Are you an avid reader, lover of language and savourer of idioms? Do you enjoy playing with words? It feels a little bit like a ‘monkey business’ to write this article. I’ll brush over ‘monkey wedding’ to make you explore your ‘monkey mind’ which is – I’m guessing – colourful like a rainbow and complex like your rainforest mind.
The other day, the sun was shining and, suddenly, it was raining at the same time with no clouds above my head. Interesting! I posted this on facebook and a ‘friend’ pointed out that this is called a ‘monkey wedding’. The meteorological phenomenon is called a sunshower, but the different folkloristic meanings attributed to it are more poetic: like in Lithuania ‘orphans’ tears’ or in Catalonia it is said that the witches are brushing their hair (see the full list here).
Writing this article creates a panoply of feelings: fear of rejection, excitement, shame, the dread of being misunderstood, courage, enthusiasm to name a few. I hesitated to write ‘rainbow’ of feelings. For two reasons. First, I like metaphors, they are powerful as they engage both hemispheres of our brains – or rather two aspects of processing stimuli and information: analytical and holistic, sequential and associative, dissecting and creating a ‘gestalt’…
Gestalt makes me think of the g-word I am going to use further down.
By the way, I hope you have seen Forrest Gump? In fact, I’m completely lacking words for all the feelings I associate with this movie that tells the life story of an ‘outcast’, who is most loveable, however not very bright.
I am afraid I am digressing!
I am dreading that the way this post evolves is not at all like my mentor told me to do (and I know she is right – and I want to do it right, because what she says makes sense – however, I can’t help but question authority and rules and now it gets worse, I have opened another thread of thoughts… so let’s take a deep breath and smile to calm down and get focused again).
Too all over the place?
If you are at least a bit like me, I have a strong intuitive feeling that you get me when I share all this. Eventually, I tell myself that I don’t have to be afraid that this is ‘too personal’, ‘too exaggerated’, ‘too all over the place’. I trust that you – who still bears with me – do not get repelled or puzzled or irritated or annoyed by me.
Because you know how it feels to have a mind that thinks fast and deep and with thoughts branching out in several directions simultaneously – all the time. And you know that it can be perfectly ‘normal’ to go through a panoply of intense feelings in a very short period of time.
Fear of what others could perceive, think and interpret is one of these strong feelings. Of being seen as a weird person. I was like King Louie (remember the ape who danced with Mowgli? I’ll get back to the monkey further down, promised).
Women like us don’t have a ‘monkey mind’ which is by definition “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant” even if – from the outside – it may be seen like this.
Because I know perfectly well that I still have to tell you the second reason why I wanted to use the word ‘rainbow’.
And I don’t apologize!
I used to feel compelled to apologize. All the time.
My clients often do.
Can you do me a favour, please? (I know that you love to do favours to others when you’re not too busy thinking and feeling the pain and suffering of others.) The next time you catch yourself apologizing just for being you – the way it makes you feel strong and alive and energetic because you are intense, driven and complex – promise me that you resolve to stop apologizing.
Please commit to loving yourself for who you are!
Back to the ‘rainbow’ issue.
Raised eyebrows and rolling eyes
There is a simple second reason why I was tempted to write ‘rainbow’ (I’m quite sure you remember that it was instead of ‘panoply’, but ‘normally’ I would have to explain this once again, as people may have forgotten by now).
Trying to write about this phenomenon still hurts. A little bit. It’s because I have seen more than one eyebrow raised in my life, many eyes being rolled, puzzled looks – sometimes not visible for the eye, I could ‘see’ it clearly even more so, but more about this later, when raising the rainforest issue.
Did you just think,” what is she fussing about?” Then maybe you belong to the camp of the eye-rollers.
Or did my words convey a faint or strong tension in your body, a vague memory, a sharp recollection of a certain incident or even little nausea? Yes? Read on.
Then I don’t have to explain to you that women like us love words. No, we are kind of obsessed with them. Right?
If you form sentences – which slows your thinking terribly down – you can’t help it, you must use the adequate word, the accurate expression, the sophisticated synonym. And in your spare time, you adore basking in books like The Glamour of Grammar (A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English) or The Etymologicon ( A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language).
How many people have not just raised their eyebrows but also told you nice little things like, “can’t you speak normally?” or “do you always have to use these words no one understands?”.
And – between you and me: do you feel happy, energetic and alive when you can talk like this, the way I do it here. Not ‘normal’ at all?
Since I learned more about theories like ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ HSP or concepts like ‘giftedness’ – yes that’s the g-word – I don’t feel ashamed anymore to talk the way it feels right to me – at least around certain people. People like you.
Am I arrogant?
Which brings up another fear (associated with other remarks and mimics that have left their traces in my flesh and bones): the fear of being perceived as arrogant and haughty.
I even came to believe I was arrogant. For quite a long time to be honest.
To be clear, of course, I learned over the years – and I can easily – use words everyone understands. After many pieces of training in writing, editing, speaking, communication and media relations even more so.
But the truth is, I also thoroughly enjoy it – or would you agree if I said, “I get physically and intellectually nourished, energized and feel thriving” – when I can speak or write as I do in this article.
That’s what I have been avoiding – at least to some extent – in the past.
I bridled my drive and enthusiasm, I held down my intensity and I hid the complexity of my thoughts and feelings before others.
For a long time, I had but one wish which King Louie utters in the Jungle Book in his hilarious song: I wanna be like you!
Today I decided to write this article because it scares me. Secondly, because I learned to be at peace with how I am extraordinary. And finally, because I try to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice: “Do one thing that scares you every day.”
Since I learned that there are other people like me who can hear the flowers sing I am growing daily more confident to show up authentically. Knowing that at times, my intensity will shy people away. Knowing that that’s ok.
Because there are other bright people with Wild Minds on planet earth. They may have learned to ‘hold their tongue’ as well. But even if we will never form a majority, there are other super-excitable persons like you and me, I promise.
Now, in order to spot them, you need to figure out who you really are and how you are extraordinary first. In case this idea intrigues you Take the Quiz I designed. It will help you to understand better how sensitive and bright you really are.
Today, I am focusing my energy more on spending time with other complex women and men who can’t help it but are compelled to spend hours and days doing research or thinking with ‘single-minded enthusiasm’ as a friend perfectly described it lately.
You know how wonderful it is to use the ‘right’ word. How blissful whenever your interlocutors do the same!
Even better, they may use words you haven’t come across before. Or expressions you understand according to the context but wonder what the exact meaning might be as you are used to conversing in languages which are not your mother tongue. You can learn something about words and enrich your vocabulary and maybe in the future apply this enhanced knowledge.
And what about Forrest Gump, the rainforest and chocolate?
I’m glad you’re asking!
In one of my all time, favourite movie scenes Forrest says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you’re gonna get.”
It’s not the lack of brightness which makes him ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’ in life.
He’s an atypical hero and he’s having an impact on history without having the strong intention to do so.
Forrest Gump just wanted to be like ‘everyone else’. Unlike King Louie he was human but he didn’t seem to belong. As every Hollywood movie needs a happy ending, Forrest eventually finds love and a way to belong, too.
Which leads us back to you and another possible happy ending.
What if you had a rainforest mind?
(1) If you are ‘obsessed’ with words the way I described you might have a ‘rainforest mind’ to use the brilliant metaphor coined by Paula Prober.
(2) Being bright or (I’m scared, but for the sake of accuracy I’ll be using another concept which is misleading as well as precise) being ‘gifted’ doesn’t mean automatically to excel or being a high achiever.
Words create images in your mind and impinge on you physically. “Hey, but this is true for everyone”, you may want to tell me. Yes, for some people who are visual-spatial thinkers, have imaginational overexcitability and are HSP this is probably what happens anyway.
But if you are ‘gifted’ this means that your mind (and body!) have a different or extraordinary way to process and experience things.
In the Brilliant Book, Your Rainforest Mind Paula explains, “rain forests are particularly complex: multi-layered, highly sensitive, colourful, intense, creative, fragile, overwhelming, and misunderstood, while thick with possibility and pulsing with life, death and transformation. (…) The rain forest is not a better ecosystem, just more complicated.”
About the word ‘gifted’ Paula says: “This is when it gets awkward. Perhaps you have never described yourself as gifted. You are not Einstein nor have you won a Nobel Prize. But in my experience, giftedness is not only mental acuity or cognitive ability. It’s not only about achievement. (…) giftedness is defined as a set of characteristics, including sensitivity, empathy, and perfectionism.”
Which chocolate will you choose?
Finally, let’s talk about one of my preferred topics and ways of creating instant hedonistic happiness: chocolate.
For now, I’d like to contradict Forrest.
And this holds true for everyone. But I would like to say, even more so when you are bright. Yes, having a mind like this can be exhausting. But understanding yourself better will ensure that your brightness becomes a blessing, not a burden.
You don’t have to passively wait and see what kind of chocolate you’ll get.
Make up your rainforest mind
I say, “Life is like a box of chocolates. Choose the chocolate you fancy to eat!”
Savour each piece of chocolate! In this particular case, your cognitive capacities and your heightened sensitivity certainly are a blessing!
Thanks for sharing this post with any person who comes to mind because s-he has a ‘single-minded enthusiasm’ about words and the like. Watch the Interview with Paula Prober on Perfectionism and Your Rainforest Mind now.
Patty is approaching 50 and a stepmom of four gifted grown-ups. She’s still trying to figure out how to follow best her many vocations and how to keep focus while pursuing her multiple interests.
However, she doesn’t struggle anymore to love herself for who she is and accepts her quirks.
When she’s not baking muffins, eating high-quality dark chocolate or enjoying herself outdoors she’s on a mission to spread the word about the sensitivities she and other bright women are dealing with in their daily life and – more importantly –on how to harness them so that they become strengths.