Intensity: The Dirty Little Secret of Giftedness


(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.


Oh, those intensities 

“Ok, you finish up here in the kitchen, I’m hitting the couch with my wine and iPad to write. I have a blog post due in the morning.”

“What’s the topic?”

A wince, a sigh, a muttered curse.


And the laughter rang out from the sink behind me. 

It’s a good thing I love my husband, because with the mood I’ve been in lately…

I’ve had a headache and random vertigo since the end of September, when I got slammed with something (jury is still out as to exactly what) that made the world spin around my head like a whirling dervish. The change from summer to fall has kicked the SAD into high gear. The just ended election cycle here in America has thrown my emotions and resiliency into a tailspin. And I am 99% certain that I’m deep into a midlife crisis. I am a real $@#&%*^%# joy to be around right now, I tell you. 

Intense much? I am an overachiever in this area. 

“Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your kids.” But parents also get something else from their kids. Perspective. If I hadn’t had the sons I do, I doubt I ever would have learned about gifted intensities. I likely would have gone my entire life thinking I was just overly emotional and feeling bad about that. Instead, I know it’s just how I’m wired and that I’m in the thick of positive disintegration (and, for the love of all things holy and green, CAN I PLEASE GET TO THE END OF IT ALREADY?). Doesn’t make living it any easier, but at least I know what’s going on. 

In the interest of ongoing self-care (look! I can be taught! Le gasp!), I’m taking an indefinite hiatus from Laughing at Chaos. I plan to continue my scheduled writing here, as I do honor my responsibilities. But I need to respect that little voice within that started off whispering and is now screaming at me to back off and figure ME out…or else. My inner intensities refuse to be set aside any longer. And as a parent, I want and need to model to my boys (who are at that critical growth age) how to learn about and care for oneself. I learn from having them, they learn by watching me.

Gifted intensities, man. They ain’t for the faint of heart. 

When passions collide


The focus of An Intense Life this month is “Nurturing Gifted Kids’ Passions.” Well, if I wrote about that, I’d just say “allow all the tech into the house and shut the door,” and I’ve already covered that this month. Easy peasy with my boys’ passions. Tech and programming and hacking and boom, done. But me? I’m a different story.

Growing up I did a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Always played in band, but dabbled a little in basketball and photography and swing choir in middle school, softball and a year of theater in high school. College and grad school I was too focused on survival to do much more than study and practice. But once out of grad school? The dam gates burst. Suddenly I had more brain space and time to investigate anything that interested me, and investigate I did. And so, for the last 17 years, I’ve struggled to balance my passions. There is just so much that interests me, so much I want to do, that I often end up frozen, paralysis by analysis.

I’ve at least managed to whittle my main passions down to two. Flute/teaching and writing/gifted advocacy. And while it may look like four different areas there, nah, it’s really two. I teach because I play and I play to be a better teacher. I write, not nearly as much as I’d like, or on all the things I want to write, but it has led to me doing more gifted advocacy. They both take up a significant amount of time and energy, but I can’t give either one up.

There was a time when I closed my flute case and didn’t open it for 18 months. It could have been stolen out from under my nose and I wouldn’t have known. And at the time, I’m not sure I would have cared. I was burned out, and in retrospect I really did need that time away from it. But now I can’t imagine my life without playing and teaching. I love it. Teaching inspires and entertains me, and playing allows me to be the dramatic extrovert I’m not in my day to day life.

I fell into writing in 2006, when I started a blog on a whim. Thankfully I’ve gotten better over the years, with one book published and another in progress. I’ve thought about giving it up, walking away from the blogging and the gifted advocacy, but I can’t. When I get into a groove, writing is satisfying to the point of ethereal bliss. And while it’s tough sometimes, I love talking to parents of G2e kids.

So my two big passions are a balancing act. Both take a lot of time, energy, and focus. On any given day it’s one or the other. And on Tuesday nights, it’s flute, because I have rehearsal at the same time as the weekly #gtchat, and I don’t miss rehearsal unless I’m puking in a bucket. (No, seriously, in five years I’ve only missed two rehearsals, both because of “please shoot me I’m so sick” illness). I hate it when my passions collide, but it happens.

What this has all shown me is that it’s ok that my boys have only one passion right now, that it’s more than likely they’ll discover a whole world of interests when they’re older, and that I’m modeling the balancing act they’ll need as adults.

Poor kids; guess I’d better improve my balancing act.

Keep calm and close the basement door


You know, and I know, that when a gifted kid develops a passion in something, it is more all-encompassing than the norm. It’s not unlike Willy Wonka’s candy factory; it’s in every nook and cranny and in every detail of their lives. It becomes them.

So I should be grateful that my sons’ passions are not things like snakes or arachnids or making rocket fuel or international travel. I’m a little tweaked that their passions aren’t in the kitchen, but whatever.

Tech. Computers. Programming. Hacking. Building. Rebuilding. Tinkering.

This is my basement:


If, like me, you like things neat and tidy and “a place for everything and everything in its place,” then this picture probably has you rocking under your desk. This is a horrific mess.

And you know what? I don’t really care. For the most part it’s out of my sight (unless I’m on the treadmill, which you can’t see here), and it rarely oozes upstairs. The boys go downstairs and they work on computers. They tinker with aging servers that friends have given them. They program their Raspberry Pis. This is their maker space.

This is their Willy Wonka tech space. Their passion in every nook and cranny.

And I get to close the basement door.

Back to school for parents too


Well, we’ve been back to school for a month now and it is kicking me in the teeth. The boys are fine, both are rocking their individual educational setups (a homeschooling sophomore, a 7th grader at the local and awesome public middle school) better than I could have ever imagined. It’s me. So far this school year has been brutal.

When we think of gifted kids heading back to school, we tend to think of things like “will he be appropriately challenged?” and “hope she and her teacher are a good match” and “oh please oh please trust me when I say that he needs recess for his sanity and yours.” I think we forget about the parents sending them off.

I feel as though my many, many years of advocacy for my oldest son sets something off in me when school comes back ’round in the fall. Even though things couldn’t be smoother right now (lights a candle, says a prayer, turns around three times), I still get on edge. Add to that the early and fast-paced mornings and more students in my flute studio and the fact that I am the executive function for the entire household, back to school is mighty rough until about Halloween.

So all you other prematurely exhausted parents? Promise me that you’ll take it easy this school year. We can’t keep running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Care for your kids, but remember to care for yourself, too. That’s the best way for everyone to hopefully have a great year.

Back to School Pop Quiz

Parents are heading back to school too.


Welcome back to school, everyone! So good to see so many bright and shiny faces! I know we’re going to have a wonderful year, and I can’t wait to get to know all of you.

But first, please take out a Number 2 pencil, put your devices in the Bowl of Integrity on my desk (yes, just like at Trivia Night at the local watering hole), and strap on your thinking caps. It’s a Back to School Pop Quiz!

  1. I am excited to be back to school. T/F
  2. The one thing I am most looking forward to this year is:
    1. Learning all there is to know
    2. Discovering this year’s fundraiser
    3. The new cocktails I’ll concoct to survive the year
    4. Summer Break 2017
  3. The one thing I am most dreading this year is:
    1. Homework and the accompanying battles
    2. This year’s fundraiser
    3. The After-Schooling to feed my child’s insatiable brain-maw.
    4. The second and third jobs I’ll need for #2 and #3.
  4. If Wilson is traveling west on a scooter going 10 mph and Minerva is traveling south on a hovercraft going slightly faster than it takes for a watched pot to boil, what are the pink elephants drinking when they show up at the inevitable meeting we’re going to have about your child? Bonus points for naming the song playing on the ISS at the time, including artist and language.
  5. Please diagram this sentence: Your twice-exceptional child does not test well enough to meet the qualifications for the gifted program at this school; too bad, so sad.
  6. Fill in the blanks:
    This year, I hope my child ___________ and ______________, despite the _________ and the __________. I know the _____________ can be a real ____________, but it’s really in the best interests of the _____________. Ultimately, it’s the _________________’s responsibility that ________________ gets a fair and appropriate education, and _____________, _______________, and ________________ should do well to remember that. ___________ _____________ ____________ ______________ _____________ _______  _____________ _______________ ____ __ ____________ _______________ _________!!!
  7. Are you a robot? Please type what you see in the image below: __________________
  8. Thought experiment: Zombies have come and education as we know it is kaput. You still have a G2e kid. Please demonstrate “now what?” using either interpretive dance, modern art, or twelve-tone serialism a la Schoenberg.
  9. Your teacher is tired of making questions. So if you’ve made it this far choose #1 to get this one correct. Peace out.
    1. YASSSSSS!!!!
    2. Wait, what, really?
    3. That’s it?
    4. Can the whole freaking year BE THIS EASY?
  10. Let’s have a great year! Please write any concerns you may have in the space below:


I’ve decided I’m not so much a procrastinator as someone with entirely too much on her plate. Every day I work my way through the day’s tasks, and every day at least one thing gets shoved off to the next day. I put off working on things that need the most concentration until such a time that concentration is possible and suddenly it’s crunch time and duct taping the children to the roof is a viable option.

This is why my last post here on An Intense Life is not only a day late, but a few hours shy of the blog’s new direction. Not what I had planned, but what happened. I had wanted to write on parental expectations, instead am typing with my thumbs on a iPhone about procrastination and how I’m not really a procrastinator, I just have procrastination thrust upon me. Or something like that. Blended with perfectionism and topped with chaos a la mode, we have a tasty smoothie of why I often have a hard time getting things done.

Regardless, I wanted to take the time to thank Christine for the opportunity to write for An Intense Life. It has been a joy and a privilege to be a contributing writer this last year or so. To work with someone whose work I appreciate and enjoy has been delightful, and I look forward to seeing how this site grows in the future.

So while my post here was pushed off until nearly the last minute, it was finished. Someday I’ll teach my sons how to determine what can be procrastinated postponed and what can’t, but as that would push something else off today’s list, I guess it’ll just have to wait.