Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Why Bother Understanding Giftedness — Won’t They All Be Fine Because They Are So Smart?

No. Not really. Nah. Nope. It’s complicated. The gifted kids and adults I have known over the years have much more going on than just “smartness” — smartness, that is often defined as excelling in school, getting high grades, winning academic awards, attending Ivy League college, or becoming the wealthy corporate CEO. And that is where the problem often begins. We need to get more specific about what being smart, or better yet, what being gifted, actually is. (Note: It may or may not include those academic, achievement-oriented things and, yet, it is so much more.)

The gifted humans I have known are clearly intellectually advanced, deep thinking, extra-perceptive, quite analytical, creative problem solvers, highly sensitive, and intuitive. There is no doubt they crave learning new ideas, are introspective, compassionate, and make unusual connections between, oh, all the things. Being academic, achieving in a school setting, may not be where they show themselves, if the school environment is not keeping up with their capacity to think, understand, interpret, evaluate, synthesize, create, question, intuit, laugh, and reflect on concepts, ideas, philosophies, theories, emotions, insights, and facts.

Another way to describe these folks, other than by the rainforest mind analogy that we all know and love, is with a hyperlink model. The more gifted, the more hyperlinks. Making multiple connections between what seem to be unrelated ideas. Constant analysis, synthesis, and revelations. Hyperlinks within hyperlinks.

So. How might that feel to them? To you?

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Fascinating. Isolating. Stimulating. Starving. Energizing. Confusing.

Am I right?

I will focus on the challenges here because, well, that is the part where you, and others, need convincing.

Some examples come to mind, in no particular order: Sitting in meetings, day after day, month after month, waiting for coworkers to come to consensus on the conclusion you drew last year, waiting for colleagues to finish debating irrelevant information, waiting for someone to appreciate the nuance you bring to the discussion. Sharing only portions of your vast knowledge and talents in many areas for fear of judgment, rejection, or misunderstanding. Showing only small parts of yourself for fear of overwhelming others with your energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Constantly adapting to your environment so you can be understood and accepted. Smelling someone who needs a root canal. Enduring criticism for needing multiple career paths and for doing more than one project at a time. Grappling with learning disabilities that confuse and frustrate your intense appetite for knowledge. Never finding a mentor or guide who knows more than you do. Settling for friendships that are limited in depth and range. Being bullied in school because you want to spend recess in the library. Terrified to make a mistake because in your mind errors mean you actually are not gifted. Listening to audio books and podcasts at faster speeds to avoid boredom. Despairing over the suffering on the planet and being called dramatic by family members. Diagnosing your illness when the doctors can’t. Unable to turn off your thinking and worrying to fall asleep or just relax. Pressured to live up to others’ expectations. Pressured to not disappoint your parents and teachers who rely on you. Achieving mastery in your field(s), winning those awards, and still feeling like you are not enough. Desperate to find even one person for meaningful dialogue and open-hearted relationship.

And, finally:

Considerable self-doubt, self-criticism, and anxiety for many reasons but also because you imagine all of the REAL gifted people are high achieving, valedictorian, Ivy League, confident, super star CEOs who are all fine because, well, they are so darned smart.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Am I describing you? How? What other examples do you have? Is there someone you know who needs to read this? Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and questions. As you know, my blog wins the prize for best comments ever. Much love to you.


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Fear Of Failure, Fear Of Success, Passion For Excellence — The Complexity Of Perfectionism

My 5 minute intro video

Before we get into it, I have to share this moment of insight. Have you struggled with what to say when people ask you, what do you do for a living? Or they want to know, how are you? Or they ask you for your favorite book or your favorite color or your favorite documentary or your favorite anything? Well my friends, here is your one size fits all answer. You say: IT’S COMPLICATED. Then, if they look at you smiling expectantly, you can elaborate. If they glaze over, groan, or walk away mumbling, you know you don’t have to waste your time explaining.

And so it is with perfectionism. Complicated. I’ll never forget the gifted teenage boy I was working with. He wasn’t doing well in school and his parents were trying to figure out why. I don’t remember what I said in the moment but I remember his response. “It’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.” He was so right.

There are two types of perfectionism. Intrinsic or healthy. Extrinsic or unhealthy. I have written about intrinsic before. Here. And extrinsic here. And here.

Today, I am going to give you a new look at the intrinsic variety and then share my thoughts about the client dilemma I mention in the video above. Her fears of failure and success.

Intrinsic perfectionism is the innate version that is your deep, heartfelt striving for beauty, balance, harmony, justice, and precision. It is not ego-driven or pathological. It is what your soul must have to feel nourished, authentic, and met. It comes naturally to you. You may not realize that many others do not have this, so they (and you) may label it obsessive, neurotic, controlling, or compulsive.

It is not any of those things.

I don’t usually use celebrities as examples but I happened upon this YouTube interview of Barbra Streisand. She personifies intrinsic perfectionism. If you know of her acting, singing, and directing, all of it is extremely meticulous, detail oriented, precise– in films, down to each single frame (she says in the interview). And this drive is not just professional. In the video, she talks about her personal need for beauty and how carefully she has designed her home. Colors, textures, sounds, tastes, smells. This is not a wealthy person being self-indulgent. This is a gifted human with the highest standards for beauty, balance, harmony, and precision. And when it comes to justice, she has that, too. Streisand is an outspoken activist who cares deeply and has contributed quite a lot to creating a better world.

Granted, you are probably not a celebrity, but I am betting you can relate to this description. As I say in my video, your job is to embrace this about yourself and appreciate the extraordinary quality that emerges when you live this way. That said, there will be days when you can’t quite satisfy these standards– many moments when there is no time because you still have to do the laundry. Thus, you will need to evaluate the specific situation you are in. Is supreme depth and highest quality really necessary here? Might your standards be lowered in this particular case?

Consider, then, there will be times when you will need to prioritize. Otherwise, some important tasks may be missed. Relationships may be neglected. For example: Do you really need to send the perfect email to your friend? Does the apple pie need to look gorgeous as long as it tastes delicious? Will your three year old really notice if the birthday party is skipped this year? Does the newsletter you design and write for your electric utility job need to be visually stunning and comprehensive so that you have to work overtime to complete it when, chances are, your customers will toss it in the recycle bin unread?

Priorities.

Got it?

Now, referring to my client’s fears of failure and success, what did I tell her as she was unable to learn the new painting technique quickly and easily? When she was tempted to quit because she did not feel she had natural talent and was not used to having to work at something, having to practice, and struggle to learn?

This: It’s complicated. You are not used to struggling because typically you learn many things quickly. But it is good and appropriate that some things take time and practice. This is how it is for most people. You may want to quit because this struggle may confirm in your mind that you are not gifted after all. But giftedness does not equal advanced abilities in all areas all the time! And you need to model for your kids that patience, practice, struggle, and setbacks are all part of growth and learning. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes after an achievement borne of struggle.

My client looked at me. Not particularly convinced by my explanation.

What did I tell my client about her desire to hide her accomplishments for fear of criticism, jealousy, and rejection by others?

This: It’s complicated. It is true that you may need to select carefully who you tell about your achievements. Not everyone will celebrate your successes. But that does not mean you should not achieve or that you should not strive for excellence. (Excellence, not perfection.) Your job is to be you. To shine your light. It will be important to find at least a few humans who love that you are so prolific or so talented or so accomplished or so kind-hearted. Build a team, however small, of advocates who are not threatened but who are thrilled by your pure, authentic, magnificent youness.

My client looked at me. She will think about it.

And, I imagine, my dearest magnificent complicated rainforesters, that you will think about it, too.

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To my blogEEs: This one took me a while to write. Do I think I’m a perfectionist? Do you relate to many of these complications? We would love to hear from you. As always, thank you for being here. Much love!


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There Is No Better Time To Step Fully Into Your Rainforest-Mindedness

Some of you may know I have been experimenting with video and going a little wild on Instagram. If you haven’t found me there yet, here is the link. I am learning all about memes and having a fine time extracting them from my blog posts. It seems contraindicated that a rainforest-y person would appreciate a good meme since you are all so lovey-dovey with complexity. But, so far, so good. I am a little impressed with my technological skills, if I do say so myself, seeing as I might be the oldest video-maker and meme queen that you will ever find on IG.

The video you see here, from IG, restates a theme I have written about before. (It is a really good post. And don’t miss the amazing comments!) It is never too late to be your gifted self, yes? There is still time to understand and clarify what you have misinterpreted about your giftedness all these years. There is still time to find yet another career path. There is still time to dive into the abyss of your past trauma and find the buried treasure that is you. There is still time to learn how to make Instagram videos! And yet. I have been told by clients that one of the reasons you are reluctant to embrace your rainforest-mindedness fully is because it feels like a daunting responsibility. To acknowledge your actual capacity for knowing, feeling, perceiving, analyzing, creating, observing, loving, and intuiting means you have to do something about it. Preferably something monumental. And that paralyzes you. I even say it in the video. “It’s not too late to do great things.”

You were fine until I said that. Right?

I am so sorry. I should know better.

One of you explained it this way:

“…And then as a gifted person the expectations are at least twice as high. When all throughout high school you are top of the class and at the end you receive an award for ‘most promising student’ and people keep telling you you must have a great calling to be blessed with so many talents, it creates this HUGE burden of responsibility. You are not allowed to ‘waste’ your amazing potential.

But what if I’m not that great in reality? Then I’ll spend my whole life disappointing myself and feeling like I’m not measuring up to what everyone expected.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe we need to define what is meant by “great things.” What, after all, constitutes a great thing?

Or perhaps that is the wrong question.

What if, instead, we asked, how do you step fully into your rainforest-mindedness?

What does your particular rainforest mind look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sing like, dance like? What directions do you need to go to find meaning and purpose? What are you here on this planet to do? What pulls at your heart and opens your throat? What actions and relationships does your intuition say YES to and what actions and relationships does your intuition say NO to? How do you get greater access to your intuition? When will you set up a regular spiritual practice that will connect you to a Source of love and guidance? What does your flavor of spiritual practice look like? What does your future Self want to tell you? Is there a reality beyond what we see every day that is all about Love?

These are questions to ponder. If you have a journal, write/draw your thoughts. If you don’t have a journal, get one. (I am getting pushier in my old age.)

Why?

We are living in very challenging times. I don’t need to tell you that.

I was talking with a friend this morning about these challenges and she suggested it is not a mistake that you and I are here on the planet now. All of us with rainforest minds. We are here because of these times. We came here for this, she said.

Between you and me, I am not thrilled with that news. There have been many occasions when I have wanted to get outta here and head back to my home planet where there are no politicians, pandemics, prejudices, or polluters. So, I am trying to wrap my head around this notion. Then I remembered that Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote about this in Do not lose heart, We were made for these times.

She said, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” CPE

And: “Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.” CPE

So, what do you say, my sweetest rainforesters? Time to step more fully into yourself?

I will show my light, if you will show yours.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Your comments make such a difference. Sending you all much love, light, and a few clever IG memes.


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Being Interested In, Oh, Everything — The Gifted Multipotentialite Booknerd

My friend, Jade, came to my home to spend the weekend. It is an annual event. As part of the visit, she asked to return to my town’s fabulous used bookstore. Being an extremely rainforest-minded human, she was happily in her element. I could have left her there for hours, days maybe.

When I saw the pile of books she selected, I couldn’t help but gasp, smile knowingly, sigh, snort, ask the most important question of all: Can I write about you on my blog?

Jade had selected books on a number of wide-ranging topics:

Botanical Art Techniques, The Nile, Pre-Colombian Art, Archtypal Patterns in Poetry, William Blake, Ghost Towns in the West, Mycotopia, The 99% Invisible City, and an Octavia Butler novel.

This is rainforest-minded multipotentialite-ness at its bookiest.

I would have gathered my own set of deliciousness but I had just received a stack from Powells bookstore so I restrained myself. Well, except for the three books Jade mentioned were great for kids. I had said I was looking to see what I might find for my niece and nephew’s young kids. These books by Julia Rothman were so pretty I couldn’t resist.

You know what I’m talking about. Right?

I wrote about it in my last post. How books and therapies can contribute to soothing your existential angst. How books and therapies can help you understand and embrace your beautifully rainforest-y ways and guide you toward your meaningful, authentic life. How it is normal for you to be passionate about learning (not necessarily schooling) which often includes massive, some might say obsessive, amounts of reading and/or research.

In other posts, I have written about multipotentiality. This is the trait that can be misinterpreted as jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none or you-never-finish-anything or why-can’t-you-pick-one-thing-and-stay-with-it-forever or why-don’t-you-have-a-real-job.

Sound familiar?

Jade is a good example of this. She was an art/poetry major in college and graduated with a degree in chemistry. She worked in the chemistry field for a while but then became interested in gifted/2e kids and opened her own micro-school (and is writing a book about it). She closed the school recently and is now developing a tarot reading business on Instagram (you can follow her) along with creating a small literary zine online. In her spare time, she is enrolled in a doctoral program in cognitive diversity where she is an academic advisor. (To find out more from her on education and cognitive diversity, follow her on Twitter.) She has two cats, a husband, a weight lifting hobby, and a burning desire to visit every ghost town in N. America. She is 42. This is just the beginning.

And you? If you are a gifted multipotentialite booknerd like Jade, and, I admit, like me, you are not alone! My advice? Find your local independent bookstore and geek out. Find other passionate readers in your town and join them at a Silent Book Club. Explain to skeptics how your multi-dimensional career paths make total sense and how they will spark your creativity and benefit their nieces and nephews in unexpected ways.

And, if you know of any cool ghost towns anywhere in the world, let me know about them. I will tell Jade.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you a book lover? Do you have multipotentiality? Tell us about it. We love hearing from you. And thanks to Jade for sharing so much of herself here and with me in our sweet friendship. Love to you all.

(Note: I have started reading the books I mentioned in my last post. I would definitely recommend the Nicholas book on climate, the Moorjani book on sensitivity, and the Menakem book on racism.)


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Two Remedies For Your Existential Angst

When I feel overwhelmed by the local and international news and anxious over the climate crisis, one of my solutions is to buy more books. And get more therapies. (And write another blog post.) I spend money on books and therapy like others spend their bucks on sailboats, jewelry, and mansions in Beverly Hills. In fact, because I did not have children, I can afford to spend my non-kids’ Harvard educations on books and therapies. That is a heck of a lot of books. And a lot of acupuncture, psychotherapy, massage, astrology, and energy intuitive work (aka: therapies). Right?

Just today, I received a new stack.

They came from my favorite Oregon independent bookstore. Under the Sky We Make by Kimberly Nicholas is subtitled How to Be Human in a Warming World. The author is “a leading global sustainability scientist.” Then there is Sensitive is the New Strong: The Power of Empaths in an Increasingly Harsh World by Anita Moorjani. Self-explanatory. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem is described as “…a call to action for Americans to recognize that racism is not only about the head, but also about the body…” Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life by Jill Bolte Taylor, recommended by a client. And finally, Love After 50, by journalist Francine Russo.

(photo by joelvalve, Unsplash)

Mind you, I haven’t read these books yet, so I am not recommending them. Just letting you know these are my latest angst reducers. (not to mention the satisfaction of supporting my independent bookstore) You might notice there are no novels listed. I do love a good novel or a great memoir like Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms. It is just that I read quite a bit more nonfiction and these are my most recent acquisitions.

Of course, if you actually have kids and you need to save for their actual college educations, you can still soothe yourself with trips to your library. And if you are lonely in your angstification, join a Silent Book Club and read with other existential angsters, otherwise known as rainforest-minders. I hear some of these groups are starting to meet again in person.

What about therapies?

When it comes to therapies, there really ought to be a library, too. Right? You could go to your library and borrow a therapist for three weeks for free. But then, how would I earn a living? (Note: There are often lower cost psychotherapies at agencies and universities. Many good therapists have sliding scales and they ought to all provide some pro bono services. It doesn’t hurt to ask. You could tell them I said it would be an easy way for them to contribute to improving life on planet earth.) Anyway, my point is that working on yourself via various therapies will not only soothe your worried soul, but it can also give you the healing, confidence, hope, and direction you need to take action around the existential issues we are all facing today and that are angsting you out.

Isn’t that handy?

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what books you are reading these days. What therapies are you trying? What soothes your existential angst? Thank you for being here and being part of my existential solution. Much love to you.

(Another note: I just wrote an article on gifted clients in therapy for an online website for therapists. So when you do find the right psychotherapist or acupuncturist or bodyworker or healer or astrologer, hand them this article. And speaking of books, if you haven’t read mine yet, whatcha waitin’ fer?)


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The Ramifications Of Any Single Thought Are Endless — The Intensity Of Giftedness

One of the painful struggles I see in gifted adults is that in many, perhaps most, situations, they are not free to be fully themselves. For lots of reasons. It is the nature of giftedness, really, because being fully oneself, if you are truly gifted, is kind of fire-hosey. It is tricky, though. Not being free to be fire-hosey, is really no one’s fault. But it is still distressing. And that is an understatement.

You see, when you have a rainforest mind, you have MORE going on in your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. You are more aware, perceptive, observant, and intuitive on multiple levels, including energetically and spiritually. This is your personhood. You were born this way. (Note: This is not the same as saying you are academically high achieving or accomplished at everything you try except maybe bungie jumping. Although you might be high achieving and accomplished at quite a lot of things in many different categories, maybe even bungie jumping, although really, do you think bungie jumping is such a good idea?)

(photo by Omid Armin, Unsplash)

So, you are probably pretty intense. In a particular rainforest-ish way.

For example, here is a comment from a post on this blog:

“…I seem to digress, but in my mind everything is connected to everything, and the ramifications of any single thought are endless. It’s like following links on Wikipedia. You start researching King Amenhotep and you don’t know why suddenly you are reading about chemical reactions in a spider’s body… I need to cut out the time I spend on Google and Wikipedia searches. All the info seems so fascinating. And the thoughts in my mind that are aroused when I watch a butterfly in my garden… An endless source of intellectual and spiritual pleasure. It’s almost addictive to explore so many things. The world is so full of wow stuff….”

The world is so full of wow stuff. Who says that?

You do.

And, of course, you are also quite aware of what else the world is full of. And it can be hard to know what to do with all that awareness and sensitivity because, odds are, you feel it, it keeps you up nights, and you feel somewhat responsible to have a positive, impressive, colossal impact.

You are told to slow down, quiet down, and dumb down because, they say, you are way too much and kind of arrogant and know-it-allish but, oh, in your spare time can you fix the world’s problems because, after all, you are so darned smart.

Ayyeeee!!!

People can be so annoying.

They say you make them feel stupid. I say, they are feeling that way all on their own. You are just being you. And, actually, you are only being a smallish part of you. And they are still feeling stupid.

Seriously?

It is a conundrum.

I wish I could give you an easy solution. But in the world of rainforests, nothing is simple. But maybe you will at least stop blaming yourself for the miscommunications and criticism you hear from others who are overwhelmed by the hyperlinks in your brain and your enthusiastic approach to the wow stuff. Maybe you will be more comfortable slowing down a bit in situations where communication matters. And, of course, keep looking for other RFMs because, yes, they are out there.

Perhaps you can find an outlet where your intensity is welcome. Music? Theatre? Art? Writing? Tango dancing? Running marathons? Running a restaurant? Running rivers? Open heart surgery?

Bungie jumping?

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To my bloggEEs: Have you experienced judgment and misunderstanding from others because of your intellectual, emotional, intuitive, physical, and spiritual intensities? Tell us about it. How do you find places where you can be your fully intense self? And thank you, as always, for being here. Sending you fire-hosey love. (And thank you to the bloggEE who I quote above and to the client who inspired this post.)


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Three Brazilian Psychologists and a North American Talk About Giftedness

I was invited to have a conversation with Giovanna Strobel and her colleagues in Brazil about our work with gifted clients. We found we have so much in common. Whether you have a rainforest mind in N. America or in Brazil, you may experience similar struggles. Hear all about it here. And thank you to Giovanna, Daphne, and Simone!

To my bloggEEs: Let us know the thoughts, feelings, and questions that came up as you watched. Thank you, as always, for being here! And if you are a therapist or coach who works anywhere in the world with gifted clients, let us know who you are and include your contact information. I am starting a list. There is one here for N. Americans but I don’t know of any international referral lists.


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When The Tango Dancing Therapist Loved The Nature Obsessed Neighbor-From-Hell

(Note: This is another of my personal musings written so that you might get to know more about me. Enjoy!)

            He was a die-hard camping, hiking, nature-loving Oregon hippie. He parked his truck on his overgrown lawn. Paraphernalia from long gone construction projects was piled along the side of his house and scattered hither and thither just in case he might need them in a year or five. I remember thinking the first time I drove up to his house that he was your typical neighbor-from-hell.  

            What was I doing with the neighbor-from-hell?

            We met online. Even though his photos made him look kind of dorky, I liked what he had to say. He read Annie Dillard. He was going to Idaho to take care of his mom after her hip replacement surgery. He was self-employed in the renewable energy field. Had raised two kids who made it to adulthood. Drove a Prius. In our first email exchanges, he asked smart, complex questions. He told fascinating stories about his adventures in the Arctic. These were all signs the man might be worth meeting.

(photo from Vasilios Muselimis, Unsplash)

            And the first meeting went well. He was much cuter than the photo. Tall. Well-built. Articulate, smart, and sensitive. He did not smell like garlic. On our second date, he watched me dance. I had started taking Argentine tango lessons five years earlier. Craig was impressed, even though it was an unusual second date, with me dancing the tango with handsome men who were not him. He was a good sport about it, appreciating my talent.

            I introduced him to my girlfriends, looking for their assessments.

            Me: I don’t know. He’s kinda hippie dippy. His house is super messy. I don’t know if I’m ready for another relationship and, anyway, he’s probably a serial killer or a codependent pothead with siblings who are in prison for insider trading.

            Girlfriends: He has great social skills and a sense of humor. This could be fun. C’mon, there’s no harm in trying. A serial killer probably wouldn’t have a good relationship with his mother.

            So I decided to give it a try.

            And it was sweet.

            But I was not a die-hard camping, hiking, nature-loving Oregon hippie. I thought I might become one with the right guy. Maybe not die-hard. Maybe not camping where there might be bears, cougars, raccoons, and no internet. But I am an ardent environmentalist so I thought I just needed a safe, kind soul to introduce me to the wonders of a rushing river, the mysteries of hiking in the forest, and the thrills of outdoor plumbing.

            And Craig tried. I remember one weekend in a comfortable yurt by a lake. He brought a solar cell thingy so we could have music. He supplied several flashlights, delicious snacks, and a kayak built for two. I tried to enjoy myself. 

            He did not give up. Months later, he bought a small trailer so we could stay at campgrounds with showers and restrooms. He cooked gourmet-ish meals and was upbeat and generous.

            Sadly, it did not work. I just could not love it like he did. I could not even like it much. I was a failure at nature-loving.

            But there were other strengths I brought to the relationship.

            For example, I was a success at psychotherapy-loving.

            You see, I am a counselor working with people healing from childhood trauma. I love my job. It is such a privilege to guide people on their journeys to self-acceptance and self-actualization. I have also been a client in therapy. It is really one of my core values: introspection and facing one’s fears to heal yourself and create a better world. So, I was able to be bring a good bit of self-awareness and compassion to the relationship. This would make up for my nature-loving deficit.

             And as I got to know Craig, it became clear that he had his own childhood trauma. But psychotherapy was not his thing. When it came to introspection, or as I called it, diving into the abyss, or even just looking under the rug, he would decline. Change the subject. Or play the nature card.

            I would say: “Honey. I’m so sorry your father was so critical. And it sounds like he may have been an alcoholic. Therapy has been so helpful for me. I’m much more confident and self-accepting. I can give you a few names of therapists you can try. OK?  It’s so worth it.”

            He would say: “Nature is my therapist.

            Now, I know there are many ways to self-actualize. Psychotherapy isn’t the answer for everyone. And nature can be such a healing place. Many of my clients find solace and even spirituality when they are connecting with the natural world. But for Craig, it was his solace. And his excuse.

            I would say: “Sweetie. If you don’t want to do traditional therapy, how about meeting with my medical intuitive energy worker? Or my acupuncturist? “

            He would say: “Nature is my therapist.

            He was adamant, in a nice guy passive-aggressive kind of way. But I have to admit, he did try therapy a couple of times. He went to a weekend workshop. Spent a week at a nature-based vision quest program. He even saw my medical intuitive energy worker once. He tried. But he did not love it like I did. Could not even like it much. He was a failure at psychotherapy-loving.

            As time passed, I started to see signs of trouble. Serious anxiety. Problems with his adult children. Unpaid taxes. Toxic friends. Vodka. Rooms in his house filled with old magazines, tools, gadgets, papers, and moth-eaten suits from his days in the tech world.

            But, like any good therapist, I ignored the signs. We bought a house together and planned a small remodel that turned into a big remodel. He was a very capable self-made contractor so wanted to do it all himself. Which took a lot of time. But I stayed in my own house until it was mostly complete, then, let my home, my little sanctuary, go. He didn’t sell his own house and, lucky for me, left most of his clutter there. But not his anxiety, his unpaid taxes, or his vodka.

            Once we were living together, I noticed the garlic. He loved it. I have a thing about food smells on breath. Especially garlic. If someone smells like garlic, I immediately despise them. My therapist self knows that this is a bit of an over-reaction. Likely a bad memory from the past. But those olfactory triggers are hard to control. I started to eat garlic myself as a way to reduce the odor and manage my despising. It helped and I tried not to hold it against him.

            And we grew closer, in spite of our failures and our differences. He kept his chaos contained to his office and the garage. I ate more garlic and bought gifts for his grandkids. He was my bodyguard when we’d visit my family. I befriended his mother when she needed a careful listener.

            We were creating a good tango. We’d step on each others’ toes occasionally but our hearts were in sync.

            And then the music stopped.

            One day he told me it was over. He said he needed a partner who loved the outdoors as much as he did. Who could walk the beach for days. Who was intensely curious about the ocean floor and eager to spend weeks lost in the Oregon forest.

            I was in shock. I had thought he was the one. This was going to be my last and best relationship. I thought it was going well. He would take his trailer to the coast for a few days and enjoy nature on his own while I would stay home, see clients, and blog. I had started a blog (this blog!) about three months before the break up. It was surprisingly satisfying, meaningful, and fun. I thought we had worked out a good compromise.

            But apparently, we had not.

            It was not easy for him to break up with me. I cried. He cried. He offered to move back to his old house until I found a place and we sold ours. Move out? Back to your old house? It took me some months to believe it was really over. That I was being left. Not for another woman, but because he loved mother nature more than he loved me. That is just weird, if you ask me. But he was not asking.

            He moved back to his house and I was alone.

            But I had support. Over the years, I had built a reliable family of friends. My friends and my blog (this blog!) would get me through my grief.

            But, for a long time, I felt lost and lonely. No one tracking me anymore. No one asking me annoyingly what my schedule was for the day. No funny stories of polar bears. No bodyguard for family visits.

            And so I did what I had to do. I went to therapy— to continue to examine, process, and release old complex patterns and beliefs that were underneath my choice to be with Craig. I found an excellent book to work through, too. And it occurred to me, Craig and I had very different basic needs. His: Finding peace (and denial) in the beauty of the natural world. Mine: Doing deep inner psycho-spiritual work to heal my past and live a life of meaning and purpose. Interestingly, we were both fairly inept at participating in the other’s greatest priority.

            I began to wonder how we had lasted as long as we had. I began to wonder why I did not run the other way when I first saw his neighbor-from-hell yard. Why he did not run the other way when he heard I was a therapist.  And yet, in spite of it all, I knew our partnering had not been a mistake.

             And as I continue to examine the beautiful layers of my psyche, one thing is clear: I am now certain I want a partner who is willing to look under the rug. Who is not afraid to do the deep dive into his abyss. Who has done the inner psycho-spiritual work to heal the past and live a courageous life of meaning and purpose.

            To keep the music playing, our hearts in sync.

            To tango, fearlessly. With me.

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To my bloggEEs: Let me know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Thank you, as always for being here. And just remember, relationship “failures” make great material for your blog, memoir, or TED talk!


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“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.

Oh.

Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)


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Depressed? Anxious? Gifted? Get Yourself Some Intellectual And Creative Stimulation Pronto!

There might be many reasons you are feeling depressed or anxious. So many reasons. From trauma in your childhood to racism, pandemics, losses of loved ones, homophobia, climate change, illness, poverty, corrupt politicians, antisemitism, all of the other isms, and more.

So many reasons. 

I might even include some lesser but occasionally significant depression and anxiety influencers like hormones, food sensitivities, allergies, and bad hair days. (OK. That last one is very lesser.)

(photo courtesy of Drew Graham, Unsplash)

Because you are the sensitive, perceptive human that you are, your awareness of these factors is pretty much somewhere in your brain at all times, unless you have mastered the art of denial, which, in some cases, can come in handy. Denial can be a useful coping strategy in these tumultuous times as long as it is not used excessively. Or when your curious toddler is wandering out into the street. Therapists do not usually recommend denial. And, I don’t either. Most of the time. But I have found it has come in handy recently.

That said, for you, my little chickadees, there is another reason you might feel depressed and anxious. And this one, I am happy to say, is more easily resolvable. 

Having a rainforest mind means you want intellectual and creative stimulation like others want pizza and ice cream. You NEED it. You may not realize it but if you don’t have enough, you might feel depressed or anxious. Regular people might not care so much about learning new stuff or creating cool solutions to problems or composing a new tune on the ukelele or analyzing impact ionization or creating a better world. But you, well, it is your bread and butter. Or your kale and quinoa, as it were.

The remedy is clear. Where can you find intellectual and creative excitement? If it is not readily available, here are some options for starters: You can browse your independent bookstore, take the online class, do that internet search, buy those paints, join the dance troupe, start a podcast or a blog, get another degree, volunteer at a nonprofit that needs your direction, get lost in Wikipedia, learn a new musical instrument, study your next language, start a business, deepen your spiritual practice, initiate a conversation with the magical creatures in your garden, read and research with abandon, get therapy, and/or try that thing that makes you feel weird but you’ve always wanted to do. And, this is important, in all of these activities, look for the other rainforest-minded humans that might be lurking. Sweetly draw them into your web.

Granted, there will still be many daunting challenges in your inner and outer worlds. But, getting your intellectual and creative needs met will not only lift some of your depression and ease some of your anxiety. It might also become the foundation and inspiration for your paths to your greater Self, your stronger voice, more cool solutions, and, perhaps even creating a better world.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to a lack of intellectual and creative stimulation? Tell us about it. Where have you found some? One source for creative inspiration, particularly in the arts, is this podcast/website called Art Church. It is just getting started but promises to become a unique community for spiritually inclined artist-types. And this SoundCloud link is my newest project. (Song Memes for Your Rainforest Mind) It is the weird thing I mention above.