I was chatting with one of my best friends on the phone the other night when I asked her if she had seen the Brene Brown special “The Call to Courage” on Netflix.
She said, “Yeah,” but she said yeah with a kind of smirk that I could discern on the phone.
“It’s kind of obligatory for women of our demographic,” she said.
Ha. That demographic would be San Francisco, progressive, emotionally aware, 40s-50s.
We talked about the special, which I appreciated. Brene Brown’s work naming the power of vulnerability and its importance for love, happiness, and connection has been life-changing for me as it has been for many, many people. But there was one aspect of the talk that didn’t sit exactly right.
I loved Brene Brown’s storytelling about how incredibly challenging it can be to open up and talk about your feelings in an intimate relationship, even and especially for her (and for me I would add too!). Being vulnerable is not easy! But when she was telling stories from her life I had the feeling she was assuming that everyone in the audience was married, or at least, had a long-term partner. She was careful to use a non-parenting example after using a parenting example in her talk, but I had the feeling she wasn’t addressing the high percentage of people who are out there struggling to find and maintain a relationship or who are content being single.
There are particular ways that shame and challenges around vulnerability show up for those of us who are dating, and have been single for longer than we want to be. This is just one of the reasons I was so glad Bay Area therapist Laura Parker reached out to interview me as part of her groundbreaking series Transforming Loneliness.
Laura definitely groks “quirkyalone” (probably because she is one!). We could focus on shame and vulnerability from that perspective. We talked about how we can move from “single shame” to owning our stories as discerning quirkyalones. Why? So we can stop all those self-critical thoughts in our heads–and be more peaceful within ourselves and open to more love and connection.
For example, in our conversation, we talk about with shameful thoughts and questions like, “Is it my fault that I’m still single? I’m the one common denominator!” Or “Am I actually unlovable?”
By now I have enough experience as a life coach, writer and human being to know that people in long relationships also struggle with questions about whether they are lovable, but these questions really do hit hard if you are single for a lot longer than you want to be. I’ve worked through those issues myself–they will be on full display in my memoir (working title Wet). I often talk with clients who carry around the feeling that it’s their fault they are still single.
Loneliness, in my view, gets very tangled up with shame. We feel ashamed of feeling lonely and needing or wanting more connection than we have. We might even feel ashamed of having needs for love or companionship that have not been met. Or we might feel ashamed that our life stories don’t fit the “norm” of how adulthood is supposed to happen with certain milestones by certain ages.
According to this San Diego-based psychological study, 75% of Americans struggle with loneliness, even if they have a partner and a network of friends. These researchers found wisdom, compassion and empathy help people to feel more connected to humanity and the cosmos. Interacting with others who share values and interests can be helpful too.
Laura wants to help us to change the way we view loneliness so that instead of feeling ashamed of our loneliness as a personal failing we see it as a message to be attended to. I hope this conversation can give you more wisdom to look at your own feelings of loneliness when they come up. As Laura helped us see there are lots of ways to look at a dating history that has been mostly single. There might be something right with you if you don’t settle for a mediocre or unhealthy relationship.
In this video, you will hear us talk about:
What we mean when we say “single shame.” It’s that feeling that might overcome you when your date asks how long it’s been since your last relationship. It’s been years, and you don’t know what to say
What it means to “own your story” so someone can get to know you. If we don’t love and accept our own story enough to share it will be difficult for anyone to get to know you.
This brilliant corrective to single shame. When you are caught in a loop of self-judgment about still being single, sometimes the best thing to do is stop judging yourself and accept the mystery of life.
What I think about the idea that “you have to love yourself to love someone else.”
How relationships are mirrors and are co-created between two people.
How my ideas about relationships have evolved since publishing Quirkyalone in 2004
The memoir I’m working on now Wet is a follow-up to Quirkyalone. The new book goes into my own single shame story of how healing the effects of trauma helped me to open up more deeply than ever before in an important romantic relationship
Touch starvation when feeling lonely–and how tango or any kind of dance with contact can be an antidote
So go back to the top of this blog post and watch this video because it’s truly special (it starts off slow but it’s really a gem if you identify with being quirkyalone). Then, want to read or hear more about working with your loneliness and healing single shame?
Laura interviewed more than a dozen healers and thinkers on the topic of transforming loneliness from many spiritual perspectives. These videos are very nourishing. I recommend you check them out on her YouTube channel.
I’ve been talking about single shame with other authors, coaches and therapists for a while now.
This is tough stuff and you don’t need to do it on your own. Sometimes the best way to work through shame is to work with someone who can be your compassionate witness and observer to help you work through these feelings. Simply acknowledging and talking about shame often lessens those feelings considerably. Get one–on-one-help with working through single shame to own your story and open up for more love and connection. You can find a therapist in your area and ask him or her if she is sensitive to these types of issues or check out my coaching page and request a consult to explore coaching with me.
Do you want to get some extra confidence walking into a job interview? Do you want to feel happier and energized? Do you want to even know what you want?
“So WTF is Pussywalking?” The hilarious Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan who just launched her own talk show KaamnaLive interviewed me about pussywalking the last time I was in San Francisco.
Pussywalking sounds out there but it’s actually quite simple. It’s a way of being mindful so you are present in every step when you walk and to know exactly who you are and your unique powers as a woman. Pussywalking can help you step out of your shell, walk with a pep in your step and enjoy life to its fullest. Say hi to your new Sensual Self!
Watching this video you will discover:
What exactly is pussywalking
Why I teach women can have additional power in the energy of her pussy, and that energy can be distributed through the body to improve her confidence and overall well-being
How I originally discovered the pussywalking practice on the way to a job interview in San Francisco
The male equivalent: Men can be cocky, women can be pussypowerful.
Our research team in Buenos Aires is working on researching cockwalking.
What is sensuality and why does it matter? Our culture is obsessed with sex. Sex matters of course. But we rarely talk about sensuality. I want to talk about reviving sensuality in the digital age when we are all too often burying our heads in screens.
In this video with Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan on her new Internet talk show Kaamna Live I made sensuality a priority in my life by leaving Silicon Valley for Brazil back in 2010. In this interview I explain why I made sensuality so important for me at a time when my life was going downhill in many ways.
That move led me to Buenos Aires and tango. The search for sensuality continues because as I see it I need sensual fulfillment to be happy, healthy, and in touch with what I want and don’t want. Being in touch with my sensuality actually helps me make decisions and feel more worthy and whole. We get a lot of valuable information from our bodies but we can only feel those pulses of information if we are in touch with our senses.
In this interview we talk about why reviving your sensuality matters for your health and well-being, which celebrities are sensual and which are not, and how you can make playing golf a more sensual experience. Ha. And we should not miss the obvious point: giving focus to sensuality will make you a better lover. As Kaamna so wisely points out in the video: Men, take note!
Does sensuality matter for you? How do you trigger yourself to get out of your head, off the computer or your phone and back into your body? Where do you find sensual delight?
Though loneliness has become something of a hot topic in the media, I wonder how many of us would feel comfortable to say it out loud to another friend or loved one, “I’m lonely.”
Many of us are reluctant to admit to others when we feel lonely.
I know from my own life and working with quirkyalone/quirkytogether people that loneliness has particular dimensions for people who have been selective in their choices and spent many years being single.
We don’t talk about the loneliness of that path all that much–for example the loneliness of staring down a weekend with no plans.
We wind up feeling even more lonely alone when we don’t see our experience reflected back to us or discussed.
Laura who has been following quirkyalone for 15 years and I first talked over Skype to discuss the focus of our conversation.
We settled on the theme the loneliness of single shame, or of believing something is wrong with you if you have been single for years or just longer than you want to be.
I highly recommend you listen in. Generally when I do conversations with others on single shame it’s healing for someone out there.
This conversation can help you prepare for those awkward moments on dates when someone asks you how long it’s been since your last relationship.
Even more I hope this intimate conversation can help you feel more at peace as you gradually rid yourself of those nagging “there’s something wrong with me” voices in your head.
I remember evading questions on dates when men would ask me, So how long has it been since your last relationship? I felt marked–like something was wrong with me–because I had been single for years.
I’ve since helped many clients who have coped with similar feelings of shame so I know quite well by now single shame can be quite a “thing.”
In our conversation, I talked about my own experience of working through single shame to the end point of owning my story as a discerning quirkyalone and about my experiences helping others along that journey.
The interview is called “From Single Shame to Owning Your Story as a Discerning Quirkyalone.”
Our interview will be aired Saturday, February 23, 2019.
Laura’s series TRANSFORMING LONELINESS: Follow Your Heart’s Longing into Connection, Belonging, and Love will be available FREE from February 19 – 26.
Goofing around with Katrin and her beautiful artisanal tango and non-tango shoes
There’s something you all should really know. Right now is an excellent time to travel to Buenos Aires.
The currency devaluation of the peso has made everything from food to cabs to clothing to milonga entrances as much as 30% cheaper for those of us who have dollars or Euros.
A big devaluation of the Argentine peso happened in September 2018 and I didn’t scream it from the rooftops to you then because quite frankly I feel for my Argentine friends and all those who work in the local economy. It’s not easy when the purchasing power of your salary suddenly decreases by 30%.
However it’s certainly beneficial for you to know about this change if you’re thinking about visiting–and it’s also beneficial for my tango team to have more people coming to learn tango in Buenos Aires. When you come, you are supporting a local economy of people who live and breathe the passion of tango: teaching tango, organizing milongas, providing taxi dancing services to help you gain confidence on the dance floor, and selling artisanal shoes and clothing.
Now is really a great time for you to come to Argentina!
This Bloomberg story gives you an overview of how tempting Argentina has become to tourists. The Bloomberg story tells you about tourists flocking to Argentina for excellent cuts of steak and wine at great prices. The deals are also good for tango shoes, lessons, massages, and my favorite plant-based meals in Buenos Aires. From an economic perspective, it’s a great time to enjoy the many delights the city has to offer.
We will do the last group Tango Adventure for a while May 4-10, 2019 (sniff, sniff) so that’s another reason to seize the moment. If you have been thinking about joining us now is the time.
And if those dates don’t work for you, the Solo Chica Tango Adventure is here for you. I’ve been working like crazy with my team over the last two months to create an exciting new way for you to have a self-guided adventure in my Buenos Aires with specially created transformative tango programs and exclusive pricing for you as my readers.
For many people making changes gets harder once they are niched in careers and the place they live. Inertia sets in in adulthood. Are you as open to change now in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or 70s as you were in your 20s?
To make a big change–a move, a career or job change, a relationship change (leaving a relationship, deciding you want one, or even committing to being OK with being single)–requires effort and moving through fear.
After talking with a client about the possibility of making a scary change (taking a job in another city), and reflecting on my own life (which has been full of leaps) it seems to me there is a key ingredient in the decision to move out of the comfort zone and risk trying something new.
You have to ask yourself what makes you excited/engaged enough about the possibility on the other side to get through the fear, work and pain of change. The why, really. The why that would make you feel good and even excited.
What gives you a tingly feeling in your body, or even a calm glow of happiness when you think about the possibilities on the other side of the change? You have to anchor into those feelings to move through the fear and stuckness that can set in in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.
Decisions may take time so keep asking yourself if you can access that feeling of excitement or happy calm as you consider the leap. Fears may grow, circumstances may change, but keep checking, Is there a core of good feeling about the possibilities that lie around the curve?
I find in my own life and in the lives of my clients that once people start making changes it gets easier to make more because you realize everything is reversible. You can change again.
Believe me, I hate moving so I know it’s painful to box up your whole life, for example. But generally it’s worth it because every change is a chance to ask your heart and soul what it wants and what feels alive.
We valorize sticking with one thing for life but I do believe we need new challenges to stay fresh and engaged.
If you read my book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics you may remember the section on R.O., or Romantic Obsession. That part of the book was one of the most fun to write, and one of the most emotionally resonant, or so I heard from readers. It turns out that many of us quirkyalones have fallen into our share of R.O.
Here’s an excerpt to jog your memory:
“It’s a little-known fact, but quirkyalones, for all their independence, also have a tendency to be swept away when they get close to love. We are passionate, romantic characters, and that click happens so rarely that the search for a partner can take on the character of a holy grail. If you only meet someone who stirs your interest once every two years, this is bound to be an epic event. If things don’t go according to plan, or even if they do, well, this can be difficult. We sometimes plunge into romantic obsession, or R.O.”
I experienced my first and deepest R.O. 25 years ago when I was in college. So I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on and writing about R.O. (That’s a lot of years!)
Since I launched my coaching practice in 2012 I’ve talked to a lot of women who have fallen into R.O. states for longer than they would like. Many quirkyalone women came to talk with me about a variety of life issues and decisions, but often the pain of the R.O. was the trigger for getting support. They wanted a way out of persistent obsession with someone who had told them in ways, subtle or not, that they were not interested in continuing a relationship.
Since I know R.O. to be a hidden topic for quirkyalones (because after all we seem so self-assured and confident, so not prone to obsession!) I recorded this unscripted video sharing what I have learned from my own R.O.s and helping others . I called the video the Hidden Messages of Romantic Obsession because many years later, I can see that usually an R.O. masks or distracts us from a deeper issue. It’s never really about the person we are obsessing about–it’s about something else for us to heal.
This is a big topic for many of us so if you have thoughts to share please do so in the comments!
P.S. I’ve been making more videos lately. This new twist has happened because I’ve become good friends with a genius Turkish filmmaker and fellow Buenos Aires expat Tan Kurttekin who is helping me make videos about pussywalking. (What the hell is she talking about with pussywalking?)
the cobbler who saved my shoes in Kolasin, Montenegro
A cap on my right tango shoe came off I discovered this afternoon, leaving the right heel wobbly and unstable. I danced about ten songs on it in the afternoon practica but I didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t injure my ankle–and a sprained ankle is a big setback. I learned how much a sprained ankle can set you back from four months of physical therapy last year.
I asked one of the assistants in the Summer Tango Camp if there was a cobbler in town who fixed heels. The guy told me yes but only on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s Thursday so that would be of no use. (What kind of work ethic is that? says this American.) This guy offered no more help and went back to staring at his phone.
I went walking in the streets of Kolasin, this mountain town in Montenegro (in the Balkans, just south of Croatia) where I have been staying for two weeks. I asked the nail salon woman if anyone in town fixed shoes. She did my eyebrows and pedicure so she seemed like a good local to start with. She pointed me two kilometers down the road. It’s very hot, and very sunny, and I did not feel like walking two kilometers in the midday sun. I went into a shoe shop thinking I would look for sneakers with smooth soles to pivot on but for some reason I felt inspired to ask them if they fixed heels.
“No, we only sell shoes,” the saleslady said, but she pointed me to a cobbler 100 meters away! A hundred meters–now that’s my kind of distance to walk in the afternoon heat! I found a lovely guy with a nondescript storefront who fixes shoes. They should be ready at 7:15 and if he does a good job I can keep dancing.
So reminded that it is all about persistence. Everything.
Epiphanies come and go. But the main thing, usually, is keep going. So keep going.
(Written during the Kolasin, Montenegro Summer Tango Camp. We didn’t actually camp, we stayed in hotels or houses. We–700 people–all came together for days and days of dancing, hiking, archery, tango learning, and meeting people from all over the world. An incredible event. You should come to the Summer Tango Camp + the Tango Adventure of course!)
Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again? “Deathly” Aimee Mann
I left a first date feeling entirely uncertain, excited and unsettled. Then, he didn’t call. I had to deal with my feelings for two days afterward. Two days of hell and then I moved on! I used all the tools at my disposal to deal with those feelings, and I thought I would share them with you who are dating. But first—something poetic.
I’ve always thought the above lyric from Aimee Mann perfectly expresses the complicated anxiety of meeting—and actually really liking—someone on a first date. I’m so glad we met, and would you object to never seeing each other again?
Aimee Mann suggests in the song that “I can’t afford to / Climb aboard you / No one’s got that much ego to spend.” She doesn’t want someone to “work their stuff” on her because she has “troubles enough.” Even if the other person is not working their stuff on you, how do you live through the process of dating and getting to know someone–and actually liking them–without going through a roller coaster of emotion? Does he like me? Do I like him? Will he call? Text? Should I?
In other words, how is it possible to be more chill and meditative about this if you get invested in someone you like? Is that even possible?
When I was younger I got the impression from romantic comedies that beginning a relationship with someone was fun. But what those movies left out was the awkward process of discerning how you felt and how the other person felt about you, whether you are in the same place with the same desires and emotional availability for a relationship.
Dating requires some courage: Opening up is always a risk. Why would you want to be hurt when you’re sailing along in your cool-with-being-single-life? The price of entry to go for deeper connection is walking through this valley of making yourself vulnerable. I don’t mean just in romantic relationships either, but also with friendships and family too.
Some people say, “Dating is fun!” Dating can definitely be fun. But we are also human beings with hearts that have a history. Dating can also trigger deep issues from childhood and various aspects of your history, formative first love relationships, breakups and so on.
It’s never more fearsome than when you actually like someone. My friend Jenny sent me a text recently giving me some encouragement after a date, “It’s OK to enjoy those crush feelings. Crushes can bring a feeling of lightness and joy.” That’s true. It’s great if you can let go of the anxiety enough to enjoy the crush.
Some people take dating lightly, and that’s great. But for those of us who find dating challenging, who have gone on zillions of dates and been through what Jody Day over at Gateway Women called the “endless hope/despair cycle of Internet dating” I want to share with you what I have learned about managing the anxiety of dating.
The anxiety may not go away entirely but it can be more contained so we can enjoy more of the lightness and joy that go along with crushes and exciting dates.
Accept your emotions. Dating will bring up emotions. Accept them: excitement, hope, disappointment, fear of rejection and despair. Just because you are aware of your feelings it doesn’t mean you won’t have them. If you have a phobia of birds for example it doesn’t mean your phobia will go away when you see a cluster of pigeons by your door. (That was my big fear for a while.) Maybe you can distract yourself but don’t beat yourself up for having the feelings. Why are you doing this? You’re being brave and going for a deeper connection.
Express your emotions—to yourself or a friend. I find this Milagrows list-making practice can be helpful to externalize the feelings and let them be witnessed. The milagrows practice, as I call it, is a way of writing a list where you note your feelings, especially the ones you are not grateful for, and bless them with gratitude. Writing a milagrows list helps me move through a tough patch more quickly. You could even say writing this list helps you metabolize negative emotions. Talking to a sympathetic friend who gets that dating is not always easy is helpful too. Dating can bring up just as many emotional challenges as a marriage.
Separate these emotions from the person you have just met. Dating can bring up a great longing. They tell you, don’t project when you date, but come on. If you meet someone you like the imagination may go wild with the future you envision, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s a great fall from grace. Disappointment is natural but don’t let the disappointment or other negative feelings become global. In other words, this is disappointment about one man and not all men, one women and not all women. Separate those emotions and longings from the person, because you don’t really know the person yet and whether they would be a good person for you to be in a relationship with anyway.
Which brings us to: Don’t let all your emotions go into the gutter. It’s very easy to let a feeling of rejection from one person spin into, Love never works for me or It’s never going to work out. Believe me, I’ve done that too! Most “never” statements will not hold up to scrutiny when you question them.
It’s crucial to separate disappointment about a particular person (whom you did not know all that well anyway) from disappointment about love in general. Become more specific with your thoughts and feelings. Maybe it doesn’t work out with this particular person because he or she doesn’t want a relationship right now. One dating disappointment doesn’t predict the future.
You didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t make someone like you. Tons of dating gurus out there tell you how to make yourself irresistible to men (Chistian Carter, Rori Rayes, etc. etc.) or how to pick up women, and if you read these people, you think, Oh fuck, I did x, y, z wrong. I won’t say there is nothing of value to be gained from dating gurus, but in the end, if you are manipulating someone to like you in the beginning, they don’t know you. That’s no foundation for a relationship. The reasons that someone likes you or doesn’t like you are ones that you really can’t know. They may like you for things you have never seen in yourself and are not aware of. Give yourself a break. You did nothing wrong.
Time is the ultimate test. You can’t know that much about anyone from one encounter anyway. A date full of chemistry may lead somewhere or nowhere. I am suspicious of the Hell Yes or No thing that people spread as a meme on the Internet–according to this meme, you should only do things that are a Hell Yes. In my experience, hell yesses sometimes fizzle and ambiguous connections may grow. People reveal themselves to you as you get to know them and chemistry alone does not make a relationship. People surprise us, and it takes time to know them. Character and important qualities like kindness and judgment will show up with time. Two-date rule? Five date rules? I don’t have any rules and I won’t suggest any but I am increasingly convinced that first dates are not that revealing and nothing happens that fast. People can be more fully themselves when they feel comfortable with you over time.
Just keep going. Almost every day I am more convinced that success in all aspects of life is about persistence. Take care of your heart and keep on trucking. And if you want help along the path, check out what I offer here.
Unclassified Woman is a wonderful podcast about combatting “limiting female narratives”:
“With almost 25% of women over 40 child-free by choice or childless through circumstance, it seems absurd that women still have to justify their decisions or endure pity about why they’re not mothers. Motherhood is not a mandate and yet so many women are made to feel ‘less than’ or viewed suspiciously or disparagingly, if they are creating a life of meaning beyond biological mothering.
All of these outdated stereotypes lead to one dangerous assumption: what’s your value beyond being a mother? As mainstream society still tends to over-celebrate mothers juggling ‘it all’, and under-celebrate women who, whilst not mothers, have created lives of purpose and service – Unclassified Woman is the perfect antidote to limiting female narratives.”
Michelle Marie McGrath, the creator of Unclassified Woman, and I recorded an intimate conversation last year.
I remember the conversation being so personal that I was afraid to listen to it when she sent it to me. I summoned the courage, pressed play and found the conversation very nourishing.
I hope you will find the realness nourishing too.
In our Unclassified Woman conversation, we go into:
– the messy truth about why I haven’t had children, and many women today do not
– social infertility and circumstantial infertility (our choices are not always entirely choices)
– a near-death experience I had that helped me see I can’t put myself through so much pain around comparing myself and the value of my life to friends who are mothers
– the process of grieving not having a child even though I was never sure I wanted to be a biological mother
– the delicious moment when you figure out who you are and stand for your own value
I'm the author of the cult hit book Quirkyalone and To-Do List and a life coach who helps quirky, creative women and self-aware men. I'm also the founder of the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires.
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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 a few self-aware men) get clear on their goals and achieve them while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
Through Solo Chica, Sasha is creating a whole new way for women to travel solo with confidence and local contacts to support them for transformative cultural experiences.
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