I have been working as a life coach for nearly ten years now, and I must say, it’s been interesting to coach during the pandemic because we are living through unprecedented times together. I pick up on similar themes when I talk to my clients.
One thing that has been coming up lately is this: “I feel lonely and very much want to be with people but also need to take it in small doses.” That’s kind of a pickle, isn’t it? We want to be with others but we are also exhausted by socializing after spending so much time alone.
At the same time, we are collectively experiencing fear about what another Covid winter will bring. There can be a feeling of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out) in the near future–so I need to see all the people, go to all the events, go on all the dates, or whatever, while it’s still warm enough to meet safely outside.
Operating with this level of urgency is frenetic and draining, especially if you are still being conscientious about the pandemic because the situation is constantly changing and there are so many considerations when making plans, riding public transportation, traveling, etc.
If our government supported us by giving free home tests (as they are doing in Austria since March) so that everyone had the resources to check their Covid status easily, the whole situation would be easier. But as individuals, at least in the US, we have been left to navigate this mess on our own.
What I have been telling clients, and I will tell you now, is that it’s important to slow down and remember that we have a choice about how we experience our alone time. We can remember the distinctions of loneliness vs. solitude (a chapter in my book Quirkyalone).
We can experience being alone as loneliness–a feeling of lacking and emptiness, yearning for that which is not there, or we can consciously choose to experience our alone time as solitude. Being intentional about our alone time can make that time feel more nourishing.
From this slower, more resourced position, we can choose how and when we want to socialize with less desperation, and not overdo it.
Many people have realized during the pandemic that they need more solitude than they gave themselves in the past. Maybe you are reaching for the social thing now out of fear of loneliness when actually what you need to do is light a candle and write in your journal, then play relaxing music and take a bath. It’s a time to figure out what you really want and need–and give it to yourself.
We need to be gentle with ourselves through such massive shifts.
I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and go slow.
I was talking with a new client this past week about how she needed to be in the right headspace of feeling hopeful and entitled to support in her life before she reached out to me about coaching. I think this is totally true for many of us. We need to feel a certain kind of optimism before reaching out to a total stranger to get support in our lives. If that’s you, I want to tell you it’s not that scary to reach out and have a conversation about coaching. Everyone needs support. It’s a good thing, and you can start the process right here.
If you are looking for something to watch, I suggest Love on the Spectrum, an Australian docu-series on Netflix about autistic people on their dating journeys.
It’s light, entertaining, and uplifting. Plus, the people they are following have a lot to teach all of us, including neurotypical people, about how to be emotionally brave in dating.
Love on the Spectrum is the best dating show because the people are so incredibly real. They say things like this, “I feel very warm, appreciated, and comfortable with you. How would you like to go out with me on a third date?” I loved it when one of them said he would never want to be on The Bachelor because he wouldn’t get to be himself.
Dating is tough enough for everyone, but it is has got to be tougher for autistic people who face stigma and tend to find social interactions challenging. What I love about the people on the show is their honesty. No pretending, no facade. What you see is what you get.
When it comes to love, their sincerity is so refreshing. They get hurt and disappointed, but they don’t get jaded and they don’t give up. One of the most important qualities to cultivate when you are dating is resilience. They also have parents who really support their self-love.
Lovely Michael is not afraid to say, “I’m on a quest to find true love.” How many of us are willing to say that out loud?
Another great line comes from 22-year-old Teo, who said, “I get so nervous about… what if I die alone?” Who says that on a date?
They bring gifts on first dates. They take it slow. They ask permission to hug or hold hands. Their courtships are so quaint and lovely compared to the hot mess of the dating-app world.
The people on the show get advice from Jodi Rodgers, relationship specialist for autistic people, who teaches them how to ask questions and listen to the answers.
Since the dating apps have come to dominate the ways we meet, almost everyone today needs a rudimentary course on how to date today because phone-based apps like Tinder and Hinge have shaped many people’s behaviors to be downright rude and bizarre.
I suspect the producers are heavily coaching them to say how they really feel on their dates, or they are just the most authentic people ever. I have never seen modern-day people be more open confessing their feelings. “I’m into you–how do you feel about me?”
Someone has to be brave enough to ask that question first. Telling someone else how you feel on a date equals MAJOR LIFE SKILL.
The people on the show are young, in their twenties and early thirties. I would like to see the show follow older people on the spectrum in their dating journeys too and to hear about how their relationships have gone.
The bottom-line message from the show is: Be yourself. Be brave.
A sizzle reel is a video that brings together a person’s work. I made this sizzle reel to introduce you to my body of work. I suspect people often look at me and my ideas and scratch their heads, and ask, “Quirkyalone, self-marriage, pussywalking, tangasms, life coaching for women. What is going on here?” In this video, I hope you can see all the connections!
Feel free to share the video with friends who are also on the journey of self-discovery.
Previously, I believed that wearing corrective lens would weaken my eyesight.
I liked being over 40 and evading glasses, as if I could cheat mortality and aging in general.
Yes, this was all quite silly.
Now I am a convert. I enjoy wearing my new glasses because they make the world sharper and more distinct. It’s a novelty to have a new lens on the world–and a pleasure.
But I wasn’t really wearing my new glasses very often. Weeks might go by and they sat in their little box or on my kitchen shelf.
I realized recently I was so afraid of wearing them because I feared I might damage them — and they were so precious to me. If I gave myself the pleasure of wearing my new glasses they might get ruined and then what would I do? I also have a habit of losing rings and sunglasses so part of me feared if I wore my glasses I would lose them.
There was a moment last week when I asked myself, Why am I not giving myself this pleasure of wearing my new glasses? Why am I tiring myself out? I was straining to see.
Why is it so hard to allow ourselves pleasure? Why choose to suffer?
Over the last ten years, I have taken many workshops and read many books, studying the uses of pleasure in our lives for our health, energy, and confidence. I’ve felt the benefits of pleasure running through my body and how that pleasure helps my mood, my confidence, and creativity. I’ve seen the effect of taking time for pleasure on my clients too. I am talking about simple everyday pleasures like rubbing coconut oil on your body after a shower or doing an “awareness walk” without your phone in tow.
Yet we often resist pleasure–and all kinds of good, delicious things.
What is that all about?
Are we hardwired by capitalism and patriarchy to work without ceasing? Have we forgotten that rest will renew us? Do we not think we deserve wonderful things?
So this is all to say: I’m getting over it. I’m enjoying wearing my new glasses more and making them an everyday part of my life.
Goshdarnit if I need to get my glasses adjusted at the store or heaven forbid buy new ones because they get lost or damaged, I will.
So what will pleasurable experience will you give yourself this week?
I don’t like to invoke pity for the single condition, but let’s get real: being single during the pandemic sucked for many of us. Cats and dogs are not enough. Vibrators are not enough. I’m not even talking about sex. I’m talking about human contact. Single people need hugs, too.
A friend of mine who was single during most of the pandemic talks about being “skin-hungry.”
Here in the U.S., we thought we were on the brink of regaining normalcy. We thought we would be able to leave those masks behind!
We were all mustering up the courage to leave our houses, go out and meet new and old friends.
I danced tango outside at a Providence milonga twice with glee. I was eagerly planning on going to a 100% vax-only milonga in Boston in August. I was filled with emotions: hope, anticipation, fear, overwhelm, but at least I was getting the tango hug back and would get to meet new people after moving back from Argentina.
I got to feel tango bliss again…but was it fleeting?
In the age of the Delta variant dancing cheek to cheek with strangers doesn’t sound like such a solid idea.
Things are changing again! If there is anything we have learned during this pandemic, it’s that we never really know what is around the corner.
Our current situation comes as only fifty percent of the people in the US got vaccinated. When I tell my Argentine and Brazilian friends this fact, they say, WHAT?!
In Buenos Aires people are fighting to get a second dose of Sputnik V, and in the US, millions had their choice of Pfizer or Moderna and said no, or not yet.
Widespread vaccine refusal gave the wildly contagious Delta variant fertile ground to spread in the US as it has in many countries. When a virus spreads it mutates. Delta is a new creature. And it’s a warning sign of future variants to come that could be vaccine-resistant.
Still the vaccinated and unvaccinated are at risk for long-haul Covid, long-term symptoms of fatigue, malaise, pain, brain fog, and difficulty breathing that doctors have not known how to treat.
A lot of people have not read about this new reality. A lot of people don’t enjoy reading the news. Or they are frankly sick of the virus, which I can understand. Or they are living in their own reality bubbles.
There’s no going back to normal. The question is how do we make life–and single life–work in the new normal?
I’ve approached Covid-19 with the idea that I will be safe and find ways to live anyway. Life is short. I take a middle-way approach.
For now, I am avoiding indoor dining, putting on the mask again in stores, and prioritizing one-on-one interactions with vaccinated people (being vaccinated is sexy right now). And yes, why not a modern-day Covid Lysistrata Campaign? Wanna cuddle? Get the shot! The Lysistrata Campaign is an old idea with a new twist. Women (or people) refuse sex with others to end a war. In this case you only have to refuse sex with the unvaccinated so you still have a lot of sexy people to say yes to. If you want to spread that idea, grab the image at the top of this post.
Sadly, there’s going to be fewer tango hugs for a while. But I’m still going on dates, because those are one-on-one interactions. And I’m seeing friends.
I’m getting tested again when I have a doubt. In Rhode Island rapid and PCR testing is free and readily available. Yesterday I had a second date. When I woke up with a sore throat, I scheduled a free test to be sure. Within an hour, the results came back negative, so I could meet this guy without fear. Was the date worth it? Happily, yes.
Home tests available at drugstores are a great option if you want to socialize but don’t want to be a superspreader. Home tests give are also great for those iffy situations when you don’t know if it’s a cold or Covid–or you were just exposed to a lot of unmasked people.
Some people say we will just have to live with Covid as the new flu—but the is a deadly flu leaving 23% of people who get it with chronic fatigue-like symptoms. I have already been there, and done that with chronic fatigue. I spent two years of my life unable to exercise, sometimes unable to pull myself off the couch to cook a meal. I don’t want to repeat that experience. Sometimes people look at me and wonder why I am so passionate about not getting Covid. That’s why.
Still, we have to live, right? We have already spent over a year cooped up inside. That’s not good for anyone’s mental or physical health.
What about you? How are you managing the new, new normal?
A friend told me about YDB. I am not sure of the origin of this wisdom, but it’s too good to not share.
This is for all of you who are struggling with an ex, a break-up, an RO (romantic obsession).
I know how hard it can be to get over people especially when you have opened your heart after it’s been closed for a while–and allowed yourself to believe in love again.
It didn’t work out. And your heart hurts. You can’t believe how long you are thinking about this person and what you once shared.
Here’s what you do. You tap into the power of YDB.
What does YDB mean?
You Dumb Bastard?
Yucky Discolored Box Syndrome? (Yes, this exists on the Internet. It has something to do with Adobe.)
It means YOU DESERVE BETTER!
So go ahead and write the acronym YDB before his or her name in your phone contacts list, if she or he is still in there. Or emblazon YDB before their name in your mind. YDB Mark. YDB Carlos. YDB Francesca. Change their name to YDB-their name for as long as you need to.
Maybe it feels like a leap to believe that there is someone out there for you who will be a better match for you. Well, in the meantime, you also deserve better than torturing yourself with thoughts about someone who doesn’t want to be with you anyway.
Whenever we are trying to change our experience, we are working on changing our thoughts. That process typically doesn’t happen overnight. Choosing new thoughts on purpose is a practice. It’s like going to the gym and lifting weights. The strength to choose new thoughts comes because you are consistently choosing differently.
So whenever that person comes to mind, you repeat YDB.
By brute force we start to believe that new thought.
Put it in your phone or in your journal or on a sticky note on your refrigerator.
I am a highly sensitive person, and I tend to attract highly sensitive people as my readers and clients. I’ve been shamed for being “too sensitive” many times and I have gotten to a place in life where I don’t allow anyone to tell me that I am too sensitive anymore. Telling someone they are “too sensitive” is a way of invalidating that’s person’s emotions. Sensitivity can be a challenge but it’s also a strength.
Being a sensitive person, unabashedly so (!), I have found that in order to live well and move forward in my life, and not get too stuck, I need to consistently practice “emotional hygiene.”
You might have heard about “sleep hygiene” but maybe not “emotional hygiene.” We need to take care of our emotions and release them. Otherwise our anger, fear, and sadness can get lodged in our bodies and even cause us pain, anxiety, insomnia, and the fun list goes on. Or the sadness after a breakup stick with us forever, and we don’t move on. Hello RO – romantic obsession!
The key is to find practices that work for you and repeat them. It’s not a matter of trying something new every week but instead finding what’s new inside of doing a practice.
One of my favorites is called the Milagrows practice. If you have been part of my online classes or a coaching client I might have shared it with you. The Milagrows practice is about practicing gratitude for all the s#$ in your life – naming what you don’t like, and then welcoming it with gratitude. It’s a practice of self-acceptance and acknowledgment.
If you are riding the waves of life and want a simple journalling practice to help you welcome it all, check it out here.
And if you are a sensitive soul, don’t let anyone tell you you are too sensitive!
To write authentically as a life coach feels like a strange balance–because I never know quite how far to go in writing the messy, ugly, juicy details of my own life.
When I became a life coach in 2013, I noticed that some of my creative energy to write real, tell-all, blog posts dried up.
I had always written truthfully about my life through my books, personal essays, and blog posts. Writing truthfully about my life was my thing! Writing is more alive when it’s more real.
But when I took on this new professional direction, I felt afraid to go all the way there in my blog writing. Some revealing pieces languished.
I guess I thought I was “supposed to have it all together” and that it wouldn’t be good for potential clients or the clients I already had to know that much about me. Like, that time I got obsessed with the Tinder Guy in Atlanta and stayed up all night on the phone talking with him. As in, wasn’t that unhinged? Or the ways that dishes used to pile up in my sink. I suppose I judged myself, expecting others would judge me too. The desire to look perfect. Oh!
Being reluctant to disclose personal information is common for people in these helping professions. Therapists and counselors are generally sparing with self-disclosure.
When I’m coaching, I generally veer toward a limited approach to self-disclosure–that is to say, I don’t talk much about myself. I may share something personal if I believe that may help the client. If I share a tidbit, I try to share the reason I am sharing it first. In the end, life coaching is about you and your life, not me.
So then, how does this level of disclosure translate to my blog and writing? I’ve been pondering this question over the last few months because I want to take risks in my blogging again.
I’ve noticed that “vulnerable” blog posts from life coaches are popular but those kinds of posts often present some kind of formulaic tips or answers for life problems, as if we are only supposed to share when we have resolved the problem (or our foibles) to our own satisfaction and tell you the answers in the rear view mirror.
Sometimes I don’t have “answers”–and I don’t want to even pretend to have them.
I was talking about this dilemma with my friend Jenny Bitner, a hypnotherapist. We both have artistic and therapeutic sides of our work. Jenny said, “It feels hard in any field where you are offering help to admit your own problems.”
“People are very drawn to someone who appears together and confident…not that you can’t be both,” she also said. That’s the question. Can we appear together and confident, and admit that we are a work-in-progress with problems of our own? Do we want to read about Oprah’s meltdowns, or do we want her to only guide us with wisdom?
I’m after authenticity because that’s what feels most alive. By its nature, being authentic involves risk. I notice lots of young YouTube stars posting videos like “misconceptions about me” or “mental health chat” where they talk about their own problems. I get inspired by their courage and transparency. I mean, I know people think I am transparent too but only I know what I’m not sharing!
If I am honest I myself am drawn to people who are quite explicit in acknowledging they don’t have their perfect lives all worked out either.
Authenticity is a constant quest because what felt authentic a year ago may not feel authentic now.
These are questions I have been sitting with. I’m wanting to return to the more risky, personal online versions of my writing, and trust that works.
From here on out, I’m going to try to be even a wee bit more authentic and unafraid to be a human, writer and life coach and all. Let’s see how that adventure goes. Eeeek!
What about you? Do you have any places in your life where you would like to show up more authentically, but you are afraid to do so?
I so enjoyed talking with Dr. Peter McGraw, a behavioral economist at the University of Colorado who is investigating solitude and how to create a remarkable single life, now or forever.
It’s kinda crazy. I have done many fantastic podcasts about being quirkyalone with women, and this was the first time I talked with a man who is investigating these topics!
Peter and I chatted about:
the problem of “internalized inferiority,” of seeing our single periods as lesser than our coupled periods and the tragedy of waiting to be coupled up to do the things you most want to do in life (I share about how I’ve struggled with this too)
my personal story behind quirkyalone, and why I chose that combination over, say, “freakyalone”!
quirkyalones in pop culture in the 90s and oughts, from Love Jones to Ally McBeal
how single people have been ignored–at least in the US–in policy discussions during the pandemic
why quirkyalone, even though it seems to be a celebration of singlehood, is also, in its deepest core, an argument for depth in relationship
the many ways people meet needs for connection in 2021, with everything from Tinder to solo poly
why I prefer to talk about self-acceptance and wholeness rather than being a “happy single.” Being happy all the time is just way too much pressure! And going for what we want in life may involve some pain, discomfort and struggle.
Here’s a little teaser before you click to listen in…
“The choice of the word quirky, why? Can you tease us with some of the alternatives that you considered?
In the book Quirkyalone, I have a bunch of alternatives like eccentricalone, bizarrealone, or freakyalone.
Freakyalone is a whole different book and it’s in a different section of the library. It’s not in the library, first of all.
Why quirky? It’s because quirky is softer, for one. It’s eccentric but with a human touch that makes you feel you can get warm and cuddly with a quirky person in a way that maybe you don’t feel you can with freakyalone. It was that sense that I had as a young person and has remained the same as I get older. I only connect with a certain amount of people. I’m not a generic person and quirkyalones are not cookie-cutter type. It’s a practical recognition for a quirky person.
It may take a little longer to find someone who matches you, not that they have to have all the same quirks. Everybody is completely individual and all of my work has this honoring of our quirkiness. When I work with clients, for example, I’m interested in finding out who they are and how they tick because everybody’s different. That’s my orientation to the world. The quirky part is the way of honoring that. I love that about us as people.”
As many of you know, I lived as an expat in Buenos Aires for five years (from 2016 to 2020). I’m currently back in my native Rhode Island.
Before the pandemic changed everything, Tan Kurttekin and I shot this video in 2019 to show you a day in the life of my life in Buenos Aires.
In this video I take you to five of my favorite places collected over the five years that I lived in the city. The shoes. The body-positive tango fashion. The dancing. The cuisine. The mate. The men! LOL.
This video is a love letter to the city that helped me heal and find myself again, and to all the passionate tanguerxs I met along the way.
This video will also give you an idea of the places where you can go if you come on a Tango Adventure, once the pandemia has calmed down in South America.
Now on to the show…
As I watch the video now, I am filled with nostalgia for pre-pandemic Buenos Aires.
In the video we go to…
First: Cafe Nostalgia for the introductory coffee (a beautiful spot, you want to grab a cortado (coffee with foam on top) when you visit
Next: Ateneo, the world’s most beautiful bookstore
Next: Casa del Sol with Eva for Body-Positive Tango Dress Shopping, then mate on the terrazza
Next: Graphic Design Lunch at Mooi with Ansil
Next: Tango Shoe-Shopping with Sylvia at Alanis
Next: Out to Canning (an elegant milonga) with Jamila in the newly purchased dress. Did I buy the right one?! Should I have gotten that blue dress?
This video was shot by the genius (genio) cinemtagropher Tan Kurttekin, who also helped me make the pussywalking videos. The equally genius (genia) Magali Ayala edited. I love my creative team in Buenos Aires. The creative energy is one of my favorite things about Buenos Aires, actually. It’s a place where a woman can move on her own, meet other adventurous expats and crazy-creative Argentines too and creates lots of cool things together. Mwah!
Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to live their best lives + do their best work. Author: of Quirkyalone + To-Do List. Forthcoming: WET.
The best way to stay in touch is to sign up for my newsletter. See you in your inbox!
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.