Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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?

 


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What Does Gifted Look Like in My World?

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The controversy is intense.

How do we explain giftedness? Is it high achievement? Talent? Productivity? Eminence? IQ? Financial success? 4.0 grade point average? 10,000 hours of practice?

Nooooooooo. 

I shriek.

Politely.

I mean, it might include any of those things. Sure. But it doesn’t have to.

Instead. Here is my explanation.

Totally anecdotal. If you want data, you can stop reading now. Or skip to the end and the link to neuroscience.

If you want experience, I’m your gal.

Gifted looks like Ebony. Sixteen. Intense. Talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. Asks questions no one can answer. Struggles in school: Doesn’t turn in papers that aren’t up to her standards. Procrastinates to avoid feeling like a failure if she gets less than an A. Tries to engage her classmates in some intellectual repartee when all they want is to watch Netflix. Some teachers think she’s arrogant. Feels a spiritual and intuitive connection to the ocean and the ravens. Lonely for a friend who gets her and who has read Lord of the Rings 11 times.

Gifted looks like Carlos. Forty-two. Self-taught, successful IT expert. Highly sensitive, empathetic, and emotional (although he hides it well). Bullied in school because he preferred grasshoppers and string theory to football. Spends hours writing a three sentence e-mail. Repeats himself often in an effort to be deeply understood and to calm his anxiety. Researches for days in order to make a decision. A slower, deliberate, deep thinker and processor. Learning to dance the Argentine tango so that he can finally experience being followed.

Gifted looks like Martin. Eight. Energetic. Extremely curious and kind. Wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. Refuses to complete worksheets of arithmetic problems that he already knows. Teachers complain that he must be ADHD and not particularly bright but he can concentrate for hours at home building complex lego contraptions or reading Popular Science. Sleeps with a dictionary when he does sleep, which he resists mightily. Exhausts his parents with his emotions and his need for creative and intellectual activity.

Gifted looks like Frances.  Fifty-nine. After running her own children’s bookstore, raising two kids and their friends, volunteering on the board for the ballet, and remodeling her home, she’s in her latest job working as a city planner. She’s considering going back to school for another Masters degree because she’s always wanted to be an art therapist or a landscape architect or a stand-up comedian. She thinks she’s flakey or shallow because she’s walked so many different career paths. Her sense of social responsibility keeps her awake most nights. Her intuitive abilities frighten her.

Gifted looks like Carmen. Thirty-six. A successful social worker and loving mom who promotes energy efficiency everywhere she goes. Been in therapy for years courageously addressing serious trauma from her family of origin. Dealing with complex physical symptoms due to chronic anxiety from growing up terrified and abused. In spite of her own pain, able to be generous, empathetic, optimistic, spiritual, and accomplished. Working on setting better boundaries with people who want her to rescue them. Learning how to create reliable, sweet friendships where she receives as much as she gives.

That’s what gifted looks like in my world.

And, if you really want to know, gifted looks like a rain forest. (Note: If people are like ecosystems, some are meadows. Some deserts. Some oceans. Some rain forests. All are necessary and beautiful.)

In his must-read book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the tropical rain forest is described:

“The feeling of being in the rain forest is the feeling of being surrounded by life. It’s home for hundreds of thousands of animals, and their survival is connected to the survival of us all. The magnificence of the rain forest is something powerfully sacred, something so clearly worth protecting...the rain forest is one of the most important biomes on the planet for human survival…it offers us an unbelievable abundance of nourishment and resources…” 

Right?

Sounds just like you.

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To my bloggEEs: You’ve been doing an amazing job adding your comments to my posts. Thank you so much. Let us hear from you now. What does your giftedness look like?

(Note: For those of you who are persnickety, and who among you isn’t, I have a confession. I made rain forest into an adjective, as in rainforest mind, and then made it one word. You may have been wondering about that for a long time. You’ve noticed my inconsistency. The truth is finally revealed.)

(Another note: The people described above are composites of clients, students, and other assorted gifted folks I’ve known. Names, of course, have been changed.)

For those articles on neuroscience and giftedness, click on this link.

 

 


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So, You’re Gifted. Who Cares and Why Does it Matter?

photo courtesy of Jeremy Thomas, Unsplash

It matters. Even if no one else cares. It matters that you know. And that you care.

Why? you ask with that quizzical oh-so-disarming look of yours. (Yes, I know that look.)

Because, my darling:

You will understand that what you imagined were your poor communication skills, was actually your inability to slow your super-speedy thoughts. Not to mention your assumption that everyone thinks as deeply, as quickly, and as multi-dimensionally as you do. They don’t. (This does not make them terrible people. I know. It just means that they might not comprehend your perturbations.)

You will give yourself permission to be the voracious learner that you are. To let yourself dive into the esoteric, obscure, mysterious, complex topics that other people can’t possibly grok and wouldn’t want to.

You will allow yourself to be obsessed with beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. (Your healthy perfectionism.) Even if it means that you don’t get as much done because you’re crying over the majesty of the night sky.

You will have compassion and appreciation for your ridiculously high standards and expectations and your need to ruminate over the exact wording of your email to the plumber.

You will understand why you’ve been lonely all of these years and stop thinking it’s because you don’t smile enough, don’t make small talk, or because you suck at sports.

You’ll find an appropriate career path or two or ten.

You’ll protect your sensitivity and empathy from the assault of perfumes, ragers, leaf blowers, chemicals, clamoring hoards, noisy chewers, creepy humans, nasty Facebook messages, boring lectures, and houses that are painted orange.

You will understand that what looks quirky, eccentric, weird, and geeky to others is what makes you fascinating.

You will stop misdiagnosing yourself with labels such as OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Aspergers, slacker, weird, or just-plain-crazy. (And, sure, you may be twice-exceptional, 2e, and have a particular diagnosis along with your rainforest mind, but there’s a whole lot of misdiagnosing goin’ on, too. So you’re gonna stop that now.)

You will appreciate your curiosity and your questioning of everything. And you’ll continue to search for meaning, purpose(s), and justice. This will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Let me say that again in a different way.

Knowing that you are gifted, matters. It will explain what might otherwise create confusion, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, angst, or despair. It will allow you to blossom into the best human that you can be.

And this will result in benefits to your children, neighbors, relatives, friends, animals, plants, ancestors, the planet, and humanity at large.

Even if they don’t know that they care.

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To my bloggEEs: This is for those of you who may actually accept that you have a rainforest mind but are still wondering why it’s important that you know it. What’s your reaction to this post? What else do you need to know that will help with your self-acceptance? Thank you, as always, for being here. And, I have a request. If you’ve read my book, can you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. 🙂 (And if you haven’t read it, well, now would be the optimal time, doncha know…)

 

 

 


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Don’t Give Up On Yourself And Your Rainforest Mind

photo courtesy of Nadim Merrikh, Unsplash

Don’t quit. Don’t stop striving. Don’t stop growing. Don’t stop believing.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Even if you grew up in a family of chainsaws. Even if you have been told over and over and over that you’re too sensitive, too dramatic, too smart, too quiet, too noisy, or too weird. Even if you think you’re too old or too young or too whatever. Even if you’re overwhelmed by politics or racism or natural disasters or anxiety or depression or physical disabilities. Even if you procrastinate. Even if you’ve changed jobs multiple times and never learned how to build rocketships and send them to the international space station. Even if your hair is curly and free range. Even if you don’t look like George Clooney or Beyoncé.

Even if you haven’t partnered with the person of your dreams and you don’t have perfect, high achieving children. Even if you feel like too much and not enough at the same time. Even if you’re post-menopausal. Even if you’re grieving for the planet and are anxious about the future. Even if you’re gluten-free. Even if you can’t leave your home. Even if you don’t have a home. Even if you haven’t renovated the school system. Even if you didn’t go to Harvard. Even if you did go to Harvard. Even if your curiosity has been misinterpreted as arrogance and know-it-all-ness. Even if you weren’t popular in high school. Even if you can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. Even if you can’t afford psychotherapy. Even if you’ve been in psychotherapy for years. Even if you don’t speak seven languages fluently. Even if you’re seen as extremely successful in your field and yet you still feel bereft and lonely. Even if you haven’t saved the world. Yet.

Don’t stop believing.

You never know. You could be a late bloomer. You could start tango dancing at 47. You might become a blogger at 62. You might get your first book published at 64. You could discover that people around the world love and admire you. You could be helping smart, sensitive people self-actualize and find their purpose(s). You could finally accept and love your curly free-range hair.

You could finally know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that. you. are. gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: I am so inspired by all of you and so grateful for our community. Let us know your thoughts, questions, and reactions to this post. Your comments add so much! And thank you for being here. This post is part of a blog hop from the amazing site hoagiesgifted.org. For more posts on the topic: Things I Wish I Knew Back Then, click on the image below. And for those of you who are parents of gifted children, here’s a little treat. My colleague, Tina Harlow, edited this eBook that has lots of great advice from professionals (including me!) in an easy-to-read format. It’s available free to download.