one of the enchanting pedestrian streets in Istanbul, on the European side in Cihangir. Just loved those umbrellas!
I left some audios for a close friend last night, and she wrote me back, “I love living vicariously through your travel adventures,” and “‘Throwing Up in Doha’ is a great title for a memoir.” This isn’t a full-blown memoir. It’s a humble blog post. But I will tell you the story of throwing up in Doha, anyway. (Doha is the capital of Qatar, in case you didn’t know–I don’t judge you. I didn’t know either. And it’s only in the last year that I learned to pronounce “Qatar.”)
I left that message with a friend to let her know that I have been going through a lot since leaving for this trip on February 14. My first stop was Istanbul for a week, then four days in Singapore, and soon I will be heading on to Bali for two months where I will continue to work with my clients remotely and focus on a creative project. My hope is that the availability of cheap healing massages and the energetic magic of Kundalini yoga will help me make headway on a writing project. I am very happy that I am finally living this dream, which took a ton of work to make possible.
But man, woman, nonbinary person, it’s been a rough two weeks. To recap, my father has been in and out of the hospital twice in the moment when I was about to leave the US and then a week later when I was due to fly from Turkey. It’s hard for me as an eldest child to step back and let my younger siblings, who are wonderful, and totally on it, take responsibility when I am away. There’s guilt to feel, and to release. Luckily, blessedly, after a ton of uncertainty, my father is doing much better, so we are all tremendously grateful.
There have been other things, like getting accidentally punched by a woman in a Turkish hamam, and living through a corneal abrasion for two days. Yes, the hamam experience was fantastic, and the inside of your eye can hurt badly when someone hits it. During these travels, there has been a relationship issue where I realize that I have been deluding myself in fantasy, longing for something that was never an option. and that has been humbling to face. My goddess it’s hard when I realize that I make the same mistakes over and over again. That comes up for a lot of us as we get older. There’s been a lot of looking in the mirror, and getting punched in the face. What can I say? It’s brave to look in the mirror. It’s the only way to evolve.
a snuggly street cat cozies up to the door of the place where I stayed with a friend in Kadikoy
But back to Turkey. Istanbul is spectacular, bursting with history, culture, street cats (watch the lovely documentary Kedi to learn about how Turkish people care for stray felines communally), food, warm people, and very flirtatious men. The cab driver from the airport told me I looked twenty-seven. That’s pushing it! Istanbul is a completely unique city that brings together the secular and the nonsecular, but also overwhelming. Fifteen million people live in Turkey’s capital, more than New York. Istanbul is the biggest city in Europe and straddles the Bosphorous, a natural waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. It covers more land mass than New York City.
On one side is Europe, and on the other lies Asia. I stayed on the Asian side in Kadikoy, which is said to be calm compared to the European side, but this bohemian alcove of a million coffeeshops still thrums with energy and bars, restaurants, and bazaars (markets). I have never been in a place with more cafes! Almost every day I went over to the European side, which could be a journey that took three or four forms of public transport or a cab ride that could take an hour and a half because of hellish traffic. I stayed out late four nights during that week, mostly at milongas dancing tango. All of this added up to exhaustion by the time I was packing my bags.
By the time I left for Singapore, I was depleted, beyond needing a vacation from this vacation. The flight from Istanbul to Doha was the most cramped I have ever been on. I was seated between an unsmiling woman and an unsmiling man. There was a very strange moment when, after I asked the flight attendant for a drink, and she passed me a tiny can of Diet Coke, the woman turned to me and asked if it was possible for me to not drink a Coke near her. I said, “I don’t understand,” because I was frankly flummoxed. She darted up and out to the first class section, and stayed there until we landed.
To say I was rattled would be an understatement. I hadn’t slept more than three or four hours a night in several nights, and all the stress was catching up with me. I had the irrational thoughts that I had traumatized this woman, and she cursed me. By the time we landed in Qatar, where I would be catching the next flight to Singapore, the pressure in my head started to squeeze my brain. I’ve had about 10 or 15 migraines in my life of varying intensity. Sometimes I throw up. Something must connect the gut and brain in the migraine state. So that was the situation, probably borne out of lack of sleep and stress. I was shielding my eyes to block the light on the way through the massive Doha airport (the number one thing to do in this state is to seek darkness) and then I found the most luxuriously, blessedly pristine bathroom by the gate. I threw up in the bathroom a few times, telling myself, “This is miserable but I will get through this.” That was my mantra.
When I saw myself in the mirror I thought, I do not look well. Why remember the bad moments from traveling? Because they are all part of the mix. People say they want to live vicariously through my adventures. Well, traveling can be quite challenging at times, especially in a city like Istanbul that is so vast with so many hidden places and confusing directions. But I love it. I still love to travel, and often I travel alone. Traveling is worth throwing up in Doha: I guess that is what I am trying to say.
While I was in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, I made this little video about the courage to travel alone, and the angels that help us when we run into problems. I was inspired to make this video by a conversation that I had with a Turkish woman whom I met in a remarkably friendly cafe called Tribu (Italian for “tribe.”) (Watch this little spontaneous video I made with the owner to learn about the cafe–and maybe someday you will visit).
This woman who had worked for the Smithsonian in DC after doing a masters in art history in the US was telling me about a solo trip that she had taken to a Greek island, and a moment when her phone didn’t work and she couldn’t find the place where she was staying. Someone came along to help her find her hotel. That sounded familiar. That is my experience too. Countless times when I have been traveling alone in South America, Europe, and Asia people have helped me when I was lost, sick, or injured.
Angels do come to help. Many of my coaching clients want to travel alone but they get worried with reasonable concerns. I made this video below to encourage other women to travel alone. Because even though shitty things like “Throwing up in Doha” happen, I would still say that traveling alone is worth it. More than worth it. It makes our world bigger. It makes us feel alive, More things happen when we are alone. And we are never totally alone. Angels will come forward. It’s important to acknowledge that and be grateful for them.
Here’s the video I made for you walking through the streets of Kadikoy in Istanbul about solo travel. I hope you enjoy.
Are you planning any travels, solo or not? Let me know in the comments.
Do you worry that there might be something wrong with you because you are still single?
Then, watch the above class, Self-Compassion for Quirkyalones! Let me know how it goes for you when you do the journaling exercise we do together to develop your self-compassionate voice, and what you learn from the others who attended live, and who shared so bravely and freely.
Here’s a full disclosure. I asked ChatGPT to list the top ten self-critical thoughts of single people. I wrote, “What are the actual self-critical thoughts that single people say to themselves? In quotation marks, inside someone’s head.” The AI machine spit out results, and I edited them to make them more real based on what I have heard from the people I have coached and talked with over the last 20 years, since publishing my first book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.
Note: I have mixed feelings about ChatGPT, and negative feelings about AI, so I am being transparent with you in service of keeping the human vibe going in my newsletter and blog. The robots are coming!
Here’s the edited list:
“I’m still single. What’s wrong with me?”
“Everyone else seems to be in a relationship. So, again, what’s wrong with me? Am I unlovable?”
“Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe I should settle for someone to avoid being alone.”
“I must be undesirable if I can’t seem to find a partner.”
“If I were more attractive/confident/successful/not messy/some non-specific thing that no one could ever really say, maybe I’d have better luck finding a partner.”
“I always mess things up in relationships. Maybe I’m just not cut out for love in this lifetime.”
“I’m falling behind in life because I’m not in a relationship like everyone else.”
“What if I end up alone forever? Will I regret my choices?”
“Maybe I need to change myself to fit what others want in a partner.”
“Will I ever find someone who truly wants to commit to me? Why would they want to commit to me? I have so many problems.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
The key to turning the self-critical voice around is first learning to recognize the thoughts as critical, rather than the “truth.” The second step is learning that another voice can take the mic.
Developing an “oh honey” self-compassionate voice can literally change your life. It has mine.
If you struggle with any of the above thoughts in your head, I implore you to watch the video above, an hourlong community free online class I taught to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book Quirkyalone! This was an extraordinary gathering with wonderful people, and the information shared can make an impact on anyone’s life. Let me know what you discover in the comments.
P.S. We spend a whole month on self-compassion in Turned-On Living, my yearlong group coaching adventure that goes for real transformation in a curated group of women. I’ve noticed that developing the “oh-honey” self-compassionate voice is the game-changing first step, and the foundation, for any meaningful change. If we don’t work on self-compassion first, we lose all our energy beating up on ourselves as soon as we start to go outside our comfort zones.
If you want to build the life-changing skill of being kind to yourself, you have to practice. It’s not so different from going to the gym, or learning tango or any other dance. You have to practice to see results. The best way to learn anything new is to do it in community with others who share the journey. That’s why I created Turned-On Living as a curated small group program.
Morning of the Soul Commitment Ceremonies, Turned-On Living 2023
I am increasingly making decisions by connecting with my body, and its many sensations. And I love that.
I want to share something quite personal with you today about this trend. It’s not new for me (I’ve been living with an ear toward my body for about fifteen years) but it’s growing in steam and power. It’s not as if I never share personal things, but this one requires me to slow down and think about how to tell you. Here’s what I want to tell you. This somatic-decision making thing.
In early November, I hosted this year’s Turned-On Living group in Providence for our in-person retreat. The women came from Charlotte, North Carolina; Toronto, Hoboken, New Jersey; Austin, Texas; and Seattle, Washington. When I told people at home in Rhode Island that the women were coming from such diverse places, they acted impressed as if I had hit the big time. Well, that’s just how it was. This year we came together as a group of women from these places, and this was our moment to meet in person. As two of them said at our first dinner, it would have been unfathomable not to come.
We have been getting to know each other on Zoom since January, so we would be in person after ten months of meeting online in those little squares. We were three-dimensional people in the flesh. We’ve talked about such intimate things, in months with topics ranging from prioritizing pleasure to anti-people-pleasing to visioning and getting clear about what we want for our lives. What we really, really want, not what we are supposed to want!
We danced in the woods on Saturday and then co-created the soul commitment ceremonies at a farm the next day, choosing songs for their pussywalks down the aisle, talking about the adornments they would wear as symbols of self-commitment. The ceremonies themselves were gorgeous and uplifting like I have never quite experienced. At the lunch to celebrate the soul-commitment ceremonies, I surprised them with a Death by Chocolate Gluten-Free cake, made for them, decorated “Happy Soul Commitment!”on the frosting with their initials. That was fun!
I was sitting with myself a day after the retreat, feeling into the spaciousness and calm that was generated in my body because we got to be in person. So much love, so much support, so much acceptance in those days with these vibrant, fun, surprising women. There’s something different and special about being physically together with the foundation of trust, ease and camaraderie that had been built virtually over time. It’s different than a retreat where you don’t know the people beforehand, and might not see them after. We were a group that that been together ten months and had two months to go.
I was working on some questions about my business, planning next year, what comes next. This year has been a great experience, so I have wanted to do a second Year of Turned-On Living but have been struggling with timing and energy because it’s not easy for me to teach and market at the same time.
As I played with answers and dates and made lists, I realized that I wanted to slow down. I wanted to push the start date of Turned-On Living back from February to June, for a variety of reasons, that would make me feel more rested, and ready, giving me enough time to digest the lessons of this year.
Now this would seem like a small thing, but it was not a small thing. Changing this plan was revolutionary to me! Gosh darn it, I could choose a pace that would feel good in my body when I imagined the path forward, not send me into a spiral of clenched fear that I was going to be exhausted for the next year.
Am I not the boss of my own life and business? Even though I have reinvented myself and my life many times, living in different countries too, and I have specifically chosen to be a self-employed entrepreneur, I sometimes forget that I am in charge, that I have more agency and freedom than I realize. We all get to choose many times, more than we realize.
I felt really good making this decision. And how did it come to me? The idea to push timing back came to me through my body, through a warmth and spaciousness in my belly. When I imagined June, I could sink into the couch and feel relaxed through my middle and even my thighs and down to my toes. I was choosing a future that would feel good to me. Here is a big value of being a sensitive person who is quite in touch with my body; the body can be an excellent rudder for decision-making.
The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, a book we read during the Embodied Confidence Month of the Year of Turned-On Living, provides evidence that the best decisions come from a variety of inputs. Not just from our brains but from all points in our bodies. The chapter “Thinking with Sensation” dives into research showing that Wall Street traders who were most successful in making money were not the most educated; they made them based on gut hunches and whispers they could feel in their bodies. They could make decisions quickly, almost like animals.
The book is utterly fascinating. I am a bit animal-like in my decisions too, though I don’t make them quickly, necessarily. I do listen to whispers in my body, pulses, and their opposite, deadness. This deep, ongoing listening to my body is not something that came to me naturally. It’s the result of many years of practice; my mind is very active too and can keep me stuck with analysis paralysis.
Listening to my body’s impulses has taken me to many places far away from home, to California, to Argentina, to Bali, back to my native Rhode Island, to tango, to the people who have been influential for me. Listening to my body is also how I healed my body from the aftermath of a secret kept of a single incident of childhood sexual abuse when I was six, because that took me to tango and South America, but I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I was just following instincts. Body-based instincts are important. This is what I am writing about in Wet. All about how I got so connected with my body.
My advice about decisions? Think things through, do your research, make your lists, and also make sure you pay attention to your body. Feel into how future ideas, yesses or nos, or schedules, land in your viscera, your organs, your cavitiies.
We talk about body intuition quite a lot in Turned-On Living. How to make decisions by being in touch with your body, speak up, say no, set a boundary, do something different, because you feel it as a truth in your sensations.
Listening to your body can get complicated. Because sometimes the body does lie. Here’s one example. Your heart is pounding. You are feeling like you are going to die; but you are not. You are having a panic attack. It can be a journey to get into a long-term relationship with your body and learn how to read yourself, repeatedly inquiring to find patterns of wisdom.
It makes me happy to have this clear example of listening to my body to make an important decision that improves my quality of life, or I think it will. I adore the clear decisions that feel good in my body, expansive, enlarging. They can be rare jewels. Not that I can predict exactly what will happen–who can ever predict what will happen?
In general, decisions that feel physically spacious have a way of panning out in magical ways, giving me not necessarily what I said I wanted but what I most need. And there are always surprises.
We can’t control everything but we may be able to control more than we think.
So I sent out this essay/email to share with you this story….
And also to tell you the new liftoff dates for the 2024-2025 cohort of Turned-On Living.
We are now kicking off in June.
The interviews to form the group will happen in January. The group will be closed by February 1.
This gives you a lot of time to get yourself settled between February and June.
If this group is any indication, all groups of TOL women will be FIRE, as Gen Zers say.
Want to learn more? Go to the new web page for Turned-On Living with photos from our recent retreat, dancing in the woods and the soul commitment ceremonies at a lovely farm outside Providence.
It was a massive pleasure to talk with fellow Rhode Islander Dave Ursillo for his podcast the New Story.
In Dave’s former life, he was, according to his LinkedIn profile, “a political insider, policy nerd and aspiring Presidential speechwriter at governmental offices on state and Federal levels, including the White House Council on Environmental Quality in 2008 and for a gubernatorial candidate in 2009.”
Now, like me, he has channeled his energy and concern for a better world into helping others tap into their truest callings. Dave is s a storytelling coach with a thoughtful podcast The New Story about the narratives that shape our time, and a therapist-in-training.
In this provocative conversation (Dave provoked me!), we dug deep into personal stories I haven’t shared in other interviews.
Dave titled the episode “What stigmas and stereotypes cost women” and it’s about that and much more.
We talked about:
–The kind of clients I find myself working with in my coaching practice: I’ve always attracted thoughtful women who don’t want to settle in life or relationships. More generally, I attract women who are asking the question, “What do I really want?” and want to get out of their heads and into their bodies to move beyond the social conditioning that often cuts us short from answering that big question.
–The personal story of how I got sucked into Silicon Valley during my thirties when I cofounded a street fashion startup and then got disillusioned and left the U.S. for Brazil, where I hoped that a more sensual culture would help me reconnect with my authentic self. We also talk about why my time in Silicon Valley was so alienating. I could see the writing on the wall about how social media was going to f#$@ all of us, in particular our ability to connect with ourselves.
–How feeling the drum of samba music in the streets and reconnecting with wildness in culture and nature helped me to cleanse my mind for a minute and feel present and alive
–Going with my body’s instincts vs. ticking off the box of what a professional woman in her thirties was supposed to do next (buy a condo, find a husband, etc., etc.)
–The treasured experience of quirkyalone solitude, and developing a mindful way of being in connection with yourself and others
–Making sense of the word “embodiment”
–How growing up in the Puritanical environment of Rhode Island shaped me and how I have been liberating myself from those influences ever since (and helping others to do the same).
–Coming back to New England as an adult and discovering the pockets of subcultural communities of resistance and aliveness formed in reaction to the dominant repressive culture. Whatever is violence-inducing will produce pockets of safety and community.
–The Scarlet Lettering that persists in our society when a woman seeks to embrace her sexuality and sensuality, and what this kind of rebellion and resistance feels like. I talk about how I help my clients to do that in a safe environment. Safety is a prerequisite to feel pleasure.
–Linguistic interventions of reclamation: How saying the word “pussy” out loud is a big deal for most women and can be a transformative path in and of itself. We talk about my new Turned-On Living group coaching program and how speaking that word has been a challenge for everyone in the group. We also talk about the joy and liberation that awaits us on the other side!
I had an interesting experience last week when talking with a woman about joining Turned-On Living, my group coaching program for 2023. This is something very new and exciting to bring together a cohort to explore a year of “turned-on living” together.
She asked me to “sell her” on it and I noticed that I froze up when she made that request. I never want to feel like I am “selling” anyone on anything I am offering, whether it’s coaching, an online course, the Tango Adventure (not offering it now, but I spent years “selling” that), or anything I am doing. I want people to want to do whatever I am offering. It’s a little bit like romance: if we are dating, I want you to want me. I don’t want to sell you on the value of dating me!
After our call, however, I reflected. I joined a yearlong business coaching program for 2022, which is in part what has inspired me to offer a yearlong program myself. Meg, the woman who runs the program, in my view, “sold” me on joining by painting a picture that showed me I could learn how to work on my book and grow my business at the same time (for years I thought I couldn’t do both and focused exclusively on the memoir while maintaining the same offerings).
I am now grateful that Meg “sold” me on that vision because, in fact, I have been able to do both in 2022, and that was a breakthrough. Many other wonderful things have happened as a result of my participation in that group business coaching container, and the decision to join has changed me and my life for the better–really for the rest of my life. Now I look back and see her as taking a stand for me and my growth.
So I realized that I could “sell” this person on the experience. I wrote her a longish email spelling out what I saw for her, based on my own experience of being part of such a group. Because I actually do believe that being part of my program will change her life for the better. She has told me what she wants out of it, and I believe she will get those things, and more. Also I really do believe that being part of such a group is in and of itself a transformative experience, and that we need to feel solidarity in all these tender, vulnerable places where we are often shamed and feel alone. And there will simply be so much upward spiral with a group of women supporting each other to live a turned-on life!
Entrepreneurship–or being a freelancer, or doing anything creative in the world–is such a journey that requires everything. No paycheck is dropped into the bank account regularly. You/I have to stand up for your own value and create what you want to offer for the world, and then, yes, SELL people on it. Now I feel really glad that this woman asked me to sell her, and that I found my way to feeling good about doing that. “Selling” can have a connotation of lying. It can evoke desperation. I certainly felt that way when I worked in more traditional business roles for a tech company. But in the end, I was telling the truth as I see it. It’s liberating to stand in that space and fully own the value of what I am offering.
I hope these reflections can help you stand in the value of what you are offering to the world too!
Alert fellow lovers of exploring body-mind connection!
We talk about getting out of our heads and into our bodies….but why? Why is that important?
On Friday, September 16 at 2 pm, I am giving a keynote address at the Providence, RI Women’s Business Summit with my own answer to that question.
I’ll be talking about “Connecting with Your Body: The Surprising Way to Channel Your Most Brilliant Self.”
Since the pandemic, so many of us are feeling disconnected from our bodies in these long days staring straight ahead at screens… we start to feel lifeless, even trapped in our chairs.
So how can connecting with your body (aka methods such as @p_ssywalking) help with your confidence for a job interview or a dating event? Or figuring out the next move in your career? Or simply to feel alive?
I will be talking about how I use body connection in my own career and personal life and how my clients do too.
I am showing up today with a simple question, How are you doing?
I made this quick, spontaneous video in the wake of some big news here in the U.S. For readers who live elsewhere, we found out last week that our Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade, a court decision that ensured women have the right to choose whether to be mothers or not, back in 1973. Half of the women in the country could immediately lose the right to abortion, and the hardest-hit would be women without the money to travel to other states or countries. I always assumed that in the U.S. we would have the right to abortion. I remember traveling to Brazil in 2010 and the exact moment when I found out my Brazilian friends didn’t have the same right. I was shocked. Now we will likely be in the same boat.
I am getting emails from the Women’s March organizers about turning “rage into action,” and I am planning to attend a march this Saturday in Providence.
But when I look around me, I see a lot of numbness.
Are we collectively shell-shocked in the wake of this and other news? Are we all too worn out by demanding jobs to do anything about it? If we stay numb, we don’t talk to each other or act. If we don’t act, then our rights get taken away from us.
I made this video about feeling numb because I believe that in order for us to feel anything or do anything about this situation we have to be honest about what we feel right now. Emotions get stuck when we don’t speak about them, or otherwise release them by dancing, pounding on pillows, journaling, or so on.
Ultimately we are going to need a way of fighting back that doesn’t feel like fighting. We are all too drained to fight. We need a way of coming together that feels more like joy and celebration.
What could that be? I don’t know. Let’s move through the numbness together first.
Watch the video above, and let me know how you are processing the news. My friend Marina told me that “Hollywood needs me” because I look so sad at the beginning of this clip, but hey, I was feeling sad! We don’t always have to look pretty for the camera. In my ideal world, there would be no stigma on sharing how we really feel.
When I talk to my women coaching clients who are 50+, I hear a lot of frustrations about dating. What’s the best dating site to use? Are all the good ones taken? And what about internalized ageism? Is it really too late to find love or is that a story you have been telling yourself based on negative experiences? Does anyone really want to get involved with someone who doesn’t want to shack up together? SPOILER ALERT: Yes! There are plenty of quirkytogethers (or aspiring living-alone-togethers) out there, people who want a committed relationship but not to cohabitate.
This topic of finding love at every life stage (and keeping your sexual spark alive too) is near and dear to my heart because I know it’s not easy but it is possible to find a new mate and feel sexy at every age–I see those stories play out around me in my personal life and with my clients. I also have noticed many women who came to Buenos Aires to study tango with me convinced that no one would find them attractive. I’ve seen those same women get checked out by the men in the milongas with my own two eyes.
The story we tell ourselves about what is possible makes all the difference.
All of this is why I am really excited to invite you to this free online event.
Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual, and highly structured, dating plan to go on 50 first dates to find the right partner for her in her late fifties. Not everyone would want to go on 50 dates–personally that marathon of first dates sounds hellish to ambiverted me!
But I admire Carolyn’s pluck–and the example of resilience she is providing by sharing her story. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.
This event will be a chance to hear about Carolyn’s book, get inspired, and learn about how other women 50+ are faring in the dating scene.
If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn.
If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head that tell you it’s too late, you should definitely come. Yes, it’s great to come to peace with being single, we all need to walk that path to find contentment and joy exactly where we are right now in life. But if love is something you really want, then why give up and deny that? You can register here.
P.S. In reality, everything we are going to talk about will be relevant to people of all ages – so if you are any age and dating or contemplating dating again, you should join us.
a self-love poster spotted on Providence’s not-so-mean streets
I spotted this philosophical poster on my way across the street to walk underneath the changing trees of fall.
“A heart that loves itself cannot broken.”
First let me say that I love these mysterious people who are stapling self-love posters to telephone poles. Their intent to spread the message of self-compassion could not be more admirable. Their tactile work is so much more satisfying and human to take in than another inspirational quote on Instagram.
My heart swelled reading their message. But my critical mind could not stop there.
“But is this true?” I stopped to ask myself, before crossing the street to walk through the park. “Is it really true that a heart that loves itself cannot be broken?”
the first blush of fall on that walk
My heart got broken this year in a way that it had not been broken in years. There were nights when I woke up at 4 am and felt like a meteor had landed in my heart, leaving a charred crater in its wake. The despair of that break-up left my heart jagged and in pieces.
Did that mean that I don’t love myself? Or did that mean I was allowing myself to feel?
I thought about that lovely poster on my walk through the trees.
Here’s how I would amend the text if I were to make it feel true to me.
“A heart that loves itself cannot be permanently broken.”
“A heart that loves itself heals more quickly after heartbreak.”
“A heart that loves itself will not lose itself in grief for years.”
“A heart that loves itself will grow more resilient to love again.”
When I was going through the worst of this heartbreak, someone told me it was a good sign that my heart hurt so deeply. Being more heartbroken than ever, he said, meant I had opened up to love, and the hurt would only lead my heart to grow back stronger. I took solace in the idea that heartbreak could only grow my capacity to love.
Here is what I know for sure by now: Heartbreak is unavoidable. Loss is the flaw in love. Many of our attempts at romantic relationships do not work out over the long-term. Even superficial online dating attempts can break your heart, slowly over time, little by little, cut by cut. Horrible people will be elected as our leaders. People will disappoint us. Our friends and lovers and family will pass away.
There is always going to be heartbreak and disappointment.
The best we can hope for is that our hearts break and then grow back stronger. Self-love comes when we stop blaming ourselves. The key to healing your heart is taking out the thorn of self-blame.
Healing is a shift in perspective. A shift of knowing that you are lovable and life can be good even after devastation. Cue the song, “I Will Survive.” Seriously, if you are going through a heartbreak right now, play that song on YouTube and dance to it. We need to feel the feelings and let them move through us, through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist, dancing, walking, or whatever works best for you to alchemize the pain.
It’s not inevitable that a heart grows back stronger. A heart can also break and not stitch back together. A heart can grow bitter, jaded, shriveled, and resigned, which happens all the time.
Many, many people give up on love and their dreams all the time. It’s a miracle to keep going and to be at peace with your life as it is right now.
It takes a strong heart to keep on beating. A heart that loves itself.
P.S. In a little over two weeks, on Thursday November 4, at 8 pm ET (NYC time), I am going to interview my dear friend Carolyn Arnold about her new memoir Fifty First Dates after Fifty. This is a free online event to celebrate the launch of Carolyn’s book. We would love for you to join us.
Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual dating plan to go on fifty first dates to find the right partner for her. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.
Once you have been slammed a number of times in dating, how can you stay positive and keep going? You can read this interview I did with Carolyn way back in 2012 to get a taste for what we will be talking about.
If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn. If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head thinking it’s too late, you should definitely come. You can register here.
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.
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.