Ken Robinson: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

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Make me normal

The making of a documentary about the pathologizing of normal human behavior, and particularly troublesome is the rise of pathologizing children. If you are able to make a tax deductible donation to see this documentary get made please visit the indiegogo website.

Everything Matters

make me normalFrom indiegogo

…MAKE ME NORMAL, explores the rise in diagnosis of mental disorders and the boom of psychiatric prescription drugs, all set against the release of the new controversial psychiatric guidelines of the DSM (nick-named the “Psychiatry Bible”).  With 1 in 3 Americans diagnosed with a mental disorder and 20% (and rising) on prescription drugs, the film asks, what happened to normal? Or, even, what is normal? (read more)

This is from an indiegogo fundraising campaign Mitch McCabe, the filmmaker is doing. If you’re interested in supporting it visit the indiegogo website. 

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The cost of enriching a child’s education

I’m just curious.  How much money would you spend on enriching your child’s summer with educational summer time experiences?

A few years back, I was able to enroll my daughters into a free day camp for a week at an environmental center where they learned about the environment and recycling and made crafts.

There used to be a summer science camp program headed by two hard-working and dedicated teachers who had two weeks of half-day classes at $100 per child.   Each day they learned something new – rocks and minerals, fossils, the environment, bugs, forensics and they brought in experts from different fields to talk to the kids.   They actually had two different sessions so if you wanted two more weeks of camp, you could spend another $100, for a total of four weeks.  To me, this was a great experience for my daughters and while it cost me $600 to send all three of them, it was well worth it and there was a lot to learn and it kept them busy for part of their summer.

But they took that program away.  The teachers who ran the program didn’t have any say in the matter, they were simply told they couldn’t do it anymore, even though no money came out of the school districts pockets for the program – it was paid for by the attendee’s parents.

I’m looking into programs for this summer and finding them to be really expensive.  There is a Camp Invention program.  It’s an all-day daycamp, but it’s only one week long.  It’s $200 per child.

There’s another camp at an arboretum for $200 per child, one week only.  They have different modules and the kids can learn about bugs, animals, decaying plant matter, conservation, water ecosystems.

This is rather disappointing.

But, I’m not completely undaunted.

I’m planning on filling up their summer with at-home activities.

And I’m going to start collecting ideas and websites, like this one:

Think!

If I’m successful in this, I’ll start updating our science blog with our ideas –

The Exploration Station.

What do you do with your children over summer break to keep them learning?  Do you find summer programs reasonable in your area, or cost-prohibitive?

Do you have any inexpensive ideas or interesting websites to gather math or science ideas from?

Posted in afterschooling, education, Summer educational camps | 1 Comment

Living History – Civil War Days.

Yesterday, we attended a local historical re-enactment of the Civil War period.  We have gone the past three years and I asked the girls if they still wanted to go this year, and it was a unanimous yes!

I’m glad, because it’s hard to find programs to enrich their education that aren’t cost prohibitive.

Abraham Lincoln giving a speech with Mary Todd Lincoln in the background.
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My oldest daughter using a hand printing press to make a bookmark in the print shop.  It took two weeks to produce a paper – one week to collect stories and one week to print the news.

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In “honor of the Civil War Sesquicentennial”, we tried to listen to the wartime strategies of Generals Lee, Grant, Custer, Stuart and Sherman.
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Littlest daughter was glad she brought a book along.

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Union soldiers getting instructions on the upcoming battle.

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Confederate soldiers marching.

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And the battle begins.

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One man down.

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We also listened to stories in the schoolhouse.  This one was by an actress portraying Susie Baker King Taylor, the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her Civil War experiences.

I just found a wealth of information regarding her in this pdf for gifted students.  Click on the link if you are interested in learning more about her contributions.

http://telegraph.civilwar.org/education/curriculum/Gifted%20and%20Talented/CWPT%20Gifted%20Curriculum%20-%20Susie%20King%20Taylor.pdf

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The girls also peeped into a stereograph they had in the permanent museum that they had in one of the buildings.

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Posted in afterschooling, An uncommon education, education, feminism, gifted children, Gifted education, women's studies | Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe this is the same child who had S.M.

I wanted to share an update with my formerly selectively mute child.  Last month, she participated in an opera at school (The Barber of Seville).  She performed on the school stage in front of the third grade parents.

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That’s K, saying her lines.  She had about 3 lines, but she said them very well.

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She was the servant of Count Almaviva.  There was a point where it was just the two of them on stage.

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And then half the cast moved into the audience for the dance performance and the last song of the Opera.

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We’re just so proud of how far she’s come since that time when she was a preschooler afraid to make friends with her classmates and talk in class.  It’s hard to believe she is 9 now and in the advanced program and she’s been thriving in school with no signs of mutism.

I really hope those whose children have been diagnosed with selective mutism at young ages just hang in there.  With the proper support inside and outside of school, it does get better!

Posted in gifted children, school stuff, selective mutism, social anxiety | 12 Comments

Why it’s so important for parents to learn how to emotionally self-regulate.

If there is nothing else I can teach my daughters before I leave this world, it’s how to emotionally self-regulate.  I have to admit, it’s been hard.

I have complex-PTSD from childhood emotional neglect and abuse (I was ignored until I acted up, then I got abused) and some relationship trauma.

My husband and I had both witnessed domestic violence between our parents and tried to intervene as teenagers.

There are some who say that domestic violence between spouses witnessed by children IS child abuse.  And, well, I can see how that is.  The trauma is still marked in memory when witnessed by the child even if the child was never touched physically.

A while back I read a research paper about Adverse Childhood Experiences and the link between them and adult problems.  They have a website now too.

From their About page:

You can see the effects of trauma on a brain scan. The result: These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) cause kids to have a hard time learning, making friends and trusting adults. They can’t keep up in school, so they shut down or get in fights. They’re the “problem” kids. Schools suspend them. There’s lots of ways for kids to cope with their trauma.  Alcohol. Drugs. Smoking. Food. Kids become daredevils and break their bones. Sleep around and get STDs. Grow up too fast and become workaholics.

All this helps numb painful memories: Years of beatings by dad, who also walloped a kid’s siblings and mom. Enduring forced sex by an uncle who visited regularly. Being rousted out of bed at 2 a.m. by a drunk mother to be yelled at for hours. These kids’ coping “drug of choice” – smoking, drinking, food, sex, work – helps them escape from the misery of feeling like failures or that, somehow, they were responsible for the trauma they experienced. It also helps them take the edge off their feelings of isolation and abandonment when our institutions further traumatize them by suspending them from school, by putting them in dysfunctional foster homes, by restraining them or putting them in isolation. Asking them: “What’s wrong with you?” instead of “What happened to you?”

Those are pretty extreme examples, I admit.  But there are other more subtler forms of neglect and abuse – like ignoring emotional needs, letting a child to cope alone with their sadness and anger, parental over-control and expecting them to take care of their parents needs, rather than the other way around.

And from one of their most recent posts:

One of the most interesting studies to appear recently comes from two researchers: Dr. Stephen Scott, a child psychiatrist at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry and director of the National Academy for Parenting Research in London, England; and Thomas O’Connor, director of the Wynne Center for Family Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center in New York City.

They divided 112 five- and six-year-olds with emotional problems and their parents into two groups: one control group that had no intervention, and the other in which parents participated in a 12-week Incredible Years program and were given additional resources and assistance.

The results: A year later, the kids who had been identified with “emotional dysregulation” — and whose parents had changed their own behaviors as a result of participating in the Incredible Years program – had fewer angry outbursts and irascible behavior problems. The researchers wrote: “Parent interviews revealed that compared with controls, intervention parents were warmer, less critical, used more play, praise, and less harsh discipline (spanking and prolonged exclusion) at follow up.”

Note that there’s no labeling of “good” parents and “bad” parents here. More often than not, parents with children who are angry, depressed, anxious or moody aren’t “bad” parents. They’re modeling behavior that they learned from their own parents, and if they don’t make a conscious effort to change or aren’t taught skills that help them alter their interactions with their children, they pass on their own childhood adversities, especially if they’re under stress.

My husband never got treatment for his childhood issues (his father beat on his mother) until recently.  He grew up to binge drink whenever life handed him stressful challenges, and those challenges had increased a lot over the past few years (getting laid off twice from mechanical engineering).  Mr. RSG and I had a great deal of problems with each other that had gotten worse over the past couple of years.  No, I haven’t posted the problems here, or anywhere…until recently on another of my blogs.  It was time to come out a little because the last time was just too much.

I’m still trying to recover from everything…and study…and learn all I can about the relationship between adult maladaptive coping strategies and being a child who lacked the emotional training needed to manage intense emotions.

Children will have problems with emotions (either by exploding or by stuffing them) if parents were never taught about the full range of human emotion and how to cope with conflict, disappointment, and losses.  Come to think of it, my parents didn’t know how to cope with intense joy and excitement either.

I know for as much as I intellectually understand the importance of modelling good behavior, I’m challenged in the practice of it.  And sadly, I keep looking for good emotional role models among the parents of young children I know (and I know a LOT of parents), but I can’t find any that I want to learn from.

I’ve always been Highly Sensitive and intense, even as a very young child, long before the instances of childhood trauma and relationship trauma accumulated.  I realize now I’ve always been gifted, too, though it’s only been in recent years that I had any idea of that my giftedness impacted my life more so when I had left my job than when I was in it.   I worked in the biotech field and I could blend in with other science geeks.  I wasn’t any more weird than my colleagues were.

But I’ve been able to know that something has been quite ‘wrong’ where I live for a long time.  I thought it was me, but only recently began to find out that it wasn’t me as much as it has been the myriad ways we are set up to fail here in the U.S.  Because we lack the tools to meet kids where they are at, understand they have needs, respect that fact, and teach them how to accept and manage their intense emotions.

I recently read this in Thomas D’Ansembourg’s Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real (based on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process).  Even in ordinary (not abusive) families, often we grow up alienated from ourselves:

I have no words to describe my loneliness, my sadness, or my anger.

I have no words to speak my need for exchange, understanding, recognition.

So I criticize, I insult, or I strike.

Or have my fix, abuse alcohol, or get depressed.

Violence, expressed within or without, results from a lack of vocabulary; it is the expression of a frustration that has no words to express it.

And there are good reasons for that; most of us have not acquired a vocabulary for our inner life.  We never learned to describe accurately what we are feeling and what needs we had.  Since childhood, however, we have learned a host of words.  We can talk about history, geography, mathematics, science, or literature; we can describe computer technology or sporting technique and hold forth on the economy or the law.  But the words for life within…when did we learn them?  As we grew up, we became alienated from our feelings and needs in an attempt to listen to those of our mother or father, brothers and sisters, schoolteachers, et al. “Do what mommy says…Do what is expected of you”

I am becoming more and more convinced that we grow up to be unnecessarily depressed, anxious and having emotional problems because of this lack of language to describe the inner life and get needs met.   It’s even tougher for our gifted kids too, who are so much more aware of things and yet really unable to really understand and articulate what to do about the problems they see.

My own daughter was diagnosed with selective mutism, a severe social anxiety disorder, sensory processing issues, and mild ADD (I say mild because it doesn’t impact her to a great degree).

She had extreme emotional lability, screaming meltdowns that would last 20 minutes, oppositional/defiant behavior, and in social situations like school, she’d become totally mute.   I worried about both bipolar and autism.  I’m less concerned about bipolar, and am not yet throwing out Asperger’s syndrome (with me being obsessively focused on intellectual pursuits and my husband being a mechanical engineer, one of us could quite possibly be on the spectrum ourselves).

I took her to a pediatric neuropsych at 4.5 that evaluated her over 5 sessions and diagnosed her with SM, SPD, and ADD – all of which we’ve been able to reverse (the SM), or at least manage (the sensory issues and ADD) without medications, but through an extensive plan of action that I designed myself after researching a great deal.

She STILL has emotional difficulties though, but it has nothing to do with her original diagnosis and everything to do with the fact that she is really intelligent, perfectionistic and has trouble with disappointment and probably has reactive hypoglycemia. There are times when her difficult behavior is really taxing. She wasn’t officially diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia (and she failed a fasting hypoglycemia test), but I still suspect she has that because her moods can be quite awful if her blood sugar is off. She needs to eat more frequently than other kids her age do and she’s thin as a rail. She simply metabolizes foods quickly.

We still have times when she has screaming meltdowns (she’s 9.5). And as hard as it is for me to deal with (I have sensory sensitivities too), when I can, I hold her in my lap through these awful times until she self-regulates on her own. Usually 15-20 minutes after the onset. And usually she passively resists or actively pushes back if we’d been arguing just prior to the meltdown.

But getting back to modeling emotional self-restraint.  Sometimes I can’t.  Sometimes I screw up so much that I make things worse.  When I’m sick, or feeling physically drained or achy, I have low distress tolerance.  Plus, when husband and I had some really bad problems, I was extremely tense.  I have PTSD triggered responses.  It sucks.

I spent a small chunk of change to participate in a series of brain science teleseminars and transcripts on learning how to re-wire my brain after a very, very long period of making mistakes that led to more trauma.

More than anything I have ever learned in my entire life, I believe we have more powerful ways of changing ourselves for the better by understanding how our brains work.    We can move from reactivity to responsiveness.

I’m taking a holistic approach and healing from my childhood and relationship trauma.  If anyone wants to read up more about that, I’ll be writing about that on my other blog, under Holistic Healing and Complex-PTSD (Complex-PTSD simply means PTSD acquired from longer exposures to trauma, like in dysfunctional family systems).

I’m feeling better.  I still have a ways to go, but I’m definitely better than I was.  I am still feeling overwhelmed from time to time that I have 10-13 years left of hands-on care (my youngest is 8).

Posted in abuse, anxiety, Attachment Parenting, Depression, emotion coaching, emotional dysregulation, explosive child, highly sensitive child, highly sensitive mom, highly sensitive person, Intensity, loss of parental love, mind and body, mindfulness, personal growth, personal issues, selective mutism, social and emotional issues of the gifted, social anxiety | 5 Comments

New thoughts about attachment and neuroplasticity.

I wrote a blog post back in 2010 about Research on Attachment Theory and Anxiety Disorders.  I wrote that post for a two reasons – one) I was increasingly concerned about the modern trend of putting infants into daycare starting from 6 weeks onward,  two) I was considerably insecure in my role as a stay-at-home mother.  I put forward my two cents on someone else’s blog post regarding the “mommy wars”.   I probably shouldn’t have, but it’s one of those things I felt very strongly about once upon a time.

I feel I’m more secure now in my choices and the consequences, and now that my daughters are older, I’m working part time.  I still am a big believer in a mother or father being a primary care-giver, or failing that, a grandparent, but at the same time, I have to update my thoughts on the matter.

I still am conducting personal research on attachment theory and human development.  I’m still in contact with many gifted adults across the globe who struggle with various conditions – OCD, anxiety, depression, intimacy issues and complex-PTSD.  I myself struggle with those, and I know my daughters sometimes struggle with anxiety.

I was recently asked by a friend of mine who asked me this question:

I have been reading that if a child is not cuddled or shown affection in the first 6-9 months of life then their brains do not develop properly and worryingly the parts of the brain that have not developed subsequently never will, is this right?

I gave him an answer which is the reason for this post.  I think it will be helpful for parents who are currently struggling with raising their children due to the neglect and abuse in their childhoods that may have caused current PTSD reactions while they raise their children (often triggered by their lovely children) or depression or other anxiety issues.  They are (as I was) at risk for passing on problems to their own children, but there is hope for recovery.

I also think it’s helpful for adults who are not parents who are recovering from childhood neglect and abuse.

This is what I told him:

I think the early research that was done on attachment theory showed impairments in the development of the child.  There was a research paper in 1984 titled: Biological correlates of attachment bond disruption in humans and nonhuman primates, by Kalin and Carnes.  This is the abstract that I used in my 2010 post:

“Separations or disruptions in attachment bonds occur frequently in the social lives of humans and have been linked to the development of psychopathology. Separation of social nonhuman primates has been proposed as a model to study the psychological and biological effects of separation in humans. This paper reviews the biological alterations that occur in nonhuman primates undergoing separation and compares these with changes associated with separation in humans. The data reviewed demonstrate that separation in humans and nonhuman primates can be an event with profound behavioral and physiological sequelae.”

Note that it says it CAN, but it doesn’t mean that it will.   Nor does it show that healthy psychology or behavior can later be restored, but I DO know the newer research is MUCH MORE optimistic!

Older research tried to prove that lack of secure attachment due to severe neglect, abuse or abrupt separation in the early years from infancy to about 3 years could be problematic and could lead to something called reactive attachment disorder – where the child either can’t bond with humans at all – or disinhibited attachment disorder – where the child attaches indiscriminately to anyone.  It has been said it could lead to various conditions like borderline personality disorder (characterized by an unstable sense of self and alternately clinging or rejecting intimate ties, depending on their mood state at the time) or antisocial personality disorder (having no empathy for human life), and possibly even multiple personality disorder.  At the very least, anxiety disorders may be possible.  Of course, if there was severe abuse, something called complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is also possible.

I’ve studied Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) too, all of which are treatable.  I haven’t studied antisocial personality disorder much.

There ARE some children with abusive childhoods who do NOT grow up to have those conditions, or who are able to repair the damage – I know BPD, MPD, and complex PTSD are treatable with psychotherapy with a compassionate therapist and other healing modalities like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somato-emotional release (a form of craniosacral therapy), and emotional freedom techniques (EFT), and a hefty dose of mindfulness training.   Meditation and yoga are also very good for the mind and the body in these cases.

Even without therapeutic interventions, newer research indicates that despite the difficult upbringing, the human mind and spirit is resilient.   Even if early attachment was not secure, there is something called Earned Secure Attachment, that can occur at ANY time in a person’s life.

In the book Attachment Theory in Clinical Work With Children: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice  by David Oppenheim and Douglas F. Goldsmith, it was said that researcher Mary Main defined earned secure attachment in this way:

Earned secure attachment refers to adults who were raised in obvious adversity, but had the resilience to develop a secure state of mind as an adult.  The key to earned security is having self-reflection, which enables adults to coherently organize a perspective regarding their developmental history, and the capacity to acknowledge the impact past experiences have on current relationships.

This earned secure attachment arises in the context of a healthy, loving and compassionate relationship.    A child could find some teachers at school who are warm, accepting, supportive, encouraging, and provide much needed modeling.   Any therapist worth his or her salt will provide a warm, safe place where they client can form a compassionate, secure attachment where the client can do the necessary grieving, organizing a coherent narrative and healing.  And of course, sometimes you may find yourself in a romantic relationship or a platonic friendship with someone who has had a secure attachment in childhood and has a very compassionate nature who can help catalyze this self-reflective process.

For me, I had some great teachers in elementary school and high school who mentored me and a helpful guidance counselor in high school who helped me keep my focus on my academics and listened to me talk about what was going on at home.  I also had gotten some respect and encouragement from the parents of my friends in ways my mother and step-father could not provide for me.  At one of my jobs, I had some great mentorship from one of my colleagues who reflected back a lot of positive things for me.  These others helped me to have a more accurate picture of who I was, what my strengths were, and focused less on my deficiencies.  I’ve had a good therapist and I have had good friends.  My husband, though he had his struggles of his own from having come from a dysfunction family too, is now going through some growth alongside me.

I found this article which states that parents with poor attachment CAN go on to create healthy attachment in their own children, even though they may struggle with depression.

http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/danfords2002/documents/roiseman1.pdf

And newer research shows the brain is neuroplastic THROUGHOUT the lifespan.  The brain can be repaired, new track can be laid down.  I think depression can be greatly alleviated too (but I’ll probably post separately on that).

I’m currently reading a book called The Mind and The Brain:  Neuroplasticity and The Power of Mental Force by Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley.  The area of focus was centered on obsessive-compulsive disorders.  Through his research, Schwartz had proven that we can use our minds, and what we attend to, to truly re-wire our brains.   They’ve used the fundamentals of Buddhist mindfulness techniques to be able to teach people suffering from OCD how to not only detach enough to observe their own behavior non-judgmentally, but they can move BEYOND that to have that ‘detached observer’ actually become an active influence to help them make the right decisions for them that would help change their habitual patterns.   It’s not easy to cultivate this, but it’s most definitely possible to do so.

Dr. Marsha Linehan also used mindfulness when she created the successful dialectical-behavioral therapy treatment of borderline personality disorder.

How does she knows it works?   She was a former sufferer of BPD (one of the more severe cases) and she was hospitalized for it.    She had severe self-harming behaviors (cutting herself, burning herself with cigarettes) and had a never-ending urge to die.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/27/marsha-linehan-acknowledges-her-own-struggle-with-borderline-personality-disorder/

And she found the answer to her own problems whereas the treatment facility could not – not even after the administration of heavy drugs and electroconvulsive therapy.  She went on to get her Ph.D. at Loyola in order to help others.  And this is what she had learned and wanted to teach others:

On the surface, it seemed obvious: She had accepted herself as she was. She had tried to kill herself so many times because the gulf between the person she wanted to be and the person she was left her desperate, hopeless, deeply homesick for a life she would never know. That gulf was real, and unbridgeable.
*
That basic idea — radical acceptance, she now calls it — became increasingly important as she began working with patients, first at a suicide clinic in Buffalo and later as a researcher. Yes, real change was possible. The emerging discipline of behaviorism taught that people could learn new behaviors — and that acting differently can in time alter underlying emotions from the top down.
*
But deeply suicidal people have tried to change a million times and failed. The only way to get through to them was to acknowledge that their behavior made sense: Thoughts of death were sweet release given what they were suffering. […]
*
But now Dr. Linehan was closing in on two seemingly opposed principles that could form the basis of a treatment: acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it.
*

So, as I told my friend, I do NOT think that someone who wasn’t cuddled in the first 6-9 months of life is permanently damaged and doomed to a life of psychopathology.  Not at all.

There is a great deal of hope for anyone with a rough start in life and with a history of complex-PTSD due to childhood abuse.   Additionally, I think more challenges present to parents when you have children who are gifted or special needs, or that delightful combination of 2E (twice-exceptional).  Any parent of a gifted, special need, or 2E child knows the special challenges of parenting these complex children.  Parenting these complex children becomes even MORE challenging if there are significant deficits in one’s own upbringing.

But there IS hope.

I hope to talk more about my personal progress in that area as well, because I want other struggling parents, and particularly mothers who are the primary caregivers and are struggling with depression, to know there is a lot more positive outlook for them while trying to raise their lovely children.

Posted in abuse, Attachment Parenting, borderline personality disorder, Depression, mind and body, mindfulness, suicidal ideation, trauma | Leave a comment

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?

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 | 17 Comments

Gifted and Disorganized

This week has been a very slow work week for me.  I contracted a nasty stomach virus last Friday night from my adorable students/germ factories, and spent most of the wee hours of Saturday vomiting and emptying my bowels just about every hour.  After 7 hours of pure misery, I ended up barely able to move on Saturday because of pains in my lower back and hip joints – I think basically because spending so much time having my muscles contracted so much from the illness.

I finally felt much better on Sunday, but when the sub caller called me Sunday night, I elected to stay home, giving myself an additional day or so to recover before subjecting my immune system to more challenges.  Additionally, I thought I could get some cleaning done around the house, but as it turned out, my littlest one contracted influenza.  Normally, this would be a bummer, but in her case, it’s especially problematic because she was recently diagnosed with asthma.  So, when we took her into the doctor on Monday we soon realized how serious her condition could be.  With a prescription for a nebulizer, predisone and tamiflu, we have been treating her.  So, it hadn’t bothered me that I’d only been able to work one day this week, but as I am reviewing my week and thinking about how much cleaning and organizing I’d planned to do but didn’t get done, it has been increasingly hard for me to avoid a new reality:

I am chronically disorganized and I have been ever since I could remember.

Somehow, I managed to do very well in school despite this, and never had a problem turning in assignments on time (though sometimes procrastinating reports to the very last possible minute and then scrambling to get them done).

To be truthful though, I am not sure how I finished college, as I officially started my biology career in my junior year of college and had a pretty serious boyfriend for a while my senior year of college (though I admit, I had to drop multivariate calculus because I was pulling a “D”.  In retrospect, I should have dropped the boyfriend and kept the class).

I’ve always struggled with time management and information/paper management and home management, even as most of my duties in my careers dealt heavily with a need to be extremely organized.   Of my own accord and with my own money, I took a time management class as well as a project management class.   It didn’t really help though.  I still struggled with both time and paper management.

And whether I had few possessions, or a lot, I still had the same difficulty organizing my home.  I have bought a few organizational books and I read them, but they only soon became clutter.

Somehow, though, I managed to muddle my way through, despite mini-anxiety attacks regarding my awareness of not only my chronic disorganization, but my avoidance tactics of it as well.  If one thing consistently makes me ‘explode’ (and often creating more messes than the ones I’m exploding about), it’s when I can’t avoid the truth of the chaotic state of my environment any longer.    Just ask Mr. RSG, or the Smart Girls themselves.  They’ve seen me throw adult-sized tantrums because of it.  After a few too many of them, and feeling the ultimately destructive power of them, I’d been working on my internal state of being so that I wouldn’t respond in the same ways to clutter-induced frustration and stress.

Yet, still, while my intense responses have been dialed back quite considerably, I still have the problem of disorganization.  And, well, as the smart girls are growing, I see some of the same tendencies towards disorganization in them as well.

And as I look with a critical eye through my house, I am seeing what is comprising the clutter.   Books, books and more books (a few novels, mostly books on science, art, philosophy, creativity, writing, and spirituality as well as the girls’ collections -and it’s so hard not to go to the thrift shops where I can find great books for pennies).  Art supplies (both mine and the smart girls), games and toys for gifted kids, scientific magazines (so hard to pass up old copies of Science when I can pick them up for 25 cents at the library), National Geographic magazines, science kits and a lot of other educational things.

My husband has his tendency to start projects around the house and leave the tools where he last used them, though I think he’s getting somewhat better at taking them back to the garage (a black hole I get depressed going into).

It’s both funny and sad.  I used to think I was attached to ‘stuff’.  I’m really not.  I look around at the decorations in the rooms.   When I take a look at what’s in my bedroom (where I’m typing by the way), there’s very few decorative objects.   But what IS here is mostly books.  I have three small shelves, a long dresser, a bedside table and a desk, all literally covered in books.   My half of the closet?  The shelves have games for the girls and science kits.  The top shelf has three boxes full of letters – old letters from friends from 20 years ago, love letters and cards between my husband and I.

I’m feeling a mixture of shame and awe.   One part of me feels like I’m a slob and that my priorities are mixed up here.  The other part of me realizes the awesome comfort I get from being surrounded by my beautiful books – and within an arms reach of some great minds.  After this follows a really painful question:  Why do I have so many of these books?

I have been thinking about this question for a very long time.  I have been avoiding looking too hard at the answer.  I see the physical space being encroached upon by some really beautiful books and really neat educational things, but at the same time, realizing the truth – the trade-off is that there is little room here for living.    It’s painful to say that, even if it is true.

So, I have recently focused my attention on what I think my problem is.  I recently made a google search with these keywords (gifted and disorganized).    I found a really wonderful life coach specializing in this very topic.  Ariane Benefit wrote a post called The Truth about Chronic Disorganization: What Causes It and How to Heal the Trauma of Lifelong Overwhelm and Frustration, and from there I realized it’s now time to address some of my own issues with chronic disorganization, as well as help instill some better organizational habits in my daughters.

I love her website, because she understands giftedness, she understands creative personalities and ADHD/ADD, she understands being highly sensitive, she understands neurodiverse minds, she understands the addiction to achieve,  and the addiction to insight, and she’s had enormous success helping both individuals and companies out with their organizational difficulties.

She also has a Neat And Simple Living Blog, with a tagline that reads Over 700 posts on Living, Working, and Fluorishing With Neurodiversity Gifted, Highly Creative Technical, ADHD Adults.

I’ve looked at other life coaches’ websites for gifted individuals before, but I think this is the first one to have so much content available, not just about organization, but about  gifted and creative minds.   I’m going to try some of her techniques and see about taking some of her webinars.

I have been wondering myself where to take this blog next, and I think perhaps I might try to document our gifted families’ progress in this area.  I’d like to think about ways to make this a family project.   I think right now, that’s one of the biggest concerns for all of us.  As my two older girls are working in their gifted programs, they have more challenging work and independent projects to do.  They seem to be falling in the same trap of doing things at the last minute however, much like I did as a child.  I would like to help them reverse that trend before it becomes too entrenched in their habits and they start having anxiety and depression result from an inability to meet the challenges before them.

I would like to spend less of my own time feeling guilty and having a lot of stuck feelings for being a messie person.    I also have a lot of projects in mind, but with no real priorities over them, I get to them in some vague period of time, oftentimes losing interest along the way and feeling self-critical because of it.

Does any other gifted family struggle with disorganization? 

What have you done that works for your family?

Posted in about the smart girls, Clutter, creativity, gifted adults, Gifted and Disorganized, gifted children, gifted support, highly sensitive mom, intellectual stuff, messie, organization, personal growth | 8 Comments

Being the change

I had to chuckle on Friday, when I got a phone call to substitute teach for the high school.  The substitute caller switched my assignment to from 4th grade to high school.  I was a little nervous about teaching at the high school level, until the sub caller told me what class it was for.

It was for Home Economics.

I laughed and told her I was probably the last person a Home Ec teacher would want for a sub, given the state of disarray my home is often in.

She said, “oh, that’s all right, the only other option is a man”.

I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot”.

I’m glad I did.  It was an easy day –  a test, some worksheets, and movies.  One class –  Housing – had a video of “The Secret Lives of Rooms” and the other class – Foods II – had a video of “Cooking Basics: Meat”.

On days like this, where there is not much for me to teach, I end up wanting to fall asleep.   And I don’t want to spend the time reading, and I don’t want to spend the time just “babysitting” and watching them like a hawk and be a very strict substitute, so I improvise and make some attempts to connect with the kids and teach them something, even if it’s off-topic.

For the most part, I really enjoy teenagers.  It’s hard for me to believe I’m at least 25 years older than them.  I still have a youthful sense of humor, enjoy some of the same tastes in music and am at least marginally aware of what the kids chatter about these these days, like dating, football games, and flesh-eating zombies.

I ask them about themselves, and talk about my girls, funny stories from substituting, and what I used to do for work (I was in the biotech field for 12 years).

I had some great little moments.  Like when we had a short discussion while they were working on their worksheet on ‘Meat’ about swear words (because inevitably, I’ll hear a “sh*t” or an “f-bomb” being dropped while they are working).   My ears will perk up whenever I hear one and try to make a teachable moment out of it.

A male student (yes, surprisingly, there were a number of male students in Foods II class) told me a story of a person he knew that never swore, saying that swearing was for people who weren’t very intelligent.

Well, I had to politely disagree.  I think I’m fairly intelligent. I think, at times, I have a decent vocabulary, and yet, sometimes I do believe swearing is a valid expression, just not in class.  I relayed the point that research has shown that swearing actually reduces the perception of pain.   Another male student nodded his head in agreement and had said he heard of that.

We also talked about the etymology of the f-word, but I didn’t have wikipedia at hand to back me up when I told him I thought “Fornicating Under Consent of King” was a myth.

I’m learning a lot from them, a lot about me and a lot about how to communicate with more compassion and humor and I’m learning to lighten up.

Because it was Friday, and I was a lowly substitute, there was no homework for the day.  So after my first class, I decided to give my own assignment.

There was a very-rarely-seen, low-tech, dry erase board – something even I know how to handle.

I gave the kids a homework assignment of my own:

Photobucket

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” which I have always heard attributed to Ghandi.

Now, before you say “he really didn’t say that”, I would have to agree – now.   But apparently, as I was fact-checking it for this blog post, it’s not.

While it may be reminiscent of a bumper sticker, I think it was something the kids could easily carry with them, instead of the closest thing he is reported to say:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

I don’t know.  I survived my angst-and-abuse-filled teenage years with a few well-chosen bumper-stickerish quotes I often repeated like mantras:

“To Thine Own Self Be True” ~ William Shakespeare

“That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer” ~ Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

“Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick”  ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

I have to say, regardless of who said it, I felt really pleased when one of the students took a look at the board and smiled and said, “I really like that”.

I really do too.

Posted in education, inspirational quotes, teachable moments | 2 Comments