Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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The Lonely World of the Gifted Adult — Too Smart, Too Sensitive, Too Emotional, Too Curious

photo courtesy of Danny via Unsplash

It is part of the mythology of giftedness that super smart people have it made. That they are successful, rich, and appreciated for their cleverness. That they don’t really need much companionship because they are totally content in their labs studying fruit flies or in the library immersed in piles of books on obscure philosophical theories.

In my experience, this is not the case. These adults are often lonely. Granted, I’m a psychotherapist. Most of the gifted clients I see have lived through some sort of childhood trauma. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of the non-traumatized gifted souls among us would be telling me similar tales.

When you have a rainforest mind, it can be hard to find others who truly, deeply get you.

Some examples:

~ You are at your job, being conscientious, and caring. It is important to you that your coworkers are respected and understood. You feel responsible to both the organization and the humans you  supervise. Meetings are challenging. You problem solve quickly and typically end up waiting for the group to catch up. You grow tired of explaining what is obvious to you. At your evaluation, your boss tells you that coworkers say you are arrogant, condescending, and judgmental. Your boss is intimidated by you. You slow your speech and smile more. You don’t share your innovative ideas or your questions. You leave homemade gluten-free cookies in the staff room. It doesn’t help.

~ You are in graduate school. You were so excited to join what was supposed to be a cohort of deeply intellectual lovers of research and thinkers of complex ideas.  But your advisor no longer cares. He has tenure and has lost interest in academic pursuits and in you. The politics within your department is disturbing. You wonder how there can be peace on earth when your colleagues in academia can’t even agree on the schedule for the next term. You feel bereft. No one shares your curiosity and your enthusiasm for Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, quarks, Bach, the universe, and everything.

~ You are highly intuitive. You have been an empath since you were quite young. You feel a responsibility to help others. It is hard to know if friends are attracted to you for you or if they just want you to help them heal their emphysema or contact their dead Uncle George. It is hard to have simple relationships because you can sense what others are feeling and they either put you on a pedestal or they avoid you. If you haven’t been able to set healthy boundaries because you have been told that you have a gift and are responsible for sharing it, you may overwork and ignore your body’s distress signals.

~ You have a deep sense of social responsibility. It is hard not to obsess about the level of suffering that you see all around the world. Your friends and relatives tell you to lighten up and stop worrying so much. But every time an extreme weather event happens somewhere or you see another homeless person, your heart breaks.

~ You are the parent of a gifted child. This child is bursting with energy, questions, curiosity, and emotion. You can’t keep up with them and are exhausted at the end of the day. You feel a deep sense of responsibility to raise a compassionate, sensitive human. To give your child what you did not get. Finding an appropriate school has been grueling. Other parents think it is easy to raise such a smart child. It is not.

Can you relate to any of these examples? Many of them?

What can you do about the loneliness you feel?

You can read these other blog posts. I’ve written about this before. There are things that you can do.

For today, though, I want to share the words of the courageous RFM, Charles Eisenstein. You’ll want to read the entire article. He presents a fascinating perspective on living consciously in today’s world. The quote below is particularly uplifting and spiritually sensitive.

You are not alone.

“The beings we have excluded from our reality, the beings we have diminished in our perception into non-beings, they are still there waiting for us. Even with all my inherited disbelief (my inner cynic, educated in science, mathematics, and analytic philosophy, is at least as strident as yours), if I allow myself a few moments of attentive quiet, I can feel those beings gathering. Ever hopeful, they draw close to the attentiveness. Can you feel them too? Amid the doubt, maybe, and without wishful thinking, can you feel them? It is the same feeling as being in a forest and suddenly realizing as if for the first time: the forest is alive. The sun is watching me. And I am not alone.”     Charles Eisenstein

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To my bloggEEs: Of course, I feel less alone because I have you! Thank you so much for being here. Let us know about your experiences of loneliness and what soothes you and how you find people (and spiritual guides? Nature? the Force? higher consciousness? intuitive visions? God? ) who get you. Do you have a spiritual practice/belief where you can feel connected?

My new book is almost here! It will launch near the end of June. Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be announcing it there first. (and here, of course) You will now have your favorite blog posts in a book (a love letter to you) to soothe your lonely soul.

 


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New Book Coming Soon! More Guidance for Your Overthinking, Sensitive, Curious, Gifted Self

My next book is almost here!

What? A new book? What’s it about? you might ask.

Well. This one came from you.

You have asked that my blog to be turned into a book. You have wanted my posts to be organized by topic. You have needed more specific suggestions on how to deepen your understanding of your complexities. You have wanted a companion to my first book: A book that is a faster, more light-hearted read. One that your relatives, friends, teachers, and your therapists might be more willing to peruse to gain a greater understanding of your rainforest-mindedness.

Well, my darlings, your book is almost here. I wanted you to be the first to know. It doesn’t replace Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. That book is my first child. And it is still the in-depth look at giftedness in adults and youth, via case studies and stories of real rainforest-minded humans, with lots of resources for further study. This new book contains my most popular blog posts from 2014-2018 along with journal-writing and other suggestions to take you further into your inner worlds.

I’m going indie with this one, with the help of Luminare Press here in Eugene, Oregon, USA, so it will be available in paper and ebook on Amazon. But you will be able to order it from your favorite independent bookstore, too. I’m hoping to launch before the end of June 2019.

I’ll announce the birth launch here and on social media as soon as it’s available for purchase. And thank you, in advance, for your rave reviews and for buying copies for your parents, teenagers, cousins, teachers, neighbors, and therapists. Of course, if you still don’t have my first book, it is not too late! Both books together make a fine comprehensive, complimentary pair. (and now my first book has that fabulous cover)

And so, my dear bloggEEs, thank you, as always, for your sensitivity, intensity, curiosity, intuition, idealism, creativity, courage, intellect, failures, doubts, fears, hopes, questions, dreams, and awarenesses. Thank you for joining me in this fascinating adventure. Much love to each of you.


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“Beam Me Up, Scotty.” Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart, Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Dino Reichmuth, Unsplash

Remember this from Star Trek? “Beam me up, Scotty.” Sometimes don’t you just want to be beamed up?

Me, too.

Why?

Super Sensitivity. Extreme Empathy. Pressure. Expectations. Overthinking. Perfectionism. Intuition. Loneliness. Social responsibility. Bad Hair Days.

Not to mention childhood trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Despair. Climate change. Ignorance. Racism. anti-Semitism. Sexism. Poverty. Narcissistic politicians. And more.

It can be overwhelming. You can feel powerless.

What can one person do? Even one super smart, sensitive, empathetic person?

Here’s an idea. Something you can do.

Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you. 

Here are some examples. Places to start:

~ Have you heard of the Craftivist Collective? They describe themselves this way: “Our gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.” A similar group is called Badass Herstory. Check them out. I had no idea that craftivism was a thing until a client told me about it. Join them or start a different collective. Maybe a Solar Power Collective or a Gleaners Group. (You just might meet other RFMs there!)

~ I’m guessing that you know about Maria Popova and Brain Pickings. Imagine making a living researching and writing about everything you are curious about with no limits on depth and complexity. She has almost 5 million followers on Facebook. Who says there aren’t any super smart people out there?? Is she influential? You betcha.

~ Start a Silent Book Club in your town. Here’s their description. “We started Silent Book Club because reading with friends is awesome. We love hearing about what people are reading (often in their other book clubs) and we think it’s important to put down our phones and be social. Real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social.” Maybe this doesn’t sound like a service project but you never know who you might be saving from despair or desperation. Spreading the love of reading has got to be a good thing.

~ Start a mentorship program in your local middle school. Then let it spread throughout your school district.

~ Get involved with an organization helping refugees around the world.

~ Use art as a way to influence others. Explore organizations that promote the power of art such as this one: … persuade by creating moving experiences that prompt people to question the world as it is, imagine a world as it could be, and join together to make that new world real…”

~ Join with climate activists in your state to find out how to take action that will influence policy and promote real change. Read DeMocker’s book for many suggestions on how to begin.

~ Choose to do some deep psychotherapy around family of origin behaviors, patterns, and beliefs. Stop the cycle of abuse in your family line. Find your strength and your voice so that you can relate to others from your own self-compassionate place.

~ Start a blog and write a book. Become a psychotherapist and work with rainforest-minded souls.

And, remember.

You’ll need nourishment and nurturing so that you can build your social responsibility plan. Here is some good advice from Maria Popova.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”   Maria Popova

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To my dearest bloggEEs: What people, ideas, and books “magnify your spirit?” Let us know your feelings around social responsibility and if you have project ideas that you want to explore. (Note: I will be deleting any comments that are rants, even though there is a lot to rant about, or that call out specific individuals or political parties. Thank you for understanding.) Sending you all much love and spirit magnification.

 


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Managing Your Young Gifted Child’s (And Your) Emotional Intensity

photo courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash

You would think that a super smart person would be cool, calm, and collected. Capable of handling emotion when it infrequently and inconveniently trickled out. Analytically above the fray. Lost in thought about bosons, quarks, and string theory. Logical. Not particularly emotionally expressive.

You would think.

But the gifted children and grownups that I know, well, they have EMOTIONS. Their capacity for intense, deep, effervescent feeling is enormous. Granted, if they are males, this sensitivity often goes underground when they reach adolescence. (For more on this, go here.) But if you are raising a gifted little boy, you know what I’m talking about. EMOTIONS. People are just a bit more understanding when our girls express emotion. But, if females are too passionate, too angry, too critical, too sad, too joyful, or too assertive, well, that is also seen as unacceptable.

You have probably heard about Dabrowski’s study of giftedness and his explanation of overexcitabilities (OEs). He said that it is part of the nature of a gifted person to have intensities in many areas, including emotion, sensation, intellect, psychomotor, and imagination.

So, you can relax. You haven’t ruined your children.  And you aren’t an anomaly. Or a weirdo. There’s just a lot going on in the rainforest. A LOT.

So, what can you do?

Start with self-understanding. Your emotions are an important part of who you are. Make time to nourish yourself. Soothe your anxiety. Calm your nervous system. Find others who appreciate your depth. Remember that you have a rainforest mind which means that you are highly sensitive with high expectations and standards for your behavior. Then you can stay calmer when your child’s emotions are splashing around or bursting out in embarrassing ways at the restaurant, or the library, or in front of your in-laws.

Acknowledge your child’s emotions so that your child feels seen and understood. After that, it will be easier to problem solve with your child and to set appropriate limits and boundaries.  “I see that you’re feeling frustrated right now because you can’t get what you want.” “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about that.” “I hear you when you say that you’re ‘stupid’ because you didn’t do well on the test. Can you tell me more about that?” “I see that you’re mad and want to hit someone. Hitting is not OK. Use your words to tell me how you feel. I can help.” 

Try the container method. Explain to your child, during a calm period, how there are times when it is important to put big feelings into a container when it’s not safe or appropriate to express them. Then they can let the feelings out when they are safe at home. An eight-year-old I worked with decided he’d put his angry feelings into a coconut when he was in school where he was being bullied. On days when the coconut wasn’t enough, he’d reinforce it with diamonds and make it as large as a truck. When he arrived at home, he could draw pictures of his feelings and explain them to his parents.

Practice self-soothing strategies. A gifted child’s constant questions, verbal agility, and need for intellectual stimulation can be exhausting. Make a list of tools to calm your child and yourself. Tell your child that you are learning how to take good care of yourself, too.  Your child can even remind you when they notice you’re stressed. Slow breathing, calming music, positive self-talk, singing, getting out into nature, exercise, taking a bath, massage, essential oils, and listening to a story or podcast can help. There are meditation apps such as Insight Timer for when you get some alone time. See the resources below for more ideas. Your sensitive child will feel and may react when you are out-of-whack so you’ll want to stay in-whack as much as you can.

Get therapy if you are frequently over-reacting to your child’s intense emotions. If you’ve grown up with any kind of abuse, trauma, or neglect, you’ll likely be triggered by your child’s emotional outbursts, particularly when your child reaches an age when you experienced a traumatic event. It can be hard to find the right psychotherapist so give yourself time to shop around. There are some suggestions here. The School of Life in the UK is also a good resource.

More resources: If you only have time to read one book, I’d recommend Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. She writes about very specific issues that might not be addressed in general parenting books. If you have time for more, check out Mary Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child. Also Living with Intensity by Daniels and Piechowski. Psychologist Gail Post‘s blog. Tina Bryson and Dan Siegel’s books and websites. Tina Harlow and her free ebook: Helping Gifted Kids ThriveChristine Fonseca‘s book on emotional intensity. Facebook groups on parenting gifted and 2e kids.

It can be challenging to be the parent of a gifted child. You might be particularly hard on yourself and extra anxious and you may feel super responsible for all children everywhere because of your own rainforest mind. So hear me when I say that you really need to understand your own giftedness and make the time to nourish yourself. You will become a better parent, your children will benefit, and all children everywhere will thank you. 

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To my dear bloggEEs: If you are a parent, what ideas and resources have been helpful? What challenges have you faced?  If you are not a parent, what do you wish your parents had said to you or helped you with? What are your suggestions for parents of gifted children? As always, thank you for being here. And thank you to the family with the 8-year-old and the coconut.

 

 


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You Are Not Complaining. Being Gifted is a Gift. But It Can Also Be Terribly Lonely.

photo courtesy of Dexter Fernandes, Unsplash

You are not complaining. You are not saying it is awful to be a very smart person. Advanced intelligence is a fine thing. You know this. You are grateful for it. Being gifted is, well, a gift.

It’s just that, oh, it’s complicated.

It is not all easy street.

There are serious misunderstandings. Communication chasms. Damaging misdiagnoses. Long excruciating periods of boredom/waiting. Hyper-awareness. Piles of responsibility. Nonstop thinking. Teeming emotion. Disabling perfectionism. Excessive worry. Astonishing intuition. Unquenchable thirst for learning. Pressure to always know the right answer. Impostor syndrome. Expectations to be super smart in all things. Multiple complicated sensitivities. More boredom/waiting. Anxiety. Depression. Despair.

Intolerable loneliness.

How do you cope in the classroom when none of the other students care about learning and you already know the material? How do you handle failure when everyone, including you, expects perfection? Who do you talk with about your frustrations with your clueless coworkers? How do you explain to your boss that you know how to run the company better than she does? How do you find solace when everyone relies on you for support? What do you do when you face a problem you can’t solve? What do you say when friends can’t keep up with you? How do you find a partner who loves your intensity and your fascination with quarks? What do you do when no one really gets you?

Who sympathizes with you when you are overwhelmed by too many interests? How do you set healthy boundaries when people are depending on you? Who do you talk to about the challenges of raising your gifted kids? How do you feel pride in your accomplishments when you are accused of being arrogant?  How do you find practitioners who know more than you do? How do you know when to reduce your intensity and when to go full speed ahead? How do you end human, animal, and plant suffering and resolve climate change? How do you deal with the shame that arises when you think you actually might be gifted?

I told you it was complicated.

So, what about the loneliness?

How do you tell someone that you are so lonely because you are smarter than everyone you know?

OK. That’s probably not a great idea.

But it may be the truth.

I remember listening to an interview with the gifted Maria Popova of Brain Pickings when she said,“… most of my friends are dead people.” Not unlike this statement from The School of Life: “…We may just have to accept that our best friends could have died 250 years ago – and be chatting to us via dabs of paint or within rhyming pentameters…”

Maybe you have also found solace and connection with dead writers, artists, and poets.

But I know that you can find living friends, too.

This is my collection of posts on ways to find living friends.

And if you are also looking for partnership?

Well. One final word.

The rainforest-minded writer, 60-something Anne Lamott, just married for the first time this year. Here is her advice: “If you’re paying attention and making your own life as beautiful and rich and fun as it can be, you might just attract someone who’s doing the same thing…Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle.”

And remember. You. Actually. Are. The. Miracle.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your quest for friends and partners. How do you find people who understand and love you? Are there activities or places or websites where you’ve found other rainforest minds? What are the challenges you’re experiencing?

One place to meet other rainforest minds is at the SENG conference, July 18-21, 2019, in Houston, Texas. I’ll be there presenting and would love to meet you!

 

 


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Self-Help for the Super Smart, Persnickety Perfectionist

(Apologies to Kondo fans, especially if she didn’t really say this.)

I know you. You are a deep thinker. Introspective. You seek growth, healing, and self-actualization. It is important for you to live a meaningful life and to contribute something to make the world better. You have strong perfectionist tendencies. Some might say you are persnickety or, on a bad day, well, impatient, demanding, and a little annoying.

It’s tricky, then, for you to find resources that can help you through the hard times. You have particular needs and tastes. The typical self-help books are too simplistic, repetitive, or predictable. Some make ridiculous claims. Or they are poorly written. Or they are written by people who are too pretty. With trust funds. Where the biggest trauma in their lives was not making the cheerleading squad. (No offense to cheerleaders, trust funds, or to pretty people.)

Maybe you finally find a self-help book or program that is written by someone who seems to have substance, complex ideas, and true compassion. But, then, you become disillusioned when you discover they live in a mega-mansion in Beverly Hills. Near Kim Kardashian.

What do you do? How do you find guidance that is valuable? Guidance that passes your rainforest-minded complexity test?

Here’s an idea:

Design your own custom-made self-help program. Take bits and pieces from many programs and combine them into a plan that works for you. Embrace the parts that make sense, reject the parts that don’t. Allow yourself to have a nonlinear approach where you are working on a few different projects at once. Just because, for example, mindfulness practices are the latest craze, there’s nothing wrong with you if you prefer tai chi or gardening or doing tai chi in your garden.

Here are some self-help programs and books that clients of mine have explored and combined:

Kristin Neff’s self-compassion model uses meditation, mindfulness, and journal writing. Seena Frost’s Soul Collage taps your creativity and intuition to design a personalized tarot-like deck of cards for deep processing of issues. Pema Chodron teaches a meditation technique called tonglen that reaches beyond the personal to the universal. Internal Family Systems is a model that guides you to identify and accept your many sub-personalities while deepening a connection to your higher Self. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is an oldie but goodie. Bibliotherapy recommends particular novels for insight into yourself. Larry Dossey’s One Mind can help you  explore a view of consciousness and spirituality. The app Insight Timer has many free guided meditations from which to choose plus a network of meditators.

Of course, there is always my book! (with the spiffy new cover) But you knew that. (Reviews on Amazon are greatly appreciated, by the way. Even very short imperfect ones.)

So, my dearest super smart, persnickety perfectionists, do not despair. There is a self-help plan that is right for you.

And, it includes keeping 30 books–on your nightstand.

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To my bloggEEs: What self-help tools have worked for you? How do you custom design plans to meet your complexity needs? Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.

I attended our town’s annual library used book sale today and picked up The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Ben Zander. I’ve just started it but it’s looking like another good resource.

Want to hear me talk? I’m presenting a webinar via SENG on April 30, 2019, 4:30 PST. Join me online for: The Complex, Contradictory, Creative, Crushing World of the Gifted Adult.

I’m also speaking in Houston, Texas at the SENG conference July 19-21, 2019. I’d love to meet you there.

 


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Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)

“…It was so humbling to acknowledge that as humans, we all seem to share the wound of not having felt loved just as we are! …Our deepest wounds call out to be faced, felt, made peace with, tenderly held and integrated so that we can allow our essence to fully penetrate our lives. We are invited into a spirituality that does not seek to transcend our pain but to fully feel, meet, and embrace all of our beautiful, raw, messy humanity…”                                      Science and Nonduality

There’s a whole lot of messy humanity out there these days. A whole lot. I must admit that it has me kinda discouraged, if you must know. It doesn’t help that I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. And when I’m sick, I can leap from anxiety into catastrophizing. It goes like this: Even though I know my body has bounced back from various illnesses, this time will be different. I’ll never recover from this and it’ll only get worse. In fact, I’ll become so disabled, I won’t be able to work. My income will dry up. My friends and family will abandon me and I’ll become a crochety homeless old bag lady with really bad hair. Then, the summer fire season will be upon us and my town will go up in flames and I will not have access to clean water or the internet and I will have to stop blogging. Life will lose all meaning…

It goes like that.

These days, sadly, I don’t have to be sick to feel anxious. I just listen to NPR. You know what I’m talking about. And if you are a highly sensitive, empathetic, smart person, which you know you are, then, you, too, are anxious. Maybe even catastrophizing. And you don’t even have the flu.

I get it.

I’m here to help.

First of all, as you may have noticed, the above quote is referring to each of us looking at our own “beautiful, raw, messy humanity.” And, I agree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard it many times. It’s an act of courage and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific analysis, bodywork, vision quests, shamanism, art-music-writing-dance, 12 Steps, political activism, prayer, tonglen, or, better yet, some combination of these things.

Of course, you’ll also need to recognize that you do, in fact, have a rainforest mind. You are going to need it. So accept it. Love it.

You heard me.

Then, look for people, organizations, books, and resources who are taking action to create a better world. This will remind you that you are not alone and will provide support for your own actions. There are lovely people out there who are making a difference. You can start with Mary DeMocker‘s excellent book The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution. And Rebecca Solnit‘s Hope in the Dark. You can also follow Solnit on Facebook. There are organizations that have a larger view of what’s possible like The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There are books helping you find your purpose(s) such as my book (with the new cover coming in a few days!!) and others.

Finally, if you find your purpose(s) and live that larger life, you are doing what you are here on the planet to do. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Unless, of course, I become a crochety old bag lady with really bad hair. Then you can also make sure I have access to a laptop and the internet.

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To my bloggEEs: Let’s generate a long list of resources for creating a better world and for finding your purpose(s). What people, books, music, films, therapies, artists, and organizations are out there that you recommend? Please avoid specific political rants. Thank you, as always, for being here. You are not alone.

And here’s link to a kickstarter campaign for a documentary on giftedness that’s in the works for 2020. (I’m on the advisory board.) This documentary surely belongs on our list of resources for creating a better world.