Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


29 Comments

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.

__________________________________________

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.


38 Comments

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.


38 Comments

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.