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.
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 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!
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.
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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 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.