[If you dislike preambles, jump to the bold text.]

What follows are some thoughts from my recent outing to go see P. Sue Jackson’s Rise documentary. I’ve seen it before – I own a copy and have had a few screenings of it with folks – but watching it in that sort of group setting provoked a lot of thoughts, by which I mean I kept on almost leaping out of my seat with different inspirations or half-formed plans that I wanted to write down. And I guess that’s the point.

[This is the part where I contextualize… trying to explain why I’m even saying any of this. It’s a reflex to mitigate the layers of defense that protect me on the interface between wanting to always pour my heart and soul out to people and try to connect from and to the core, and a lifetime of weighing the stats on how that goes. That sentence’s convolutions are the smallest sample of the internal convolutions that go along with the process, and that process is deeply recursive.]

So there’s a subset of people who are weird. I mean weird “make fun of them in school” weird, but also mean weird “let’s burn these people at the stake because they are deeply unsettling” weird and “let’s celebrate but stereotype these people so we can both ridicule and admire them if we have to acknowledge that they are weird” weird.

Rather than go into an academic discussion on the relative merits and demerits of the languaging of “Giftedness” attached to this community, I’m going to try to describe my experience, as I’ve been thinking a lot about this. About my own reactions to using the term, my hesitations that stem from knowing how deeply the term triggers different people in different directions. About how to more successfully leap the hurdles I put in my own way around hubris, imposter syndrome, and alienation.

When I try to write for others, I sometimes spend an hour on a sentence. In the text above, I’ve spent time researching everything from the best way to make elegant collapsible text for my preambles to tracing the etymology of the phrase “Dancing about Architecture” through Costello all the way back to a 1918 quote about “singing about economics”, then deciding not to use the quote after all.

When I write purely for myself, the computer keyboard becomes a musical instrument and the yinyang of light and shadow come pouring forth, smashing the dike of my reservations, sonic booming past my internal critic into the free open space where I don’t have to explain each thought and can let my words weave nets that capture truths that matter to me.

So: in that latter spirit, here’s what this experience is like for me.

I’m on fire. Almost all the time, I’m on fire, and this way of seeing it frees me, because there’s less fear of being taken as boasting… why would someone want to be on fire. But I am on fire, and I do want to be on fire, and that’s good because I don’t know how not to be on fire.  I burn with a desire to change the world and expand and improve as a person, and to understand the nature of the universe and to connect fully with everyone around me, and those twine together and spiral out into so many areas that I can’t walk down the street or listen to a song without a half-dozen different ideas spinning out. At times it’s incredibly exciting, and at times it’s terribly lonely, and at times it’s frightening or hopeless, and it’s often overwhelming and it’s something I cherish.

Sitting, watching Rise and talking to the other parents who were there who are trying to navigate how to caretake the flames they see in their children, I was struck by the everyday tragedy of distance: that there are so many people on fire who have learned to shield themselves and others from exposing that flame too much, and in so doing deprive the world of their light and warmth.

I had the luck of being part of a great conflagration of sparks as the 80s Elementary school outliers found each other and formed a community the likes of which I’ve never seen again, though I’ve seen glimmers of it. As I aged, I accidentally left the forgefire heat that community provided, and through the totally unique and utterly common tragedies, drudgeries and details of life I spend less time feeding my fire.

And here I’ve been, in Adams’ uncharted backwaters of the galaxy, missing the Galactic core of embers. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a non-binary system with another burning soul in an orbit which includes a steadfast commitment that we always “lean in” – finding the terrifying, challenging spots in our own growth, sharing them and supporting each other in becoming whoever we are.

And together we’ve helped bring about two new firebringers with that burning blessingcurse. And as the hurlyburly of preschool shifts into the more roomy maelstrom of being an Elementary School parent, I’m waking up to the need to model courageously what it looks like to be willing to shine – to wallow in the messiness of creation, to not let my own fears of failure stop me from failing spectacularly and forward, to be sure to stock up on the experiential fuel that feeds me and give enough oxygen to the results that they don’t stagnate.

So: I’m committing to take the plunge into more interesting failure. Instead of polishing my image and tending my brand, I’m going to fingerpaint on a bigger canvas, and it’s going to be messy. And really fun.

A key part of that is figuring out how to play with others again. The squarepeg superpower I’m working on developing is the ability to say “Hey – wanna play Robot Spiders?” and have the other kids say “I don’t even know what that means” – and keep on finding new kids, and keep on asking.