“‘Asynchronous development’ is what happens when advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.
As a result of these special brain characteristics, gifted thinkers typically enjoy benefits including more vivid sensing, prodigious memory, greater funds of knowledge, more frequent and varied associations, and greater analytic ability. However, these same neurological characteristics carry a number of potential drawbacks, including sensory, emotional, and memory overload, [and] sensory hypersensitivities … More recently, brain imaging research has provided evidence for such developmental differences; some people’s brains are indeed wired differently. It was said that the first thing you notice when you look at the fMRIs of gifted groups is that it looks like ‘a brain on fire.’”
I never much liked the term “gifted.” I didn’t like being identified with it, and I shy away from the proclamations that I am so smart, so talented, so whatever. I suppose you can understand why. We don’t like to brag. Thinking highly of oneself is the sin of arrogance.
I know I am intelligent. I know I am intellectual. I know I get a lot done and that others are impressed with me. But I don’t see it all, you know, from inside this head. This brain on fire. I see what I know I can do, I see where I fail, and I see a long string beaded with all the breakdowns, more than I can count, from the time I was six years old.
I read the website above this week, shared with me by a family member, after a particularly grueling meltdown. An hour of tears followed by the exhausted emptiness of having cried it all out, but resolved nothing. The settling in to the knowledge that I will never feel good enough for anyone else, despite knowing I am trying my hardest, despite knowing I am experiencing successes.
I do not want to call myself gifted, because I do not want to stand out in that way. I do not want to be the object of envy, and I beat myself into the ground fighting to avoid ever implying in any way, to anyone, that I believe I am better than them.
But saying you are “gifted” means — means you must have this — this elevated — thing, right?
Now my fight is more odd, more specific. A fight against intellect. Not to be said that I am an anti-intellectual. No. I am fighting … the way that our society has sunk value into intelligence.
What would a school look like whose primary focus wasn’t on who’s the smartest, who learns the easiest?
When I was in school, I don’t recall any teachers ever worrying about me, ever stretching that extra mile or extra inch to check on how I was doing. But my grades were good. So I must be good, right?
A long, dark string of breakdowns.
But that’s not what this is about. That’s not what all this was about. That’s not what I came here to say.
I came here to say that sometimes it is okay to rest, to feel everything, to stop and make something beautiful. Because that’s what I did, today. At the very end of the show I was watching, one of my favorite songs began to play and I broke down into tears. Those tears didn’t feel like the ones the other night. They were not exhausting, a pouring out of me. They were a pouring in. Something beautiful had happened right before me, something I couldn’t explain to anyone–why was I crying so hard?–and I took that and I held it close inside my chest and then I sat down and drew for 45 minutes and made something else beautiful too.
That’s the brain on fire. It is my terror, shame, and guilt; it is my tears of hurt and my tears of beauty; it is the seed I hold inside my chest that carries all the beautiful things I see, feel, or imagine.
I took naps this weekend. I drank tea. I watched television and cried.
What more can I do? Keep myself safe, I guess. Protect myself from the hot, hard spots that sear my heart and leave scars. So many of them I cannot count. A string of beads stretching back into the dark, held by a hand I cannot see, but whose palm lines reflect mine.
It is okay to rest. It is okay to learn yourself and find your new soft spots. It is okay to say, I associate myself with this thing, this gifted thing because it describes me, and that gives me relief. There is relief.
It is okay to rest. It is okay to find relief.