Three-page gratitude list…even in this disaster of a year

To all my readers, those in the US and not,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is probably the best, purest American holiday based on a value that I most appreciate: gratitude.

It’s not always simple to access gratitude for the blessings in our lives–and there’s always something to be grateful for. I just wrote a three-page list of everything and everyone I am grateful for and there is so much. Even in this disaster of a year there is so much!

There was one Thanksgiving, maybe 2012, I spent alone in the year after I got diagnosed as celiac. I couldn’t deal yet with navigating life gluten-free at Thanksgiving. I spent the day alone in my Oakland apartment making a pot of chicken soup and dwelling on gratitude, which actually took me to a kind of high solitude state. This was the opposite of loneliness, of lack: I felt so abundant dwelling in myself, thinking about all the goodness in my life. I realized then it was possible to go on a gratitude fest alone on Thanksgiving. I love social Thanksgivings too–don’t get me wrong–but it was nice to realize that there was another solitude-filled way to celebrate too.

This year will be a combination for me: solo time today and tomorrow my family will gather for an outdoor Thanksgiving. Today it’s raining.

I’m grateful to all of you who have been readers of my books and corresponders from the newsletter, those who are eager for my memoir to come out (you help me keep going), those who have come on Tango Adventures and participated in online classes, those who have tried out pussywalking and written me about their experiences, and my coaching clients who I find to be amazing people. You quirky people are all pretty fantastic. I hope for new things to emerge to engage with you on after I finish up with this book – so stay tuned for 2021!

I hope you have a beautiful day whether alone or together. Make a list of everything, everything you are grateful for. It’s fun. Three pages minimum. Get super granular and quirky.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s do this together: 37 Days and Counting

I just got back from a camping weekend in southern Rhode Island near the beach, which means I took a two full days off screens. What a good decision to get offline for forty-eight hours! After two days away I’m noticing how hypnotizing screens can be… how much more ready I am to confront life and to take action.

Even though I didn’t sleep well on the camping trip (I’ve been struggling with insomnia lately like a lot of us!) I’ve come back with a dose of oompth that I have been so desperately waiting for. I have a new wave of energy.

I feel ready to do rather than despair. Wanna join me?

Now I am going to be perfectly honest. I have not been in the most empowered mood lately when it comes to the situation in the U.S., my home country. Our country is being led by a narcissist who only cares about himself, and that’s why we have more than 200,000 dead from coronavirus and no plan to control what seems to be a never-ending pandemic. Even when the one who needs no name knew the virus was fatal, he told people it was no worse than a flu. He brings together thousands of his own supporters without masks in campaign rallies, knowing some will die as a result. He’s a sadist, and he’s not dumb. He knows what he is doing.

But that’s not really the point.

We have been processing outrage and grief for four years now about the decisions made by this administration. Now is our time to make a difference, to stand up and use our voices. This is the time when we take all of that frustration and disgust into something. Conspiracy theories are multiplying everywhere which makes it more important to stand up and speak for basic values of kindness, dignity, love, community–coming together and being good for each other. Because Black Lives Matter. Because women matter. Because immigrants are human beings. Because we cannot ignore climate change for another second for the sake of younger people who are going to live on a warming planet. Because we really don’t want to lose our democracy.

Remember this poem reflecting on the Holocaust?

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It’s time to speak up. Fighting for ourselves in this election is self-care too.

We are married to an abusive narcissist right now who doesn’t care about us and we need a divorce. Yup, that’s right–in my coaching practice I’ve helped many clients walk away from abusive or simply not-good relationships. Now is the time that we do that as a country.

Now I know a lot of people have less than thrilled feelings about the Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Believe me, Joe Biden was not my first choice by a long shot. But we don’t need perfect. Watching this video from Glennon and Amanda Doyle, I’m struck by this comparison. “When your house is on fire, you don’t wait to find the perfect house to move into. You just get yourself and your people the hell out of the burning house.”

We are the leaders we are waiting for. It is truly time to wake up and recognize ourselves that way because no one is going to save us! I felt my own leadership come back to me after taking time off in nature. You can do that too–do whatever you need as a pre-amble of self-care to find your own power and voice for this ultimate self-care of taking care of ourselves and our world.

Personally I am going to follow along with Glennon Doyle’s 40 Days Challenge to take small actions every day from now until the election. I only learned about this campaign last night, but it’s exactly what I have been longing for and what I want to share with you.

Glennon is running this campaign as part of her nonprofit Together Rising which is all about pooling our small actions into meaningful impact. Here’s what Glennon and her sister Amanda say about the Challenge.

I am in.

“I will do everything I can to get us out of this burning house. That’s why today we are announcing WE CAN DO HARD THINGS: 40 Days of Outrage to Action.

Sister and I have been working closely with the Biden+Harris campaign and a wide variety of orgs mobilizing to preserve our democracy.

Every day until 11/ 3, Sister and I will offer a simple, effective way to turn our outrage, fear, and love into: Action, Information, and Healing.

Together, we will be: confirming our voter registrations, canvassing virtually, bolstering election security, activating in swing states; hearing from frontline warriors for justice; and collectively staying human, connected, and energized while we fight.”

You can follow along on her Instagram page to keep it up with small actions every day.

Let’s do this together. In that video, Amanda encourages us to, “Get your people together.” “It’s like book club but it’s democracy club.”

Wanna be in the democracy club with me? If you want to be part of a group with me doing this then tell me in the comments of this blog post and we’ll see what we can create as a quirkytribe taking daily actions together.

I’m not sure what form this will take but I’m issuing the call now trusting that if enough of you want to do this together we’ll find a way to keep each other energized and accountable on the path toward November 3–so we can look at each other, our friends, our ourselves and know on that day we did all we could.

Let’s do this.

PS. Have you made a plan to vote yet? Have you checked to verify you are registered to vote? Maybe you don’t know if you need to reregister because you moved apartments or states?

If you’re figuring this out now, here’s a great website the SuperMajority Fund (which is building a powerful, diverse, women-led future where women are truly equal) to help check your registration and make a plan to vote in the best way for you. https://supermajority.com/educationfund-voter-checklist

Another resource is: https://iwillvote.com/

Finally, here’s a chart to check on early voting methods in your state: https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/

Love you all, and see you in the comments.

Quirkyalone (and I) Stand with Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter Protest June 5, 2020 Providence, RI

Black Lives Matter Protest June 5, 2020 Providence, RI

I sent this message out to my newsletter list, and I’m sharing it here too so I can share this post on social media with readers who are not on the newsletter list.

Dearest souls,

I have been sitting with the question of what to say in support of Black Lives Matter in a message to you for about five days now. I attended a Black Lives Matter protest with my father in Providence, Rhode Island last Friday (the city where I grew up). (All the demonstrators I saw wore masks, and we did too. We kept distance at the back of the march since my father is 73, and I don’t want to get the coronavirus either!)

I wanted to write an essay about going to the Providence protest during the pandemic. I started, but I haven’t finished. I am a slow writer in general.

While I like to write from the “I” about what I see through my eyes, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of making this about me, because this is definitely not about me.

What’s happening now to protest George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police is about something very big, about our common humanity and the experiences that black people have been going through all their lives while white people like me get to sit in relative safety and comfort.

I don’t have to worry about my safety while driving, sleeping, jogging, and existing the way black people do. If I haven’t said it before out loud, I acknowledge my white privilege.

So this morning I want to send you a short message that says simply: 
***Quirkyalone (and I) Stand with Black Lives Matter.***

My work as a writer and coach doesn’t end with Quirkyalone, but it started there, and that’s how many of you came to know me. Quirkyalone is a word and concept that seeks to uplift people to know you are good enough just where you are, whether you are single, married, or anywhere in between. That includes everyone, not just single white women in their forties.

Once about two years ago someone posted on my Quirkyalone Facebook page, how come you don’t acknowledge gay people? I felt defensive. I wrote about sexuality and gayness in Quirkyalone.

Year later after the initial sting wore off, what I take away from her comment is this:

It’s important to say out loud what we feel in our hearts. What we assume everyone already knows may not obvious.

I stand with Black Lives Matter because an injury to one is an injury to all. Because there has been a system of racial inequality in the US and around the world that has benefited white people economically and in so many other ways that has been terribly harmful for black people. This system of racial inequality that touches pretty much every aspect of our lives *must* change.

Change is not an overnight process. Black people and their allies have been fighting for liberty for centuries since the dawn of our country. I am hopeful as I listen to the voices who are emerging now calling for real, meaningful change. More people are listening. And the only way real change happens is through social movements–when people come together to demand change. The powers that be do not roll over and give out reform without a push from the people.

For years, organizers in Los Angeles and Baltimore have been holding weekly vigils to mourn black men and women murdered by police and to call for change. Those gatherings were often small. Now the streets are overflowing, even in my small state of Rhode Island. This time people are coming back day after day. Young people are learning how to organize protests. High school students organized the protest in Providence, and their hard work showed–they did an amazing job.

Here is a great New York Times story about why and how the protests are different–more durable–this time (compared for example, to what happened after Ferguson in 2014). 

I know everyone doesn’t subscribe to the New York Times, but I’m sharing this link anyway in the hopes you can read it. 

(And by the way, subscribing to your local newspaper is another way to help–we need journalism now more than ever to understand our world and each other.)

Here is the beginning of the Times story “Other Protests Flare and Fade. Why This Movement Already Seems Different”  to give you a flavor.

“Ever since people across the country began pouring into the streets to protest police violence, Dakota Patton has driven two hours each day to rally on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol. He has given up his gig jobs delivering food and painting houses. He is exhausted. But he has no plans to leave.

“This is bigger,” Mr. Patton, 24, said. “I’m not worried about anything else I could be doing. I want to and need to be here. As long as I need.”

+++

For all of you living this intense moment, I send you love and care for your well-being.

I’ll be back with more.

If you have any suggestions for me I’m always open to hear.

With love for all,

Sasha

Tango in the Era of COVID-19: What We Have Lost, and What Tango Can Teach Us to Survive Life in Isolation

By Sasha Cagen and Kevin Carrel Footer

For anyone who craves touch, Argentine tango is the ultimate dance. Tango teaches us how to hold another person in a close embrace and then move together in unison. 

But now tango and touch are off limits, in Buenos Aires, where tango was born. 

Worldwide billions of us are sequestered in our homes, unable to reach out to others in the physical world, even with a simple handshake.  Zooming together is great. We’re all learning new technology tools that we might not have tried otherwise, but it’s awfully hard to hug someone from six feet away. Or through a screen. No amount of technology can substitute for physical human contact.

What are we going to do about our need for touch? 

As tango lovers, we both prize touch and have organized our lives around it. 

We both loved tango so much that we moved to Buenos Aires to study the dance. Kevin came to Argentina in 1992 to learn tango with elderly Argentines before the dance made its worldwide revival after decades of neglect and suppression. In his own personal way he helped put tango back on the map. Sasha came in 2012 based on an intuition that tango in Buenos Aires could heal from the chronic fatigue ailing her in the techie San Francisco Bay Area. 

We both found that tango was an antidote to what ailed us. If hugs are essential medicine, we simply needed a higher dose. 

Argentina today is entering its fourth week of a strict national quarantine. People are only allowed to go out for groceries and other essential items. Police and military, transport workers, those supplying food) are allowed to go to work. We have all been ordered to stay at home except when we shop for food or medicine. No mate. No besos (kisses). No abrazos (hugs). 

And, certainly, no tango. 

Tango, tragically, is the perfect way to spread coronavirus: dancers from around the world hold each other heart-to-heart, maximizing body contact. Tango dancers are always chasing the next, unknown embrace, holding each other as if it were the last time they would ever hold anyone again. 

Clearly tango and social distancing do not mix.

To truly feel the dance of tango, you must feel the embrace, or the abrazo, as they call it in Argentina. Even though tango is usually associated with erotic love, the embrace is much more than that. Sometimes compared to a mother’s cradling of a baby, the tango embrace is a way that two strangers, friends, or relatives, can hold each other with delicacy and affection. 

Tango ruled our social lives in Argentina. We danced many nights a week in milongas, the sacred gathering place to dance tango. To connect. To escape the worries of everyday life and feel the bliss of a tangasm, that moment of connection while dancing with another person as the rest of the world drops away.

We have no idea when tango will come back.

Tango may shine a light on what we are giving up and what we must strive to keep alive even as we keep distance.  

So what can tango teach us to survive the coronavirus pandemic and all the loss, uncertainty, and isolation that we are going through? 

Even though we can’t dance tango, we still like to write about tango. Here’s what we discovered tango can teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have more ideas please tell us in the comments.

Use Words to Show Affection   

Tango teaches us the power of a hug, but we can’t throw our arms around just anyone right now. 

But that energy is still within us and we need to channel it and get it out to those who need it. In the absence of touch, we can still send meaningful if imaginary hugs with tender words.

Before coronavirus, Argentines (even men) began every encounter with a hug or a kiss. There’s another round of kisses when they part. Even phone conversations or whatsapp messages end with the sending of hugs or kisses — or both.As Americans living in Buenos Aires, we noticed our ways of communicating changed over the years. We have become more affectionate. 

So if we can’t hug each other right now, we can be more affectionate in our emails or texts. Even in professional communication we might be feeling emotional and go all the way with an XOXOXOXOXO. Or an abrazo elbow-bump! Those virtual, verbal hugs feel good right now. 

If you can’t reach out and touch someone else, you can give yourself a hug. Put your hands on your heart and your belly when feeling anxious to self-soothe and breathe. 

Improvise + become more shock-resilient

Tango is an improvised dance. There are no memorized steps but rather a language of movement that allows two dancers to reinvent endlessly.

In Argentina people know things always change. Governments collapse sometimes in rapid succession. Electricity gets cut off for a few days. The currency gets devalued by a third yet again. Here people are so used to sudden change they shrug it off. Many Argentines have more than one job and will try something new to survive.

In the US, we are not used to big shocks to our system. 

When things fall apart, people improvise. Just as we are all doing now. 

Listen

Tango teaches us to listen to our partner when we dance. We must read our partner’s body in order to execute the dance. Thousands of subtle cues are passed back and forth in tango, as two people connect.

We are all reacting to this crisis differently. Some people are treating this as a quiet time for retreat or a chance to deepen into creative work. For others, getting out of bed is an accomplishment already. 

Everyone is coping the best they can.

If someone you know is hurting, listen without distractions. Put aside the phone. The gift of your pure attention will probably help more than advice. Usually all we most want and need is to be heard. 

Make eye contact

Tango dancers invite each other to dance with their eyes. They don’t use words. (It’s against the codes of the traditional milonga.) 

Direct eye contact creates a connection between two people, so we can use our eyes to connect while we socially distance (or date digitally). Making eye contact while chatting on an online video platform can be tricky because we can’t both look at the camera and the other person’s eyes at the same time, but it’s the intention to connect that matters. 

Eye contact in person works too. Eyes can say a lot. Your eyes can even transmit a hug if you soften your gaze with affection when you look at someone.

Lose your balance, find it again 

In tango, your axis, or that central line of balance in your body, is that magic point in the embrace where you are standing on your own but also meeting your partner. You do not burden your partner, but nor do you hold back. 

The more that we can find our own center the better we can relate to and support others. 

It’s inevitable that we will lose balance. 

Tango teaches us that we will lose balance and that we can find it again. It’s going to be a wild, uncertain ride for a while, so prepare to lose balance and find it again many times.

Find joy in spite of loss

Tango lyrics are often about loss — of love, of innocence, of a beloved neighborhood that’s gone. As they say, if it has a happy ending, it’s not a tango. (That is why we hold each other so tight.) 

In the Argentine national psyche, the good times were always in the past and whatever plans you make for the future will likely be dashed. Welcome to our new world where everyone is living a different life than they imagined even a few weeks ago. In the US people generally believe that things will always get better. In many other cultures people know that loss is inevitable. 

Accepting loss makes Argentines pessimistic but they are also always up for a party. 

Plans are expected to change, and things don’t always work out, which brings us back to learning to improvise.

Remember the essential

Argentines value relationships more than business. They know that the only things that last are friendship, family, and love. If there is one lesson that will get us through the trying times ahead, it is remembering our connections in many forms are among the most important things we have. 

A decade ago the United Nations recognized tango by honoring it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They may have been thinking of the dance or unforgettable songs by Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla, but we think that the greatest contribution of tango to humanity is the countless embraces generated in its name over the past 130 years.

Tango knew in its origins and it knows now that the purpose of life is to hold each other in the broadest sense, but also in the narrow sense of throwing our arms around each other. 

When we come through this dark time to the other side, we will all appreciate the gift of being in front of another human being again.

And we will all need a really good hug.

Sasha and Kevin …in one of our beloved milongas Nuevo Chique

Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics a landmark book putting a new twist on being a discerning single that got attention everywhere from the New York Times to CNN. When she’s not working on her upcoming memoir Wet, Sasha is talking with her coaching clients worldwide.

Sign up for Sasha’s newsletter here.

Kevin Carrel Footer is a writer, musician and photographer from California who has called Buenos Aires home for more than 25 years and is now performing online tango concerts from his living room under lockdown. Kevin is also a Tango Fairygodfather in Sasha’s Tango Adventure immersion program, which will be available once tango in Buenos Aires is back.

Sign up for Kevin’s newsletter here.

On Difficult Decisions: I flew back to the US from Argentina during the coronavirus pandemic, but I wasn’t sure I made the right decision

Having lived abroad for the past five years, switching realities between the US and Argentina once or twice a year, I’ve noticed that my soul will often take a little while to catch up with my physical body. My physical body travels thousands of miles on jets and goes through customs crossing borders but my soul, my spirit, stays behind in the same people and daily routines. That’s where I am now. My soul is a bit in-between two worlds.

Physically I am in drizzly gray Rhode Island checking out sublet ads at my mother’s house because that seems easier than furnishing a place during a pandemic, but my soul is still back in Argentina attentive to what is happening in my other home.

I left Argentina to come back to the United States as the coronavirus crisis progressed and borders shut down, but I didn’t know if I was making the right call. It’s still hard to know.

While I was still in Argentina, I sat on the couch of my apartment watching the new Argentine president Alberto Fernandez take proactive, decisive national measures to protect the health of the Argentine people against the spread of the coronavirus. He said many times in many ways that the health of the people was his priority.

“We must slow the economy to slow the spread of the virus,” he said.

I still remember that feeling of calm settle into my body as I watched the Argentine president talk about reasonable and caring steps to protect the whole of society. That feeling was so unfamiliar to me: feeling calm watching a political leader. The whole idea that you could have a responsible, caring, rational president: wow.

Since then, Fernandez has drawn praise for his handling of the crisis with an approach that sharply differs from the madness currently happening in the US, Mexico, and Brazil.

As of this writing (Thursday, April 2), Argentina has 1,133 cases (2.5 per 100,000 people). The US has 214,461 (65.6 per 100,000). Argentina clearly was able to keep their numbers so low (compared to neighbor Brazil too) because Argentina  imposed a coordinated national quarantine when the pandemic was in early stages and only a few hundred people had tested positive for the virus  (versus the patchwork craziness of states making their own decisions in the States without help from the federal government). Guatamela and El Salvador imposed strict national quarantines days after Argentina.

This was all rather ironic given that Argentines often say their country is disorganized compared to the US. The contrast in how the Argentine government is handling the coronavirus crisis couldn’t be clearer compared to the US’ response.

Oh, how I wish more countries took decisive action based on the advice of scientific experts rather than their gut instincts. And on a desire to save lives.

++

I planned to fly back to the US on April 16, but on March 12, I posted on Facebook “I am dazed.” That was the day the president of Argentina announced the country was blocking flights between Argentina, and countries considered high-risk at that time: China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, US and all of Europe. That ban wiped out my original flight because American Airlines cancelled all travel to Buenos Aires until May or June. American Airlines would only take calls from people who had flights in the next three days, so information was impossible.

The morning after I recovered from the shock of that announcement I realized here were still ways of getting home through Panama, Brazil, or Chile. So the decision had not been taken out of my hands then. (Somehow life is easier when we don’t have to make decisions!)

But then one by one more countries’ borders started to close.

I didn’t know what to do.

My friend Chris thought I should go quickly if I was going to come to avoid getting trapped in Panama or Brazil. (Brazil might be the worst place to be after the US, as Bolsonaro, their president, is out-Trumping Trump still shaking hands with people at rallies in the middle of a pandemic.)

Jenny thought it was safer to stay put.

Both friends live in dense, large U.S. cities and were grappling with their own stay-or-go decisions. Tough choices are everywhere.

I thought it was safer to stay put too. I felt safe in that little apartment in Buenos Aires, and as a writer, I treasure having my own space. I had bought plenty of food for the cuarantena that had just been announced: lots of meat, vegetables, coconut oil, the food for the keto diet I had just started. I had gotten myself into a routine of yoga and a calming meditation in the morning, then writing most of the day when I wasn’t doing coaching calls. I have a memoir to finish so the solitude didn’t seem terrible: it would be an enforced writing retreat with no distractions. I had Netflix to watch from a comfy couch. I had my computer and a printer. I had more interaction on screens than I needed. I kind of liked all that alone time.

Meanwhile in Buenos Aires people started daily cheers at 9 pm for healthcare workers.

But of course I didn’t know if day after day, week after week of alone time would feel so good. I was afraid of being unable to get home if  my parents got sick. I was also afraid of infecting my mother if I got the virus on the plane rides. And I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea to run home to quarantine for an indefinite amount of time with my mother. (Just because you love your mother doesn’t mean it is a good idea to live together in quarantine.)

When I was in the middle of trying to decide, I walked into the bathroom, not because I had to go to the bathroom but just to go somewhere. I looked at the toilet with its modern flush button installed in the wall above the toilet. There was no reason to think the toilet would break but you know, Murphy’s Law.

I stared at the toilet flusher button. What if that toilet broke while I was in strict quarantine and there was no other bathroom to use? That question terrified me. In a flash I imagined the ocean in Rhode Island and thought of how much I wanted to plunge in the sea. Like many I was dreaming of the beach. If I didn’t go then I might not be able to go for many months. What about my family?

Decisions can be so excruciating. I’ve made a lot of scary decisions in my life, like the original decision to come to Buenos Aires on my own. As a life coach I encourage clients to make decisions based on desire and not fear. But with the coronavirus, there seemed to be no good decisions, only less bad options.

I walked into the bathroom and saw that toilet button again. The fear of a broken toilet in quarantine struck at my most primitive fears.

I walked back to the couch, sat down, clicked buy on the new ticket, and cancelled the other one. It was Friday. I needed to travel immediately to avoid the risk of being stuck in Panama indefinitely because Panama’s borders closed that Sunday night at midnight.

++

In a matter of seven hours I packed everything—two suitcases to take with me, and two to leave my with my taxi driver friend Gustavo for whenever I could return to Argentina—to rush back to the United States through Panama.

There were so many things to figure out. How to get the keys to the apartment owners. How to get to the airport. Argentina was in its second day of total national quarantine with cops patrolling the streets for offenders. The normally bustling, creative, chaotic streets of Buenos Aires were totally empty. I couldn’t tell if taxis were allowed to drive on the streets. I left a comment on the US Embassy Facebook page. They said taxis could circulate with a valid reason. (For the record, the US Embassy was not as helpful as they should have been.)

I messaged Gustavo, my taxi-driver friend. We arranged for him to come to my apartment at 11 pm for a 1:39 am flight.

My friend Tan wanted me to come over to say goodbye on the way to the airport but I couldn’t because then I would burst into tears. All I could do was go, go, go.

Just before leaving the apartment at 10:30 I seriously considered not going. I didn’t know how I would manage not touching my face to wipe away sweat while wheeling fat suitcases. Not touching one’s face takes incredible concentration. I was already so exhausted.

I called my friend Jenny, cried, and she listened. Sometimes all I need is for someone to be in my presence when I’m crying.

I kept packing the last things, leaving behind toiletries and all that precious coconut oil.

++

We drove to the airport in deserted streets, me in the backseat with the windows open. Windows open was the rule for cabs in Buenos Aires in the last days before the national quarantine was called. I still wasn’t sure I had made the right decision but there is a moment when there is no turning back. That moment came about ten blocks into the drive.

When he dropped me off, Gustavo and I hugged each other with the soft look in our eyes. We said later we had given each other a socially distanced hug through our eyes. This is something I treasure about Argentina: the affection. Gustavo is part of my tango business team, he’s a friend. He comes to my birthday.

Gustavo also took the airbnb key to give to the owner, the two big bags I could not manage, and some cash to pay my Tango Adventure assistant.

++

At the airport a man in full-body light blue protective gown took my temperature by putting the thermometer on my forehead. I also needed to show a plane ticket to enter. Argentina’s airport was he most strictly controlled of any that day. In so many ways Argentina took the pandemic seriously before other countries in North or South America did.

After checking in, I walked to security past dozens of people sacked out on the ground. The airport looked like it had been converted into a homeless encampment of people sleeping on the floor or camping mats. The airport was otherwise empty and quiet.

So began an odyssey that would take about 24 hours from Buenos Aires to Panama to Miami to Boston. Buenos Aires’ airport was quiet by then but Panama’s was bustling and so was Miami’s. Outside of Argentina the airports were business as usual. All the flights were full.  None of the airlines instructed us to follow social distancing.

On the first flight—the longest one overnight from Buenos Aires to Panama—I sat in a window seat (researchers say window seats are the safest) with a masked couple sitting next to me. During the flight the woman in the couple leaned on my shoulder as she slept.

Should I gently shove her to the right? Honey, dear, why don’t you lean on your husband’s shoulder?

When we entered customs in Miami we used the touch-screen devices just like normal, without any wipes or anyone to wipe them down.

I could understand why the flights from Buenos Aires to Panama and Panama to Miami were full because people were trying to beat deadlines as borders closed.

But it was hard to understand why the American Airlines flight from Miami to Boston was full. Running crowded flights with cheap seats at this point (March 21) seemed immoral.

++

I spent the first week after my 24-hour dash through Panama up to Miami worried I had contracted the virus: nauseous one day, cold symptoms another, body aches initially. It’s hard to separate symptoms that come from extreme emotion and stress and those that come from the dreaded virus.

Nine days later I am doing fine. My mother is doing fine too, thank Goddess.

In the end, I don’t think I had coronavirus. All the obsessive hand-washing and use of hand sanitizers, not to mention wiping down the trays and seats in the airplanes, protected me, or I just got lucky. (Or I’m aysmptomatic! I hope not–I don’t want to be a carrier.) In a world without testing you just never know. When are we going to get those tests?!???! Today in Rhode Island the state is ramping up to test 1,000 a day. I’m lucky to be from the state currently rated second most aggressive in its response to coronavirus by wallethub.com. Our governor Gina Raimondo clearly has the same fierce commitment to saving lives as the president of Argentina, but she could go even further with measures if she followed his lead.

A Buenos Aires friend told me over Skype it would take me three weeks for my body to settle. I think he was right. I’m practicing patience. I’m sleeping again. It’s been twelve days since that 24-hour period of travel. I’m almost through my 14-day quarantine. So far, so good.

Now that I am home, I wonder, did I make the right choice? I suppose I did because even though none of this is easy, none of this is easy for anyone, and it’s better to be close to family just in case. I am sad because I won’t be able to go back to Argentina for a long time–maybe not for a year or longer. I am sad I didn’t say goodbye to any of my friends other than Gustavo. Foreigners are banned at the moment, and even Argentines can’t leave. I don’t think Argentina will open up their borders until there is a vaccine, a treatment, or at least widespread testing.  My transformative tango program the Tango Adventure of course is on pause for a long time too.

I am enraged by the political situation in the US. I fantasize about having a president like Argentina’s who would actually take care of our country.

This US is poised to have the the most deaths in the world as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It twists my stomach to write that sentence.

The Argentines in my life never quite understood how fucked-up the US has become because the image of the US, like the image of Trump, is so Teflon–nothing bad sticks. My Turkish friend totally got it because Turkey is living the same nightmare, only they are ahead of us in the dictatorial timeline. Ojala (I hope!) we get off that timeline in November.

The pandemic has laid that “organized” image bare and will show the rest of the world how brutal American society is with our lack of accessible, affordable healthcare and leaders who clearly do not care about our welfare. Trump wasted two months he could have used preparing us calling this nothing more than a flu.  More sickening, prominent Republicans have suggested it would be OK for millions of people to die to sacrifice for the sake of the economy (aka the stock market). Why not do what European countries are doing and pay businesses to continue paying their workers?

But I am here in my native country that outrages me so, and with all these doubts shared, I am glad. I will choose to be glad here because this is what I have chosen. I couldn’t say that before because I was too jostled after suddenly swapping one life for another. With time my soul is arriving to meet my body.

Decisions are hard, but once you make a decision, you’re on a path. The more time you live with a decision, the less you regret it. Because you start living it, feeling into what’s good about that path.

That’s how I felt walking through this park in Providence yesterday. Spring is on the way finally in New England, and if nothing else, there are beautiful walks. There will be more good things too. I just don’t know what they are yet. The magic will come. It always does.

Walking the path of life in Providence, Rhode Island, early spring, the green of life will come soon

Before I left I posted on Facebook about people in Buenos Aires clapping and shouting, “Vamos!” (“let’s go!”) out their windows nightly at 9 pm in support of health care workers. A friend in San Francisco, commented questioning if anyone in the US would engage in that kind of solidarity cheer.

The movement finally arrived here a couple weeks later. Rituals of support to express our gratitude (and amplify our life force energy) are starting to happen in the US under the hashtag #clapbecausewecare. The idea is to clap to support health care workers—and grocery workers, truck drivers, gas pumpers, food delivery people, and everyone else who is putting their lives on the line so we can stay home to stay safe.

From what I gather, the clapping happens at 7 or 8 pm in the US communities compared to 9 pm in Buenos Aires, which makes me chuckle. Everything starts later in Argentina. People in Buenos Aires are clapping nightly. Vamos norteamericanos. Let’s go!

A friend of mine in Marin just north of San Francisco says that in Mill Valley they are howling nightly at 8 pm to “collectively express thanks and connectedness” in the midst of the pandemic.

Howl, clap, bring it on.

 

Aplausos in support of medical personnel in Buenos Aires

Solidarity cheers in New York City for health care workers

Blessed solitude or too much? Plus: staying calm in the time of corona

Note: I sent this out to my newsletter list a few days ago and also wanted to share here. If you want to receive emails from me with the best I can offer as comfort during this time be sure to sign up for the newsletter.

Hey there dear quirky one,

Oh these are interesting times we are living. Breathe in, breath out.

Like many of you I am taking in the information about coronavirus and making decisions about how to stay safe and help prevent further spread of the virus.

I was supposed to fly from Buenos Aires to Boston on April 16 but it looks like that route is cancelled until May or June, and the airline is only taking calls from people who fly immediately in the next three days.

So I am practicing calm and living in the present moment to make the best decisions for myself, my family, and society as a whole. Usually I spend a lot of time dancing tango but that activity had to go during this time (tango would be the ideal way to spread coronavirus!) so I’ve made a list of books to read and meditation practices to try. I also have a list of creative projects to work on, and online course ideas I will be cooking up for you since I have been working on my manuscript intensively for the last months and it’s time to give that a little break to see the writing fresh. After a week or so I will go back to my working on my book.

A friend of mine who is a hypnotherapist sent me this link for an immunity-boosting guided meditation from a hypnotherapist she says is famous (there are so many micro-communities these days where you can be famous).

I’ve listened to Freddy’s audio a few times. I can tell you that the guided audio put me in a state of deep relaxation at the least. It’s so important to stay calm and not let ourselves be overwhelmed by fear and/or stress–since stress makes us sick too. We have to take care of our inner state as well as our external.

So in the service of staying calm I share this meditation with you. 

There are many other excellent meditations out there.

I recommend you create sacred rituals for yourself during this time. We will all need those to stay sane and healthy. I have really enjoyed working with my coaching clients on their sacred rituals since this pandemic started. I am innovating my own: yoga and meditation in the morning, then coffee, then free writing. I’m also incorporating daily walks.

It’s also important to laugh. I’ve gotten some laughs from watching the brilliant “Great News!” on Netflix. A client subscribed to STARZ so she can watch the latest seasons of “Outlander.” Yes!

What’s distracting you or making you laugh?

I’m conscious of the fact that most of my newsletter readers are quirkyalone or quirkytogether, and many of you may live alone.

Doing this social isolation thing as a single person can be welcome time. For some people it might feel totally natural and easy. My friend Dave wrote me this message, “Yes, as an introvert it’s hilarious to me that people are wondering what to do at home and like making lists of how to stay sane (“make sure you spend time in different rooms…get some exercise…read a book…”). It’s basically me every weekend! I don’t do much, didn’t have plans interrupted, I don’t use public transportation, my office isn’t in a dense area. Still going for my lake walks daily. And I have enough weed to last for a bit – I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.”

Ha. Dave is great.

On the other hand for those who work in offices and now have to work at home, or for those who are parenting, or for the ambiverts and extroverts, sometimes the aloneness can get to be too much. The screen time can get to be too much too.

Let me know how you are enjoying or coping with the blessed or excessive solitude, depending on how you experience it.

P.S. If anyone is looking for something meaningful to do to fill your time, I am going to be looking for two more beta readers for Wet shortly. This means you would read the current draft and give feedback according to some questions I would provide you. So if you want to find out more about that then write me a message with the subject: beta reader Wet.

P.P.S. Once I get my own life settled I would like to do a free group community call with my readers about how we are navigating this time as a way of creating support, uplift and community. I’ll update you on the newsletter about this, so if you haven’t signed up for that, sign up here. If you have any particular requests or ideas for a group call/videoconference then let me know with a message. 

“Quirkyalone” made it into dictionary.com! (Plus… Quirkyalone Day 2020 events)

Here’s something kinda wild! Brandon Baker at Life Coach Path recently interviewed me about the advice I would give aspiring life coaches. In the intro, the author Brandon wrote, “Today we are interviewing Sasha Cagen. Sasha is a Life Coach and the founder of the quirkyalone movement. (And yes, quirkyalone is in the dictionary! Sasha coined the word.)

I clicked on his link and there it was–my baby “quirkyalone” on dictionary.com!

I had no idea!

My immediate thought: Whoah, I’m done! My life’s work is complete! I put a word on dictionary.com! I don’t know if this is as official as getting into Merriam-Webster but I will revel it in anyway.

The folks at dictionary.com actually did a great job telling the history of the coining in the original essay in my magazine To-Do List, and spread of quirkyalone after my book Quirkyalone came out in 2004. Be sure to scroll down below the definition on dictionary.com to read the etymology along with popular usage in tweets. Remember: it’s “quirkyalone”–all one word.

Quirkyalone making it into dictionary.com (we have truly arrived folks!) is the best news for the leadup to the 17th annual International Quirkyalone Day on February 14. Quirkyalone Day is an alternative holiday that celebrates all forms of love, including self-love, and it’s been going strong since 2003 with celebrations around the globe. If you are looking for another way to celebrate on February 14 that honors everyone and every kind of love, this is your holiday.

Three folks have gotten in touch wanting to share their Quirkyalone Day Events.

  • In the Bay Area, we have a Valentine’s Day Concert coming up with the Conspiracy of Venus women’s chorus, Friday, Feb 14 at 9 pm, which a shoutout to quirkyalones from the choral director of Old Firsts Concerts Matt Wolka. Conspiracy of Venus is “a powerful 25-woman vocal ensemble interprets the songs of greats like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Björk, Joni Mitchell, Pixies, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, and many more.” For more info on the concert check here! On a side note, my best friend the unforgettable most radiant Annie Millar Desmond who passed away last year from cancer (and helped me proofread Quirkyalone–she was so invested in this concept) sang in Conspiracy of Venus for years. This is an incredible group of women who lifted Annie up in her last months. Annie loved being part of the group.
  • Longtime Quirkytogether folk musician Phoebe Blue is excited to be playing this show on Staten Island on Quirkyalone/Quirkytogether Day.Phoebe has been turning her Staten Island community on to Quirkyalone for a while now so if you go on this adventure to her show you are sure to meet some kindred spirits.
  • DJ Rubberband Girl takes to the airwaves for her awesome annual Quirkyalone Day show. On Friday, February 14 at 6 pm to 9 pm PST, DJ Rubberband Girl and special guest-host DJ Medium Good will be celebrating the spirit of the quirkyalone on KALX through a thoughtful mix of music (and musings) reflecting on solitude, single-hood, independence, individuality and above all self-acceptance. Whether coupled or not, there will be valuable ideas to reflect upon and takeaways for all. Stream online at kalx.berkeley.edu or through the KALX iPhone app! DJ Rubberband Girl has a Facebook event where you can RSVP too.

It’s interesting how all the Quirkyalone Day 2020 events listed here so far have to do with music!

You can also watch this video for an introduction to Quirkyalone Day.

Quirkyalone Day has been celebrated globally outside of the U.S. too.

If you have an events to share please feel free to add it in the comments.

Sue Aikens was here with us for a Tango Adventure!

[During Sue’s Tango Adventure, I did an interview with Sue on what drew her from northern Alaska grizzly bear country to the wilds of tango here with us in Buenos Aires. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you get word when the video is edited. It’s a chance to discover a totally different side of Sue Aikens, a most fascinating woman.]

So guess what everybody! We had the amazing, unfathomable Susan Aikens, star of the show National Geographic documentary series “Life Below Zero” with us here in Buenos Aires for a Tango Adventure! Sue is an outdoorswoman, adventurer, survivor, hunter, angler, businesswoman, loner, and now… a new tango dancer.

Sue is a rare female star who gives women across the world an example of a woman who lives life on her own terms, way off the beaten path of modern life, with humor and a spark for life outside the comfort zone. Her native intelligence shines through on her show as Sue constructs everything she needs in the extremely remote location she lives in up in Northern Alaska. But Sue is also very sociable and curious about the world and people. You can see the hilarious parts of Sue here:

You can see the tough parts of Sue on display here:

So what’s the scoop? If you are like me, and never watched “Life Below Zero,” Sue lives in isolation 500 miles from Fairbanks and just a few miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at Kavik River Camp, an exploration camp she has created to enable people to explore nature in the area. You have to take a plane to get to Kavik. Sue built her own runway! (And many other things.) The show depicts the daily battles to survive in a harsh climate. Sue has become one of the favorites on the show (check out the passion of her fans’ reviews on this page) with many women and men fans who revere an independent woman. Fans of the show have followed Sue’s challenges with recovering from a bear attack (the bear had her head in its mouth but she escaped) and a snowmobiling accident.

Sue told Men’s Journal, “I had to sew my own head together, and my arm, and before my hips popped out, I went across the river, found the bear, shot him, called the trooper, and there I lay for 10 days.”  According to the story, she was “finally taken to Fairbanks for treatment, and later to the Lower 48 for hip and spinal surgery.”

Clearly Sue is fierce. A survivor with a verve for life. But she is more than just an Alaskan survivalist. She also loves exploring cultures. She wanted to explore following in close-embrace tango and her own unique feminine side. Sue came to Buenos Aires with our Tango Adventure team to explore Argentine tango. She was very clear she did not want ballroom tango. She wanted the original: the energetic connection that is uniquely created in the tango embrace. For a woman who lives in isolation battling to survive in the most remote parts of Alaska, the choice to explore the culture of tango in Buenos Aires is….well, in a word…remarkable! All we do is hug people all day long.  There are no words for this! Sue often talks about living outside the comfort zone. I love this quote she gave in an interview, “You’re never more alive than when you’re on the edge.”

What I’ve discovered about Sue is that she is very funny, caring and thoughtful–she is quite the woman. The more I get to know her, the more blown away I am. She shows us the possibility of transformation, for sure, and the many experiences we can live in one lifetime, as you can see in the photos below.

Many online say Sue has more balls than a man, but I would say she has ovaries. Why is courage associated with balls? Come on, let’s find some more body parts to associate with bravery, ladies!

Here are some snaps and one video clip of Sue dancing from Sue’s Tango Adventure with us . . .what’s truly remarkable is that Sue came to us a total beginner. After a two-week Tango Adventure she was dancing fluidly with our shining star taxi dancer Roberto. The amazing tango development was a credit to her innate capacity to learn and find balance in her body (she sure does take on physical challenges) and to the awesomeness of our Tango Adventure team, clearly!

With TFG (Tango Fairygodfather!) Kevin

Out dancing with Nico, one of our favorite taxi dancers, and TFG (Tango Fairygodmother) Wanda, both key member of our Tango Adventure team

Dancing with Gustavo, another key member of our Tango Adventure team, at Plaza Dorrego, one of the friendly milongas we take you to.

Testing out the new tango dress while shopping for tango shoes

Having merienda (afternoon snack) with Sasha, the head honcho 😉 and soul of the Tango Adventure and Solo Chica Tango Adventure Coordinator Julia who makes the magic happen

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the interview with Sue on why she felt drawn to Argentine tango. We talked about lots of great stuff, like living outside the comfort zone and drawing boundaries without being an asshole. Sue’s capacity to be direct and assertive while also being really nice kind of blew me away. Role model alert.

Sue is one of many, many women and men who have joined us for Tango Adventures. Every single one of our participants has been a shining star. You don’t have to battle bears to come. If you want to explore coming on your own Tango Adventure, take the first step by checking this page then entering your email address to start the dance.