Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?

My First Tango Lesson

I thought I should get a PhD. It made sense. There was a professor who asked to mentor me. I wanted to write a book. So, I thought, why not write a book and get a PhD at the same time? I applied. Was accepted into a program. Got funded.

Then I thought. How many years of my life will this take? What if I die just as I finish? Will I be glad that I spent the last years of my life in a PhD program?

Um. No.

So, I ditched it.

I took Argentine tango lessons instead.

I do not regret this decision.

But I know what you’re thinking. If she were really smart, if she were gifted for heaven’s sake, she’d choose the PhD. She’d be a super achiever. An academic superstar. An Einstein or an Edison. An Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs.* 

Oh wait. Did they even go to college?

But I digress.

Maybe you’ve been ruminating like this: If I’m so smart, shouldn’t I get a PhD? Don’t smart people excel at academics? If someone is supposed to be gifted, don’t they become scholars and university professors? If I don’t become an astrophysicist, does that mean that I’m a failure? That I’m not gifted? Will I disappoint my parents, my teachers, and myself if I choose tango lessons instead of a PhD? 

You do tend to ruminate. We know this.

But, here’s what I think.

Yes, some gifted folks choose academia. Some are high achievers. Some even invent things that are “insanely great.” And we love the high achievers. If you are one, we love you.

But you’re not all going to be interested in astrophysics. Or you may be fascinated by it but you also love poetry and violin and languages and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mycelium, and on and on. Not only that. Schooling might not be so appealing if you had less than fabulous experiences there as a child.

And what does it mean to be gifted anyway? There are so many different definitions. Eminence? Achievement? 10,000 hours of practice? Grit? Talent? Wiring? Motivation? Financial success?

In my world, gifted means rainforest-minded. A human who is bubbling over with intellectual capacity and passion for learning. An effervescent love of beauty. Multi-dimensional creativity. Unending interests and abilities. Intense curiosity. Depth. Finely-tuned sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. A need to make the world a better place and to dance the tango.

A rainforest mind.

So. Maybe you get a PhD. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you learn the tango. Maybe you don’t. Whatever you do with that rainforest mind of yours, what matters most?

Perhaps it’s this.

Maybe it’s all about love. How do you love? How are you Love?

What if you “…measure your life in love.

“Measure your life in love.”

(From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. Seasons of Love.)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your struggles with achievement and identifying yourself as gifted. What are the ways you measure your life?

Thank you to the colleague (getting her PhD) for her inspiration.

(*I know. They’re all white men. They’re the easiest examples to make my point. But I do apologize.)


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Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists

photo courtesy of iam-se7en, Unsplash

Have I told you that I love people who are all of these things? Introverted, highly sensitive, introspective, super smart, and empathetic?

I also love “overthinking” perfectionists who obsess about creating a better world through raising the consciousness of humans, healing the dysfunction in their families and communities, parenting compassionate children, or finding loving-kindness in the chaos.

And let’s face it. If you’re reading this, you are an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. Am I right? (For those of you new to this blog, this means that you have a rainforest mind. (RFM)*)

And, even though you could be one of my best friends, well, you may still be anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair.

For many reasons.

Are you an Introvert? Chances are that you’re not the life of the party. In fact, you avoid parties. Why do people go to those things anyway? What could they possibly enjoy? Small talk? Puleeze. But you may be pressuring yourself to socialize more because that’s what normal people do. But the pile of 15 half-read books by your bed? Now, that makes you giddy. It’s not that you don’t like people. It’s just that more than one at a time is such a bad idea. On so many levels.

Are you Highly Sensitive? You may be easily overwhelmed by things that other people do not even notice. This can be embarrassing, as in, you have to leave the room because the sound of George chewing drives you bonkers, or the smell of Chanel makes you sick, or you’ve painted your living room 12 times and it’s still not right. You also have deep and wide-ranging emotions so you’re often seen as a drama queen or a sissy. Not only that. You’re deeply moved by a starry sky or by a well-crafted TV commercial for auto insurance.

Are you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating because, in reality, you’re determined to understand the nature of humanity and, in particular, your own inner demons. All of this courageous inner exploration is the generous gift you give your ancestors and future generations. Your willingness to face the dark night of your soul is the opposite of narcissism. Perhaps you’ve been told to be less serious. Have more fun. Don’t they know that introspection is fun? And, hey, you’re saving them from your demons, for heaven’s sake. Where is their gratitude?

Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

Are you Empathetic? This might also be spelled empathic. I’m never quite sure. Either way, you may have intuition and compassion that is extraordinary. You experience others’ emotions and burdens and you want to be of service. You might even have psychic talents. Clairvoyance, for example. Dreams that provide answers to your questions. Connections with the metaphysical or shamanic realms. This particular trait may be the one that you hide from the most. Especially, if there are misdiagnoses, religious zealots, or judgmental relatives in your past lives past.

Are you an Overthinker? I’m sure that you’ve been told that you think too much. What’s really happening is that you’re doing what comes naturally. I might even suggest that everyone else is underthinking. Of course, we need to distinguish this from rumination, which you might also do. You may worry excessively because you have a creative mind that can generate many thoughts. Worries, anxieties, and fears among them. But rumination is not the same as your natural capacity for deep, analytical, creative, fabulous overthinking.

Are you a Perfectionist? You can be persnickety to a fault. You may be terrified of mediocrity and failure. You might be a carefully honed procrastinator. Not ideal. You might need therapy to grapple with all of it. (Lucky for you, you’re introspective.) But, that’s not the whole story. You were born with a healthy perfectionism. You’re passionate about beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. And that is ideal. And needed. Now. In these times. Most definitely.

So, my darlings, if you’re anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair, and if you’re an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. You have a powerful, effervescent, multidimensional rainforest mind. And you, yes you, are among my best friends.

I mean it.

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(*Note: If you are an extroverted RFM, you have all of these traits, except the obvious. You could also be a combination of both. I shall write about you soon-ish.)

To my bloggEEs: Tell us how you fit or don’t fit with these traits.  What are some of your examples of your introversion, sensitivity, or perfectionism? If you’re an extrovert, how are you different? What are your questions and concerns? Thank you, as always, for being here. I so appreciate hearing from you.

 


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If You Have a Rainforest Mind, You’ve Got Hopepunk

photo courtesy of Natalie Grainger, Unsplash

Have you heard of it? Hopepunk? If you haven’t, listen up.

It’s got your name written all over it. Seriously.

Hopepunk is about strength through kindness, optimism, and empathy. Power through gentleness and intelligent compassion. It’s about ethics, justice, and standing up. Speaking out for love.

If that doesn’t describe a rainforest mind, well, I don’t know what does.

Hopepunk.

It’s Harry Potter. It’s Frodo and Sam.

It’s Dear Evan Hansen. The musical. The song You Will Be Found.

The School of Life. “The School of Life is a global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence.”

It’s Lin Manuel-Miranda.

On Being. “…an independent non-profit public life and media initiative. We pursue deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.”

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Earth Guardians. “We empower young people by providing them with leadership opportunities and tools to bring their innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.”

It’s good psychotherapy.

March for Our Lives.

Rebecca Solnit.

Rebels At Work. “This is a place of ideas, stories, and resources for Rebels At Work, those of us trying to improve, change, and innovate at work…”

Brain Pickings.

It’s The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker

Love Army“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hopepunk.

It’s a new term that was coined on Tumblr by Alexandra Rowland in 2017 for the fantasy and sci-fi communities of readers and writers and shared by Rebecca Solnit on Facebook. It’s growing from there. To my blog. To you.

Carry on, hopepunkers. Carry on.

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To my bloggEEs: Share the books, songs, movies, and organizations that represent hopepunk in your life. This will be our gift to each other as we enter 2019. Much love and hopepunk to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Inspiration, Beauty, Your Dysfunctional Family, and Human Evolution

photo courtesy of Saffu, Unsplash

“…Then consider what it means to be broken. What if you could proclaim yourself sick and hurt and sad and broken and malfunctioning, every single day, and still believe that you deserved love? What if you could sit in the rubble of your shattered castle, and still feel compassion for yourself? Because compassion for the self is the same thing as passion: That’s where inspiration and beauty are waiting for you…”      Heather Havrilesky

I’m a psychotherapist. Every day I sit with beautiful souls who’ve been deeply hurt. Usually by family members. They feel broken. Fearful. Alone.

I wonder how humans can ever evolve when so many continue to abuse their own children.

With your sensitive, empathetic, rainforest mind, you’re likely painfully aware of the malfunctioning in your own family, in your community, and in the world. Maybe you “sit in the rubble of your shattered castle.” You notice there’s a heck of a lot of rubble. So much rubble. So many shattered castles. Yours. Your parents. Your ancestors. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your politicians. Your ex-partners. Your dog, Fido. OK, maybe not your dog Fido.

I know about rubble. I’ve been digging out from mine for years. It’s a lot of work. The bigger the castle, the more rubble you’ve got. Therapy can take a long time because of all of those gorgeous broken stained glass windows that you need to replace. OK, maybe they didn’t have stained glass windows in castles. Humor me. Maybe you’re more a cathedral than a castle. Don’t you just love metaphors? But I digress.

The point is. Compassion. For yourself. Human evolution.

I know. It’s hard to find self-compassion when the early messages you received, directly or indirectly, were that you were a mistake. Or that you weren’t good enough. Or that the world was unsafe and there was no one you could trust. So, you learned how to cope, how to survive. Usually by blaming yourself and feeling unworthy of love.

And, if you were also a highly sensitive, empathetic being, which you know you were/are, you may have felt responsible for saving your family members. You may have felt pressure to achieve. Or pressure to underachieve. You may have become the caretaker in the family, honing your intuitive capacity, heightening your hypervigilance, closing the door to your heart.

And you wonder why you’re in therapy for, oh, years? Which, by the way, if you go for one hour a week, every week, that’s only 52 hours a year. Out of 8760. That is not much time. After daily 24/7 exposure during your most vulnerable years immersed in the energies, beliefs, behaviors, and pathologies of your malfunctioning family.

Just saying.

So, now that you’ve recognized the rubble, how do you start to rebuild? How do you open your heart back up? How do you find compassion for yourself? How do you help humans evolve?

Here’s one idea. (Besides getting 8760 hours of therapy, which you know I highly recommend.) Have you heard of Pema Chodron and the practice of tonglen? It’s a simple but powerful meditation technique. You’ll want to read about it to get an accurate sense of it but in summary: Notice how you feel. Anxious? Sad? Ashamed? Fearful? Then imagine all of the other people on the planet who are feeling that way in this moment. Welcome them in as you breathe in. Welcome your anxiety, for example, and the anxiety of everyone else everywhere who feels the same. (Sounds kinda overwhelming, I know. Move it through you. Don’t hold onto it.) Then breathe out love. To yourself and everyone else. Continue this way for about 15 minutes or so. Notice how you feel. It’s counter-intuitive but likely that, over time, you’ll feel more peaceful. And more compassion. For yourself. While you’re sending love out to the world.

And then, Inspiration and beauty will be waiting for you.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Are you sitting in the rubble of your castle? What are some ways that you’re rebuilding? Do you know that making the choice to heal from a dysfunctional family is an act of courage and human evolution? Have you tried a tonglen practice? Even if you don’t think you can benefit from meditation, this might be something to explore. Thank you for sharing your comments and your open hearts. I’m so glad you’re here.

Thank you to Heather Havrilesky for her wise words. For more on self-compassion, try: Kristin Neff. 

Note: As with everything I recommend, you’ll need to decide if it’s right for you. For some of you, tonglen may be too overwhelming and not be appropriate. Take care of yourself!

If you’re looking for another way to build your self-compassion through gifts for this holiday season, check out my book! 🙂 And if you’ve already read my book, could you write a review on Amazon? Thank you!

 


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Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

photo courtesy of Austin Schmid, Unsplash

Who do you think you are? Don’t ask so many questions. Stop showing off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Don’t steal my thunder. You think you’re so smart. Don’t show how much you know; the other kids will feel bad. 

Sound familiar?

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ve probably heard this a lot. I mean A LOT. And it’s so discouraging. Because you’re just being you. At least you were. When you were younger. Curious. Enthusiastic. Wanting to know-it-all. Assuming that everyone knew what you knew. Could do what you could do.

That’s what was so confusing. Didn’t the other kindergartners love reading Harry Potter or wondering about negative numbers? Couldn’t everyone feel it when the teacher was so sad? Didn’t all kids cry when a spider was crushed?

We don’t often explain these differences to kids. We don’t know what to say. So, we say, “Slow down so the others can catch up.” or “If you keep talking about Richard Feynman, you won’t have any friends.” Or even, “Why can’t you just be normal?”

Not helpful.

So you shrink. Dumb down. Slow down. Take up less space. Hide your love of words. Ask fewer questions. Over-apologize. Become anxious and depressed. Smoke pot.

Maybe you’re like 40-year-old Joan. Fascinated by so many things. Good at anything she tried: photography, writing, graphic design, event planning, floral design, painting, teaching yoga, running meetings, water skiing, fund raising, parenting, winning whipped cream eating contests and 3-legged races. (although she hasn’t run any 3-legged races recently) Tending to stay behind the scenes and hide her successes. Thrust into leadership positions on the one hand and resented for her creative ideas on the other. Careful not to outshine anyone. (She’ll make exceptions when it comes to whipped cream.)

Of course, you’re grateful for your skills and abilities. You appreciate your rainforest mind. But you don’t think you’re so smart. There are all those other people smarter than you. You’re not arrogant or full of yourself.

You’re not full of yourself.

You just want to be fully yourself.

And that’s not easy.

I have good news and bad-ish news.

The bad-ish news: You’ll need to be strategic. There will be people who can’t handle your intense emotions or your desire to discuss Dickens for hours. Some of them will be critical, rejecting, or worse. You will need to find healthy ways to cope or to limit your time with these folks. You might want to share some parts of yourself and protect other parts. You might need to monitor your communication to be better understood. There will be people who want to take advantage of your big heart and your problem solving abilities. You’ll need to learn how to set limits and say “no” when needed. To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. You may have to redefine what it means to be authentic.

The good news: Your sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy is an extremely valuable resource. Geeks are becoming more popular, respected, and indispensable. Geeking out is now a thing. It’s possible to find other humans with rainforest minds who will appreciate you. (I wouldn’t have a thriving practice without them!) You can be fully yourself with other humans who have rainforest minds. And surely, the planet needs you to be fully yourself. Now, more than ever.

So don’t waste any more time. Show us how smart you are. In your very own strategically authentic Richard Feynman-obsessed, whipped cream eating, geeking out, rainforest-minded way.

The other kids will be OK.

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To my bloggEEs: What messages have you received that told you that you were too much, or that you should hide your giftedness? What keeps you from being fully yourself now? How are you strategic in protecting yourself when needed? What would being fully yourself look like?

Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you so much to all of you!

 

 

 


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Do You Have a Rainforest Mind? Why Does it Matter?

What is a rainforest mind? Do you have one? Do you want one? Might it be better to have a meadow mind or a corn field mind? Simpler. Quieter. Predictable. Organized. Productive, but not overwhelmingly so. Beautiful, but not a sensory overload extravaganza.

Think about it. The rainforest. Your jungle mind. Overflowing with intense, lush, teeming life. Noisy. Dense. Diverse. Vibrant. Abundant. Sensitive. Resource-full. Majestic. Flamboyant. Rotting. Always in flux. Providing support for all beings on the planet.

I know that you might not feel majestic. Maybe you’re not obviously flamboyant. Perhaps you have days when dense and rotting are the best descriptors. Maybe you’re not supporting all beings on the planet. Yet.

But the way your mind-heart-body-spirit works, you must admit, feels eerily similar to intense, lush, teeming life. And chances are, your questioning, curious, thinking, imagining mind is flamboyant. Or it was. When you were little. Effervescent and noisy.

Now, maybe you’ve learned to tamp it down.

Maybe people told you that they wished that you had a cornfield mind. And perhaps that sounded good to you, too. You weren’t sure there were many benefits to your constant questing. To your deep analysis of, oh, everything. To the howler monkeys who kept swinging from your branches fomenting havoc.

It’s tricky. To manage so much intensity, creativity, thinking, intuition, empathy, and sensitivity in your mind-heart-body-spirit. To not misdiagnose yourself with ADHD or OCD or bipolar disorder. To not get tangled in your own vines.

But it gets trickier. You also need to figure out how to live in a world that finds you overwhelming. Too curious. Too creative. Too smart. That can want to take your valuable resources from you. That can decide to cut you down.

And yet. That world is in desperate need of its rainforests.

So what do you do? What the heck do you do?

Tamp it back up.

You heard me.

What do I mean?

Well. I don’t mean that you should let the monkeys of your psyche loose on innocent bystanders. Or that you ought to make your sensitive soul vulnerable to the judgment and bizarre-ity of humankind. Or that you need to fix everything that’s wrong with the world.

Nooooooo.

What I mean is: Rediscover who you were before you tamped yourself down. Before you had to hide your light. Before you learned that you were too much.

Find ways to be that person again. You don’t have to do it all at once or to radically redesign your life. And you certainly shouldn’t let go of your healthy boundaries or your needs for quiet spaces.  But decide to take back your voice, your body, your power, and your flamboyant majestic-ness. Either in your parenting, or teaching, or writing, or art forms, or speaking, or thinking, or activism, or spirituality, or loving. Or all of the above.

Find your particular rainforest-y way to support all beings on the planet.

Now more than ever.

It matters.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: This post is part of a collection of writings on underachieving. Underachieving is a term usually applied to gifted kids who aren’t doing well in school or living up to what is perceived as their potential. I include this post in the collection because I’m writing about you hiding or tamping down your authentic self. This can be a type of underachieving, just not in the traditional sense. (Click here or see the link below for access to the other posts.)

What are some ways that you’ve rediscovered your authentic self? What holds you back? What are your fears around finding your true self? What gives you the courage to examine yourself and to heal your broken heart? What types of actions are you taking to create a better world?

Two resources that I’ve found helpful for supporting all beings on the planet are Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Van Jones. What resources have you discovered?

 

 

 

 

 

 


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My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd

photo courtesy of Jan Traid, Unsplash

I’m an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

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

I’ve been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I’ve tried it all. Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. 12 Steps. Talk. Journaling. Polarity. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. HRT. Tango. Bodywork. Reading. Acupressure. Energywork. Process work. Hakomi. Fly fishing. Shamanic journeying. Grief work. Reiki. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Soul collage. Meditation. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Well, maybe not all. I haven’t tried antidepressants. Or ayahuasca.*

And, OK, blogging isn’t therapy. Per se. Although, it’s therapeutic. For me. If you must know.

I used to think that I was deficient because I spent all 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. (Hey. I live in Oregon.) 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.

OK. 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 theatre for about a decade. Danced the Argentine tango in Paris. Wrote angst-y emails to attentive girlfriends. Married. Divorced. Watched my niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I’ve 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 weird. But, hey. There is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It’s really lively in there. Very entertaining.

And now that I’m a psychotherapist, I have a good reason to continue to be obsessed living this 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).

Not only that. Now that I have my blog and book, I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room.

What could be better?

But why am I writing 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 of you are extraverted, introspective, abyss divers.

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

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

But still.

If you’re introverted. If you have one nerd-like obsession or many. If you feel weird and deficient. If you’re leading an unconventional life.

And if you never get that table cloth or that blender.

Meet me in Oregon. We’ll go bowling.

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(*Note: Ayahuasca is not actually therapy. I wrote that for the humor factor. I don’t recommend it. Ayahuasca. I do recommend humor.)

(Another note: If you want to know more about psychotherapy and giftedness, click on this link. If you want to read a great description of why therapy matters, not written by me but by Heather Havrilesky, click here.)

(Last note: In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing this to surreptitiously influence you to see me for therapy. I actually am only licensed to practice in Oregon. I can, however, meet you for a consultation that would be focused on questions around your giftedness. OK? No surreptitiousness here, my darlings.)

To my bloggEEs: So happy to have you here. Your comments provide so much depth and beauty. I’m so appreciative. Are you introverted? What’s that been like for you? How have you created a life that respects your introverted needs? If you’re extraverted, how do you grapple with your needs for human contact? And: Having a rainforest mind can feel weird no matter what. That’s why we’re here. What are you feeling nerd-ly about these days?