Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.


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Gifted Adults Around The World — What Do They Have In Common? Meet Alice In Brazil

The more rainforest-minded souls I meet, the more hope I have for humanity. No matter where in the world they happen to be, I see similar traits. Big-hearted, creative, deep-thinking, sensitive souls. Humans who are so darned smart and who are driven to use their superpowers for good.

In case you missed them, profiles so far come from:

Brazil, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, India, Chile, Canada (via Cameroon) (If you are from a country not yet represented and would like to be profiled, email me!) Of course, most of my experiences are with N. Americans. I feel so grateful to be able to learn and share this expanded view.

Today we are meeting Alice, a 25 year old Brazilian female. She came across my quiz and gifted information after searching for “people who don’t fit at school.” She ordered and quickly read my first book and The Gifted Adult, then she contacted me. Like so many of you, Alice was struggling with intensity, being misunderstood, passions for learning everything, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and the political tensions in her country, made it even harder for her to find direction for her future and the relief she would normally feel in the natural world.

(photo courtesy of Bruno Dias, Unsplash)

Alice described her experience this way: “I just want to follow my multiple and endless passions. I just want to be FREE to create and to travel the world. It feels like I’ve spent my whole life being a dormant volcano, without knowing what’s been going on inside of me. My anxiety and depression feel like lava. It seems to burn me inside and it hurts. I internalized that being the way that I am is a terrible flaw…When I was identified gifted, all of my traits seem to have erupted. The hidden, real, and even more intense Alice came out. I’ve been dealing with a kind of new me.

“…Oh, how unfair this world is! I hate this world! But, how can I love this world the way I do? I love the Nature SO MUCH that it hurts. I love you Planet Earth! I love Jupiter and its moons. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer, a solo traveler, a documentarist, a multi-instrumentalist, a singer, an author, a visual artist and paint maker, a polyglot, a dancer, an athlete, I wanted to help people, wild animals and plants, etc. etc…I wanted to learn more about history, geology, archaeology, biology, astronomy…I wanted to do hundreds of things, I also wanted to live in many different places and experience diverse cultures.

Like most (all?) of you, Alice is a multipotentialite but she could not tell anyone for fear of criticism and rejection:

“…I can’t let them know my interests. I can’t let them know that I want to speak 10 languages one day, without being judged, without them thinking I am arrogant, without them telling me to be less, to question less, without them telling me not to share my interests, my vulnerabilities, my sense of justice…’keep that just for you, Alice, otherwise they won’t like you’…They’ve been treating me differently and I can feel it. But I just love learning 8,459,238 things at the same time. And also because I have no time to dedicate specially to one thing, and I always struggle with choices and procrastination, I often think I’m incapable, incompetent, and very unlikely to succeed…”

So many of you can relate to being called arrogant or being told you are too much, too sensitive, too intense. You’ve heard the complaints of others: Why can’t you focus? Why can’t you be happy with one language, one job, one book!?!

Alice was working so hard to understand where she might fit and who she actually is. She wondered where she stood on the gifted spectrum and how she might move forward in her life.

“…I just don’t want to be so afraid of being myself. I just don’t want to feel so much need for others’ approval. I just don’t want to be so afraid of the critics…I don’t want to be so afraid of success, too. I want to find at least a balance between my natural optimism and pessimism. I’ve written a lot about my pains, but I’ve had the opportunity to experience many, many beautiful moments, too…”

Like many of you, in spite of the challenges and pressures that would often overwhelm her, she could see the beauty in life and appreciate the little things, love them so much that it hurt.

As Alice and I talked, she was able to get a better understanding of how her struggles were not based in her own inadequacies but rather connected to her gifted traits. Because I had already written about two Brazilian young women, I suggested she try and reach them and the other Brazilian commenters through my blog, as a way to reduce her isolation.

Because she had experienced traumatic events in addition to the struggles of being gifted, I recommended she look for a therapist where she might get regular support and work through the traumas. Believe it or not, around the time I was speaking with Alice, I was contacted by Giovanna Strobel, a psychotherapist in Brazil who specializes in giftedness! How amazing is that?! (For those of you who speak Portuguese, check her out!.)

So, now, Alice is reaching out to Giovanna and her team. She is starting to understand more about the beauty and power of her rainforest mind. And I hope, one day, loving herself so much that it hurts.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you relate to Alice’s experiences? How are your feelings similar? Different? Remember in the comments not to give advice to others but rather to speak about your own experiences and insights. Thank you so much for being here. Much love to you all. And thank you to Alice for sharing your big-hearted, sensitive, creative, deep-thinking, rainforest mind with us.

(Note: Giovanna and I will be doing a live interview on July 3, 2021, 1pm PT. I’m not sure if it is on Instagram or somewhere else. If you follow her on Instagram or me, you will hear about it. Join us!)

(Another note: I was reviewing my first article on Brazilians and was reminded of another practitioner in Brazil who shared in the comments. Adriana Vazzoler-Mendoca. Sounds like she would be another good resource for Brazilians looking for a mentor or coach!)


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Are You Ready To Admit You Are Gifted? Yes? What, Then, Are The Benefits?

Many of my clients are still not sure they are gifted. Truth be told, neither am I. So, I am wondering if I explain the reasons you ought to identify as gifted, maybe more of you would be able to accept it. Or believe it. Or even celebrate it. Maybe I would, too. And then we could move on from there. To living our meaningful, purposeful, authentic lives. To using our gifted traits for good!

The Benefits of Admitting You Are Gifted

~ You stop pathologizing your gifted traits.

(photo courtesy of Diego Rosa, Unsplash)

~ You get clearer about your deep, wide, unending, analytical thinking that comes naturally and is beneficial and that people, including you, call overthinking. It is not over. It is not under. It is just your style of thinking. You will distinguish this from rumination, your tendency to worry, because your very active, creative mind can think of multiple catastrophic scenarios, especially if you are a parent. This distinction will help you know when you need to chill (apply self-soothing techniques) versus when you are free to dive (research the hell out of something).

~ It will get easier to make decisions because you will understand how your mind easily conjures up complexities and variables within variables. Not to mention your sense of social responsibility that can complicate your choices. Knowing these tendencies will help you move ahead a bit sooner. Decisions will be a little less fraught.

~ You will realize that your random, divergent, nonlinear thinking style is not ADHD. Your visually sensitive desire for clean surfaces and color-coded sweaters and alphabetized books is not OCD. Your emotionally intense moods are not bipolar disorder. Your sensitivity to clothing textures, food tastes, loud sounds, and violent images, and your desire to tell everyone about your obsession with brain specimen coasters is not autism spectrum disorder. (OK. This is not to say that you can’t be gifted and any one of these other things, too. You certainly can be. That would make you twice-exceptional or 2e. And that is fine, too. But a topic for another post.)

~ You will be better able to find appropriate friends because you will not try to fit in where you do not belong. You will let go of forcing yourself to make small talk. You will not get irritated when people say “how are you” and just want you to say “fine.” You will know how to spot other rainforest minds because you will know what to look for.

~ You will not force yourself to finish one book before you start the next one.

~ You will sort out what traits are the result of giftedness and what traits come from losses and/or traumas in childhood. You might need a therapist to guide you. Asking for help is not a weakness. Smart people need guidance, too.

~ You will set clearer boundaries with people because you know you can be compassionate while at the same time not take on burdens that are not yours. You will acknowledge that your giftedness does carry responsibility but it does not mean you have to rescue people who are obviously not asking to be saved, or people who have their different paths to walk. You will be clearer about what you can control and what you can not control.

~ You will relax your fears around disappointing others because you will apply all of that love, compassion, and acceptance you give to family, friends, and suffering humans everywhere, to yourself as well.

~ You will not freak out when your intuition is accurate and when you feel your connection to a powerful Source of Love and Light.

When you finally admit to yourself that you have a rainforest mind, that you are, indeed, gifted, then, you will be freer to follow your true paths because you will be better able to know where you need to go. You will feel more connected to yourself and what you are here to do and you will look for the right resources for support. You will be more open to receiving love and the sweetness of the larger Universe, of the invisible world. You will be more able to live your meaningful, purposeful, authentic life and to use your gifted traits for the benefit of yourself, your family, your community, and your world.

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To my bloggEEs: I will believe it if you will! Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and questions. Much love and gratitude! (And thank you to the client who inspired this post.)


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My Quirky Journey From Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd To Introverted Psychotherapist Tango Dancing Blogger Author Nerd

I am an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

I know there are other ways to live. But I don’t care.

I have been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I have tried it all.

Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. Talk. Journaling. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. Acupressure. Energywork. Hakomi. Shamanic journeying. Grief Work. Reiki. Fly fishing. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Dance. Acupuncture. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Cranial-Sacral. Soul collage. Meditation. Psychodynamic. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Okay, blogging isn’t therapy per se, although it has been therapeutic for me. (a life saver, if you want to know the truth)

I used to think I was deficient because I spent most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theater for about a decade. Learned the Argentine tango and danced in Paris. Built relationships with a bevy of friends and wrote angsty emails to them regularly. Married. Divorced. Watched my most adorable niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I have been loved.

See, I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner-focused. And it can appear a little quirky. I get it. But hey, there is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It is really lively in there. Very entertaining.

But I digress.

So, back in my later 30’s, after about ten years as a client in therapies, it occurred to me that I ought to just become a psychotherapist. I had so much experience! And this would be the ideal career path for an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

And, because of my background teaching gifted kids, I decided to specialize in counseling the gifted. Not only that. I came up with the brilliant, if I do say so myself, metaphor to explain them to themselves. They have rainforest minds. Like the rainforest, they are deeply complex, highly sensitive, smart, and capable of making a contribution to the planet if they aren’t cut down and forced to be something that they’re not.

And now that I have been a psychotherapist for some time, I have a good reason to continue to be living the introspective lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

One person at a time. Deep diving. No small talk.

Then, about seven years ago, I discovered blogging. Writing a blog for rainforest-minded folks is also a fine way to be an introverted psychotherapy nerd. I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to deeply understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room. I developed a consulting practice to serve these beautiful souls. (You know who you are.)

What could be better?

The blog led to book writing. Also a very introverted introspective nerd-ish thing to do. 

But why am I writing all of this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective abyss-divers?

No. Some are extraverted, introspective abyss-divers.

The rainforest-minded are complex thinkers. Deep feelers. Analytical. Seeking self-understanding. Questioning. Empathetic. Highly sensitive. Lovers of learning. Multipotentialites. Striving to live meaningful lives. Wanting to create a better world.

But I understand. They aren’t necessarily in therapy. Or introverted. They may have very active, even conventional, outer lives. Kids. Opera tickets. Blenders.

But still, here’s the thing. If you have a rainforest mind, if you have one quirky obsession or many, if you feel weird and a bit out of sync, if you are leading an unconventional life, and if you never get that table cloth or that blender, well, meet me in Oregon.

We’ll go bowling.

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To my bloggEEs: So, as you can see, here is another post with the focus on me! It will be stored on my Personal Musings page. Your comments are welcome. Does my sharing more of my background help you understand yourself? Is it helpful to get an inside look at the person behind the blog?? Thank you, as always for your thoughtful comments and questions. Much love to you all.


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You Know You Have A Rainforest Mind When…

There are seventeen unread or partially read books piled next to your bed. And you are browsing on the powells.com website just in case.

(photo courtesy of Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash)

You have been told that what is obvious to you is not apparent to everyone. Really? But it is so simple, you declare with dismay.

Your thinking and your style of communication is like a fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

You are hearing sounds and smelling smells that no one else hears or smells.

You start writing the paper for school the night before and still get the highest grade in the class. Contrary to the myth that you must be arrogant, you are actually uncomfortable so you hide your grades and start failing classes on purpose.

People much older than you are running the nonprofit where you volunteer and are asking your opinions and putting you in charge. You are appalled at how disorganized they are so you take over.

You are fascinated by, oh, everything, and never want to stop learning.

People who have been on the job much longer than you, resent the fact that you learned the ropes faster and mastered the job in a few weeks. And now you are bored.

Your empathy runs amok.

You have spent more time waiting for others to catch up than you have spent sleeping.

You had eight (or more) different careers before you were thirty.

People tell you that you care too much, you are too idealistic, too sensitive, and you can’t change the world. Sometimes you believe them but deep in your heart, you know they are wrong.

You took seven years to get through college because you changed your major 4 times. And you added two minors. You would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so darned expensive.

You have painted your living room 12 times in 4 years, and it is still not right.

People tell you how smart you are but you feel like a failure most of the time.

You slept with (and loved) the dictionary when you were a child and you are secretly annoyed that Google, Alexa, Siri, and Whoever are answering your kids’ questions.

People keep telling you to lower your extremely high expectations and you wonder why they are not raising theirs.

You learned to dance and lead the Argentine tango because it was challenging, creative, and intimate, and for the first time in your life others figured out how to follow you.

You see ecru, beige, ivory, and eggshell when everyone else sees white.

You not only know a lot because you research pretty constantly, even in your sleep, but you also have an intuitive capacity that is so particularly accurate at times, it is a little unnerving.

People tell you that you talk too fast, even when you are speaking your third language.

When you read this list you think, isn’t everyone like this?

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To my bloggEEs: Can you add to this list in the comments? How do you know you have a rainforest mind? Thank you for being here and for your love. Loving you back, as always. Knowing you are reading my blog has totally saved me during this pandemic. Welcome to my happy place. Stay safe everyone.


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Do Not Stop Caring — Fifteen Reminders For Tender-Hearted Smart People

Do not stop caring. No matter if your co-workers scoff at you for your idealistic enthusiasm.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Quezada, Unsplash)

Do not stop caring. Ignore the cynics and pessimists who say all is lost.

Do not stop caring. Remind yourself that the truly intelligent ones are the optimists-with-ideas

Do not stop caring. Even when your colleagues and family members suggest that smart people do not love so indiscriminately.

Do not stop caring. When your empathy has you exhausted, take breaks and fill yourself back up.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the masculine thing to do is to toughen up. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them tenderness is the real strength.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the feminine thing to do is to be quiet and look pretty. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them to start singing their songs, loudly and with abandon.

Do not stop caring. Even if you are the only one you know who sees deeply into the complexity of the situation. Even if humans are always disappointing you.

Do not stop caring. You are an art-work-in-progress. You do not need to be perfect. You can not please everyone; you are not supposed to.

Do not stop caring. Remember that song? Measure your life in love.

Do not stop caring. Even when you are ready to quit because everyone is depending on you and you are so tired of it. Remember that setting boundaries and having limits are both very healthy and necessary behaviors. Even if you are able to do the thing, that does not mean you have to do the thing.

Do not stop caring. Remember to let your spiritual practice, Nature, your Aunt Gretchen, and your trusty puppy Fido nourish you.

Do not stop caring. Even if you still haven’t found the right therapist and you are having a bad hair day.

Do not stop caring. You may be on the leading edge of exploring higher consciousness with your awareness, intuition, perception, and longing for justice for all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ethnicities. Keep seeking other rainforest minds to join you in your vision.

Do not stop caring. Even if ordinary reality looks kinda bleak at times. Remember that non-ordinary reality also exists and it is quite amazing.

Do not stop caring. When you are not sure what actions to take to create a better world, ask your Heart what it wants to say and do. Trust your Heart.

And, if you need to get a boost for your overwhelmed, aching, languishing, tender heart, watch this powerful short video from the international kids video troupe, the World Hope Project. It will lift you up. (And for you Spanish speakers, here is Dear Mother Earth in Spanish!)

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Wondering what to do next? Let us know how you are doing. What are you thinking, feeling, and doing that helps you care when others don’t? Sending much love to you.


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Tango Therapy

(To my bloggEEs: This is my second personal musing. It is a piece I wrote a while ago about how my tango adventure began. Let me know what you think in the comments. It is longer than my usual blog entry and it also includes a video of an actual tango lesson I had some years ago. Enjoy! The video is not with Andrei, the man I write about here. Oh, and the music we used is not traditional tango, in case you were wondering.)

(Andrei and me practicing)

“Would you like to go salsa dancing with me on Friday?”

“Excuse me”? I said.

“Would you like to go salsa dancing?”

“Are you talking to me?” 

He was gorgeous. He had that JFK Jr. handsomeness. And he was young. I thought this was a joke. We were in a swing dance class. I did not know him. I was 47. He was, um, young.

Then we switched partners and I was dancing with Farmer John, who smelled a little like the farm. The handsome young guy had moved to the next girl. Maybe he was asking her to go salsa dancing with him, too.

But he came back around to me, with that make-you-wanna-melt smile. 

“Salsa? Friday?”

How did he even know I had been taking salsa lessons? 

When the class ended, we talked. He was 29 and a graduate student at the University of Oregon, having emigrated from Russia with his engineer parents when he was 10. He was getting business and psychology degrees. The mythologist Joseph Campbell was one of his heroes. I learned a lot about him quickly. I am a psychotherapist. I ask questions. 

“Shall I pick you up on Friday or do you want to pick me up?” he asked.

When I determined he was serious, I suggested we meet at the dance venue. I was not quite ready to get into a car with this man, with Andrei, the young charming drop-dead-gorgeous Russian-American. 

Just so you know, I am a feminist. I do not put much emphasis on looks. I do not care about such things. I am evolved, after all. Middle-aged for heaven’s sake. But, his young tall-dark-handsomeness was impossible to ignore. Maybe because I was never the popular girl, not the one that people noticed. I was the one with an ethnic look, curly haired, introverted, the anti-cheerleader. The beautiful boys never sought me out for salsa dancing.

He told me he had seen me dancing salsa a month ago. He had wanted to ask me to dance then but I was talking with another young man, his roommate it turns out, so he did not want to intrude. Maybe I wanted to date his roommate, he thought. 

Was I dreaming him up? Maybe I was living in an alternate universe. Where had this guy come from? 

I had been divorced for about ten years and looking for a new hobby that would get me out into the world, meeting people. So I tried ballroom dance classes: Swing, salsa, Argentine tango. I loved dancing and was pretty good at it. I was particularly fond of salsa and tango. The tango was not easy to learn but there were a couple of excellent teachers in my town and the tango seemed to attract fascinating people: Smart, sensitive, creative folks who were also looking for a way to express themselves artistically while connecting with others in a safe, yet intimate, way. 

I danced with Andrei that Friday night at the restaurant/bar. It was thrilling. My heart was pounding. I left early because I did not want to faint from the excitement of it all. That would have been embarrassing.

Turns out, Andrei was also taking tango lessons. Sunday afternoons, tango classes were held downtown in a large, mirrored space with a shiny wood floor. We would have a lesson for an hour and then practice for the next hour. To dance well, I had to become more tuned in to my own body. I had to feel my feet caressing the floor and move my energy down my legs versus up in my head, where it usually lived. It was challenging. But the community was welcoming and the dance was so satisfying. I ended up dancing about 3-4 times a week. It was intoxicating. And the Argentine tango became my therapy. 

Andrei and I built a friendship. We had a regular breakfast meeting Saturday mornings. He would come to my home at 9am sharp for coffee and eggs. Then he would stretch out on my too-small sofa to talk about Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and the roots of happiness. We would practice tango outside on my deck. He had been dancing longer than I had so he would make suggestions on how I might improve. He was an impatient teacher but I didn’t care. 

As my dancing progressed, I noticed that men would be watching me; like the 30-something blonde Marine. He wasn’t a dancer but he would occasionally be at the café where we danced on Tuesday nights. It seemed I had discovered an answer to aging well—feeling attractive as you head into your later-middle-ages. No matter if you are the ethnic, curly-haired, anti-cheerleader. Dance well and you will be popular. 

I remember dancing with a man closer to my age. He was a talented leader, playful, creative, and sensitive. The faster tangos were particularly fun. Being in sync with his musicality and his grounded body was exhilarating. And then one day, he stopped asking me to dance.

“Robert, I’ve noticed that you don’t ask me to dance anymore and you avoid my gaze when I try to ask you. Have I offended you?” I asked.

“Um, uh, well, um, uh, no. I, well, um, I might have mentioned to my girlfriend that I thought you were a passionate dancer,” he replied.

“Oh. Oh. OK. Good to know. Thanks for telling me.”

Turns out his girlfriend thought I was just a little too passionate. I missed Robert but I was relieved I had not offended him and I was grateful for the odd compliment. 

Robert was a better tango dancer than Andrei. But, with Andrei there was a special electricity. We talked about it; the sexual attraction. But neither of us wanted to ruin what we had. Andrei was dating women closer to his age, which made sense to me. I was wondering, though, if he stayed more superficial with the women he dated.  Perhaps, he and I were closer because we were not dating. 

He would say: “Let’s put that sexual energy into the dance.”

And we did. Tango, it turns out, was better than sex.

There were times when Andrei would disappear and not respond to calls. It was becoming clear that he struggled with depression. He could be temperamental and distant. His father had died when he was 16, which the therapist in me suspected was a loss he had not processed. And there was so much I did not know about his past. He started to miss some Saturday morning breakfasts. But later he would show back up at a dance class or a milonga with his mesmerizing smile. And when we danced, it was still magic, except for the times he felt like I was pulling on his neck or not following him perfectly, which happened when he was in a mood or when I was wanting more. 

I will admit it. I was not totally content with the arrangement. I was getting attached. I started writing bad poetry about our unusual pairing. Journaling about my ambivalence and my desire. And then he moved to Portland. He had graduated and felt too stifled in our town. Portland, two hours north, would provide more opportunities for work contacts and dancing. We stayed in touch and I went to Portland to dance a few times. He would drive back to Eugene on occasion. But it wasn’t the same. With the distance, though, it was easier for me to be rational about the knowledge that he was not really boyfriend material. 

And then he moved again. To Paris. Andrei needed the stimulation of a big city, a new language and culture, and French women. I realized he had always been restless in Oregon. He sent me postcards from France. He seemed happier there. Periodically, he would ask me to visit him in Paris. I was considering it. Then he invited me to his wedding.

Camille was French, beautiful, and smart. She was his age. Her hair was not curly. If they had cheerleaders in France, she probably was one in high school. Of course, he was marrying her. 

I didn’t go to the wedding. If I was going to take my introverted travel-phobic self to Paris, it wasn’t going to be when Andrei would be ignoring me because he had better things to do, like get married. So, I waited until his son Gabriel was born and he asked me again. 

“Come to Paris, Paulina.” 

“I don’t know, Andrei. Travel makes me nervous. If I go, can I count on you to pay attention and not leave me stranded somewhere?” 

“I will not leave you stranded. We can dance tango along the Seine in the evening. It will be fun.” 

Tango? With Andrei? In Paris? Along the Seine? 

I went to Paris. 

The 11 hours in the plane I ruminated. I only spoke high school French. What if he wasn’t at the airport when I arrived? He was not the most reliable guy, I mean, I really hardly knew him. What if Camille didn’t like me? What if he was depressed the whole week? What if I forgot how to dance? What if I twisted my ankle, had an allergic reaction to escargots, did something culturally insensitive, and lost my hair gel? 

And then. My fears were unfounded. He was at the airport when I arrived. Camille was sweet and welcoming. They were kind hosts and I managed to communicate while seeing the sites by smiling and saying merci a lot. I had never seen anything like Paris. 

And we went tango dancing along the Seine at night. I was intimidated and incredulous. I tried to keep my ethnic, curly-haired, introverted self calm but it was difficult when the French men spoke to me, holding me close. It took my breath away. They didn’t seem to care I wasn’t popular or that I had no idea what they were saying.

Surely, this was an alternate universe. 

It seemed I had discovered an answer to aging well—feeling attractive as I headed into my later-middle-ages. No matter if you are the ethnic curly-haired anti-cheerleader. Dance well and you will be popular. 

You may even get to dance the tango in Paris.


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Awareness, Awe, and Your Wild Rainforest Mind

(This post was inspired by the writer, visionary, and extraordinarily rainforest-minded Geneen Marie Haugen*)

…I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us?…” Geneen Marie Haugen

(photo courtesy of Dev Asangbam, Unsplash)

Maybe not. Awareness and awe seem to exist at different levels and intensities for each of us. Our capacity for awareness and awe might be related to how curious, sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, and perceptive we are.

When you have a rainforest mind, though, you are guaranteed to be living with high levels of both.

Let me explain.

~ Awareness ~

There are many things you see, feel, know, and intuit that others don’t. You may not even realize this. You are normal to you. But when you run into a conflict with someone, it might be because something is obvious to you but not apparent to them. You may think they are lazy or just not paying attention. But it could be they are not seeing what you see. My example from the RFM quiz applies here: Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see only white? You experience multiple layers and several subtleties. Complexities. Maybe you hear the buzzing florescent lights no one else hears. Or the chewing person in the theatre drives you crazy. Perhaps you grok the solution to the architectural design flaw before anyone else realizes there is a flaw. Or maybe you can tell by the way someone smells that they need a root canal.

These types of awarenesses may seem odd to the non-rainforest-minded among us. They may seem odd to you, too. But they actually come naturally with your larger capacity for being. For knowing.

~ Awe ~

Because of your deeper perceptions and your capacity to appreciate beauty and wonder, chances are you do not take life’s opportunities for granted. Of course, you get irritable, frustrated, despairing, fearful, and angry. You are not always grateful or spiritually in tune. But there may be a sense of awe that always lives in your heart. Geneen Marie Haugen‘s connection with Nature is such a prime example. Here she is describing water.

“…am still in a mad love trance with water, still dripping, still sensing the body of that muscular river: clear, deep, sinuous, insisting on a mutual embrace. A wild adoration of water…” GMH

See what I mean?

This is the intense experience of the rainforest-minded life.

Can you relate?

And yet. You may be exhausted by all of the intensity. You may feel terribly lonely if you are the only one you know who is in a “mad love trance with water.”

But your awareness, your capacity for awe, can also bring you visions of possibilities:

“…I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and pretenses are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions–maybe even billions–of others have seen and felt the shimmers of a possible world, too…” GMH

Not only that:

“…The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergences of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.” GMH

So, dear rainforesters, keep noticing those shimmers.

And do not forget to carefully tend and cultivate your deeply radiant rainforest-y wild soul.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to being aware and in awe? Let us know how this fits or does not fit in your life. What are the shimmers you are noticing? What are your thoughts? Feelings? Experiences? Questions? And, thank you so much to Geneen for sharing your wild soul with us!

*Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination.  She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org) and has been on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality.  Her writing has appeared many publications including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola; Kosmos Journal; Ecopsychology; The Artist’s Field Guide to Yellowstone, and others.  


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Single, Childfree, And Petless In A Pandemic — Then And Now

(Dear BloggEEs. This is the first of a new addition to my blog. I am going to occasionally add personal essays and journal entries for your reading pleasure. I am a little nervous about this. Please continue to like, comment, and share, as usual. Let me know what you think. Enjoy! And thank you. They will be compiled on my new Musings page.)

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part One

(Wearing my emotional support sweater)

March 2020 – The Beginning

            This forced isolation has me rattled. And a little faklempt. Maybe a lot faklempt. 

            I think it is because of all of the unknowns. How long will this last? Is this the beginning of a series of traumatic climate change events? Will I get sick? Will the internet go down and I’ll no longer be able to see my clients online and my income will dry up?  Will I run out of hair gel? Will my computer die so I will have to stop blogging?  Will human beings never become enlightened? Will I fall and break some important bone, not be able to reach the phone, die and not be found for weeks? Will my acupuncturist move to Portland? Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Did I mention that I have ruminating tendencies?

            I am single, childfree, and petless. In my 60’s. I have lived pretty contentedly alone for much of my adult life with two breaks for short-ish but significant relationships. I am an introvert through and through. Solitude is my friend. I have always been driven to build a meaningful career path and to create a better world. I am less in need of a traditional family. And so, I have created a fulfilling work life, loving friendships, and a sweet, comfortable nest for myself. 

            But still. I was not prepared for lockdown.

            I am coping by using a combination of approaches. (I am a psychotherapist so I know a lot of them.) I am ramping up my spiritual practice. Reading trusted news sources. Zooming with family members and friends. But, actually, I am mostly using one tactic. 

            Denial. Denial is not something psychotherapists usually recommend to clients but pandemic disorder is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual either. So, I use denial and try not to think about all of those ruminated possibilities. (Denial, as in, not thinking about it. Not denial, as in, touching and breathing on people.)

            But, lately, denial is not working so well.  I am worried about the future. Even though solitude is still my friend, and I have acquired an emotional support animal in the form of a cozy chenille sweater that I wear almost every day, I am wondering if it is time to invite someone, a male partner, to join me in my nest. Virtually, of course, for now.     

            Truth is, back in the day when nuclear war was the threat we all prepared for, I would think, “I want a person who thinks of me first, who finds me first, when the bomb drops.”

            I still want that person. And now would be a great time for you to show up. I want a person who thinks of me first, when the pandemic hits. 

            Oh, wait. The pandemic has hit. 

            Text me. 

            I will be at home.

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part Two

March 2021 – A Year Later

            It has been a year. I am no longer so rattled, or faklempt. At least no more than I was during the years before the pandemic. Turns out if you are a psychotherapist during a pandemic, you have job security and human (online) contact.  In fact, if you are a highly sensitive introverted therapist like me, working online is kinda fine. I can still reach my clients through the screen. (My empathy, it turns out, is teleportable.) Some of my clients even prefer staying home in their own cozy chairs with their blankets and tea. It seems that, for some, the safety of their own nest allows them to be more vulnerable than they might be sitting across from me, in real life, face to face, bodies in the room, together. So, when it comes to work, income, and continuing to feel connected to a larger purpose, Covid-19 did not get the best of me.

(still wearing my emotional support sweater)

            And because I had even more time than usual, because I was not going to the gym, socializing at the café, traveling to visit relatives, or tango dancing into the night, my blog was more of a priority and I was more open to expanding my practice into international consulting. In fact, the switch to online conferencing made it possible for me to accept offers to speak I would have otherwise declined. To audiences in the Netherlands and France. To clients in Cyprus and Belgium and beyond. 

            Of course, I would not have survived so well if this had happened in, say, 1985. No Internet. No cell phone. No Instagram. No Skype. No Zoom. No Voxer. No Venmo. I would have been a wreck in a 1985 pandemic. If there had to be a pandemic, well, 2020 was a good year. 

            So, I am grateful. 

            And so far, even my 2020 ruminations have not come to pass. I did not get sick. No one I know died. I did not break any bones and die a slow death until I was found three weeks later. My internet kept working so I could see clients and keep blogging. My acupuncturist did not move to Portland. I did not run out of hair gel. 

            It is kind of a miracle. 

            I do understand that a couple of my ruminations are still alive and well. The ones about climate change and humanity never becoming enlightened. There is still that. When I look beyond my smallish comfortable world, I could easily start rattling or faklempting again. But, instead, I take a breath, and remember my assignment. I am here on planet Earth to help smart, sensitive souls self-actualize and create a better world.

            Oh, and there is one more rumination: Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Well. Dating sites are going strong. Tango is just on hold for now. So. The opportunity is not lost. I will be vaccinated next week. The invitation stands. Join me now, love of my life. My hair gel won’t last forever.


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“The Problem, Officer, Is That My Sister Is An Intellectual…”* –A Quick Guide To Your Rainforest Mind

(*quote adapted from the inspiring talk Surviving as an Organizational Heretic ; by Carmen Medina TEDx talk)

(photo courtesy of Fabio Fistarol, Unsplash)

Have you been identified as the problem in your family? Is your finely tuned sensitivity, unending research, probing curiosity, exquisite empathy, passionate creativity, accurate intuition, in-depth analysis, sweet optimism, and driven social conscience, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mystifying?

Do your parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, and pets, look at you with wonder, or confusion, or anger, or fear, or jealousy, or awe? (OK. Maybe your pets look at you with, well, unconditional love. Unless they are cats. Cats may look at you with disdain. Not because you are gifted, though. But just because.) Do you reject the notion you are gifted because you know how much you don’t know or because you were not a straight-A student or because it feels arrogant, elitist, and unfair?

I thought so.

Then, of course, there is the pressure. Oh, the pressure. If you are so smart, then, well, you better reach your potential. Wasted potential is not an option. You ought to be great at everything you try at all times. Maybe even “insanely great.” Mistakes, then, become failures and failures are unbearable.  

No wonder you would like to hide out rather than shine too brightly. No wonder. But honestly? You can not really hide. Not really. You can try. But at some point, your rainforest mind will sneak out from under your cloak. The truth of who you are will be revealed. How? Well, for starters, it could be that any one or more of the following occur:

The foundation of your house finally cracks under the weight of all of those darn books. You can’t stop crying over nature’s fecundity.  It takes you 11 years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor painting, and write a screenplay. You still reread Jane Austen, Ursula LeGuin, and Toni Morrison, again and again. You raise a gifted child. You start a nonprofit, or three. You become an overworked, underpaid, and adored-by-your-students middle school teacher. You swoon over your fascination with fungi. You dive deeply into psychotherapy to heal from your traumatic childhood. (Yeah, I know. You thought I’d say, you win a Nobel prize. And, perhaps, you do that, too. But prizes are not required for rainforest mind membership.)

In other words, because you have a rainforest mind, you have an extra large, perhaps enormous, capacity to think, feel, know, perceive, analyze, evaluate, discern, observe, empathize, intuit, create, imagine, and love. All humans have these abilities to greater and lesser degrees, of course. Your capacities are just much deeper, wider, and multi-faceted. You experience layers and levels and complexities and controversies and visions and worries and energies and influences that others may not. 

This is not arrogant, elitist, or unfair.

It is just you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you need to find more self-acceptance and understanding? If you experience conflict in your family or in other relationships, it could be, at least in part, because of these differences. Let us hear from you. Thank you for sharing your comments, feelings, thoughts, and questions. They add so much. Love to you! (Note: If you get a chance, watch Carmen Medina‘s TED talk. She explains how to create change in an organization and you can hear the whole story from her about what her brother said!)