The other day I wrote a post about radical acceptance. In it I make mention of my messy life in contrast to those people with the neat and tidy lives. After I had gotten done writing the post, it hit me. I do not think that I ever truly wanted a neat, tidy, conventional life. I didn’t know that until last week, but I know it now completely. This is not to say that I wanted all of what I got in life; abuse as a child and an adult, PTSD, alcoholism, jail stays, rehabs, and prison, but in some way, all of those experiences have lead to to this extraordinary realization. Those experiences helped me recognize in myself what others did not recognized in me as a child, or appreciated, namely my parents, and the schools of my day. I am gifted, and probably always have been, but my gifts run towards the creative, more than the logical.
Parents and schools in the 60’s and 70’s valued logic. It’s not that I am without the intellect to go with the creativity, my IQ is in the gifted range, but my grades did not show that, and any markers from testing while in school were ignored. For example, I was found to be reading at the college level when I was in the 5th grade, but not a thing was done with that information. My creativity was apparent from an early age, but it was seen as a flaw, not a gift. I clearly recall overhearing my mother tell her friends about my school conference in the 5th grade. It must have been less than stellar, and I remember her say, in a tone that was less than pleased, “But the teacher says she’s *very creative…* I thank God that today’s school recognize, and try to nurture all kinds of gifts, and I bear no anger towards my parents, or the schools that I attended. It was the times. People only knew what they knew.
That I am gifted, the realization of that, was a gift that I received while I was in prison, from two different women who came into the reentry center to do counseling and programming. That each, never having spoken to the other, would put forth the same notion to me–the notion of my giftedness—and its ability to intimidate others who don’t understand it, parents, spouses, and friends, was something that took me a while to wrap my head around. I am still working on it, in truth.
I believe there are a lot of adults out in the world who are gifted, and like me, never knew it. A gifted adult who has no idea that she is gifted is likely to have a harder road in life than others. This goes back to Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities and his Theory of Positive Disintegration. Adults who are gifted have certain characteristics that set them apart from the crowd. These include differences in the way they process information, high levels of creativity, high sensitivity, both internally focused, and externally. Gifted adults are intense, idealistic, and they are perfectionists. They have a unique sense of humor that of everyone gets. They are internally focused, they are self-determined, and they hate injustice, and lack of integrity, and lack of moral character. They see things globally, and they do not fit well into traditional roles, or careers. Often, they do not feel they fit in anywhere.
Well, what do you know! That sounds like me! Gifted adults often need help realizing that the way they are is okay, and some help to fully realize their potential. A good therapist who understands giftedness can help a lot. This site offers a lot of insights 😉 It is so important to realize that while you may be different, you are not flawed, and that you have great potential. That takes time, as I have mentioned. As you might imagine, gifted adults are apt of have messy looking lives. This will be especially true of those who have suffered from trauma as children. It takes a lot of hard work for a gifted adult with PTSD, substance abuse issues, or other mental health issues, to get to the core of their genuine self. Too much has come along to override it.
My first husband is a true genius intellectually. Yet, as one of our son’s says, he has the emotional intelligence of a 4 year old, and he’s got not a drop of creativity, nor much of a sense of humor. He is rigid and logical in his thinking. He’s exactly what you’d want in a surgeon, which is what he does for a living. There are a lot of geniuses in the world who may not be particularly gifted, or as well suited for their careers. Imagine a psychiatrist who has no compassion for people with mental health issues, and disdain for people with addiction problems. That’s not a good match, and the genius who lacks gifts can do more harm than good. A pure genius who meets a person who is truly gifted is likely to become aware of their shortcomings, and unfortunately, may even work to control, tear down, or defeat the gifted person. I’ve had this happen to me, and I have seen it happen to others, almost always gifted women.
Now we come back to my discovery that I never wanted a neat life, though I certainly gave it a try, as well as going in the exact opposite direction. I wanted to study music and theater, to which my parents said no. It was too hard a life, which is true enough. So then, I wanted to be a doctor, but since I also very much wanted a family, I was told to be a nurse, which is what I did. Then I got married, and had the children I so longed for, and who were and are the light of my life. I entertained, and sat on boards, I worked for charities and ran for the school board, and I drank myself to sleep every night. I was miserable. Not with my children, or being a mother, but because all of my creativity and intuition has been so dismissed, and berated, and tied up, and bashed, that I gave up. My second marriage to an unconventional man was far worse, because he is so disordered. Of course, I couldn’t/wouldn’t see that at the time.
As I was growing up, the woman who had the greatest influence on me was my great aunt, Stella. She’d been married once, for a very short time, and she had no children. She had a head full of gorgeous, curly hair that she often tied back with a ribbon, bow off to the top side of her head. She had a lovely smile, complete with a Lauren Bacall gap in the front. She had been an Art History professor at The University of Washington, and she had traveled to Africa in the 1950’s. Much of her artwork was inspired by what she saw in Africa. To a child, she was a little scary. She said whatever was on her mind, but she was kind. Her house was magical, with an attic filled with treasures. Visiting her was better than Disneyland.
As an adult, I moved to Seattle, and lived in the University district, as she did, and I’d often go over to visit for a day, or overnight. She’d make me a tuna sandwich and we’d smoke True cigarettes and talk. She took me on drives all over, and while her driving was more than a little scary, she told me all about the history of Seattle. In the evening, she’d pour us each a glass of concord grape wine, and we’d talk some more. She was clearly a happy woman, truly eccentric, genuine as can be,and very well loved. She was adored by her neighbors, mostly college grad students, and at 90 years old, she died, not from old age, but from falling on a patch of ice on her way home from one of their Christmas parties, to which she was always invited.
I have a head full of curly hair, and I had the Lauren Bacall gap, but braces fixed that. I am far more domesticated than my Aunt Stella, but like her, I am happiest when I am creating, be it writing, cooking, knitting, sewing, or making something spectacular out of something ordinary. I am artistic, but no artist. I am not my mother, though I know she didn’t live the life she wanted, and I am not a conventional person. I don’t think I’ll ever care about balancing a checkbook to the penny, or calling whoever for quotes, or having a neat and tidy refrigerator. I don’t care a whole lot about money, but I do know life is easier with a little around. I am more my Aunt Stella than anyone else. I got side tracked somehow. Thank God she did not. I believe we are all gifted in some way. It is just a matter of finding that gift, and then letting it soar. I think it’s time for me to go buy some ribbon for my hair in celebration of my discovery, and my messy, happy, creative life.