(Note: I wrote this a couple months ago and scheduled it for a time when I knew I would be overwhelmed and not have time to write. Points for planning ahead. However, since I first wrote it, I’ve been hit with the intensity stick repeatedly, and am taking an indefinite hiatus from Laughing at Chaos and social media in general, for my own sanity and well being. Because the first rule of self-care is knowing when to cry UNCLE!)

Higher. Faster. Louder.

No, not Drum Corps, though that is the unofficial Corps motto.

Gifted intensity.

You know what I’m talking about here. Everything is at an 11, plussed, bigger than life. Enhanced.

More, more, MORE!!!

And my god, it is exhausting. I’m not talking about parenting this intensity (for a change); I’ve written about that ad nauseam. I’m talking about intensity as a gifted adult.

I don’t often write about being a gifted woman. That’s mainly because I’ve been writing about my sons for a decade. But it’s also because I still have a hard time admitting that out loud. How do you admit the dirty little secret of giftedness? That intensity never goes away, that it never abates, that it is always there, and that it influences everything?

That gifted intensity can, in a word…suck?

I’ve been accused of being addicted to stomach acid, of being the Stress Queen, of being too tightly wound. And while I can’t really argue with any of those descriptors, from this side I’m more than a little tired of it. I can’t help who I am and how I react to things. I’m trying. I’ve been working very hard on self-care, basically to counteract the effects of my natural reactions to…everything. I’m getting better at knowing and respecting my limits, because when I don’t I pay a price far greater than the crime. Moreover, and key for a people-pleaser like me, I’m doing this unapologetically, with no regrets. If I need to get away from people, I will and I do. If I need to cut back in my life (or not even take something on), I will and I do. And if I need to have a second glass of Malbec to make sure the first one didn’t get sidetracked on its way to healing my psyche, I will and I do.

Because of my inherent gifted intensity, everything can easily be at a forte all the time. Life (and music) is more fun, interesting, and satisfying when there is a variety of dynamics and tempi; so I am actively trying to vary my dynamics and speeds. It’s not perfect, but generally I’m happier now than I have been in years. I’m sure a great deal of that is because of the increasing maturity of my boys, but I also know a lot of it is because of the hard work I’ve been doing for me. I can no longer live my life at the fortissimo volume and prestissimo speeds I have been (for you non-musicians, that’s super loud and crazy fast). I refuse to be held hostage by my gifted intensity any longer, with its demands of higher, faster, louder. Instead I’m working on a deeper interpretation, on more dynamic contrast, on a greater loveliness of life.

For me, in this stage of my life, that is worth pursuing.

2 thoughts on “Intensity: The Dirty Little Secret of Giftedness

  1. Jen, I love all of what you wrote here but was first taken with your opening aside paragraph. I also am on a social media break (having deactivated both FB and Twitter–Twitter will be gone for good after 30 days if I don’t use it again, so I need to make a decision about whether to stay there). In my case, I think the issue is mostly one of high sensitivity (am working slowly on a blog post about social media and highly sensitive users that may or may not come to fruition), but the Venn diagram aspect of HSP and intensity is beyond my understanding, and perhaps there is little difference. Anyway, after about a week, I feel soooo much better. It’s hard to explain, because I know that for many people social media and Facebook in particular are far more beneficial than not. Maybe I’m just not one of those people, but I admit I feel guilty for writing that, as though I *should* be able to cull the social benefits and use them better, as though the relief I feel when I’m not on social media is a personal flaw. Anyway….

    “I refuse to be held hostage by my gifted intensity any longer, with its demands of higher, faster, louder. Instead I’m working on a deeper interpretation, on more dynamic contrast, on a greater loveliness of life.”

    I wonder if that’s a mid-life thing (or edging toward mid-life thing). Our very bodies get overwhelmed by the adrenalin and emotional responses to the point of *having* to change. We don’t have a choice anymore.

    Looking forward to following your journey and learning a few things and wishing you great loveliness of life.

    ~ Lisa

  2. ME TOO. Thank you for being courageous enough to put this into words publically. May you find a place in yourself that is free enough to soar, yet somehow grounded and supported to feel safe. And IF part of that is sharing with others one day, I”ll be listening. And if not, then I”ll be hoping and trusting that there is a way, and we don’t need to teach others. Best wishes.

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