as different than most people who are around me is the combination of being a science geek, having a creative personality, being intensely curious and being on a quest for non-standard forms of spirituality. While I allow the influence of both Western and Eastern spirituality practices in, I generally don’t subscribe to any one religion. My philosophies revolve most around naturalism and humanism and existentialism. These three things seem to fit most right to me. But trying to find friends to talk about this stuff is difficult.

And while I have a husband and three daughters (all of us gifted), I have no close friends anymore. Those slowly drifted away. I still have some contacts with people, but no one I could invite out for a cup of coffee on a Thursday night just because.

I spend a LOT of my time at the coffee shops, hoping to make new connections. But I’m generally quiet and writing or art journaling or reading heavy tomes (on Wednesday night it was A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Frued, Jung and Sabina Spielrein.)

It was crowded. There were a few chairs at low tables was only one normal table open, in between a young couple and two 30-something men. It didn’t take me long to realize I made a mistake. One young man was really upset that his ‘best’ friend girl (for four years) has essentially cut back considerably on their friendship, to the point of almost nonexistence except for a text here and there and a verbal invite to her baby shower. She’s 6 months pregnant with some other man’s baby who is not very good for her and she’s from an alcoholic family and blah, blah, blah and LOTS of stuff that indicates he is incredibly hurt and angry about things he has NO control over but that he wants to somehow force this friendship to remain as it was when so much has changed for her.

I listened to him go on about it for more than 30 minutes and besides being unable to read, my own agitation was growing as I listened to him whine. But don’t get me wrong. I definitely understand the pain he was feeling as his dear friendship had disintegrated. But he went on about it in such a way that made her sound like a jerk and him to be so pitifully neglected and how dare she throw away 4 years for some “dude” she got impregnated by.

And while this sounds coherent in the retelling, let me just say that he spent most of his conversation studded with incomplete sentences.  The way he initially sounded, and the way he said, “I’m always going to love that girl” and the way he got so distressed about her cutting him out of his life, I thought HE was the father of the child. But, alas, no.

At one point, I just got so distressed myself and he wasn’t listening to his friend give him some pretty sage advice, I just HAD to break my silence. After I excused myself for intruding, I told him about the dissolution of a 24 year friendship due to the interfering factors of an insecure spouse (his wife) as well as the complicating factors when children come into the world. I told him how sometimes we just have to let go of otherwise really good friendships for reasons beyond our control when things in THEIR lives change, even though it really hurts sometimes. I said he ought to listen to his friend’s advice because it was pretty sound and he didn’t disparage the girl to make his friend feel better (as sometimes can happens in these social situations).

I admit, I had some ulterior motives in mind – I wanted my peace and quiet back to read and make art. At some point his friend introduced himself and shook my hand (which I thought was very nice) and then he introduced himself. I asked the upset friend what he did for a living and he said he was studying to be a journalist and he also enjoyed photography and music and so wanted to be a music journalist. I thought to myself – wonderful, a fellow writer-type and a shutterbug too.

He told me a bit about what he’s learning and told me, “oh yeah, I am beginning to learn all types of things about how the media is manipulating people by making some stories much more sensational than they ought to be while downplaying others” (I had to choke back a laugh because I think we gifted individuals have already been clued into this kind of thing because of the trait of having some independent thought at an early age and a fairly good dose of critical thinking skills when it comes to judging sources of information).

He calmed down considerably, thanked me and he and his buddy decided they needed a smoke break. I finally got some peace and quiet.

When they came back the friend went to the bathroom and he thanked me again and then said, “well, I’d best get to my studying now”. At which point he began to plug into his iPod and started to get to work.

One the one hand I was glad to get back to what I came to do as well, but I was aware…not once did either of them ask about me other than to ask me my name. It dawned on me how self-absorbed in the current problems we think we have that we miss out on potential new connections. I step out of my observer role to participate in someone else’s experience, and I am no more known than I was before I opened my mouth.

It used to really make me sad that this stuff happens time and time again.

I thought for the longest time, that it was me.

My husband sent me a couple of quotes from Stephen Fry – the British actor/writer/poet/narrator/tv host and this one I think what he states is pretty much part of the problem.

Stephen Fry on Poetry and Laziness:

“You cannot work too hard at poetry. People are bad at it not because they have tin ears, but because they simply don’t have the faintest idea how much work goes into it. It’s not as if you’re ordering a pizza or doing something that requires direct communication in a very banal way. But it seems these days the only people who spend time over things are retired people and prisoners. We bolt things, untasted. “It’s so easy to say, ‘That’ll do.’ Everyone’s in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy…

“… When people get angry with a traffic warden they don’t stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it’s not good enough.

I have to agree, this is true. And it’s true for social connecting as well. We want to be known without ever wondering what it is like to know someone else.

When I meet people, I want to know all about them. In what ways are they like me? In what ways do they differ? What can I learn from them, if anything? Do they have any opinions about _______ philosophy/theory/idea.

And then I want them to know something about me. Or more than a few somethings about me. I asked a dear internet friend of mine about it and I mentioned that I thought it might be that people didn’t want to know anything about me because I’m not worth knowing. He said, “it has little-to-nothing to do with your not being worth knowing.”

I said he’s probably right and what really I think is going on is that people truly do not know how to make room for others in their lives.

I used to think I had great social skills. I mean, after testifying in court over 25 times, talking to people off the stand just became easier. Until the last few years or so, after I left my job and stayed home with my children. I’m not introverted or shy…just finding the same kind of self-centered, shallow conversations with people who have a pitiful range of vocabulary everywhere I go. It’s not even fun anymore to talk to people.

I spend a great deal of time reading and writing in order to chase away my loneliness caused by other people’s laziness. And I still find it hard to find friendship even through my blogs, one of which I’m very pleased with but no one seems to really comment on it much. Whatever it is people want, I can’t give it to them because I just don’t have it.

That last line of Fry’s just gets to me.

“We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it’s not good enough”.

I don’t know how to change this.

I think that’s part of what the spirituality path I’m on is about too. I can’t change the circumstance of dumbing down in others easily, so I need to cope with this massive ignorance I face on pretty much a daily basis.

I thought this would make a great post and I have a question for you out there in the blog world.  I can’t be the only gifted/highly sensitive/creative type out there that runs into this.

What do YOU do to cope with this distressing and demoralizing situation of being too smart/too creative/too sensitive/too thoughtful for the soil in which you are planted?

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This entry was posted in creativity, faith, gifted adults, gifted children, gifted support, highly sensitive person, mindfulness, On friendship, people suck, personal growth, personal issues, social and emotional issues of the gifted. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Dumbing down is not an option

  1. Katy says:

    Well put here, these thoughts about how we relate to others in our spheres. Thank you!
    For me, in the midst of baby-burnout and mid-career dissatisfaction, I started a book club. I asked the smartest people I knew if they would do one with me, and two said yes and then we invited a few more women and now we are 12 strong. Most of them have a degree or two and have travelled, are similar age but not background, and all are thinkers. Our rules are: books must be under 500 pages, no dead babies, and we meet to talk about the books (not idle chat and mindless goasip) It has been a haven for good discussion, out of which we get some new friends and lively discussions too. Mind you, I live in a small city of 25000, so there is some choice of who may come in. But I recommend starting a book club because it attracts thinking people. And if you start it, you’ll always have sway about who comes in too. Libraries are always supportive of getting these going if you need books or people!

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Wow, you know smart people? I used to, lol. Your book club sounds great. I wish I could join.

    Baby burnout – yeah, that’s what I felt some years back and started blogging. 🙂

    I’m in this weird land of suburbia where it strains many people to read anything heavier than the TV guide. I keep thinking all the interesting people must be someplace else.

    I tried a few Meetup.com groups, but they didn’t work out – too far and people weren’t coming to the ones closest to me (still 40 minutes away). I have yet to try the library/book club idea. I’ve gone to one library meeting about the opera Lucia di Lammermoor, and found it interesting, but not too many people came and no one talked afterward.

    I keep looking for interesting library groups other people have held, but nothing has yet struck me as interesting. So, yes, maybe it’s time I start my own.

    Maybe I’ll take the girls to the library tomorrow and look into how to go about starting one. If it’s not too difficult, maybe I’ll start a writing club too. I think that would be neat.

    Anyway, thanks for the idea. I think it’s time I start making more of an effort here to get people to find me, rather than the other way around. 🙂

    Casey

  3. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Hi Kylie,

    I read a few of your blog posts. Interesting and humorous stuff. I’ll have to be back later to read more, gotta make pancakes for the girls.

    I have four blogs, though I rarely post to two of them. I go through phases of just not being sure what to write about. Most of my stuff is way too serious, maybe that’s why I get bored with my own writing. I suppose if I had a more fun style of writing, I’d keep my own interest up.

    Thanks for commenting and leaving your blog.

    Casey

  4. Casey, Just checking in and saying hello!!!!! Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Thank you so much Kenny. I have my ups and downs. I was doing really well, and then Wednesday I was very down. I think it’s going to be that way until my husband or I find some more secure work. We’ve talked to the billing departments at the doctor’s offices and arranged payment plans, but it’s so weird to have to do that when once upon a time, my husband and I both had professional jobs with very good insurance plans. I surely hope we find something very soon.

      Casey

  5. daisy says:

    I have been reading this blog for years, but I rarely comment, as I am very self conscious about writing in front of writers. I, too, have been struggling with finding an outlet for my intellectualism. I was an art teacher/museum educator and before I went down the rabbit hole of parenthood. My oldest is 12 and youngest is 8 and I have some breathing room now, but I stand at the pickup after school or listen at my Sunday school class and the back of my head is saying “where have all the smart people gone?” My husband and kids are gifted, as well as most of my family, but precious few friends.

    I realized recently that my I was driving a wedge into my best friendship with my commentary about world history, western literature and logical fallacies, and have made an effort to listen more and keep conversation more light. We need each other – our kids are friends and their schedules are completely intertwined, so carpooling and helping each other out is a daily blessing. Concentrating on the universalities of our situations like kids and crazy families and balancing homekeeping with volunteering makes it easier – we have plenty of overlap, but some days I just want to find someone to talk to on my level or above that I’m not related to!

    I also fear the day when our kids won’t be friends anymore – already, they are becoming so different. My kids read like crazy, and spend almost no time on homework. They do homework for hours, but hardly read. My youngest has started playing teacher with her friend to help her with math; Mine’s years ahead of level, the other is behind – how long until that game gets boring and they get ugly with each other? I worry that they won’t have any commonalities to work with in a few years.

    So I read your blog for an intellectual lighthouse, try to live in the moment, and occasionally dream of moving to a university town where I can take courses again and teach when the kids have all graduated. Volunteering at the museums is fun, too, but will have to wait until they are all driving. Maybe I’ll look for a classics book club.

    I need to get back in my studio and paint, it makes me nicer to be around.

    Thankyou for sharing your light, the night is dark.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Daisy –

      I understand being self-conscious. When I write on someone else’s blog, I usually have to have a good reason for speaking up because a lot of “me” goes into whatever I write. But whenever I write, even though I’m aware I’m writing publicly, it’s still a conversation I’m having with myself. And…when I write, I try very hard to be kind to myself.

      It is so kind of you to think so highly of my blog. I am touched that you are so moved to call it an intellectual lighthouse. Sometimes I think that my more intense pieces are “too much”. I often write to make myself feel better and simply to help myself feel I’m doing something stimulating. Sometimes I write to distract myself from more stressful things going on in my life.

      There is a complex knot of feelings I have about this whole topic. In light of yesterday’s shootings in that Connecticut school, I feel guilty sometimes for having some of my personal struggles, but I realize it’s part of a larger picture too. I found out when I called my husband after I taught a 4th grade class and was on my way to pick up my daughters from their elementary school. I was going to ask hm something about it…and the words just got stuck in my throat and I started crying, thinking about those families whose children died…and thinking about what if that happened to my family?

      And then I think about the Colorado shootings, by that Ph.D. student of neuroscience. There is a real lack of genuinely deep connection with others. Those of us who are thoughtful know how painful and lonely the existence can be to not find peers with whom we can truly relate. When things don’t go well…or when we have a drive to achieve, but for whatever reason, we fall short of our goal, who do we really have to talk to that would understand?

      And while I can’t understand the need to take innocent lives, I can sort of understand the psychological vortex of feelings that might drive someone to drastic action (I turn most of my angst inward and it causes depression and in my more severe moments, I struggle with very dark thoughts – which is why I turn to writing to try to lift myself out of them).

      I think the lack of warm, deep human connection is at the root of this. We are not machines. We are spiritual beings that need to have meaning in our lives. For us intellectual and creative types, that meaning isn’t easily found in ordinary human activities. We can find some, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a whole lot more meaning we find in those pursuits that we have a passion for and we have to work at what we love in order to create meaning. And in a culture that doesn’t value intellectualism or the creative arts for it’s own sake, we often struggle with guilt for pursuing those activities we do find great value in when more practical things need to be accomplished.

      It would be wonderful to be your friend, I think. I love art (both making it and appreciating various artists – my favorites are the Impressionists and some of the post-Impressionists). I have a small, but growing collection of books on artists – A huge book of Van Gogh and his letters, a smaller book about Monet’s art and some letters he wrote, and a few other art books I can’t remember, and a book called 50 Women Artists You Should Know. I had found a number of pendants at the craft store featuring some of my favorite works of art. I have a few poster prints in my house (I would like to find more). We could talk art all day.

      I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and actually took an art “class” at a restaurant on Thursday. We were taught how to paint a wine glass and bottle of wine on a crimson red background on canvas. It’s not exactly fine art…however, it was nice to get out and do something artistic. I actually didn’t do too poorly and I am seriously considering taking an art class at a local arts center. I had been too self-conscious of working in front of others. But now I feel that I may not be so awful at it.

      I also had considered becoming a museum docent before – at science museums.

      I have an email friend with whom I correspond with about history, literature, and psychology. You would not bore me. At all. I sent my friend a photo of my art piece and I was critiquing my own work, telling him about all of the things I liked about it, and all of the errors that made my piece not make logical sense that kind of troubled me.

      What kind of Western Literature do you like? I’d been thinking of starting up a more intelligent book club at the library, and I need some ideas.

      I worry about the fact that my daughters, being gifted girls, will find some of the same difficulties as they age too and I’m already being careful in how I present my ‘case’. I talk a little bit about my feelings regarding motherhood, especially since they know my mother (their grandmother) is very stern compared to their other grandmother. When they talk about what they want to be when they grow up, I do want them to have a realistic, but balanced view of motherhood. I want them to know that they won’t have the same difficulties I have, because they have a more hands-on mother than I had who supports creativity and intellectual pursuits.

      My oldest is just now starting to navigate the difficult middle school years. Even though she has gifted friends…a lot of the girls are talking about boys…instead of talking about their interests. I am glad she’s befriended a girl with an Arabic background, because it’s an opportunity to learn about a different culture.

      She’s already noticed that friendships change from year to year. She was very close to different girls last year than this year, since now in fifth grade, they no longer have a self-contained gifted classroom, and last years best friends are in different classes (they both have advanced classes, just at different hours). She also noticed that a lot of the girls are boy crazy…and while she says she’s pretty immune to that stuff…I know that she just bought a candy-gram for a boy.

      So yeah, that’s about right. I had a crush on my next door neighbor, Barry, when I was in 5th-6th grade. We would hang out together every day and catch lizards and walk on our cinder block fences (we lived in Albuquerque at the time).

      I wish you the best and I hope we both find some solutions to these dilemmas and soon.

  6. smultron says:

    Hi, I guess I’m not doing anything, not for the moment. I like to know people, I’m interested in how people think, how they live their lifes and so on. But I am not so sure that I want them to know me. Sometimes it’s so hard getting to know people, because once they think they know you, you might find it difficult to change. I mean.. people start wanting you to be in the way they think of you. That can make me feel very unfree.

    And sorry if I’ve been written in bad english. I am swedish and I googled Bernard Russell and got here! Couldn´t resist, had to reed a little more. Like your blog! And I am coming back. 🙂 I do have a blog too, but I write in swedish. I have four children and live in Gothenburg.
    /smultron

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Smultron –

      I love the art on your blog. And even though your blog is in Swedish, Google Chrome can translate the web pages for me, so that I can read it. And I will.

      Don’t worry about spelling. English is my first language and I often make mistakes. 🙂

      I am very interested in how people think and how they live their lives – which is why I am a huge fan of biographies and the personal letters of famous writers and artists.

      That’s an interesting point you bring up about “once people think they know you, you might find it difficult to change”. A dear friend of mine and I had a long conversation about how people often take ‘snapshots’ of people and think they know that’s how they are. I recently have been reading Hal and Sidra Stone’s work and in one of their books, they mention that people lock themselves into a predominant, fixed personality. But in reality, we are much more fluid and have other, less prominent personalities. Having a more fluid way of being allows us to access a more broad range of human emotion and expression.

      Most people would much prefer that things in life, including people would stay the same, because it offers an illusion of safety. In reality, things and people are always in a constant state of flux. If we allowed ourselves and each other the capability of being however we need to be at the moment, we would be much happier for it.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts. I hope you enjoy Bertrand Russell. I can’t say I agree with everything he’s written philosophically, but it’s definitely food for thought. He was a brilliant mathematician, for sure.

      Casey

  7. smultron says:

    “If we allowed ourselves and each other the capability of being however we need to be at the moment, we would be much happier for it.”

    I think that’s very true.

  8. raisingsmartgirls says:

    🙂

    Have a beautiful day.

  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Agilizen is the result of my 20 year quest to deal with this….you are AWESOME!

  10. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Aw, thanks, Ariane!

    I think you are pretty AWESOME yourself. I mean…I have looked around your website and am very impressed by it all. It’s nice to know I’ve got such great company here!

    I’m kind of wishing I could have come up with something like Agilizen myself, but I’m really glad you did.

    Just so you know, I’ve shared your link on a gifted social media site, so I hope it helps you too!

    Best Wishes with the new program launch!

    Casey

  11. deannasm says:

    Is Dale Carnegie required reading anymore? I think everyone should, be it by kindle or the old fashioned way of picking up the book. I’m so sorry, I felt the sting in the words you wrote when you realized those men didn’t ask a single question of you besides your name. So many times I’ve found myself in that same situation. I’m a military wife and we’ve moved around quite a bit and have had to make new friends. I don’t consider myself shy or introverted either and I haven’t made a whole lot of friends over the course of ‘our career’. The ones I have made are true gems, but I can count them on one hand. They think, are educated and from many different cultures. The point being is, I believe people have forgotten how to listen and are so self absorbed that they don’t find it important to ask questions of anyone else new. Unless of course, it’s to their benefit.
    I was part of a book club once with one of the few friends I’ve acquired during one duty station. It was a very enlightening experience and I enjoyed it very much. I even thought about starting one myself, but am dumbfounded on how to entice others to join in.
    I started a support group for Selective Mutism families around the huge town I live in and only two people would show up on a monthly basis….it was always the same two people.
    I feel your pain, I appreciate your insight and intelligence. So continue to blog please.
    Hope you and yours have a very happy and prosperous new year.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Deanna –

      Thanks. Yeah, I wold love to start a book club too, or a writing club, or an art journaling club. But I’m afraid nobody would show up. Good luck if you try to create one. I hope more people will find out and show up about your Selective Mutism group. That would be nice for you.

      There are three new meetup groups I’ve joined in the past couple of weeks, and I’m hoping to be able to go to them. One is a hiking group, one is a photography group and one is a Metaphysical group (which is not what you think it would be about – this group is about the paranormal and about Empaths – which sounds weird, but they have a lot of members and I just wanted to know more about the Empath stuff which I think I am and don’t really know how to manage all that well).

      You said, “The point being is, I believe people have forgotten how to listen and are so self absorbed that they don’t find it important to ask questions of anyone else new. Unless of course, it’s to their benefit.” I know that’s true more often than not. It is something that I have to work on accepting and letting go. I try not to take it personal, but I need more practice in not letting things like that bother me.

      For instance, we had friends come in from out of town. We went out to dinner with them and their two children. Our daughters were sitting next to their children, who both had their noses in their electronic devices and totally ignoring my daughters. My daughters looked sad because they were being ignored. It was just…stupid that their parents let them do that. So…I went out to the car to get them some books for them to read.

      Sigh. I’m afraid it will get worse.

      Thanks so much for your kind words about me. Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

  12. Kari Osier says:

    I found this blog when I was looking for parental opinions on raising gifted girls. I’m in no way an intellectual (although I’m going to college for the first time in my life) but can relate to the creative side — and am definitely very highly sensitive, although I’ve acquired an extremely tough skin from working with lawyers (hahaha). My oldest is at college, very intelligent and a gifted lacrosse goalie — my youngest, OMG doesn’t even touch it. She is highly gifted (yet woefully underchallenged). She hit severe depression at the end of 5th grade but is doing extremely well right now, her therapist said she’s so advanced she doesn’t know what to do with her. She’s an extremely gifted writer and artist, even at this young age it’s jaw dropping. I’ve never known how to be a good enough parent to her, but I try, I still don’t know how to completely parent her. I really like your blog and until my 40s did not have very close friends like when I was younger. Anyway, I found that my very best friend (and before this happened with my daughter, I had thought about ending the friendship), was the most insightful, helpful and valuable friend I’ve ever had, it’s hard for me to get close to someone but just her understanding and suggestions with my daughter’s problems made such a difference. I felt bad about your post because I understand that type of loneliness. Anyway, I really like your blog and understand where you’re coming from. I will keep you on my blog list and look forward to your future postings!

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