Throw Back Tuesday: Passion – The Core of the Gifted


Hi everyone! I am just getting back from a long weekend and well, I am behind. No big shock though, right?!? To deal with blogging I decided to do a throw-back-Tuesday post from last year. The topic – PASSION and Intensities. I hope you enjoy it:

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You’ve heard me say before that gifted individuals are, at their core, intense. This intensity extends into every aspect of their being – the way their brain functions, the way their sensory system interacts with the world, and the way they feel about the world. It is, in my opinion, a core aspect of the gifted individual.

The world often looks at the cognitive aspects of their intensity favorably, complimenting them on their academic prowess, or giving accolades for the unique problem-solving skills or creative approaches gifted individuals often demonstrate.

This is not typically true with the emotional aspects of being. These are looked at with a less favorable eye. When they are young, gifted individuals are often thought to be overly dramatic, engaging in tantrumming behavior over seemingly little events.

As they age, a gifted person may find it hard to find relationships because of their intensities – they give so much to every friendship, every love interest, that  it often scares the other individual.

As a gifted adult, I can tell you that learning to deal with the intense aspects of giftedness has been a unique challenge. I feel things at such a deep level, am easily wounded, and can often appear somewhat unbalanced because of my intensities.

Nothing is farther from the truth, however.

My intensities make me strong.

Let me say that again – my intensities, or my passion, for whatever it is I am doing makes me strong. It gives me the focus I need to push past the things that are difficult in order to reach my goals. And it enables me to connect to others in a way that has helped my art, my job….everything.

I say this to encourage you to view the intense aspects of your giftedness, or the giftedness within your children for what it truly is – PASSION.

It is passion that enables humans to create and invent. Passion that raises art to the sublime. Passion that gives us a reason to continue.

Passion.

Confessions of a Teenage Beauty Queen


dreamstime_6634032I was hanging out on FB yesterday and stumbled across a great article from a father to his young daughter. In it, he redefines our cultural ideas of beauty. If you haven’t read it – CLICK HERE and read it. That post was so touching to me. Sure, it had a great message – one sorely needed at a time when so many girls are at risk, partially due to what our culture teaches them.

But that isn’t the only reason. This topic is highly personal to me.

I grew up without a father figure until I was in my early teens. By then, I had already developed body dsymorphia – I saw myself as an obese girl even though I was a normal weight for my size. There are a ton of reasons why the body image problems developed (and that’s for another post), but suffice it to say it was a huge issue for me. For years I facilitated between periods of anorexia and bouts of bulimia. I was a mess.

And no one knew.

I kept all of that hidden away from the rest of the world. My weight stayed somewhat constant. I was in beauty pageants, even won a few. I modeled and even went to NYC. My weird quirks were normal with models and beauty queens. We were all suffering body image problems. I never told anyone about my secret rituals around food. Never admitted how ill I was.

In college, my first time away, my gifted introverted self hit crisis mode. I saw a counselor for the first time. It was terrifying. And like any bright, scared, soon-to-be-adult, I ended counseling as soon as I felt “ok”.

For the next several years, I hit the depth of my body image issues until finally I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer, and I again sought help. I had a great therapist. I stopped  and purging. Stopped the anorexia.

At least for a while.

But, although I stopped behaving like an anorexic, I hadn’t fully healed the core of my body issues. And so I became an emotional eater, and a new issue with food (or maybe the same issue reborn) blossomed.

It has taken more years than I care to admit to become more comfortable with my body. I have only just started to allow pictures of me, only now refused to inhibit my speaking career related to my body issues. I am finally in a place of healing, acceptance. I’ve done the work on the core issues, replaced emotional eating with healthy eating and no longer engage in the rituals.

In short, I am finally happy with “who” I am now. I’ve learned that diminishing myself serves no one, least of all me. I’m not willing to hate myself in order to be liked by others, something I thought I had to do in my youth. I’m better. Stronger.

It has been a long and difficult road. I wish someone had noticed the turmoil I was in, wish a trusted adult had said the words the father in the above article said to his daughter. But I am grateful that I DID figure things out. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.

I am proud to say I have two amazingly strong daughters. They are healthy, fit, and not focused on cultural norms for beauty. They are self-confident and feel quite comfortable forging their own path. I would like to think I had something to do with it – who knows. Most of the time I am fairly certain they just came onto the planet with an amazing amount of resiliency and emotional intelligence. There are my example, my ideal.

Strong. Resilient. Intelligent.

I stand here now humbled and grateful – for the strength I’ve found, the life I have, and ability to give to our children the strength I once needed.

Whew – okay. There you go. Confessions of this victim of our cultural definition of beauty…

What confessions do you have to share?

Supporting Your Child’s Passions


parent and child talking

How many of you take the time to nurture your passions? Do you spend time on them? Use your passions to help direct your life goals? Anything?

How about the passions your children have? Do you help them nurture their passions? Do you actively encourage your children to explore the things they are most passionate about?

If you are like most people, you are inconsistent about both your passions and those of your children. In fact, you may not even be sure of what these “passions” are. Am I right?

Here’s a little way you can get on track with supporting your children’s passions, as well as your own.

First, help your children identify the things they most care about. Have them make lists, idea posters, digital scrapbooks – anything that will help them clarify the things they care most about. And if you haven’t done that for yourself, I would advise making this a fun project you both can do.

Once there is once clarity about the things you care most about, encourage your children to find one thing they can do weekly (or monthly) to embrace that passion. If they are into fashion, talk about making fashion boards or a starting up a fashion blog. If cooking is their thing, give them some freedoms in the kitchen to cook (safely) and explore. 

I think we often downplay our children’s passions as fleeting hobbies. While this will be true at times, it won’t always be true. The more we can nurture and support the interests our children have, the more we give them permission to be whomever they authentically are. 

Our children are the future – let’s help them embrace it with passion and creativity, shall we?!?

Finding Inspiration in Julia Mancuso


I am always looking for inspiration – both from within and without. This past weekend, I found the perfect dose of my daily inspiration in a brief spotlight of Julia Mancuso, Olympic downhill skier.

Julia is from Maui, an island near and dear to my heart. About ten years ago or so, when recovering from a particularly tough bought of burnout (nothing like being super intense), I went to Maui for the first time. I lovingly say I found my smile on the road to Hana. Maui – the environment, the lifestyle, the spirit that embodies the Hawaiian culture – speaks to me in a way that is profound. It isn’t surprising then, that Julia, raised in this setting, works to live a balanced life.  Rather than muscling through adversity, as many other athletes preach and many of us attempt, Julia letting go and relaxing into the moment.

Wow! I know this…and yet, man did I need to hear it.

I am a person that regularly pushes through adversity, often ignoring my body’s pleas to slow down. Stop. I wind myself into a mess this way. Repeatedly.

The result, I get loads done. But, at what cost? Right now, the “cost” has been a never-ending bout of bronchitis that is going on it’s seventh week.

NOT FUN!

So, I think it is time for me to take a page from Julia’s playbook. Stop pushing through the fatigue. Stop ignoring the pleas from my body and start listening to “me”. Today, I took the first step and I let go of the “plans” for writing and marketing this week and just listening to my body, resting when needed, etc. I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

In the meantime, check out this fabulous article about Julia and her balanced approach to life

More Than Shy: A Request for Help


parent and child talking

As many of you know, I announced the sale of my next nonfiction book, MORE THAN SHY: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety, to Prufrock Press. The book will be released in early 2015, which of course means that I am knee-deep in the research phase now. This book covers social anxiety from the perspective of the biological aspects of social anxiety, the behavioral and environmental factors of anxiety, and specific strategies for parents and educators on the topic of social anxiety. I have some personal stories and Frequently Asked Questions I plan on adding – but I need more.

And that is where all of you come in.  As I’ve done with the majority of my books, I will be holding online focus groups and surveying parents, educators, and even children about this topic and I would LOVE to involve all of you! So, please take a moment and complete this form and let me know if you’d like to help in some way. I will be in touch by the end of the month with more information.

Thanks and here’s the link to the form just in case the form doesn’t come up on your computer or mobile device. - https://docs.google.com/forms/d/169hA6TeEn8QGmAnGdZ-i7zbOtTvPvk51vveJuv5zr9c/viewform

Releasing 2013: A gentle look back


Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I would love to say it’s because I was so caught up in the holiday happenings. But, the truth is that I’ve been sick. Really sick. The good news – after too many days in bed, breathing treatments and antibiotics, I have rejoined the living – just in time to ring in the New Year!

There is an interesting things about being really sick, a time between feeling well enough to be upright and do things and so sick that you aren’t able to keep your eyes open – this is the space I’ve been living in for a few days. And it is in this space that I was gifted with the clarity needed to move forward.

2013 was an interesting year, filled with hope and opportunity as well as pain and regret. It was like the years that preceded it – 2010 through 2012. Each of these years gave me some of my highest highs and lowest lows. These years shaped much of who I am now, as well as the “me” I want to cultivate in the future.

I started in writing in 2008 when a collection of characters decided to be heard and “forced” me to write their story. That story was promptly shelved, but in it lead to many other works.

In 2009 I started to blog, connected with others online, and discovered a world of other creative, bright, introverts like me, anxious to connect but unsure how. I made some of my deepest friendships and learned so much. I sold my first nonfiction titles, hit a few milestones and wrote more books.

I was happy, alert, alive.

2010 brought my first book to print, my first book chats, and more sold books.

It also started a toxic path for me – one that slowly, over the next several years, shifted focus and became muddled, drained and blocked.

2010 brought illness, death, distance. I survived; but I cannot say that I thrived.

2011 and 2012 were about finding myself again. Figuring out how to release the blocks. Writing more books, etc. I wrote some great books, sold a few more nonfiction titles, learned about micro-publishers, and released my fiction. It was exciting once again. I met book bloggers, readers, and other writerly friends. I had a few more firsts – first book signing, first major presentation at a conference, first writing conference attendance.

I was happy – and I wasn’t. I was satisfied – and not. I was writing – sort of. But I was also still blocked, in a stupor and unable to find the joy writing had previously brought me. More than once I nearly quit. More than once those closest to me helped me through the turmoil beginning to define my life.

Which brings us to 2013. This was the hardest, best year of all. I took a job that nearly killed me. Left the job. Became more lost. Gained clarity. Everything about 2013 represented the highs and lows of the preceding years. Relationships changed. I laughed and cried. And still – I wrote books. Published a few more. And made my goals.

The last week of 2013 had me in bed, reviewing the pattern of life that had been mine for the past 5 years. I would like to say there was some great epiphany – but it wasn’t like that. More a subtle acknowledgement and releasing of the pains of the past years, gratitude for the highs and a preparation for the future.

The past five years, with its highs and lows and life-defining moments have all been necessary and nothing I would ever change. It is through these experiences that I’ve grown to embrace with an authentic heart my life…Me!

I am excited about the upcoming year. Excited and clear.

It is an amazing feeling.

The Elusive Search for Balance


One of the biggest hazards of my “intense” life is taking on too many things and getting myself all out of balance. See, I can handle a lot of things on my plate at once – in my day job, in my creative life, online, and in my personal relationships. But, like many other intense people, I often “think” I can take on more than I actually can. And this results in burn-out…

One of my dearest friends asked to see me next week, when I am out on break. Man, I wanted to say “yes, let’s connect.” But the truth is, I am not certain I can…or rather, that I want to. NOT because of my friend, but because I need to hide and regroup. Spend time in meditation, find my balance.

I’ve been thinking about this balance thing a lot lately. I mean, I just took off some blogging time, cut myself some slack on my writing projects, took time to breathe. And still, I can feel how out of balance I am. It is frustrating, really. More than frustrating.

In my search for balance and what that needs to mean for me long-term, I have discovered a few important things:

  1. I need to meditate daily. No really….DAILY. Even if it is a quick 15 min Chopra thing, I need it. Kind of like how I need air.
  2. I NEED to write everyday. Journal pages, fiction, something… Note: Psych reports, behavior progress notes and blog posts DON’T count!
  3. I need to spend time with my children every day. Quality time laughing, hearing about their day, talking about their plans
  4. I NEED time with my husband every day – decompressing and just connecting
  5. I need time for art that is NOT writing weekly. This feeds my soul in a way that is different from writing. With my other art – cross stitching, gardening, cooking, digital art – it isn’t about making something others can see, read, participate in. It’s a more selfish endeavor, just for me. Because I want to.
  6. I need a clean house. I just need it.
  7. I need time to read.
  8. I need time to connect online with my online friends.
  9. I need weekly coffee with BFF.

These are needs. Not wants, not “it would be nice if they happened.” But needs. Like air. Like food. Like sleep.

Needs. (And yes, exercise is not on there. When I feel in balance, I crave the exercise – the rest of the time, I just want these things…)

What are your needs? Have you every thought about it? Does getting what you need help you stay in balance? It does for me.

Letting Go: A Major Step in Renewal


As many of you already know, I am a pretty intense being. I feel passionately about life and all of its many aspects. An artist, an academician, a mother , a wife, and a friend, I bring my intensity to everything. Sometimes this is a good thing. Heck, sometimes it’s even great. It is my intensity that allows me to finish books under crazy tight deadlines, and still maintain certain standards. It is my intensity that enables me to draw inspiration from the simplest moment of silence. It is my intensity that allows me to connect on a deep level, to cry and a beautiful piece of music, and to stand in ah at a glorious sunrise. It is also my intensity that causes my deepest heartaches.

Interacting with others when you are intense can be difficult. Sometimes the intensity causes friction in the relationships, as tempers grow short and patience runs thin. And sometimes, people just get exhausted by the intensity for no specific reason at all. This is all part and parcel for the intense person. For me.

These moments can throw me out of balance and tap on my energy stores as I try to locate the reason for the problem, even if isn’t any ONE particular thing.  Letting go of these problems, making the decision NOT to let them run down my energy levels is a key for my renewal and the renewal for most intense personalities.

Sometimes, however, letting go is much easier said than done. Sometimes wallowing in the muck is too difficult to avoid. The tips below prove a few easy ways to take control of these intense moments and let go of the things wearing you down:

Letting go of frustration:

  • Meditation or prayer – practice living in the moment every day
  • Perspective – change perspective from time to time in order to gain fresh views on your life or your actions
  • Action – take action. Nothing pulls me from wallowing and self-pity faster than taking action, even a small amount.

Letting go of stress:

  • Focused breathing – Deep breathing not only supplies oxygen to the brain for improved functioning, in gives you the gift of time to change your thoughts patterns and reduce your fight-or-flight response.
  • Shifting your thoughts - replace stressful thoughts/ideas (like work or a particular situation) with things that make you happy. Do this every time you recognize your negative thinking.
  • Exercise - One of the best ways to release stress is to get your body to physically do it for you through the release of endorphins. Take a walk or a swim the next time you are stressed and watch how quickly your body begins to relax once the “magic” endorphins start pumping.

Letting go of anger:

  • Permission -  While no one wants to get “stuck” in a place of anger, it is important to feel anger fully. Denial of it can make it hide and come out later, often in a more destructive way.
  • 24-hour rule - hold off on forming any opinions or taking specific action on your anger for at least 24 hours. You need time for the thinking part of your brain to kick in before you respond and say or do something you may regret.
  • Forced Choice- Most of the time you only have three ways you can respond to an upsetting situation: remove yourself, change the situation or accept it as is. That’s it. Pretending there is some other way you can respond will often lead to increased anger.

Try these tips whenever your intensity gets the better of you, or you are struggling with the act of letting go. You’ll be surprised how quickly they work.

What are you tips for “letting go” when things become overwhelming?

The Art of Taking Breaks


Welcome to the second week of the new blog layout. I am really hoping you are enjoying it so far. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about taking breaks – from life, work, the internet, whatever. Last Friday I committed to a healthier life. Of course this weekend, that resolve was immediately tested. Not only with food issues, but with real life obstacles to gaining emotional and spiritual balance. 

Never one to throw off a challenge, I focused on my pledge and let-go of the things that were presenting as barriers. But that is all a conversation for another day. Today, we are talking about the end result of the weekend’s challenge – the reminder that everyone needs a break from time to time.

As you can tell from the title of the blog, I am a very intense person. it is an aspect of my giftedness I have only recently embraced, finally deciding to see it as a good thing and not merely a source of endless frustration. My intensity enables me to get more done in a day than most people, engage with life in deep and fulfilling ways, and approach life with creativity. It also means I am prone to significant burnout when I do not remember to grant myself the gift of taking breaks – from life, from writing, from blogging. Everything.

So, knowing my tendency to overdo, part of my commitment to being healthy includes taking a break from blogging and my internet connections one week per month.

For this blog,n that will mean that next week I am going dark. I invite all of you to join me in an internet break. Take time away from your digital connections to reconnect in person. Allow yourselves the gift of time, of a break, of renewal.

What do you think? Do you take breaks?

Living Gratefully


I was raised to believe that the natural state of being was, among other things, gratitude. It’s something I have worked to cultivate in my life for as long as I can remember, keeping gratitude journals and trying to view every moment as an opportunity.  But, as most of us know, practicing gratitude daily can be difficult.

For me, living gratefully is more than remembering to thank people, the universe, God for the positive things in my life. Truly living a life of gratitude also means being grateful for the turmoil, the lessons, the opportunities to grow. This is the part that is the hardest for me. This is where I often get stuck.

Being an intense person, I feel everything with a depth that can be hard to explain at times, and even harder for those around me to tolerate. When events in my life throw me off-balance, when I get sucked into the chaos that can define the day, my intensities will often get the better of me, casting me into a rather depressed state. It isn’t really depression per se, more that existential depression that can define those of us who approach life from an intense point of view. When this happens it is hard for me to find something to feel grateful about. It is hard for me to see the difficulties as opportunities for growth. It is hard for me to know that the depths of pain I am feeling in the moment are setting the stage for unbound joy that will come if I remain open to it.

So, how do I eventually come to a place of gratitude after wallowing in my depths? How to I again find my equilibrium? The answer, for me, involves staying open. By that I mean that I have to achieve and maintain a state of being open to life. I achieve this through meditation and contemplation, as well as a gratitude journal.

Now I’ll admit, when life is hard, you know…REALLY HARD…all of that goes to heck in a handbasket. I mean, seriously, it’s darn near impossible to remain open to everything life has to offer when you are feeling like you’ve been repeatedly run over by various buses.

It is at these times that I turn to my gratitude journal and focus on one or two things EVERY DAY that I can be thankful for. I have found that the very act of shifting my attention toward gratitude, even if only for a short period of time, is enough to drag me from the depths of my wallowing and reorient me to a place of gratitude.

So the next time you are stuck, feeling the pains of life a little too intensely, shift your focus and think about the things that fill you with gratitude. Find a way to be open to what life is trying to show you. In doing so, the pain will dissipate your heart will open.

Your turn:

Do you live a life of gratitude? Is it something you can do even when things are hard?