Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Loving the Wounded Gifted Child Within

photo courtesy of chinh le duc, Unsplash

When you were a little tyke, you probably had passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

You may have corrected the adults who didn’t know the difference between crimson and red. You may have wondered why the other kids wanted to be bunny rabbits for Halloween when they could be Richard Feynman. You may have corrected your teacher’s spelling. You may have cried when you heard a Bach concerto. You may have read every Ray Bradbury book you could find. You may have preferred BBC documentaries to Mickey Mouse. You may have questioned why the other five-year-olds were so immature and what it was about birthday parties that they loved so much. You may have organized a fund drive for the homeless kids in your town.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional or abusive home, you may have protected your siblings from harm. You may have hidden your sensitivities while fine-tuning your capacity for vigilance.  You may have been the most responsible one in the family. You may have become an expert nurturer of others and a lousy self-carer. You may have become a super-achiever. You may have been lost in a swamp of depression, anxiety, too-many-decisions, troubled relationships, and convoluted potential. You may have expected yourself to heal your parent’s addictions single-handedly; To be perfectly perfect at all times.

That little tyke? Needs your love.

You might think that it should be easy to love that child.

It’s not that simple.

Sure, you have lots of empathy. For others. But when it comes to yourself, you may feel judgment, criticism, doubt, and despair. You may feel that your child self is too emotional, too needy, too scared, too bossy. Too noisy. Too powerful. Maybe you will be overwhelmed with grief or anger if you acknowledge that little one. Or you will get stuck in the past when you think you should be letting go and moving on. Or you will be too vulnerable.

What you need to know is that the wounded gifted child in you is waiting. For your attention. Validation. Company. The wounded child doesn’t need much really. From you. Your understanding of what they have been through. Of why they get frightened or feel out of control or want to hide. Of why they need security and predictability now. Your empathy. Your patience. Your acceptance.

But that may be hard for you until you have been in therapy for a while and experienced what healthy validation feels like. From a loving, reliable adult who knows the journey. Who has rescued their own lost gifted child self. A therapist who knows that the road to heal a family legacy of abuse and neglect, generations of trauma, takes courage and time.

A therapist who loves your passions, curiosities, quirks, and quests.

Who loves you.

And their own little tyke.

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To my bloggEEs: I understand that it might take time to find the right therapist. Here are some places to look. In the meantime, there are some things you can do. Look for articles and books about Internal Family Systems Therapy. Or books about inner child work or Jungian active imagination. Keep a journal where you start a relationship with the many parts of yourself. Gather photos and special objects and build a small altar to your younger self.

In the comments, let us know if you have done any inner child work and what that has been like. We all benefit from your sweet sharing.

And, your inner child might like my latest book. Find it here. My first book has examples of inner child work in therapy in the case studies, if you’d like to learn more. And hugs and love to you and your sensitive, passionate, curious, smart, quirky little ones.

 


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Childhood Trauma, Psychotherapy, Courage, and Your Gifted Self

photo courtesy of Sammie Vasquez, Unsplash

You are in therapy. Grieving for your little child self. The one who thought it was her fault that her father was so angry. That her mother spent hours alone in a dark room. The curious child who was bullied in school because he excitedly answered all the questions and hid in the library during recess. The responsible child who needed to save the family. It has taken a long time to feel compassion for that little one. To make the connections from your traumatic early years to your struggles today. To start to change deeply held beliefs, patterns, and habits. To trust that change is possible. That love is possible.

But what does it mean to heal from the past? Does it mean that you’ll become a happy, boring, mediocre, normal person? That you’ll lose your quirky, creative, angsty complexity?

Heck, no.

Therapy will not make you normal.

Instead, if you give it enough time, if you dive deep enough, it will transform the fear and shame. The self-hatred. It will slowly, tenderly, turn it into love. Self-compassion. You will pick healthier friends and partners. Set better boundaries with toxic people. Be more confident.  Be a better parent. Your future life paths will become clearer. Your intuition stronger. You’ll be rich and famous. Your health will improve. You will feel more peaceful. You will stop the legacy of abuse in your family line. You will find your voice.

And instead of normal, you will be more of your true self. The person you were born to be. Curious. Enthusiastic. Creative. Insightful. Quirky. Empowered. Intuitive. And you will love that self. Less fear and shame. More love and light. You will understand what you are here to do. You will feel safe to expand into your full rainforestness!

I’m serious.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s an interview with the RFM phenomenal singer-performer Pink, talking about the benefits of therapy! (starts at about the last 6 minutes) And, come on, if Pink says it works, well then.

But, it does take courage. It is scary to dive into the abyss. Scary to examine your beliefs and patterns. Scary to drop into your grief. Scary to change.

And, because you have many, many layers, this is likely to be a lifelong journey. Especially if your childhood was particularly traumatic and terrifying. I know that doesn’t sound too appealing. But it doesn’t take years and years before you feel the benefits. And the therapy can take many forms. You will work with different practitioners as you receive what each person has to offer and then move on to the next therapeutic adventure. You will be seen. You will be heard. You will be loved.

And If I can do it, so can you.

With some inspiration. From Pink. Take a listen. (From her album Hurts 2B Human.)

Titled, what else? Courage.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know about your experiences in therapy. Your questions. Successes. Failures. Stories. If you are looking for more articles on psychotherapy, check out these posts and go to The School of Life’s site. 

Thank you to the client who inspired this post and to all of the clients I am so honored to know.

And if you want to know more about your fabulous rainforest mind, my new book is now available. Look for it here. And my first book, a deeper look at your giftedness via case studies of clients in therapy along with many resources, is here. And, if you do read one or both, I’d be most grateful if you’d write an Amazon review!

 


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You Have a Right to Say NO — Tips for Deep Thinkers, Perfectionists, Empaths, and HSPs

photo courtesy of yogi madhav, Unsplash

It is easy for me to say NO. In fact, it’s one of my favorite words. No, I will not run a marathon. No, I will not go camping with you for two weeks in Antarctica. No, I will not go to that month-long silent kundalini yoga retreat. (I live in Eugene, Oregon, USA. People here do these things.) No, I will not become your perfect-in-every-way child’s babysitter. No, I will not marry you and your alcoholic family. No, I will not start a business with your homicidal, narcissistic, bankrupt, cousin George.

It has always been easy for me to say NO. I’m not sure why. My goal is to learn how to say YES more often. But I work with many rainforest-minded humans (RFMs) who do not say NO when they should. They are super smart, highly empathetic, and socially responsible.

And that’s the problem.

Do you have a hard time saying NO?

You would think that you’d be capable of a simple NO, being smart and all. But there are a few complicating factors.

RFMs are usually very good at problem solving. You may find an answer before everyone else knows the question. You might be able to fix the issue faster and more easily than anyone else. If you have insight and skill that will solve a problem, aren’t you obligated to do it?

RFMs often feel a need to be of service. Your intuition and empathy are highly developed. Shouldn’t you report what you know when it could make a difference for someone’s health or well-being? If you’re in a healing profession this can be particularly difficult. Friends and relatives may expect free treatments. Clients may call in crisis. When you have a sense that a person could run into serious trouble if they stay on their path, aren’t you obligated to intervene?

You may have been told that you are so blessed because of your gifts. That you must give back. That you owe the world because you were born with so many advantages. Don’t you owe the world?

And that’s not all. If you grew up in a chainsaw family, it may have been dangerous to say NO or to ask for what you needed. You may have been the caretaker for your siblings or parents. You may have learned that the only safe choice was to deny your own needs and to use your abilities to minimize the abuse.  In your psyche, it could still be life-threatening to change that coping strategy.

So. Here’s the thing.

Of course, it makes sense that you use your gifts to benefit others. That you share your insights and solutions. That you respond to your clients during their emergencies.

And yet.

Now, pay attention.

You get to take breaks from changing the world. You get to construct healthy boundaries. You get to relax. You get to watch mindless TV. You get to say NO. You get to let others save themselves and come to their own conclusions. In fact, if you’re always rescuing them, they won’t learn how capable they are. They’ll be dependent on you when they need to learn how to find their own way. It may be their appropriate path to make all of those mistakes. (This is particularly important if you are a parent. It’s complicated for sure. But your kids need healthy boundaries, even if they can argue their case like mini-lawyers.)

When you learn to say NO when needed, then, you will have the energy to address the most important issues. You will keep your own health intact so you can shine your light more effectively. You will take the time you need to heal from your traumatic past so you can be even more fully connected physically, mentally, energetically, emotionally, and spiritually.

You see?

If this feels too difficult, start with small steps. Set limits with your golden retriever. Take naps. Stop using the inadequate house cleaner. Assess clients before you commit to seeing them.   Leave the meeting early. Don’t go to the meeting. Let someone else volunteer to coach the team. Set up a chore chart so family members contribute to housework. Learn to take the pressure off when you’re asked to do something, by saying, “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Get therapy if there’s a history of trauma. Get your partner into therapy.

And, if all else fails, promise me. You will not start that business with your homicidal, narcissistic, bankrupt cousin George.

(For the more advanced course, look for You Have a Right to Say F*ck No, coming soon.)

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have trouble saying NO to people? Have you felt responsible for helping, healing, or saving souls? Are you learning how to set limits and have healthy boundaries? How are you making a contribution but not burning yourself out? What do you need to say NO to?


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The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

I know about the Dark Night. I’ve been through my own. More than once. Now I join my counseling clients in their Dark Nights. I go with them because I know the territory. I have flashlights and provisions. It doesn’t scare me like it used to. And I know what comes after the Dark Night that makes it worth the journey.

There could be all sorts of reasons for your Dark Night(s). But chances are, there’s a connection to your early years. Your experiences in your family of origin. It’s often painful to discover and understand the roots of your distress. And yet, that process can be the key to your healing.

Let me explain.

We’re totally helpless when we’re born. You know this. But you might not consider the implications. We’re dependent. Open. Vulnerable. Learning, growing, and experiencing. Our brains are being wired. We’re forming our sense of who we are.

So, of course, our parents influence us. Their words, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, anxieties, dreams, loves, hates, insecurities, and shame are absorbed by us. We can’t help it. Even though we have our own personalities, temperaments, and spiritual paths, we spend many years drenched in the crazy soup of our original families.

Drenched in the crazy soup.

Some soup is crazier than others.

Granted, all parents make mistakes and have insecurities. And yet, kids will be resilient if parents are mostly loving and kind. If they apologize for their blunders. If they have healthy boundaries. If they are striving for awareness and insight into their own patterns. Rainforest-minded children who tend toward perfectionism will benefit from parents who openly admit errors and make amends. Kids will learn that no one is perfect. And they will learn what to do when they inevitably make their own mistakes.

But if there’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, or shame, then, it gets tricky. There will be a huge impact including: anxiety, self-hatred, depression, poor choices in relationships and career paths, boundary issues, addictions, and more. And, if you were a highly sensitive gifted kid, you may become the family caretaker, sacrificing your own needs for everyone else. Learning that your needs and desires don’t matter. That you must be fine because you’re so smart. You’re seen as the one who made it out unscathed.

You aren’t unscathed.

Psychotherapy can be the answer. Not the only answer. Not for everyone. But an essential step for many toward healing and creating a fulfilling life. It’s the depth approach that your multidimensional rainforest-y self needs.

By taking the courageous step into psychotherapy, you can find your way through the Dark Night and back to Love.

In good psychotherapy, you– Gently unravel and understand your past. Experience trustworthy, compassionate companionship for the journey.  Rebuild a sense of safety and trust. Acknowledge and mourn your losses. Stop the legacy of trauma in your ancestral line. Heal, grow, and, ultimately blossom. Find self-acceptance and your authentic voice.

And, wouldn’t ya know, all of that takes time. But, hey. You’ve spent years learning and embodying your family’s legacy, right? Years. Shouldn’t it take some years to recover? And just for the record, a year of therapy, at most, is 52 hours, if you go weekly. Basically a long weekend. So, in reality, if you’ve been in therapy for 2 years, that’s actually 2 long weekends. Not all that much time if your crazy soup was terrifying and traumatizing.

Don’t just take my word for it. The School of Life, based in London, has a lot to say about therapy and is a fascinating resource for rainforest minds. They produce lots of articles and videos on self-awareness, growth, and relationships. They even have a global community that might help you find other RFMs. And they have therapists who work online. (I haven’t met them personally so, as always, you’ll need to evaluate them for yourself.)

“Psychotherapy is one of the most valuable inventions of the last hundred years, with an exceptional power to raise our levels of emotional well-being, improve our relationships, redeem the atmosphere in our families and assist us in mining our professional potential.

But it is also profoundly misunderstood and the subject of a host of unhelpful fantasies, hopes and suspicions. Its logic is rarely explained and its voice seldom heard with sufficient directness.” The Book of Life from The School of Life

And so, my courageous ones, if you’re in a Dark Night, have faith. You can do this. It might take several long weekends of therapy but you will survive. You will thrive. You will come back to Love.

And on those darkest nights, remember to look up at the stars. They’ll be at their brightest. Shining for you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ll need to select your therapist very carefully. Give yourself time to find the right fit. This post will help. And this one. Even though I would like to be therapist to each and every one of you, I’m only licensed to practice in Oregon. And, for dark-night-of-the-soul therapy, it’s best to find someone you can work with face-to-face. You can contact me for a consultation, though, about your rainforest mind and the non-family-of-origin concerns you might have, particularly about being a wizard in a muggle world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and questions here. They add so much.

And if you’re wondering about my book, it’s going to stay on sale with GHF Press. If you read it, a review on Amazon would be lovely. Thank you!

 

 

 


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Psychotherapy and the Argentine Tango–A Secret to Successful Aging

Yes, that’s me!

I admit it. I’m sixty-something. Hard to believe, because I was thirty-something yesterday. But I know a secret to success in your post-menopausal or geezer-ish years. And I’m going to share it with you.

Two things:

One: Get lots of psychotherapy and then set up your own practice. (if you can’t set up a practice, still get the therapy…)

Two: Learn the Argentine tango.

Let me explain.

First, the psychotherapy. Most of us don’t make it out of childhood unscathed. Even with the best parents, our hearts are broken on many occasions. When we’re little, we’re totally dependent on these parents. This gives them a lot of power: The power to influence how we feel about ourselves and to determine who we think we are. That much power.

If you’ve grown up with neglect or any type of abuse, then, the understanding of who you are will be distorted and inaccurate. This sets up unhealthy patterns that follow you into adulthood. Anxiety. Depression. Difficult relationships. Lack of self-confidence. Instability. Good therapy will help you understand the impact of these experiences and grieve for your many losses. Then, over time, you can release the negative beliefs and the trauma lodged in your body, find your authenticity and your self-love, and live well. Age well. Be your fully compassionate, powerful, influential rainforest-minded self.

I grew up in a typical, middle class, dysfunctional family: Passive aggression, betrayal, unexpressed rage, boundary violations, trust and safety issues, anxiety, fear, and deep misery. In my own therapy, I came to understand that my anxieties, melancholy, and relationship issues were not the result of my terrible inadequacies as a deeply flawed human being. Instead, my fears, sadnesses, and self-deprecation were normal responses to an unsafe, abusive childhood. Therapy has transformed my self-perceptions and healed my broken heart. Given me the confidence to be seen in the larger world and to have an impact.

Becoming a psychotherapist, then, I know the process from the inside out. Working through many of my mental health issues, I come to the profession with more awareness, empathy, and compassion. Not only that. The career itself is perfect for us older souls (especially if you’re an introvert). Think about it. I get to have deep, intense, sweet relationships. One person at a time. I contribute to creating a better world. All that, and: I don’t have to do any heavy lifting or much actual moving. I get better at it as I gain experience, which means that the older I am, the more in demand I become. Is this the perfect career for older souls? You betcha.

But what does this have to do with the Argentine tango, you ask?

Well. I started dancing the tango at 47. It was shocking. I had no idea that I could experience that much pleasure within my own body and with another person. Learning to dance was a therapy, too, of sorts. To dance well, I had to get to know myself intimately as a human with a body. I had to move with assertiveness and ease while my feet were gliding over the dance floor and my heart was beating in tune with my partner and the music. It was transformative. Insight. Expansion. Grace.

My age? No one cared. I was popular. I was attractive. Men and women watched me dancing with admiration and delight. I am not making this up. What mattered was how well I could tune into my partner, how sensitive and intuitive I was, how grounded I was in my bodiness. And all of that therapy? Only increased my capacity for connection. I can still remember the young, blonde, thirty-something Marine. Watching me dance. Smiling in appreciation. I felt elegant, sensual, and captivating. In my 50’s and now my 60’s.

Not a bad way to age. I recommend it.

Psychotherapy and the Argentine tango.

The secret to a successful old soulfulness.

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To my bloggEEs: I wrote a version of this for ThriveGlobal. I’m wanting to infiltrate other venues with the rainforest mind information. If you click on the link, you’ll see my other articles for them.

What are your thoughts about therapy? Aging? Have you tried dancing the tango? What else might help as you move into your older soul years? Let us know your experiences, questions, and feelings. We love hearing from you. Oh, and, here’s what the Argentine tango looks like. Me in 2004 dancing. (to non-tango music). You’ll see what I’m talkin’ about!

Here’s a link on how to find a psychotherapist. Here’s one on what your therapist needs to know about your rainforest mind. My book can help you until you find a therapist, then you can give her/him a copy. And, by the way, I only counsel in Oregon but I consult worldwide on how to love life and your rainforest mind. Contact me! 


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If You Still Don’t Believe That You’re Gifted

What will it take to convince you? You’ve been reading my blog for how long and you still think that I’m writing about someone else?

Here are your arguments: I’m not a rocket scientist. I don’t remember what I read. I lose trivia contests all the time (or I win trivia contests but it’s, um, trivial). I watch stupid TV instead of reading Tolstoy. Sure, I know I’m not normal; but I’m not exceptional either. I’m too emotional. I can’t make decisions. I’m not a lawyer, or a doctor, or a neuroscientist. I don’t like chess. I was never good at math. I know people who are much smarter than me. I was in college for seven years and didn’t graduate. I’m not changing the world; I’m just changing the sheets. 

Uh huh.

It looks to me like you’re still under the influence of the mythology around what gifted looks like. You think that gifted equals high levels of achievement. Sure, rocket scientists are probably gifted. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. Gifted. But what about all of the people you’ve never heard of?

Like Rita. Dedicated and highly sensitive mom of two teenage boys and a golden retriever. Fascinated by and very knowledgable about neuroscience, yoga, floral design, mindfulness meditation, psychotherapy, Reiki, business development and marketing, botany, painting, calligraphy, engineering, creating beautiful spaces, writing, gardening, intuition, event planning, architecture, and organizing anything. Rita didn’t win a Pulitzer prize or a scholarship to Harvard. But talking to her, it was easy to see that she had multipotentiality and a deeply sensitive, thoughtful, analytical, and intelligent way of being. She had ravenous curiosity, strong intuition, sweet sensitivity, sharp intellect, and a sincere desire to impact lives for the better. You can find little stacks of books here and there all over her house and more books, art supplies, and botanical dissecting kits in her car.

In my world, giftedness is a way of being, not a way of doing. It can include high levels of achievement but it doesn’t have to. (And what is achievement anyway? Eh??) Sure, there is a spectrum. You can be at the profoundly gifted level or you can be barely gifted or somewhere in-between. And sure, the rainforest-minded are a certain variety of gifted. Not all gifted folks have your empathy, sensitivity, and multipotentiality.

How then, can I convince you once and for all?

Today, I’ll get some help from two other psychotherapists who work with gifted clients. They are great resources if you’re looking for more evidence.

Here is P. Susan Jackson‘s description. You’ll find much more on her website. Her writing will move you. (She’s located in British Columbia.)

“Imbued with a finely tuned and advanced perceptual system, the gifted adult processes information-of-all-kinds with a voracious appetite, and stunning capacity.” P. Susan Jackson

Here is some inspiration from Imi Lo, a therapist in the UK. She also has some beautiful descriptions of rainforest minds on her website.

“Claiming your place in the world is not just a real act of courage, but also a form of noble public service. By showing up to the world as the sensitive empath that you are, you are championing not just for your rights, but also all the passionate and porous souls that come before and after you. By standing up for yourself when others call you a ‘drama queen’ or ‘too this and that,’ you are helping your soul sisters and brothers to fight against injustice. Being unapologetically honest about your emotional reality is not only personally healing, but also transpersonally meaningful.”    Imi Lo

OK, oh voracious, stunning rainforest-minders. It’s time to claim your place.

We’ll be right there with you.

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Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And to Sue Jackson and Imi Lo for their important work.

To my bloggEEs: Do you still question your giftedness? Or are you starting to find more self-acceptance? Let us know. As I reread comments, I am so honored to be among you. Thank you so much. Oh, and I have a surprise for you. I’m experimenting with creating an audio blog so people can hear my posts if reading isn’t their preference or for those of you who have been dying to hear my sultry, melodious voice. Click here to listen. Let me know what you think in the comments. Your feedback will be most helpful. And don’t worry, I’ll also keep writing! I love you too much to stop!

 


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Nobody Likes a Know-It-All and Other Familiar Refrains That Gifted Souls Endure

photo courtesy of Annie Sprat, Unsplash

Have you heard any of these all-too-familiar refrains?

Who do you think you are? You think you’re so smart. Ha! You made a mistake! Nobody likes a know-it-all. You are such a nerd, geek, loser, dork. You’re too loud, curious, sensitive, dramatic, and intense. Why can’t you ever be satisfied? Why are you so critical? Stop asking so many questions. You think too much. Lower your standards and expectations. You’re not allowed to read ahead. Don’t be a show-off. Why did you get that B? You think you’re better than us. You’re not working up to your potential. Just pick something already! You’re changing jobs again? Why can’t you just be happy?

We need to start a club. The I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me-anymore club.

We’ll have meetings. You can talk about gravitational waves or dark matter or metaphysics or your latest passion for hazelnuts. You can change careers every two+ years. You can make really big mistakes. You can ask questions that no one can answer. You can read more than one book at a time. You don’t have to finish a project if you’ve already learned what you want to learn. You can be super intense and super intuitive and no one will run away. You can be enthusiastic about libraries. You can read a book a day. You can be in therapy for ten years. You can binge watch Doctor Who, again. You can be optimistic about the future. You can explain the connection between chess, illusionists, martial artists, and heart rate variability (thank you Josh Waitzkin) and we’ll all be fascinated. You can say that you’re gifted.

Of course, I don’t want you to stop caring about others. I don’t want you to lose your sweet empathy. I just want you to consider that what others think of you may come from their own misunderstandings, insecurities, envy, and confusion. Not from reality. Not from an accurate assessment of the truth of who you are.

Even if it’s your parents and other family members who’ve known you since you were a little tyke. They still might be coming from misunderstandings, insecurities, envy, and confusion. Naturally, your family members have a huge impact on your self-perception so it may be hard to not-care-what-they-think-of-you-anymore. I understand. It’s hard to not want their approval, acceptance, and understanding.

But if they don’t really know you, or they can’t understand you, or if they outright reject you?  If they say that you’re too sensitive, too critical, too intense, and a know-it-all?

Well, then, we’ll make you club president.

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To my darling bloggEEs:  I realize that you don’t all live in Eugene, Oregon. So we may have to settle for meeting here at our RFM blog clubhouse until you all move to Oregon. But I have an idea. Consider starting a silent book reading group in your town. Or see if there’s already one that you can attend. I bet you that some other RFMs will appear.

And until your in-person club gets started, here’s a video version of what it’s like to have a rainforest mind and not be, um, understood. You’ll want to watch it to the end (it’s short and fun). Thank you to my lovely friend Grace for sharing it.

Please tell us your thoughts. What else would you want us to include in our club? What are the familiar refrains that you’ve heard? Thank you, as always, for being here.