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Friday, December 30, 2005


Year's End Vancouver

This is the kind of music Bernard and I have managed to make together so far. As with any relationship, we're getting to know each other - I'm still learning how to push his buttons!

I am becoming one of those people who walks around with a camera pressed to her face. I am delighted that I can take as many pictures as I want and look at the results instantly without paying a dime. It is really helping me learn how to get the images I like. Another shiny object to distract me from writing!

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Thursday, December 29, 2005



Thanks to Unsane for sparking today's post with her question, "Why the sensitivity towards familial ideals?"

I'm embarrassed, but there's a part of me that continues to buy in to the safe and loving family images that bombard us at Christmastime. I know that it's a fantasy meme, and even the best of families have their own dose of craziness. Yet I literally yearn for the sugar of unconditional acceptance and understanding of my whole personality from all the people who love me. I start to believe that this time they will not have their own agendas for me. Totally impossible and unreasonable, and I've long accepted that....but...a Western Christmas can make me believe again that people are perfect, that a man flies through the air delivering toys, and that it's all supposed to be this way.

Most of the time, I laugh these things off, and give myself what I need. The wonder of the season melts my defences and creates false hopes. But I'd still rather embrace the magic.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005



I had a really great Christmas in many ways. My wonderful boyfriend gave me a digital camera! It's a cool piece of equipment, many features and functions. I have named him Bernard, reasoning that it will be more difficult to leave him places now that he is personified. So far, it's working! He hangs cosily around my neck in his fleece-lined pouch until I need him. Once I have figured out how to get the pictures out of Bernard, onto the computer, and onto the blog, I will show you what we've been up to.

In other news, Christmas really sucked. I fell into an emotional storm that's common for me at this time of year. I feel an alienation to the materialism of this society, which I think is common to many. More painful is the reaction of family and friends to news about my business and the personal choices I've made as I grow. In comparision to their norms, I am living life as an extreme sport! I wasn't prepared for their negativity, which they have no hesitation about expressing to me. By being a true individual I'm breaking cultural rules, and their comments are partly due to their need to reinforce their own behaviours and values. While I know this, and I'm confident that I'm doing what's right for me, their rejection still hurts.

I think I am very threatening to many people in this world, but I simply cannot let it stop me from doing what I was born to do. I am blessed to live in a country where I am free to pursue my own method of self-actualization. I am blessed to have people who do understand and support me as I walk this path. My crazy life can represent a call for others to develop in their own unique way. Not everyone is ready to hear it!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005


New Label!

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
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Thursday, December 22, 2005


Ethics and Imagination

We went to see Narnia last night, which I absolutely adored. Having read the book over and over as a child had everything to do with it, as my wonderful boyfriend, whilst appreciating the effects, didn't find it that exciting.

My mentor told me how much she saw me in the character Lucy! I didn't tell her at the time, but I was Lucy for much of my childhood - the one who was always finding stuff that other people blamed on my imagination. I was also the one so quick to point out what wasn't fair, and urge the adults to act ethically. Both things got me in huge trouble several times and so eventually I just shut up. No more, dear reader! No more!

Anyway, I'm punching out for Christmas now. There are many celebrations I will be attending and friends to catch up with. I wish all of you the very best of the holiday season!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Design and Evolution

I keep getting drawn back into the "intelligent design" debate, the newest incarnation of the creationist argument. It's a very popular topic in the blogosphere, at least it has been for the short while I've been here. I'm fascinated by the sheer amount of posting about this issue, because no-one has a hope of winning. Everyone gets to be right, because none of us know for sure.

The really interesting part is why it matters so deeply to the advocates of both positions. The cynical part of me answers that it's about getting attention for the advocate rather than the issue. Does it matter to you? It doesn't matter to me whether the world is a random occurrence or there is a guiding intellect. On a moment-to-moment basis, I do the best I can with the information I have at the time. If I had to explain all the information rationally, I couldn't; if I had to express it all as a product of unseen guidance, I couldn't. It's mostly a mish-mash of all types of experiencing/thinking/believing I have at my disposal.

So why does it arouse so much passion and energy? Is "not knowing" such a horrible place for people to live? As a coach, I always get really excited when a client says, "I don't know.." because it means there's a new place to go, uncharted territory to explore together. Join hands, enemies, and go forward together!

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Monday, December 19, 2005


Darkness Visible

I had a horrible dream last night that is still with me today. I want to blog about it because I think that it is vitally important to acknowledge that we all have a dark side.

In the world of life coaching, there isn't much talk about terror. Negativity in general is pretty rare. The profession is all about working with people as they move forward in an active, empowering way. My impression is that the focus is on getting people through tough places so that they can come out into the light.

My experience with organizations and schools has been even greater resistance to looking at the dark side. The people involved there can shy away from anything that isn't happy-positive, seeing it more as a pastoral than pedagogical/work-related issue. In my work, I find that the kids test my acceptance of negative imagery. In improv, if there's anything lurking beneath the surface, you can bet it's going to come out in a scene - as a bloody battle between slow worms or a sacrifice to the Toast God or suicide by perfume inhalation. When I yell encouragement and tell the players to die and come back as angels or ghosts, I'm accepting their dark side, even if the teacher I'm with is mightily disconcerted.

In the wake of so many school shootings and workplace retributions, the opportunities for people to express their normal fears and rages are disappearing. The instinct to repress and deny them is understandable, but short-sighted. It's more helpful to provide a safe way to express it. Sport provides that for many, but for the rest of us, there's always improv.

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Friday, December 16, 2005


Getting Paid

I received my biggest cheque yet in the mail today! It's so cool how much more rewarding it is to get paid for doing something I love.

When I worked a regular job with a regular cheque and a regular mental breakdown, I wasn't happy and grateful every time the money appeared in my account. I took the money and spent some of it, saved some, blew some; it was about as exciting as cleaning the toilet. I used to calculate how many weeks it would take me to afford something awesome like some school or travel. It was a dependable infusion of cash, but even bonuses and raises quickly became tedious. I learnt that I am not motivated by money.

But now, I get a cheque, and I'm celebrating for the whole day. I think it's because it's not just me getting the money; it's my company, my vision, my dream. Every last cent is a valued expression of support from my customers. More than that, it's confirmation from the universe that I'm on the right path. I'm motivated by money again, something I never thought I'd feel comfortable admitting!

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


Life is Amazing

Vancouver is quiveringly beautiful this morning. A rime frost has iced every surface, highlighting the heartbreaking symmetry of ferns and rhododendrons and the crazy weave of the grass. The pale sun melts in a tentative blue sky. Light is fizzing everywhere, filling the world in a champagne bath of energy. I stand square in the park and honour the mountains and the great river before me. I feel alive to the tips of my fingers. I feel the cycle of life thrumming in my bones.

I am so greatly blessed that I can find the simple joy in brushing my teeth or waking my love with a cup of fresh coffee. What an amazing gift it is to live!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Thanks to mark for your comment on this post for extending my thinking on the topic of labelling. And thanks for all of the thought-provoking stuff to be found on ZenPundit!

Mark said that programs for below-average kids do make average kids feel smarter. I was surprised to read this, but after thinking about it for a few days, it started to make sense, especially when related to issues around programming for the gifted.

I was excellent at "playing the game" in school (most of the time!), figuring out exactly what would receive the most praise from each teacher. In almost all lessons, I wasn't figuring out what to learn, or following my own line of intellectual inquiry, or even working hard. I was simply doing my best to get the most of what I wanted, which was praise and attention and reassurance that I was a good person.

Of course I wanted to get good marks and be told that I was smart, because that's what was valued and rewarded most in the system I found myself part of. The teachers clearly had the authority, therefore it was best to follow their rules (written and unwritten) to get the good stuff. Simple.

I think the big problem with all of these labels of gifted, learning disabled, average, etc., is that they become value judgements simply by virtue of the Western educational system. If you asked a teacher if a gifted kid was worth more than a learning disabled kid, I'm sure they would say no. But the system is set up in such a way that smarts and rule-following determine how much reward is provided. It's as small as a teacher praising a good assignment to the whole class, choosing one student's picture to display prominently, or giving more eye contact to "A" students. It's obvious to all that achievement is valued, and the natural conclusion is that your level of achievement determines your value.

I have no idea how to fix this, as it is considered a normal way to behave in almost every educational institution and corporation in the land. But somehow we must find a way to let all kids know that they are valuable and worthwhile human beings, no matter what they are doing. Then, "smarter" or "dumber" would cease to have any real meaning except to understand how to provide what that individual child needs.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Post #100!!!

I'm celebrating! It's delightful to have found such a fun way to connect with like-minded people, which also gives me free rein to vent and rant about my favourite topics! Cheers! [burp]

Anyway I wanted to echo unusualsuspect's sentiment that cliches abound about how to spot a gifted child, how "they" behave, and how to support "them". We are human and we want to make things simple and easy, so we produce checklists and questionnaires and prescriptive readings. However, because they have to be so general, there isn't enough context, and it's very difficult to apply them in a useful way.

The trouble is that in many cases giftedness defies all attempts to pin it down into non-flexible structures. It is essentially dynamic, and no matter how much we wish it was reducible to understandable things, it's basically something we have to deal with as a unique and ever-changing whole, arising differently in each individual from moment to moment. That's why it's so challenging and fascinating for me to work with the gifted population.

The trouble is that gifted people, and their parents and partners and bosses, often cling on to these definitions because that's the way the whole world seems to work. Very few gifted people have ever had the opportunity to be fully themselves safely, to express all of their personality, to speak about things that are incomprehensible to most. When that opportunity does arise, it can be very threatening to all involved!

So it becomes a matter of choice - how far are you willing to go? How much do you want to know? How much can you take? This is a calibration gifted people make all the time, on various levels of awareness, for self-protection. My hope is that the world will eventually begin to make space for everyone to be as unique and wonderful as they like, and the "laundry lists" of gifted characteristics and behaviours and support strategies will become artefacts of a less enlightened time.

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Monday, December 12, 2005


The Gifted Label

Thanks to Anonymous 1 (The Flink, incognito) & 2, who brought up the issue of stamping the word "gifted" on people and what effect that has. The question was, "What do you think of this idea, that gifted is a label that exists more for a parents peace of mind?"

Many parents of gifted kids would find this very amusing! They report that parenting a gifted kid, once you know they are gifted, is a constant challenge. Once one has stopped fighting the high energy, sensitivity, reduced need for sleep, etc., and learnt that they are a normal part of giftedness, they must now be accommodated creatively within the family system. There is heartache in feeling that you have a great responsibility to nurture the talent in your child, and you may not be doing that the "best" way, or have the resources to provide everything you think is helpful or even necessary. Finding helping professionals with a knowledge of giftedness is another challenge.

Other parents may react with denial and even fear. Being told that your child is different often creates considerable grief, as all your dreams and plans for that child seem to have been snatched away. This reaction is well known in disability circles but I have rarely seen it discussed in the gifted community. I know that I was definitely not the daughter my parents were expecting! And I'm sure that several times they explained my strange behaviour to themselves and others by saying, "well, she is gifted, you know..." and didn't investigate any further. As Anon.2 quite rightly points out, the label is functionally irrelevant - it is the action that follows the labelling that matters.

I think most gifted people of all ages are relieved to have an explanation for all the differences they experience in themselves. I'm sorry for Flink's friend's sake that there isn't more knowledge and acceptance of giftedness, because her brothers are probably gifted too, just in a different way. It is rare for siblings not to be within 5 IQ points of each other, and often visual-spatial giftedness are less "identifiable" in the school system or masked by underachievement and a genuine desire to fit in.

I get frustrated by arguments that gifted programs in school "make" other kids feel inadequate. Do programs for mentally sub-normal kids "make" the majority feel smart? If so, the sub-normal programs should more than compensate for this effect, as they are far more numerous and better funded than gifted programs! But at least they exist, and bring gifted kids together at least some of the time to normalize their experience. In our current educational model, it seems to be the best we can do.

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Friday, December 09, 2005


Killer PMS

Flink found me online and asked me, "Is PMS worse for smart girls?" You can read my full answer here but here's a highlight:

The point is that gifted people are more sensitive to, well, pretty much everything. That's why I didn't notice PMS for all that time, because I was getting constantly triggered by other things in life. If normal people experience themselves and the world like regular 52-channel cable, gifted people have an enormous sattelite dish with thousands of channels. So yes, it is going to be harder for us because we are simply more aware.

This is why I want to get into schools so badly and let gifted kids know about overexcitabilities. If we don't grow up knowing that we are more susceptible to and reactive to life's normal ups and downs, we can start to think there is something badly wrong with us. For me, this led to a scary run through the mental health system before I finally found someone who could normalize giftedness for me. My own esoteric calling is to help prevent this for as many people as I can.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005



So what can one do when finding oneself in a state of mental disintegration in a personal growth workshop? Basically, aggressive self-care.

Whenever you are going in to an experience that is going to confront you with some part of yourself that you are not usually concious of, it's important to put in place a basic first-aid kit. For me this also means going to family gatherings, returning to an old stomping-ground, or going on a blind date.

My personal kit includes water, nuts & raisins, a clean tissue, and a poem or book I know and like. I also pack a small object that is comforting because of prior associations - for example, a Christmas ornament given to me by a close girlfriend, or some earrings I bought myself to celebrate a previous success. Lately the latter two objects are combined as I slip into my purse a tiny book of Keats' most beloved poems given to me by my great aunt.

These things help bring me back to my integrated self. But most the most vital step, and most difficult one for me, is to actually get up and leave the room in order to fix myself up. It is so difficult to resist workshop leaders/people who are convinced of their rightness and demonize any deviance from their views, but it is absolutely necessary for me to stand up for myself in this way. It gets easier the more I do it, making me suspect that I am also resisting childhood programming!

Take care of yourself this holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005



Gifted people often have an enormous interest in their own development. This can lead to a frantic search for teachers and methods that will speak to their experience and give them an anchor as they journey along this path. Personally, I have a vast collection of self-help literature, copies of religious texts like the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, and pyschological theory. At a certain point, I started to wonder why this self-directed bibliotherapy did not seem to be giving me the answers I was seeking. So, I turned to in-person self-help groups.

Many of the personal growth courses out there are run by people who have absolutely the best intentions. They provide a very good product for the majority of the population. The only trouble is, a highly or profoundly gifted person is likely to show up in one of their classes at some stage, and this can be trouble.

The exquisite sensitivity of a gifted person and deep desire for self-actualization means that group encounters must be structured very carefully to avoid extreme reactions. Exhortations to "let go" and be completely vulnerable to the process are common, and when a gifted person complies, they are sometimes left swinging out over an incomprehensible void. The workshop leader is rarely able to address the disturbance on the level it is occurring.

When this happened to me for the first time, I thought I was really losing my mind. I went into a severe existential depression with suicidal thoughts, and required much time and support to claw my way back to safety. It wasn't until it happened again that I realized what was going on; these workshops were pushing me into a dangerous place. Thereafter, I continued to explore, but with the knowledge that I needed to protect myself. More on how to do that tomorrow....

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Canada the Polite

Giving another workshop today, I noticed that the Grade 6/7 class are fantastic at giving feedback. When they got bored, they just started wandering off or talking about what they saw on TV last night. Of course, at that point I sprang into action with a game of Lines of Dialogue aka Pockets, which is always a crowdpleaser, to draw them back in.

Adults (and I'm guilty of this, too) feel so compelled to be polite and support the workshop leader that one has to really pay attention to the underlying "feel" of the group. They are likely to hide their yawns and fake interest in what's going on, rather than complain or walk out of the room (which I'd prefer!) Here in Vancouver, politeness is a such a high art that it's starting to interfere rather than grease the wheels of society.

Take, for example, the four-way stop. This traffic device is like a roundabout, but everyone stops at a stop sign and takes turns to proceed through the intersection. Sounds sensible, doesn't it? But when the person whose turn it is decides to wave on another car out of turn, it all goes pear-shaped. We have a stalemate as drivers wave and bob to each other trying to coax each other to move: "After you." "No, please, it's your turn." "I insist, I'm not in a hurry." "Thank you, but it really is your turn." !!!!

Canada, we're not working as a team here! Let's follow the rules of play so that we can all get where we're going a little bit faster - and perhaps we can apply this to honest feedback, too.

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Monday, December 05, 2005


Channelization and The Gifted Brain

In my experience, gifted people are just like everyone else in the way that we channel our thinking, getting stuck in a rut in life. We do it on more levels, in more creative ways, and have very fancy rationalizations for what we're doing, but it's basically the same process with a few new twists added. To the outside world, this is very hard to explain, as people assume that being smarter means that you don't fall into the classic thinking traps they struggle with - you have the ability to rise above it. Not true in the least! The traps increase in complexity along with the brain that creates them.

Yet although the difficulties are the same, this doesn't necessarily mean that gifted people can be helped in the same way as everyone else. I've returned to the puzzle of finding a good metaphor for the way that gifted people experience life, so that I can use it to explain why they need specialized helping professionals. This is the latest:

Imagine two people given the same report to do on analyzing quotes and recommending a supplier for the company. One has just been hired out of university, and one has 20 years experience in the industry and a five-year history with this particular firm. Most of us would probably assume that the 20-year veteran would give the more reliable report - because of their experience with suppliers, their knowledge of the supplier marketplace, their connections with other companies in the industry, and the networks of related professionals they can draw on. Even if the report's conclusion is surprising, it's possible that we would trust the veteran's opinion.

A gifted person has a brain that is like that 20-year veteran, because it can give veteran-caliber answers to brand new problems. Their large knowledge base has been accumulating since the very beginning of awareness. They have been making connections between experiences in order to try and make sense of their world since the beginning. They extrapolate, interpolate, and make logical and intuitive leaps. When you receive communication from that brain, sometimes it's hard to understand where the knowledge you receive came from, because it's such a small piece of the big picture.

So when a gifted person is experiencing difficulties, it requires someone else with the same kind of brain to sort through the huge mass of data and processing that created it. When a 20-year veteran is assigned a newly hired graduate to help solve a problem, the veteran is likely to take anything they say with a large pinch of salt, and privately laugh at the hubris of youth.

OK, coments/edits/ridicule welcome! I appreciate any feedback.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005


Learning to Fail

I've just finished a five-day improv workshop with some amazing gifted 7th-graders. It was a truly awesome experience, I had huge fun and I learnt so much! So did the participants, according to their evaluations.

One thing that really stood out for me when reading their feedback forms was that almost all of them mentioned that we had encouraged them to fail. I regularly yelled out things like "Fail!" "Get into trouble!" "Failure is good!" I reminded them that as they had never done this before, it was unreasonable to expect that they would be good at it. Watching a face clear when this insight is internalized is magical.

Gifted kids often struggle with only feeling valued for what they can do, rather than who they are as people. Although not all fall into the trap, perfectionism is a natural consequence of getting approval for achievements. Emphasizing a form of learning that is experimental, failure-based, and where advance planning actually makes things worse, gives people permission to unlock their creativity. I was thrilled to find out that they were listening (!) but more importantly that they had felt safe enough to make mistakes. Improv workshops make it easy and fun to experience unqualified approval for taking risks.

I wish I had enough expertise with English to convey to you the utter joy of knowing that I am living "on purpose", doing the things I am supposed to do with my life. It is a very deep satisfaction that is worth far more than money. Very cool.

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