Pumpkin Pie Ginger Jello Recipe

Or, “the road to hell is paved with flaxseed.” (Named by Andy, who was not so sure about this idea)

Ingredients (but of course choose your own adventure):

For Step 0:
Measuring cups and spoons and a fork
Standing blender or hand blender or whisk or aforementioned fork
Fridge space and small containers – like 10 cups worth
Good intentions – also optional

For Step 1:
Pot or Container – 12 cup
Cold Water – 2 cups
Gelatin – 1/4 cup – Great Lakes – (or other unsweetened gelatin – 8 packets or 2 boxes)

For Step 2:
Ginger Juice – 1 bottle – Ginger People – or half if GINGER is not your kink. Or, use 3-6 Tbsp ground.
Maple Syrup – 1/4 cup (grade A dark amber or whatever you like) – could be sugar or honey.
Limes (or Lemons) – Juice of 2ish
Turmeric – 1 Tbsp
Cinnamon – 1 Tbsp
Galangal – 1 Tsp – (very optional)
Flaxseed – 4 Tbsp – Ground – (optional)

For Step 3:
Hot Water – 2 cups

For Step 4:
Pumpkin Puree – 1 can – 14ish ounce can – (not pumpkin pie filling) – remove pumpkin for ginger jello

For Step 5:
Soy Milk – 4 cups unsweetened – or pick your own dairylike adventure. Water may not work well.
Walnut Oil – 1 Tbsp – (possibly not going in next time – not sure about this oil-jello thing)
Probiotic powder (1 scoop, what the hell) – (exceedingly optional)

Recipe (faster than it looks, no bake time, 30 min):

Step 0: Decide which Ingredients and Tools you are using and put them all in one space. Locate measuring utensils or decide to eyeball it.

Step 1: Fill mixing Container with 2 cups of Cold Water. Add 1/4 cup Gelatin by sprinkling. Mix with fork a bit.

Step 2: Add items you are using from Step 2 in any order. Mix with fork or whisk. If not using a blender, then try to mix well.

Step 3: Mix in 2 cups of Hot Water. Mix with fork or whisk a bit. If no blender, then try to mix well enough to make you happy.

Step 4: Add a can of Pumpkin, if using pumpkin. If using a standing blender, blend now. Pour back into original container.

Step 5: Add 4 cups of Liquid, such as soy milk, then other Step 5 items. If using an immersion blender, but not standing blender, blend. (If you are not familiar with immersion blenders, you should know that they can splatter, a lot. Use a tall container, maybe set down in the sink, and start with the blender at the bottom of the container.)

Step 6: Pour (or ladle) into molds (or whatever containers, preferably with lids) and stick in the fridge until set. (except 1 cup that goes in the freezer for 30 min for instant gratification) – (look for kitchen under sticky mess) – (2-4 hours to set)

Analysis (or: how it came out)

Jay’s thoughts: More Citrusy than expected, not as Gingery as expected, half as sweet as normal pumpkin pie filling, walnut oil mixed in fine, creamy enough from soy milk, flax and pumpkin add texture some might find alien in a jello. Would make like this again!

Andy’s thoughts: I was worried that we weren’t using enough lime, but I love the limeyness! The sweetness is about perfect–not so much that it jumps out and assaults you with sugar, but just enough to balance out the acid from the limes and make you feel like you’re eating dessert. We weren’t sure about the soy milk, but it worked well. The only thing that is a little odd is that the solids from the flax and pumpkin add a chewy/crunchy mouthfeel that is not dissimilar to pulpy OJ. It’s not unpleasant, though, and overall this jello is a win.

Jay’s other thoughts:  Children are likely to find this mix overwhelming, cut strength at least in half the first time (half the spices, citrus and ginger – this is a guess) if you have a kid who likes this sort of stuff.  It only tastes like normal desert if you are used to vegan coconut type concoctions and mostly don’t eat sweet things (doubling maple syrup will make it party-ready).  It tastes distinctly granolaflake, but I love that.

Jay’s other other thoughts: This was initially meant to be a combination of easy snack, with the digestion benefits from ginger and probiotic and omega 3 for focus and mood from flax and walnut, and antiinflammatory from turmeric and blood sugar regulation from cinnamon and protein content of unsweetened soy milk and FODMAPs friendliness from maple sweetener also some benefits of gelatin. Mostly I just like the texture and am making zero claims about effectiveness, but that was the initial logic.

Jay’s other other other thoughts:  Why you ask? Because I need an outlet for being a mad scientist which is not Portal-like.

Makes this much (the white cup is 8 ounces):

Photo of finished jello

Overexcitabilities and Finding Tribe

I got a computer science degree because I thought I hated people. I thought I liked logic, technology, and solvable problems.  Yet, the more I look at things, the more I am sure that the best predictor of both resilience and health is social connections and belonging.   We are monkeys; there are no functional ways to escape that mammals need connection and touch, even for introverts.

(although trees and animals and oceans and books and music and writing and movement and food, help fill related needs)

(also, linear media is challenging for me, so feel free to either go on tangents with me or skip everything in parenthesis)

This seems like horrible news to those who either
• mostly hate people, because their values clash with most of the people they’ve met;
• mostly think people will hate them, because there is something wrong with them.

The answer in both cases seems to be to keep looking for people with similar values.

It surprises me to no end that I am both engaged and seem to have a community now.  It does not surprise me at all that I still default to sharing only those things that someone asks about directly.  Old habits of feeling like you don’t belong anywhere die hard, but I refuse to be one of those people who curled in on themselves and stopped trying to connect.

(blogging feels supper vulnerable and all sorts of fun, shame-related outsider stuff comes up)

There was about a ten-year period in my life after turning eighteen when I was sure that no one would ever want to deal with me.  One of the reasons that I play in the gifted community is that is was the first functional-for-me environment that had people who chose to play with me, even if it was not clear to them what they could get from me.  As I look back on that period in my life, I see a few overarching themes, each connected to one or more of Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities.

(basically the more excitable and intense you are the more likely you are to develop into something very very atypically interesting and possibly socially positive)

(no guarantees, and I like the idea of positive maladjustment from this theory)

Positive Maladjustment: A conflict with and rejection of those standards  and attitudes of one’s social environment which are incompatible with one’s growing awareness of a higher scale of values which is developing as an internal imperative. (Dab. 1972, p. 302) – (If you like things which sound like this, go here.) (It is completely off-topic)

(tangents are a lot like plot bunnies)

(note: that was not a definition of of Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities, look here instead)

I was anxious and scared all the time (emotional overexcitability), coping by feeling as little as possible and telling myself that I was not afraid of anything.  My strongest overexcitability is emotional, so I tend to know when people have a problem or when a social dynamic is about to implode, way before anyone else is willing to admit there is a problem.  For a while I thought that my behavior and presence was the catalyst causing all the unnecessary excitement.

(which of course meant that I was evil and should stay away from non-evil people)

(black and white thinking for the not-win)

My best explanation for my internal experience was that I was not human and/or had multiple personalities or bipolar or just crazy. Since I had plenty of sensitivities to both environment and food as well as emotional meltdowns, both of those theories seemed plausible and disturbingly likely.  (imaginational overexcitability)

(much of our media deserves to be shot for creating all these tropes with no functional modeling to balance them out with)

(I know that people argue about whether “multiple personalities” or “dissociative identity disorder” are real things, either in general or in specific cases. I am not wading into that debate here.  My current stance for me is that I have a wide variety of asynchronous ways of presenting myself and that they don’t need a mental health related label to “explain them”).

(asynchronous development is my favorite gifted  concept)

I was captivated by touch and substances. I did not much care for having a gender identity or  sexual orientation or for practicing monogamy. At the same time, I could neither hold still, nor deal well with intense stimuli. (psychomotor and sensual overexcitability)

(also central auditory processing differences,  sensory integration fun, and executive function specialness…  all pretty mild and all super annoying when you have no idea why everything makes you spaz out… better now that I know what to do more of and what less of and when I need downtime and what food is)

(also while I’m linking to many topics, here is impostor syndrome!)

(also, FODMAPs turned out what was wrong with my food… avoiding fructose/fructans and dairy basically takes care of it)

(if you feel like crap all the time, figure out why!  Pain, tiredness and digestion issues often have a findable reason for being there.)

(The reason this is important for this article is that it is harder to make friends when you can’t eat with others or don’t feel well.)

I would do anything for an interesting conversation. I would do anything to avoid being bored. I played with a lot of risky stuff, drove recklessly, and had many older acquaintances willing to trade entertainment for entertainment. I read all the time, but hated everything about classroom instruction. I overthought everything which made emotional overexcitability worse and caused serious going to sleep without having a panic attack problems. (intellectual overexcitability, stacked on top of the rest of them)

That meant that, as I saw things, the only people who would think I was not crazy were others like me. If I wanted connection, I first needed to find other genderqueer, alternate relationship lifestyle, non-humans with multiple personalities, who also did not think I sucked and where not likely to treat me badly.  Of course, that meant that there were not many options for community, healthy relationships or mental health professionals or educators I was comfortable talking with.

(the criteria that most often suffered was healthy environment or relationship, since not being completely lonely trumps everything else)

All of these put me outside of a cultural narrative where I could connect or gain social approval. There was no doubt in my mind that there was something BROKEN about me, and that meant that I deserved anything negative that happened in my life.  It also, got in the way of being able to get therapy and external support for years.

I don’t claim that my logic made any sense and I will not dismiss as stupid what at the time was my best set of available coping mechanisms and reality structures.  It is so socially edgy to talk about this and I am going to talk about it, since I keep seeing the same types of self-imposed isolation in the younger adults within the gifted community (and extended geek and LGBTQIA communities).

Freak. Outsider. Failure. Shameful. Labels so many of us start with.  It will take me at least another 5 years to rewrite most of it.  And I never would have been able to start doing so, if I did not always relentlessly search for others like me.  I had no reason to believe they even existed, but it was approximately equivalent to “I can always give up tomorrow” (best use of procrastination ever!) – Also, they are not “like me,” we just like each other and have similar needs for intellectual and emotional entertainment.

Last weekend, I went to a games party, featuring a bunch of my favorite gifted homeschoolers/unschoolers. It was amazing watching the seamless interplay of people who are now my extended community, integrating a roomful of highly-intense people from about age 8 to middle age.  I watched an eight-year-old patiently explain the rules of Monster Boss to the rest of us and be treated like a valued and respected member of the group.  I enjoyed watching people remember to ask about things like food allergies before bringing nuts and dairy into the house. There was no alcohol, and the games were engaging without it.  I watched touch and not-touch negotiated with no weirdness or overtones. Some people were boisterous, others quiet, others reading or listening to something else.  This social dynamic fell in stark contrast with a couple of recent experiences at a normal American wedding: the awkwardness of another party where strangers hugged me without asking if it was ok and blaring music and the assumption that everyone can eat the same stuff and enjoy the same kind of crowded overwhelming space.  It just feels different and better in functional spaces where smart weird sensitive diverse people can belong.  (the other group did nothing wrong, but it is not what I pick as first choice these days)

On another occasion, I had a conversation with a younger person exploring ideas of non-monogamy for the first time.  She lives in a place where everything about the way she thinks makes her feel like an outsider and a freak.   This last conversation is the main reason I went here with this article.  The person I talked with needed someone to discuss relationship models with.  Someone who would not tell her that she was being silly for reading and thinking about non-monogamy.   Someone who will discuss the pros and cons of various models with no built-in judgement rooted in shame and social norms.  Someone who totally gets how hard it is to establish relationships when all the normal ways to do it never worked for you, and you tend to overthink things and not take much for granted.

If all of the older people behave in a way that looks like we are straight edge and never did anything experimental (or sometimes downright risky), who will our young adults talk with when they need to discuss less functional aspects of their lifestyle choices?   I’m so much more afraid for those who can’t connect with anyone, than for those who need to try different things before figuring out who they want to connect with and how.  There are loads of things I like about non-punitive, openminded monogamy, where you can totally be attracted to other people, but I would not tolerate them if they were a foregone unexamined conclusion.

It is so easy for Andy and me to pass for “normal” these days, but we are not that and we did not get here in a straight coherent painless line.   We are also not all there yet, since friendships are still slow to form and we find many typical social activities way too stationary and linear to focus on for long.   I’m still awkward as hell, but it doesn’t seem to matter to those with whom I connect best.  Andy plays best with those who ignore that he is a lawyer and a boy and just treat him like a non-directive chill person that he is outside of work.  (He put in over 5 hours to help me make this article.)

I don’t know how to wrap this topic into a neat little blog post, but here is what I do know:

Big cities on the coast have their issues, but they are much more liberal have many more venues to connect with other “freaks.”  There are more options for connection and if you screw up in one environment, it is not the only one of those available.

Even when I did not believe that anyone sane could accept me, I still looked and tried different things.  The last few communities I encountered, I couldn’t have even imagined.  Andy and I are going on the JoCo Cruise and to WisCon and prior to a few years ago, even my imaginational overexcitability cold not have caused me to dreamwish for spaces like that.  As it is, this year is the first time we have been financially able to even think about doing things like this.

There are people who are kind and intelligent and effective in making this world better, who would enjoy meeting you and talking with you.  Yes, you! Even if all you do is ask simple questions. Even if you are not always kind and sometimes you are angry and violent and do stupid shit that hurts yourself or others. You can get better at all of that, and it will be easier with role models who make sense to you.

There are no foregone conclusions for trauma, depression, anxiety, ADHD, social awkwardness or other stuff like that. They can have nasty outcomes, but much of it can be healed. Not for everyone, and not necessarily without support, but it can get to the point where brokenness is no longer a salient feature of this experience. Talk to people with similar histories who are ahead of you on this path and seem to be going where you want to be. Ask them what helped them.

It’s not like everyone else is always ok. There are spaces where being very different or intense or awkward or variable or highly sensitive is not unusual. Even if the way your stuff manifests is not like anyone else’s, it can be ok, even if some of it is louder than you would like. (and usually there are some people who are also like that if you get as far as talking about it, but not everywhere)

There are many communities that do not care about how “deviant” your sexuality, gender or spiritual beliefs are, as long as your practice is respectful and consensual. It is all ok as long as no one is getting hurt. There is no penalty for what turns you on or what fantasies live in your head, the only part that is important is what you do.

There are no wrong emotions.

There is no such thing as too broken or too crazy.

If you ask for help and the person you asked is not gentle or can’t follow, find someone else.

Volunteer to help at events, even if you think you will suck at it.  It will help you connect.

If you know zero people who feel real enough to be friends with, look for a new environment.

Everything is different when you are not dependent on someone else.

Comparison sucks. Those people who are doing better have some privilege or luck helping them.

Reach out. Ask for help. Offer help. Initiate. Feel awkward. Collect rejections. Repeat.  Cry or scream or eat chocolate or retreat for a while or meditate or write or move.

Find your tribe.  It is better than you can possibly imagine, even when it is still clunky and awkward.  Let it be awkward the first 5 to 10 times.  If you love the people and the activity, you will settle in and adjust, just not as quickly as you think you should.

This post is part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop – Gifted Friendships

hoagies gifted blog hop frienship

Making friends as a newly-minted adult

When you’re a gifted adult, how do you find friends?  Even if you found your tribe in college, what do you do when they’re far away and you suddenly have a busy work schedule and no idea how to find people off-campus?  Here are some practical things and some bigger-picture ideas to keep in mind, both of which may help you along the way to finding new friends.

I have never been particularly adept at befriending people my age.  As a child, many of my friends were older than me.  In high school, many of my friends were at least a year older or younger than me.  The first time I really clicked with a group of peers was at a young writers’ group during a summer of high school, but we were from all over the country.  In college, I finally found a group of people who were close friends, lived nearby, and were my age peers.

I went to a small college with a high percentage of smart, geeky students.  We had a storytellers group and a swing dance club, and I felt almost social (by my standards, but I’m pretty far on the introverted side of the scale).  I attended activities a couple of nights per week, and during my senior year my roommate and I hosted gatherings in our on-campus apartment.  Friends were nearby, so we’d chat in the dining hall or as we walked to class.  I knew that if I missed an event because of homework or some other obligation, I would still see my friends within the next day or two.

When I graduated, I spent a few years on boats, where I had my crew—a built-in social group.  I wilted for lack of friends.  Contracts were usually no longer than six months, so I’d have to get used to an entirely new group of people at least twice a year.  I always had a group ready if I wanted to go to the bar, but by the time I started considering someone a close friend, it would be time for both of us to move on to new ships.  After that, I lived with my parents for a while and did some swing dancing and D&D, but mostly felt lonely until I moved to a small city and started to make friends in earnest.

I’ve had some pretty solid successes over the last year.  As I write this, I’m sitting in my new friends’ house, taking care of their cat while they’re away at an event.  Typical to my usual pattern, most of my new friends are older than me (12+ years older), but I have also recently made a few friends who are closer to my age.  The following advice comes with a huge disclaimer—I’m only a year into the current round of making friends.  That said, I think that the past year has gone very well, so here’s my take on the stuff that worked for me.

First off: it’s not easy.  Ok, maybe it’s easy for some people, but they’re probably not reading this article.  The short version of this is: yeah, making friends can feel awkward as hell, especially at the start.  Usually, you can’t just go up to someone, say, “Hi, want to be friends?” and have it move on perfectly from there.  I get along fine with most of the people I encounter on a daily basis and can have a nice little chat with them.  Few of these people have enough in common with me to support a friendship.  On the other hand, some of my closer friendships started out with a few highly awkward interactions—these don’t doom relationships!

The rest of this post covers some logistics of looking for friends and other things to keep in mind during the process.

 

Some things to do:

* Activities

What are some things you like to do?  Write out a basic list and scan local newspapers and your local Meetup page to find activities that appeal to you.  Do you like music?  (Performing or just listening?)  Find a place where you can listen to local musicians, or an open-mic night where you can perform.  Like talking about books?  Check in with your local library to see if they have any book discussion groups.  If there aren’t any groups going, or if there is a group but it doesn’t cover your preferred genre(s), consider starting a group yourself – the librarians will probably have some great advice on how to go about doing so.  If you like making things, is there a local makerspace (or someone who has some spare garage space and wants to collaborate on projects)?  The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) can be wonderful for people who are interested in history and/or fighting, archery, crafting, etc., and they have groups all over the place.  It has something for (almost) everyone and can be a great way to get an introduction to fun things you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

One of my friends walked me through this part of the process.  (Not literally—in an online conversation.)  I was stuck in a cycle of not knowing what to do, not reaching out, and then feeling lonely and isolated.  By showing me some options, my friend helped be start thinking about ways to find people and deal with my loneliness.  I hope that some of these suggestions are useful to you or at least get you thinking about other things that might work.  If you get stuck, try brainstorming with someone; a local acquaintance might know of nearby opportunities, while a faraway friend might help you think of other activities to investigate.

* Transportation

If you’re not in an urban area, it can be harder to reach the critical mass of people needed to get these activities going – but it might be easier to query the local grapevine to find out who might be interested.  If you know someone local who is interested in some of the same things, you might be able to carpool.

* Timing

This is one of the things that’s been hardest for me to accept.  I just don’t spend as much time with friends post-college as I did during college.  I count myself lucky if I see friends once a week (and usually that only happens if we both attend some regular activity together). As far as I can tell, this is just a reality of having a working schedule and living further apart – it’s easier to spend lots of time together when your friends’ dorms are only a five-minute walk away.

* Long-distance friends

One of the things that kept me same throughout this process was ongoing contact with college friends.  They all live far away; I like talking on the phone, so I was able to use occasional phone calls to stay in touch.  IMs work, as do emails; use whatever method works for you and your friends.  If some of your friends are your age, you can probably commiserate on the travails of finding new friends; share tips and tricks!  Just don’t make this your sole source of contact.  I love my phone calls with college friends, but I also need to have friends who are physically nearby – people to have a cup of tea with and just sit with.  When life gets particularly difficult, it’s good to have people who are physically nearby who can help out (even if all you need is a hug).

 

And some things to think about:

* Foot-in-mouth

No, not hoof-and-mouth, and no, it’s not communicable.  Well, awkwardness is, a little.  Anyway.  I have this thing with conversations.  I can have a great conversation where I’ve talked with friends about things that I care about, that they care about, and I feel we’ve bonded.  Everything’s peachy.  And then I get home, I think back on the conversation a little, and then I realize that I said something embarrassing.  And then I obsess.  I start thinking, “Oh my god, that was awful, they’ll think I’m so stupid/insensitive/etc.”

And then we hang out again, and maybe I bring it up, and usually they (1) didn’t even notice, or (2) remember the comment but were not at all upset by it.  Mostly I have learned to recognize that these fears are way out of proportion to the actual danger.

* Overlooking mistakes

These are people who are choosing to spend time with you.  Chances are good that they’re doing so because they like you.  Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re acting rationally (what a huge waste of time to hang out with someone who you dislike).  If they shrug off a rude comment, it might not be because they have low standards in their friends—it’s probably just that they understand that people have different tolerance for directness and also that people make mistakes.

So here’s a revolutionary idea: lots of other people also feel a bit awkward in social interaction!  You’re not the only one.  They probably have their own foot-in-mouth moments.  Chances are good that they are often too busy worrying over their own missteps to notice yours—or they noticed but considered their own mistakes worse.  Hey, who knows, maybe they were so impressed by some neat thing you said or did that they didn’t notice your less-than-stellar comments.

* Friends for different activities

This is something that I resist – I want to be able to have good conversations with all of my friends.  But it is at least worth thinking about.  So I have some friends that I go to SCA events with.  If I get back into sailing, I might have another friend or two who I mostly only see while I’m sailing.  One friend for chats over coffee, another friend for shoe-shopping.  I don’t know, it doesn’t quite make sense to me, but it might work for you.  But this goes along with the smaller amount of time-per-friend-per-week – if you want to spend time with a friend every day or every other day, you’ll probably have to rotate between people.  This is a good way to explore new activities, and, as mentioned above, new activities are a great way to find new friends.  A D&D friend might become one of your closest friends.

* Measuring up

One thing that comes up, over and over, in my relationships is this idea of measuring up.  Sure, these people like me—but what if they like me because I’m well-read?   What happens if they discover some essential thing that I haven’t read yet, and they decide I’m not worth knowing after all?  I’m shaking my head a bit as I write because it sounds almost silly, but it is a real fear.  Since many of my new friends are much older than me, I’m constantly discovering books, skills, and experiences that they’re familiar with and I’ve never read/learned/encountered.  And yet, the age difference really brings this point into relief: they’ve had a lot more time to accumulate those experiences, and they don’t think any less of me because I haven’t had those experiences.  So instead of obsessing over the idea that I haven’t read enough yet, I ask them about things they’ve read, and my to-read list grows (and grows and grows).

We each bring our unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, and experiences to relationships.  I’m learning to appreciate my friends’ strengths without feeling like I have to have the same strengths in order to be a worthy friend.  Maybe it’s a smidge selfish of me—I enjoy teaching, and there’s nothing to teach if everyone knows the same things I do.  But I also enjoy learning, and I love having friends who want to teach me about the things they love.  So I acknowledge the “oh god I’m inadequate” feeling and then I move on—there’s so much left to learn.

 

Summing up:

This is really just a description of part of my journey, but I hope that it is helpful for you on your own search.  If you have questions to ask or tips to contribute, please let me know in the comments.  And always remember that friendship is an ongoing process, not a simple destination—friendships are built out of shared experiences.

Some relevant articles:

* Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?

As a mid-20s introvert, I feel like I have already encountered many of the problems discussed in this article.

* I Know What You Think of Me

Can you control others’ opinions of you? Nope.  Are you perfect in their eyes?  Unlikely.  Do they like you anyway and choose to spend time with you?  Yup.

“Play Partner” or “Sure Shelter”: What gifted children look for in friendship 

This article helped me articulate what I’m looking for in friendships and how that ideal is different from the relationship I have with casual acquaintances.

 

This post is part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop – Gifted Friendships

hoagies gifted blog hop frienship

Why “I’m More Broken than You” isn’t a Fun Game

There is an enormously popular game that folks play in American culture. You’ve probably played it at some point in your life without even realizing it. In fact, I’d argue that it’s the single most popular game out there. Not soccer, not football, not basketball…

It’s the “I’m More Broken than You” game.

Never heard of it? Well, tell me if these sound familiar…

“Wow, I’m so achy after practice yesterday…”
“That’s nothing, I worked out afterwards, I can barely pick up my phone!”

Or…

“Ugh, I went to bed so late last night; I’m exhausted…”
“That’s okay, I only got three hours of sleep trying to finish that report. Sucks.”

As you can see, the “I’m More Broken than You” game (hereafter referred to as IMBtY) is a strange sort of one-upmanship that focuses on comparing negative situations. The ‘winner’ is the one who’s the worst off. IMBtY can manifest in situations outside of bodily complaints. I’ve witnessed people playing IMBtY with who’s more overworked, who has a shittier past, who struggles more to fit in—I just recently caught myself playing IMBtY over who had more debt!

So what’s going on here? Isn’t this just general bonding over complaints, misery loves company sort of stuff?

I argue that IMBtY is actually a fairly harmful habit, for the following reasons:

  • It encourages people to focus on the negative in their lives. Most of us have been heavily conditioned to avoid any behaviour that could seem like bragging. However, ‘bragging’ about how terrible something was slips under that radar.
  • It invalidates people’s experiences. If you were stuck in the ER waiting room for an hour, and someone plays ‘being stuck in the waiting room for four hours with a screaming baby, chances are you’re going to tell yourself to hush up because clearly your situation wasn’t that bad. Bad is relative, and your experience is still valid.
  • It can be used as a tool for shutting people out. If you’re not as broken as me, you can’t be in the club, or you’re somehow not really xyz. I’ve seen this in discussions about chronic illnesses, sexual orientation, gender, race—you name it.
  • It can encourage people to desire or seek out negative experiences. If someone belongs to a group, or feels they do, the sensation that they ‘don’t have it bad enough to actually be xyz’ can lead them to seek out bad situations, doubt themselves, or even commit self-sabotage. If you must be this broken to ride, some people are going to try and get there.
  • It can discourage people from seeking needed support/help. If some combination of the above two risks happen, that person is much less likely to seek the support/help they could legitimately benefit from, because of their impression that they ‘don’t have it bad enough’.

You’ll notice the strong connections to imposter syndrome and social comparison, and lesser ties to group dynamics and perfectionism.

These are serious ramifications for a speech habit so quickly taught by our culture. And it’s so easy to fall into, and hard to recognize as damaging in the first place.

If IMBtY is easy to fall into, it’s that much harder to climb out of. It’s a continual process—I’ve been working at it for over a year now, and still catch myself doing it sometimes.

If you want to get out of the game, here’s my two-cents:

Try to notice when you start playing IMBtY. Often times there’s a phrase that crops up that tends to signal your entry into the game. For me, it was “that’s okay”, as in, “that’s okay, I xyz other situation that can be seen as worse comparatively.” Once I made the connection and started cutting down on that phrase, it was both easier to notice when I was playing and easier to resist the impulse to play.

Let your friends know. Explain to your friends that you’re trying to break the IMBtY habit. Accountability can work wonders. If you’re comfortable with it, enlist their help to (kindly) point out when they notice you straying into IMBtY territory. (My partner is very good at spotting IMBtY language and has helped me become much more aware of it myself.)

Call yourself on it. Once you begin to recognize when you’re playing, understand that you won’t catch yourself 100% of the time. (That’s not how breaking habits work.) When you do notice a slip, don’t beat yourself up over it. (Easier said than done, I know.) Instead, acknowledge that you noticed the IMBtY territory and that you’re actively trying to lessen how often you go there.

With time and practice, we can knock IMBtY from its place as most commonly played game in America. And perhaps if we work really hard, we can replace it with hockey. Definitely hockey.

In Which I Owe My Brain an Apology

Dear Brain,

I owe you an apology. I misled you for several months while operating on inaccurate data. As I’ve started my own business, you’ve been fantastic at working with me to push through resistance and get the work done. You’ve raised important points to consider and stuck by me. It’s only fair that I address my accidental misleading, why it happened, and what things’ll be like moving forward.

Remember a few months ago, when we started doing that really hard step in the business? The one that caused physical anxiety, that we worked so hard on the soft aspects so we could even do it in the first place. The one that I promised you wouldn’t have to do anymore once we got our first client?

… Yeah, I was wrong. Turns out we have to do that step for a little while longer still.

I know that totally wasn’t the deal. I know that you didn’t sign up to do the hard thing ad nauseum, and I want you to know that you most definitely do not have to do the hard thing forever. But we do have to do it for a bit longer.

Why? Well frankly I fucked up the math. I miscalculated how much we’d need to set aside for the winter. One client leaves us with a much tighter budget than I thought we’d have. Also, I was wrong to set a time-bound deadline for this that was dependent on other people’s actions.

(That same reason is why the goal to get two clients a month was a terrible goal—because I can’t control other people. Victory conditions that require someone else to say yes are a recipe for disaster. See also, the February breakdown.)

So what does that mean for you now? Well, in brief, you gotta do the hard thing for a bit more. Why? Because that path is closest to survival right now. Because we want to move forward, not go back to where we were.

Yeah, I know it sucks. For how long? I know saying ‘for as long as it takes’ would be super unhelpful, so I won’t. As far as I can currently tell—and I’m giving the warning now that this might change as more information comes in—the victory conditions are as follows:

  • $7k in savings
  • while paying all bills out of checking

Other important pieces of data:

  • We have begun taking steps towards overhauling the entire system so that eventually the hard thing can be dropped completely
  • If the system overhaul isn’t functional when we achieve victory conditions, then we hire someone to do the hard thing
  • Even after full-time work ends in August, you only have to do the hard thing twice a week
  • Starting in August, completing an assigned hard thing earns a reward (to be determined in August. Probably involves a book and a café.)

So that’s where we stand. I know having to do the hard thing is rough. I also know that you’ve done the hard thing while sleep dep’d. Or feeling down. Or anxious to the point of trembling. Long story short, I know you can do this under worse conditions, and I know you can do it now.

Seriously, the faster we do this the faster we hit victory conditions and you can stop.

Come on, my gorgeous workhorse of a brain, let’s rock the shit outta this. If only because I know you can <3

Your eternal full-bodied lover,

Me

A Gifted Fairytale / Een Begaafd Sprookje

This story was written in Dutch and translated to English.

English version:

One day I was informed that my IQ was not just above average, as I had always assumed for the sake of convenience. The life-long struggle between inferiority and pure megalomania was settled in favor of the me-ga-lo-ma-nia. Ha! I’m gifted. The doctor told me so. Ha!

But the insidious Inferiority summoned the much loved Logic and Reason. In all likelihood, most people around me were somewhere in the top 20% in terms of IQ. A little juggling with some numbers, and instantly I was a whole lot dumber again. Of course such and such and such were much smarter than me. Before Megalomania could even recover a little bit from this attack, nearly all friends and relatives, acquaintances and colleagues were on a list of suspects. If I was gifted, then surely they were too! Megalomania made one last, feeble, attempt at negotiating for control by promising false modesty. But to no avail…

Luckily Logic and Reason had always remained impartial and saw no problem in helping Megalomania as well. Google gave explanations of why giftedness might not have always manifested itself. Researching the difficulties of giftedness, Depression relished. All that untapped potential was nipped in the bud by itself. A snake that eats its own tail. Nothing could be done about it! “Sit back and pity yourself…”

The alliance between Inferiority and Depression! Megalomania had completely forgotten about that and therefore had just helped Depression in taking control. But Megalomania would not be megalomania if it would give up because of that: tired of the struggle, but still willing to fight back on the road to ruin. Help was called for, once again.

The version of Help that Inferiority had selected, was replaced by a version that Megalomania had carefully chosen. This version of Help specialized in giftedness. Help had to sort it out by itself, because Megalomania was dying.

Help tried by by telling stories about giftedness. That soon woke up Enthusiasm and Passion. Because of all the noise they were making Intuition was also awoken. Enthusiasm, Passion and Intuition were extremely happy to see each other again. How long had they been asleep? The last thing they remembered was an argument between Insecurity and Enthusiasm. To settle the argument Insecurity had called for Logic and Reason. They had decided that love and approval had to continue to pour in, for the good of everyone. Therefore some of them had to stay quiet for a while. Enthusiasm, Passion and certainly Intuition did not agree, but Logic and Reason were so strong together that perhaps only Self-confidence would be able to stay upright. But only if it pimped itself a bit.

While Enthusiasm, Passion and Intuition were trying to reconstruct how the situation was before they fell asleep, Self-confidence crawled from the remains of Megalomania with difficulty: “I’m so happy to see you all again. It’s been such a struggle the last 30 years!” Self-confidence started looking around: “If I’m not mistaken, the only ones that are still missing are Creativity and Courage…” Could they still be asleep?

Dutch version:

Op een dag werd mij meegedeeld dat mijn IQ niet gewoon boven het gemiddelde lag, zoals ik gemakshalve altijd had aangenomen. De levenslange strijd tussen een inferioriteits complex en de pure megalomanie was beslecht ten voordele van de me-ga-lo-ma-nie. Ha! Ik ben hoogbegaafd. De dokter heeft het gezegd. Ha!

Maar de geniepige Inferioriteit riep de zeer geliefde Logica en Ratio bij zich. Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid zaten de meeste mensen uit mijn omgeving wel ergens in de bovenste 20% qua IQ. Even goochelen met wat cijfertjes en ik was meteen alweer een heel stuk dommer. Het kon toch ook niet anders of die en die en die waren veel slimmer dan mij. Voor de Megalomanie nog maar een beetje kon recupereren van deze mep, stonden bijna alle vrienden en familieleden, kennissen en collega’s al op een verdachtenlijst. Als ik hoogbegaafd was, dan waren zij dat allicht ook! Megalomanie deed nog een slappe poging in onderhandelen met Inferioriteit door valse bescheidenheid te beloven. Het mocht niet baten…

Gelukkig waren Logica en Ratio altijd onpartijdig gebleven. Ze wilden ook Megalomanie gerust wel een handje helpen. Google bracht verklaringen van waarom de hoogbegaafdheid zich niet altijd had kunnen manifesteren. Depressie kon haar hartje ophalen. Al dat onbenut potentieel werd door zichzelf in de kiem gesmoord. Een slang die haar eigen staart opeet. Er was niets aan te doen! “Ga lekker zitten en beklaag uzelf…”

De alliantie tussen Inferioriteit en Depressie! Megalomanie was ze helemaal uit het oog verloren. Ze had Depressie in de kaarten gespeeld. Maar ze zou geen Megalomanie zijn als ze zich daar zomaar bij zou neerleggen: moegestreden, maar bereid om nog enkele rake klappen uit te delen op weg naar de ondergang. Er werd Hulp ingeroepen, voor de zoveelste keer.

De versie van Hulp die Inferioriteit had geselecteerd, werd vervangen door een versie die Megalomanie zorgvuldig had uitgezocht. Deze versie van Hulp was gespecialiseerd in hoogbegaafdheid. Hulp moest het verder zelf maar uitzoeken, want Megalomanie was op sterven na dood.

Hulp probeerde, door verhalen over hoogbegaafdheid te vertellen. Enthousiasme en Gedrevenheid werden hier algauw door gewekt. Ze maakten zoveel lawaai dat ook Intuïtie wakker werd. Enthousiasme, Gedrevenheid en Intuïtie waren extreem blij elkaar terug te zien. Hoe lang hadden ze wel niet geslapen? Het laatste dat ze zich herinnerden was een ruzie tussen Onzekerheid en Enthousiasme. Onzekerheid had er Logica en Ratio bijgehaald. Deze twee beslisten dat liefde en goedkeuring moesten blijven binnenstromen, dit voor het welzijn van iedereen. Daartoe moest een aantal onder hen zich een tijdje gedeisd houden. Enthousiasme, Gedrevenheid en zeker Intuïtie waren niet akkoord, maar Logica en Ratio waren samen zo sterk dat misschien alleen Zelfzekerheid zich zou kunnen rechthouden. Als hij zichzelf wat oppompte dan toch.

Terwijl Enthousiasme, Gedrevenheid en Intuïtie de situatie van voor ze sliepen probeerden te reconstrueren, kwam Zelfzekerheid een beetje verder moeizaam uit de resten van Megalomanie gekropen: “Ik ben zo blij jullie allemaal terug te zien. Het is wat geweest de laatste 30 jaar!” Zelfzekerheid keek eens goed rond: “Als ik me niet vergis ontbreken enkel Creativiteit en Durf nog…” Zouden die nog slapen?

Sensitivity, Awakening of the Healer, Rituals, and Mindfulness

Alternate title: Let’s talk about how feeling like you are losing your mind may be totally not death in the medium run especially if you are brave enough to want to help people. Also, some observations about the awesomeness of quietly staring at a wall.

Disclaimer: I have such mixed feeling about this. Totally not on board with the spiritual realm stuff and kinda loving the rest. Especially the positive interpretation of sensitivity and the need for rituals (or patterns or systems or habits).

Inspired by: The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

Favorite quote: “Those who develop so-called mental disorders are those who are sensitive, which is viewed in Western culture as oversensitivity. Indigenous cultures don’t see it that way and, as a result, sensitive people don’t experience themselves as overly sensitive.”

Also ties into: Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and Overexcitabilities, and Josh’s take on it.

What are your favorite positive interpretation of sensitivity and emotional intensity?

So, while we are on rituals, I am really excited about doing mindfulness again after a five year gap.

My nascent mindfulness ritual:

I noticed a couple of month ago that coaching was going great with existing tribe and people I talk with on the internet, but new people were really scary and I could manage about 1 or 2 calls a week before it took most of my attention for that span of days.  So in the interest of not running away from my coaching adventure, I started looking at ways to better manage my reactions to new things and uncertainty.

For me, 4-8 minutes of meditation every morning has been doing A LOT to curb anxiety and stay grounded.

Since the book I originally picked up said to do 5 minutes longer than you are comfortable with, I started at 5 minutes in May, and am now at 10 minutes.  Pema Chodron is quickly becoming a favorite and I am enjoying her books on “Living with Uncertainty,” and “Start Where You Are.”  She also has Audible books.

A few observations on starting to meditate daily:

I am at a month and a half of doing this, and it still always feels like I am thinking, and it still helps me with staying centered that day even though it feels like I am doing it wrong.  If I check my email first, I usually miss that day.

Journaling is optional except to record that I meditated.  Some days I write, and sometimes I have 7 minutes flat before my first client or class call.  If you want to try this and are really pressed for time, you can start with a minute a day.

Right now starting a practice of sitting daily feels like the best self care choice I made in a very long time and it is adding to both available spoons and baseline cope!

What rituals (or patterns or systems or habits) help you smooth-out your experience of reality?

What rituals or systems are you curious about trying in the future?

Learning to Play at Nerd Camp

At my first Beyond IQ, one of the other adults commented to me, that when you put a group of socially-awkward gifted kids in a room together, they will socialize and play, with few signs of awkwardness.  That struck a cord with me, because I remember my own difficulties integrating into my school playground.  It seemed like most of the other kids formed social groups and played well together effortlessly.  Not without friction or conflict, but the basic process seemed organic.  For me it wasn’t — I felt like socially, I had two left feet.  Some kids played soccer… I didn’t know the rules, and I didn’t like to run, but I knew that the game was missing one thing that I always saw in adult sporting events: a commentator!  You can imagine how things went, when I tried to join the game in that capacity.  Not well.  I remember pacing the perimeter of the playground, hoping to be “beamed up” to a starship, or someplace that made more sense.  While other kids played, I had to learn how to play… [Read more...]

Dark intense nights of numbness, pain, and isolation.

Everything below comes with a trigger warning.  It has strong currents of isolation, depression and anxiety.  I am both talking about raw painful things and poking rather hard at those who are reading.

The theme is pushing through trauma, pain, and uncertainty using a thought experiment to bring home how finite life is and sharpen the choices we make with an artificial time constraint.  The goal is to figure out what matters and what we would do with our time if it did not feel like there was time. (Hopefully without just having a panicked meltdown.)

I am trying to break through the protective numbness…

Through the lies about safety in hiding…

For all of us…

[Read more...]