Vol III, No 4 April 13, 2021
Being the Tree:Emotional OE is My Super Power
by Rebecca Farley
I confess: I’ve already fallen off the shower bus.

It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t be arsed; I just kinda forgot showers were a thing. Sure, in the middle of summer here in the sub-tropics, you’d think showers were THE thing, but apparently there’s nothing that can’t slip off the list, if enough other things come along. And I’m so f******g tired.

I mean, it did kinda bother me that I’m this tired, when “all” I do is a bit of homeschool (irregularly; badly), a bit of housework (ditto), and look after Mum three or four times a week. Many women do far more. Heck, my sister keeps in close touch with her adult children, keeps house immaculately, does Mum’s shopping, cooking, medicals, and spends more time with her, as well as working. SHE showers.

Of course, I also have a hefty mental load. Even with our slapdash approach to schooling, someone is always in my ear, talking about cow snake morphs, rapping, or wanting to start a blog. That occupies bandwidth along with figuring out what’s for dinner every night and making sure we have ingredients, knowing what time their piano lesson is, remembering when school holidays are, and that the cat’s nearly out of food.

But that’s still, all kind of normal, right? It’s what women do; otherwise, there wouldn’t be articles like this. And this. And, this.

But that last piece did something that bugged me, that you often see in stories about invisible labour: ignoring (or ignorant of) the term’s origins, Hartley uses ‘emotional labour’ to describe the process of finding a cleaner.

Which, okay, it can be, especially if you’re ADHD, socially anxious, bone-sappingly tired, or ashamed of needing someone else to clean your house. She wasn’t talking about that, though. In fact, she wasn’t talking at all about what I think of as emotional labour, which is the heavy lifting you do all day, every day, when someone, or everyone, in the house, has emotional overexcitability.

The flare of excitement today when we saw our first Red Triangle slug in the gutter where we’d parked; the urgency of looking it up. So big! So white! Such strange markings!
The huge tension when we tried (and failed) to rescue the slug, because left there the poor thing wasn’t safe.

The several reassurances that I’d back up to leave, rather than drive forward and ‘murder’ the slug.

The processing, afterwards. Curiosity, made-up explanatory stories, worry.
For everything, all the time.

So Nana’s diabetes diagnosis isn’t just about the extra mental load of figuring out her new diet; it’s also conversations about death and care and making the most of the time we have left, when I’d really rather hide in my room, processing alone.

Getting someone to do some math is not just about figuring out what they have to do and finding resources; it’s also about coaching them through the anxiety about doing it and, simultaneously, the anxiety about the consequences if they don’t—whilst keeping my own anxiety/frustration at bay.

Now apply that last para to teeth-brushing, housework, pet care, showers, projects, bedtime, going out, staying in, and any purchases anyone might wish to make.
A highly sensitive, highly anxious kid needing a tooth pulled? That took four months of talk, to get them through the door. FOUR MONTHS. And then two days’ processing afterwards.

Calmly identifying sources of conflict, coaching people to communicate their needs respectfully, translating offenses taken, accusations, or refusals for those whose words fail them – when it’s been TWELVE YEARS, dear gods why are we not there already?! – that’s emotional labour.

Keeping an eye out for the quicksand, negotiating around it, or being the tree someone grabs onto to haul themselves out – that’s emotional labour.

Holding myself firm in this moment, wilfully forgetting what should happen, or could happen based on what did happen last week, or, god forbid, what I WANT to happen, and above all, not losing my shit when it’s midnight and we’ve been at it for two hours already – THAT’S emotional labour.

That is what I do all day, and that is why I am so f******g tired.

(Rather wonderfully, when I messaged Dr Christiane Wells to ensure I understood emotional overexcitability, she replied, “Dabrowski wrote about fatigue as associated with having OE, and that’s something that’s not well-known – it’s something you see in his early work in Polish. Being ‘emotionally exhausted’ is something that happens in people with emotional OE.”)

So that’s it: a solid, bona-fide reason for this thumping, colossal, astronomical fatigue, because this work is not optional. It’s constant, it’s exhausting, and while I’m no master, I am – yeah. I’m gonna say it: I’m actually, pretty bloody good at it.

The nice thing is, if you’ve read this far and you have any inkling what I’m on about – any inkling whatsoever? Then you’re good at it, too.

Rebecca Farley is a recovering academic. She taught media and cultural studies for ten years and helped edit the journals Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media and Social Semiotics. During that time, she was also busy earning her BA, BA(Hons), and MA from the University of Queensland; a post-graduate certificate in education from the University of Portsmouth; and a PhD on play and power from Cardiff University. She is married to a man with an equal number of tertiary qualifications.
None of this, however, prepared her in any way for parenting a pair of bright, intense school-refusers. After six years of daily battle, Rebecca finally accepted that this might be a wiring issue rather than a behavioural one. She now writes about the journey of learning about her kids’ various intensities, remembering her own diagnosed giftedness, finding an online community and a local homeschooling tribe, and readjusting every single last one of her life’s expectations. Rebecca and her family live in Brisbane, Queensland, and none of them have ever overthought anything.

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FROM THE EDITOR
What’s your superpower? In 2019, I was honored to be one of the keynote speakers for the annual Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted conference, and I spoke on being the superhero you need. Even after that, I’m not confident I know what my actual superpower is. I do have a superhero theme...first 38 seconds of this and of course it’s a band piece. Have you even met me? If pressed, I’d probably agree with this month’s featured blogger that emotional intensity is my superpower. Rebecca Farley writes so plaintively about emotional intensity and the hidden emotional labor so many parents, mainly moms, must manage with and for their G2e kids. I am intimately familiar with the utter exhaustion she describes and needed a nap after reading what she’s written.

After enjoying this month’s Journey, head on over to the GHF Forum. You can learn about the inaugural 2021 GHF Gifted Home Education Conference coming in June, get more info on Zoom coffee chats, and discover new resources. Who knows, you might even discover others who complement you and form a cohort of superheroes, theme music to be determined.

Have a wonderful April!

--Jen
Jen Merrill is a writer, music educator, and gifted-family advocate. The mom of two boys, she homeschooled one twice-exceptional son through high school while happily sending the other out the door every morning. Her book, If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?, struck a nerve with families; her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and selfcare, is in progress. In addition to writing on her longtime blog, Laughing at Chaos, Jen has presented at SENG, NAGC, and WCGTC.

Jen brings both her acquired wisdom and her experience as a teacher and mentor to her work in the service of parents, teaching them techniques and mentoring them into their own versions of success. Her goal is to support parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. It is her hope that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children.
GHF® CHOICES: DIY Education
Most of us have watched DIY shows on TV. Handy peopleinvite us to watch their creative approach to their current project. Have you noticed that the bigger the project, the more help they need? These folks consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help.

Your project is your child's education, with the goal of helping them learn what they need to become independent adults. Our kids may engage in higher education, trade school, careers, volunteer work, or go down a host of other paths, but our job is to help them be as prepared as possible to reach for their goals.

Homeschoolers do not DIY with only their own wits and limited materials. Homeschool parents are some of the most resourceful people in the world. They consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help. Sound familiar?
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GHF® DIALOGUE


By Matthew J. Zakreski, PsyD


The power of “that sucks.” I’m a big fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation. In one of the later episodes, Chris Trager (played by the indomitable Rob Lowe) is trying to meet every single possible need of his very pregnant girlfriend Ann Perkins (played by the fabulous Rashida Jones). He makes smoothies, rubs her feet, and basically takes care of every task around the house. He is the perfect gentleman and boyfriend.

And Ann is wildly frustrated by that fact.

It doesn’t make sense. Chris is doing everything. He’s helping! How could Ann possibly be upset by someone who is literally doing everything that she could ask for? But Ann reveals to her coworkers (who later tell Chris) that all his efforts are making her feel useless and incapable of solving her problems. When he rushes off to address her every need, she feels that are feelings are invalidated. Chris’s coworkers say to him that all Ann really needs to hear are the two magic words: That sucks. 
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Even the most experienced teachers often know little about the challenges their gifted and twice-exceptional students face. Misinformation abounds, and well-intentioned in-class solutions can backfire. How can teachers support the educational and social needs of these unique learners while still addressing the needs of all their other students?

In Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift Up Our Twice-Exceptional Children, author Kelly Hirt outlines 12 strategies that teachers and parents can use to design a supportive, safe, and encouraging learning environment for twice-exceptional students. Using these strategies, educators can work with parents and students to create an educational experience in which all of their students can thrive and excel.
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GHF connects all sorts of people who love gifted learners. We offer both family and professional memberships to support and encourage adults working to create new ways of educating gifted learners. Our members educate gifted and twice-exceptional kids, whether it's traditional homeschooling, running homeschool co-ops and micro-schools, finding a fit in public, private or charter schools, or a combination. Many write to foster understanding of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, mentor students one-on-one, teach online classes, provide services specifically designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, and more. All are finding their way on the gifted and 2e path, and we hope to provide community for us, across the lifespan. Wed love for you to join us.

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