Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Tips for Aging Well When You Have a Rainforest Mind (And Overexcitable Hair)

Me and my overexcitable hair

I am in my sixties. That sounds OLD to me. AARP. Medicare. Senior discounts. Golf. Geezerville.

But I don’t feel OLD. In fact, other than some possible hidden creeping potential decrepitude (!), I think 60-something is kind of fine. Pretty great, actually.

You, too, can have a pretty-great-actually time into your 60s and beyond. Here’s how:

~ Get plenty of psychotherapy. (You knew that was coming.) You will need to address the old family patterns and beliefs that were handed down to you, especially if there was abuse or neglect. This will not stop your skin from sagging. But it will reduce your anxieties and build your self-confidence. At its best, it will heal any shame that you have carried for years and allow you to live more as your true Self. To find meaning and purpose in your life. Maybe even to explore several career paths that are extremely satisfying. Maybe even to find love and sweet intimacy with a partner. (I’m still waiting for that last one. Even though I’ve had fulfilling partnerships over the years, I am now prepared for the deepest most lovingest one yet.) I have been a client in various therapies since my 30s. It has made a huge difference.

~ Create a strong network of friends. You may need to work at this because your rainforest mind makes friend-finding complicated. Start by doing activities that you enjoy and look for potential friends there. Initiate contact. Nourish the connections, even if the people you find are busy. (which they probably are) Eventually, they will realize that you have done them a huge favor and they will love you forever for all of the effort you made to woo them. Don’t believe me? Ask my friends. They will tell you that they will love me forever.

~ Dance the Argentine tango. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you also saw that one coming.) The tango appeals to smart people because it is complicated and creative. It requires sensitivity and depth. It might be the first time you experience someone following you. But also, and most important, you can be approaching geezerhood and still attract attention. People will watch you with admiration. They will think that you are beautiful. They will ask to embrace you. Here is a sample of me dancing so you can watch…with admiration!

~ Let your free range, overexcitable, out-of-control, expressive, wild hair be itself. (You may want to buy expensive hair products before trying this.) I am finally much more appreciative of my curls. Not only do other people envy their boldness but folks also wish for the excessive quantity that people with thinner less boisterous hair are losing as they age. If you start to love your overexcitable hair, you, too, will find more self-acceptance for the you-ness that has always felt like tooooo much.

~ Give yourself permission to constantly be working on yourself in various ways. This is not narcissism. Your purpose is to be a more loving, compassionate, contributing human, right? In addition to the years of psychotherapy, experiment with other healing modalities. Acupuncture, energy medicine, 12-Steps, bodywork, time in nature, meditation, yoga, spiritual practices, massage, journal writing, visual art, music, dance, reading, martial arts, running, astrology, biking…and more. I have experienced many of these and can enthusiastically vouch for their effectiveness.

~ Avoid mirrors when you have your reading glasses on.

~ Pay attention to your posture. Seriously. Learn about Katy Bowman’s “nutritious movement.”

~ Find people from all over the planet who are creating a better world. Connect with some of them. Support them. Speak out about injustice. Find your particular way to step up.

~ Find a career path(s) that allows you to age gracefully. One where you don’t have to move much and where the older you are, the more in demand you will be. Being a psychotherapist, blogger, consultant, and author, I’ve realized that I managed to find work that I love and that will take me into old age with ease. People don’t mind that I am older or that my knees are creaking. In fact, they think I am wise.

~ Build a spiritual practice that soothes your nervous system, guides your intuition, and connects you beyond the visible world to a larger, loving, spiritual energy field that is all about Love. This is particularly important as you age and begin to think about your legacy. Many RFMs find Spirit through connecting to Nature. I am still developing my spirituality. I find dancing, singing, and journaling to be my way into the invisible spiritual realms. 

~ Maintain your sense of humor.

~ Don’t run out of hair products.

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To my bloggEEs: What are you doing as you grow older to age gracefully? Which of these ideas appeal to you? What questions do you have? Thank you, as always, for being here.

And don’t forget that you can help me age even more gracefully, if you buy my books! (and write reviews) Ahem. Thank you.


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Giftedness, Multipotentiality, and Your Fear of Losing Interest (FOLI)

photo courtesy of Alfred Aloushy, Unsplash

You’ve heard of FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a thing.

Well, if you have multipotentiality. Which you know you do. You may suffer from FOLI. Fear Of Losing Interest.

What is FOLI?

First, you have to understand multipotentiality. Does this describe you?

You have soooo many interests. Since you were a little tyke, you’ve been a ravenous learner.  Reading voraciously. Researching endlessly. Starving for new ideas. Debating with anyone who was available. Captivated by complexity. Thrilled by the thesaurus. Curious about life, the universe, and everything.

You would dive into your latest passion. With your heart and soul. For weeks you would eat and breathe whatever it was. Dinosaurs. The solar system. Butterflies. Jane Austen. Elvis. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. You were satiated. Done. And the next interest would appear and you’d be off again. Until you were done. And onto the next.

Some of you would be into several things at once. You would be exploring complex guitar strumming patterns, studying Latin, designing your dream house, writing a novel, learning computer coding, knitting gifts for friends, watching neuroscience videos in your second language, and so on.

In either form, this is multipotentiality. Misunderstood by relatives, teachers, friends, and you. Especially when it means that you are in college for four extra years because you keep changing your major. Or when you change jobs every three years because you’re no longer interested once you master the skills required. Or when you think that you’re lazy because it looks like you can’t focus or that you never finish anything.

But if this is you, you’re not alone:

From a reader, who says she isn’t gifted: “I write, paint, model figures with clay, and draw. I’m currently teaching myself Chinese (because I’m obsessed with their history and literature). I taught myself English, French and Portuguese. Moreover, I learned the Greek, Russian and Katakana/Hiragana alphabets. And I’m currently learning how to play the Piano (I have composed some simple pieces in the two weeks that I’ve been learning…mathematics, economics…”

From another reader: “…music, drama, literature, art, math, sociology, neuropsychology, architecture, accoustics, geology, geography, history (but only the stories, not all the names and dates!), languages (oh, all the languages! But not the grammar, please, and not all that political stuff, just the languages in use), some psychology (if only to pick apart some really strange theories and practices, but there are some interesting bits, too) and… So many things to learn!”

How, then, does this relate to FOLI? Fear of Losing Interest?

Two possible scenarios: 1. You’re fascinated by so many things. But when you’ve learned all that you want on that topic, you lose interest. You move on. If you, then, interpret this to mean that you’re a lazy ne’er-do-well, it could create on-going anxiety, paralysis, and self-doubt. Why start something if you might abandon it in a year? Future employers might also be wary, when examining your multifaceted resume.

2. This might apply to partnerships. You may be reluctant to commit to an intimate relationship if you fear that there isn’t enough substance, intrigue, or complexity for long term fascination.

Disclaimer 1. If you’re losing motivation due to fears of failure (FOF)or success, (FOS), this is more likely perfectionism. Learn about unhealthy perfectionism. Or, you may not have learned how to struggle with a problem that you can’t solve easily, so you give up too quickly. These are important issues but they are not FOLI.

Disclaimer 2. If you’re avoiding relationships because of fears of intimacy, this is not FOLI. You might want to call your psychotherapist.

What can you do about FOLI?

  • Learn more about multipotentiality. Emilie Wapnick and Barbara Sher are good resources.
  • Some strategies: Understand that intellectual stimulation is like food/water to you. You also need variety and depth. Consider that you lose interest because you’ve learned what you wanted to learn. Now you want to learn something new. And that’s OK!  ~~ Take the time to evaluate the importance of sticking with something even if you’ve lost interest. There might be important longer term benefits or financial reasons.  ~~ Perhaps there are ways to add variety and depth.  ~~ It might be time to change jobs, careers, or majors.  ~~ See your multipotentiality as a strength.
  • Write about your FOLI in your journal. Have a dialogue with your Fear. Let it speak to you. What might be beneath the Fear? Is there something deeper going on? Were you bored in school so any loss of interest triggers memories of being trapped in a classroom? Were you told that you have to finish everything you start no matter what? Was your giftedness not recognized? Ask your Fear to help you. See if it has something to teach you. Ask it to step back so that you can make progress. What’s the worst that can happen if you do lose interest?

Your rainforest mind comes with fears. FOLI, FOF, and FOS. Maybe FOMO. Of course it does. You may feel pressure to always know all of the answers. To be fearless. After all, you’re so smart. But you and I both know that it can be pretty scary in that jungle of yours. So many choices. So many decisions. So much sensitivity. So much awareness. So much curiosity.

So much muchness. Multipotentiality. It’s a thing.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post. Your comments continue to enrich my blog. Do you have FOLI? What’s it like for you? How do you deal with it? What other fears does your rainforest mind trigger? Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to all of you.


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Super Sensitive? Super Smart? Super Lonely.

photo courtesy of Julian Howard, Unsplash

Here’s what’s confusing: Learning is easy. Solving a complex problem is fun. Researching and reading into the wee hours of the night is one of your favorite things. Compassion for others comes naturally. Perceiving the suffering of all beings everywhere is what you do after coffee. And before coffee. Seeing subtleties, complexities, layers, connections, meanings, energies, vibrations, and visions are your everyday realities.

Isn’t that just normal? you ask.

Um. No.

You’re still a bit rare among humans.

Which is why you feel lonely.

Not to mention the holiday season. Where everyone looks so frantic happy. So stressed out generous. Terrified excited to be with their dysfunctional extended families.

It’s hard to find other beings with rainforest minds. Maybe you get frustrated by your relatives who dismiss your insights and take your kindness for granted. Perhaps you long for deep conversation and exuberant debate but end up with small talk and platitudes. Maybe you think it’s your job to save everyone so you befriend all comers, willy nilly. Maybe you meet someone who looks like a prospect but when they find out that you speak 4 languages, write music, paint, read books obsessively, and adore quantum physics, they remember that they have a dying uncle in Idaho who needs them. Right away. Maybe you’ve never found a soul who has the same capacity for sorrow and joy.

Don’t stop believing.

There are perhaps 3484+ rainforest minds around the world reading this post today. There are about 500 who will read it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. See? You can find one. Or two. Maybe more.

For some great suggestions, if I do say so myself, read these posts. Start your own Meetup group or find one. They’re all over the world. Attend or start your own Silent Book Club. They’re also all over the world. Do what you love to do and look for other RFMs. Be brave and approach them. Ask them for coffee/tea. If you don’t know what to say, ask questions about their interests and about sports teams books that they love. Build a network of friends over time who will be grateful for your courage and who will bring you soup when you’re sick. Join the #booklovers and #booknerds on social media. (I’m not going to tell you to learn the Argentine tango. Because I’ve told you that multiple times. You already know that.)

Until you find humans (and after you find them), spend time in nature with the spirits of the trees, rivers, and mountains. They will talk to you, if you let them. They’re good company. Deepen your spiritual connection to your inner guidance. Continue to work on yourself: If you need greater understanding of your sensitivities, read Imi Lo’s book. If you’re looking for a great book on trauma and the body, read Judith Blackstone’s latest book. If you want to understand relationships, read Alain de Botton. For inspiration, read Maria Popova’s gorgeous new book A Velocity of Being. (available 12-31-18) It will nourish your soul and sustain you through the lonely nights. (Popova has 883K followers on Twitter. That’s a lot of rainforest minds!)

You are not alone. You are loved. Already. More than you know. But I get it. You want a human or two who truly sees you. Who can match your complexity and intensity. Who is also exhausted by platitudes.

During the holiday season, it can be particularly hard to feel alone. So here’s one last idea: Use that imagination of yours. That colorful and powerful imagination. Play your favorite songs. And on your own. With your own sweet self. Start dancing.

And then, as the saying goes: If you dance it, they will come.

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To my bloggEEs:  How do you find friends? Partners? Intellectual stimulation? What are the holidays like for you? What are the songs that you dance to? Remember that when you’re here, you are among friends. And at times, there might be 3484 of you here on the same day. Thank you, as always. I deeply appreciate your friendship. And your love.

Here’s the latest update on my book: For now, it’s still with GHF Press and available on Amazon and from booksellers. It will probably stay there for now. I’ll announce it on Facebook (and here) if/when that changes.

 


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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.

 


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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

What if, from the time that you were 2 years old, you were told how smart you were. Over and over. Enthusiastically. By (well-meaning) parents and doting relatives. What if they praised you repeatedly for your many achievements and your perfect grades. What if you could tell that your parents needed you to be smart; that they felt better about themselves because you were so capable. What if you were so persuasive that they gave you too much control and not enough limits.

What if, when you arrived at elementary school, the work was too easy. You knew it before you were taught it. You learned things without really trying. What if you could get perfect scores on tests without studying and your scores were held up as an example for your fellow students. What if you were told by your teachers that you were the best student they’d ever had.

Do you think that you might grow up terrified of failure? Afraid to disappoint others? Hiding mistakes? Paralyzed by anxiety? Believing that if you aren’t a super achiever or the best at everything that you’re a failure? Thinking that all learning must be quick and easy or else it means that you’re not smart? You’re an impostor? A fake?

Do you think that you might grow up thinking that you should know everything before you learn it so that practicing or studying or effort feels boring or scary or unfamiliar? That you have to be mature and adult-like at all times? That you can’t tell anyone that you don’t know something because you have to know everything?

Well, my dears, this, yes this, may be the root of your unhealthy perfectionism. This may be the root of your (possibly unconscious) belief that you have to be super smart at all times or you’re worthless and unlovable. 

By the way, parents, relatives and educators aren’t conspiring against you. They don’t realize the effects of their reactions. Responses like these are very common. (In another post, I explain this more and suggest what parents can do.)

Understanding this root is the first step in changing its effects. 

So, now what?

This is not easy to change, especially if you’ve been living with these beliefs for a long time.

Know this: You are more than your grades, your achievements, your intellectual abilities. So much more. You are worthy of love, whether you write the perfect essay, win the competition, enter the elite school, get the high paying job, make the right decision, invent the iPhone or if you don’t achieve these things.

Somewhere deep inside yourself you know your worth. You know who you really are. So, here’s an idea:

Imagine that there’s a place in you that isn’t about achievement or accolades or winning or losing. This place is just about Love. Just Love. It’s radiant and joyful. Maybe it’s a very young child part of you. Maybe it’s an old wise part. Maybe it’s in your heart. Maybe it’s in your gut. But trust me. It’s there. Waiting for you to notice.

In a journal or in your mind, write to or picture this part of yourself. Take your time. You may be skeptical. You may need to meditate first or sit by your favorite tree. Write a letter to this Radiance. Ask it to show itself to you. Ask it for help. Then write or hear its response. It might come quickly or you might need to wait for a while. Start a relationship.

I’m betting that finding the Love will soften you up. It’ll remind you of what’s really true.

And of who you really are.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with unhealthy perfectionism? Tell us about it. What have you done that helps? We all appreciate hearing from you.

Note: There is a healthy form of perfectionism. You were born with it. I don’t know any rainforest minds who don’t have it. It’s your innate deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision and justice. It can create challenges for you but it’s not something you need to heal. I write about it here.

Another note: This will be extra hard or more complicated if you had chainsaw parents. If so, you might need therapy, too.

A final note: If you need more assistance, here’s a lovely book by Christina Baldwin.

A final final note: Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.


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It’s Never Too Late To Be Your Gifted Self — Part Two

Me. Still dancing the tango.

A 35-year-old client told me that she thought it was too late for her to find a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

I tried to control my facial expression.

35.

I’m here to tell all of you 20-30-40-50-60-70-80+ somethings, that it’s never too late. Never. Too. Late.

I can say this because I’m 65. I started my counseling practice at 41. I began dancing the Argentine tango at 47. I started appreciating my mind-of-its-own free-range hair at 53. I discovered my sense of humor at 55. I created this blog at 62. My first book was published at 64.

And I’m not finished yet.

But, I’ll admit it. 65 sounds old to me. 65. Medicare. Social security. AARP.

I almost didn’t want to tell you.

But luckily, I’m in a profession (counseling / consulting) where you improve with age. You benefit from experience. You don’t have to move much.

And as a blogger and author, no one notices my post-menopausal moods or my creaking knees.

Granted, I’ve been lucky or blessed to be in excellent health. I attribute that to genetics, years of obsessive self-care, a child-free-so-much-less-stressful life and white middle class privilege.

My self-care includes psychotherapy, acupuncture, energy healing, naturopathy, sweet deep friendships, easy access to organic food, intermittent exercise, more psychotherapy, massage, singing, a spotty yet well-intentioned meditation practice, uncontrolled book buying, astrology, dancing, journaling, Netflix, rolfing, the Canadian Tenors, spiritual connections, avoiding toxic people and breathing. Oh, and hearing from you, my fabulous bloggEE fan club.

Of course, 65 is the new 55. So I’m really just middle-aged.

But here’s the thing. Many of you are just realizing that you have rainforest minds. And, with that realization and understanding, there will be new discoveries. New horizons. What confused you in the past, when you thought you were ADHD or OCD or bipolar or a freak or a slacker, will become clearer.

In the process, though, you may feel despair over all of the time lost, thinking that you were crazy. You may feel anger over all of the missed opportunities. You may grieve because you’re 35 and you think your life is over.

Fear not, my lovelies. You’re just getting started. It’ll only get better from here. There is still time. The planet needs your sensitivity, your intellect, your empathy, your optimism, your humor, your you-ness. No matter how old you are.

And, in case you’re wondering, you can’t become ungifted.

Thirty-five or sixty-five, it’s not too late.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I mentioned that I love you? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know if you’ve ever worried that it’s too late. Tell us your concerns about aging. And, for more posts about aging and the gifted from the wonderful people at Hoagiesgifted, click on the image. (And if you want to read part one of this post click here. Be sure to read the comments.)