Life is feeling a bit overwhelming lately, and so in today’s newsletter, I decided to go light with this dollop of joy and enlightenment from my spirit animal Jonathan Van Ness, author of Love That Story, and star of Queer Eye and host of Getting Curious.
There are a lot of reasons to love Jonathan, but I think one thing I admire most is his unabashed enthusiasm. He often sounds like a nine-year-old girl getting super excited about something he truly believes in, and that is such an attractive quality in an adult.
Drew Barrymore asked JVN (as he is known), “What is your advice for people who are actively dating?”
And by the way, this is excellent advice for life, and work, as well as dating.
JVN: “Even if you are looking to be in relationship with someone, we always are going to come back to our relationships with ourselves.
In yoga this one time we learned, we all learned that we all have this invisible magnet inside of us that is positively or negatively charged, you know. I think when you are working on yourself, it’s going to charge that magnet in such a way that the person you are meant to be with is going to vibe towards you anyway, so you really can’t lose by investing in yourself and your relationship with yourself anyway.”
Last weekend five of us who write about being single (when we actually do want relationships too) and/or about managing the experience of being childless or childfree gathered for a very honest live Zoom conversation.
If you are feeling lonely and/or sad, disappointed, or frustrated right now because you don’t have someone to share holiday cooking with, to kiss under the mistletoe, or at midnight on New Year’s Eve, I absolutely recommend you watch the replay.
As a veteran in this conversation since 2000 when I first introduced my new word “quirkyalone” in a personal essay, I found it fascinating and wonderful to be part of a group of kick-ass, smart, funny women who have taken a leadership role in helping single women lives their lives fully, with a partner or without. It was lonely to be a quirkyalone advocate on my own for all those years so I loved the group energy!
* Jody Day, the genius and revolutionary founder of Gateway Women, which helps women who are childless by infertility or circumstance, organized the online event and led us through an insightful conversation about how we have learned to source our own worth from ourselves, and how to keep our spirits up when spending a holiday alone.
* Shani Silver, who recently published A Single Revolution, read a passage about how to turn around the soul-sucking energy of comparison. When we are looking at people who have what we want, we tend to wonder, Why does she have the boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife and I don’t? Shani invited us to all consider that we are just as worthy to get what we want too.
* Nicola Slawson who is based in the UK and writes the Single Supplement newsletter talked about how she has embraced celebrating with her own Christmas tree, which we got to see.
* Yael Wolfe, a writer, photographer, and artist, talked about how she moved on from a devastating break-up with a man who went on to choose a younger woman to realize that a relationship is the icing on the cake of her life, and not her life itself.
* I talked about the value of learning how to say no during the holidays to invitations that don’t feel good. The inability to say no absolutely contributes to chronic pain and fatigue–if you are a people-pleaser, learning to say no with grace is one of the best skills you can learn for your health and vitality.
I definitely recommend you to watch this conversation on one of these these cold winter nights — or one of these hot nights if you are living in the southern hemisphere.
If that video doesn’t completely resolve your feelings of loneliness during the holidays by giving you a feeling of solidarity from others who are living outside the box, then watch this SNL Lonely Christmas sketch too!
PS. The New Year brings a time of new energy. My coaching practice is almost full but a couple spaces will open up in January. If you want to be in conversation about getting support to pursue your goals in 2022, whatever they may be, tell me more in this form.
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.
If you are looking for something to watch, I suggest Love on the Spectrum, an Australian docu-series on Netflix about autistic people on their dating journeys.
It’s light, entertaining, and uplifting. Plus, the people they are following have a lot to teach all of us, including neurotypical people, about how to be emotionally brave in dating.
Love on the Spectrum is the best dating show because the people are so incredibly real. They say things like this, “I feel very warm, appreciated, and comfortable with you. How would you like to go out with me on a third date?” I loved it when one of them said he would never want to be on The Bachelor because he wouldn’t get to be himself.
Dating is tough enough for everyone, but it is has got to be tougher for autistic people who face stigma and tend to find social interactions challenging. What I love about the people on the show is their honesty. No pretending, no facade. What you see is what you get.
When it comes to love, their sincerity is so refreshing. They get hurt and disappointed, but they don’t get jaded and they don’t give up. One of the most important qualities to cultivate when you are dating is resilience. They also have parents who really support their self-love.
Lovely Michael is not afraid to say, “I’m on a quest to find true love.” How many of us are willing to say that out loud?
Another great line comes from 22-year-old Teo, who said, “I get so nervous about… what if I die alone?” Who says that on a date?
They bring gifts on first dates. They take it slow. They ask permission to hug or hold hands. Their courtships are so quaint and lovely compared to the hot mess of the dating-app world.
The people on the show get advice from Jodi Rodgers, relationship specialist for autistic people, who teaches them how to ask questions and listen to the answers.
Since the dating apps have come to dominate the ways we meet, almost everyone today needs a rudimentary course on how to date today because phone-based apps like Tinder and Hinge have shaped many people’s behaviors to be downright rude and bizarre.
I suspect the producers are heavily coaching them to say how they really feel on their dates, or they are just the most authentic people ever. I have never seen modern-day people be more open confessing their feelings. “I’m into you–how do you feel about me?”
Someone has to be brave enough to ask that question first. Telling someone else how you feel on a date equals MAJOR LIFE SKILL.
The people on the show are young, in their twenties and early thirties. I would like to see the show follow older people on the spectrum in their dating journeys too and to hear about how their relationships have gone.
The bottom-line message from the show is: Be yourself. Be brave.
A sizzle reel is a video that brings together a person’s work. I made this sizzle reel to introduce you to my body of work. I suspect people often look at me and my ideas and scratch their heads, and ask, “Quirkyalone, self-marriage, pussywalking, tangasms, life coaching for women. What is going on here?” In this video, I hope you can see all the connections!
Feel free to share the video with friends who are also on the journey of self-discovery.
The humorist Fran Leibowitz (star of Netflix’s docu-series “Pretend It’s a City”) talked to NPR’s Terry Gross about living alone in New York City during Covid.
Leibowitz said, “Well, it still seems to me to be by far the best choice. I cannot understand how people who do not live alone have stood this last 10 months, because the only upside of having to stay in my apartment is at least there was no one else there. I would find that unbearable, I mean, truly unbearable.”
Ha! When I heard this line on the radio, I glanced around my own apartment to ask myself whether I was happy that there was no one else there. I mean, sure, I love my solitude and all my weird secret single behaviors, with no TV blaring news programs or sports I don’t care about, but I can’t say that I genuinely agreed with Leibowitz that living alone during Covid is the best option—for me. I am not quite the badass Fran L. is, or rather, I’m a different breed of badass.
We all experience living alone and being single differently. Even if we can be OK with being single–or actively enjoy it–living Covid single has been something else. Since I’ve been in transition from Buenos Aires back to the U.S., I’ve done a little bit of everything over the last year: living alone, living with family, in a relationship, and single. I have to say, the transitions were the hardest. Living alone after spending weekends with a partner or living family most of the time was tough. Solitude is a good thing—and there can be too much of a good thing. I missed having people to talk to without setting up a Zoom or dialing the phone.
I was glad to see this news story from the New York Times: A Pandemic is Hard Enough, For Some Being Single Has Made It Harder. The concerns of people who live alone have often been ignored by governments in coronavirus guidelines that unilaterally discourage household mixing—what about all those households of one? For many of us who are single and living alone, the need for human contact can push us to the limit. Some of my single coaching clients have talked about not feeling human, just because they are working on Zoom or email, missing all the serendipitous, everyday fleeting encounters we’d normally have, at the dry cleaners or the office.
Not everyone has access to the New York Times so I will give you a few key nuggets:
“Some who said they were content with being single before the pandemic have nonetheless struggled with what they’re missing in emotional support and even routine physical touch.”
“…while people missed sex, there was more severe pining for nonsexual forms of touch: the day-to-day contact, couch cuddling and hugs — even high-fives — that have been severed off in an age of social distancing.”
“For some, losing nearly a year of searching for a partner is time people didn’t think they could spare…” “That’s especially an issue for those feeling a biological rush to have children.”
This is an especially good Twitter thread to read. A clinical oncology consultant in the UK started a conversation about the dreadfulness of being single during Covid.
I don’t know who wants to hear this, but being single during this pandemic has been downright dreadful.
I’m not taking away from the seriousness of the pandemic. Please take it seriously, but by God has it been hard when you simply don’t have anyone to share time with.
All this time alone has its silver linings. Look at all that time you have to get in shape/learn a new language/get clear about what you really want in a relationship and your life. That’s all true, and I’m all for using our time intentionally, living consciously and deliberately.
And we need to be real about the challenges we are facing. Otherwise we stuff down the emotion in our bodies, and it manifests as pain, illness, stiffness, and get this—fatigue! Is that why Covid has been so tiring?
What about you? How are you living Covid? If you are single, are you savoring the alone time or dying for the time when you can go out dancing or to the gym or to yoga class, or wherever it is that you see people? If you’re in a relationship, do you sometimes wish you were living alone? If you are single and living alone, do you wish you were cohabiting so you had someone to talk with? If you’re single with kids home, how is it going for you?
Let us know in the comments.
I want to remind you that I am a life coach who specializes in working with women and men who identify or aspire to the quirkyalone concept, so if you have quirkyalone tendencies and you are struggling with any of the above (or something else), there’s a good chance that I will “get” you.
Could you benefit from the structure and support of life coaching?
Since 2003, we’ve been celebrating Quirkyalone/Together Day as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. Quirkyalone/Together Day is a chance to celebrate all forms of love, starting with your relationship with yourself. Quirkyalone Day has been celebrated in 50 cities around the world and featured on CNN, MSNBC, in the New York Times, NPR, and many other media.
Quirkyalone uplifts single people but this holiday is NOT only for single people.
All are welcome including couples who are looking for something free and different. You will get to meet some cool new people and connect with your own quirky spirit at the same time.
Sasha Cagen, creator of the quirkyalone movement, author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, and life coach extraordinaire will be guiding the ceremonies.
As this is a pre-IQD party on Friday (the official holiday is February 14) Sasha will help you plan what you will do on your Quirkyalone/Together Day and offer wisdom and inspiration from almost 20 years of celebrating solitude and self-connection.
We’ll have DJ Rubberband Girl from Berkeley’s KALX spinning the most inspiring quirkyalone/together music to get us dancing intermittently. Movement!
This is the first time we from Quirkyalone are ever doing such a thing on Zoom. It’s historic. Herstoric! Please come to witness and be part of it!
If you are feeling crafty and creative, please make a Quirkyalone/Together Day Card and bring it to the party to share – we would love to see it!
You can see some examples of cards from past years below.
Love yourself first and foremost by married quirkytogether Danielle Jatlow, of Burlington, Vermont.
Card by writer and artist Jenny Bitner of San Francisco
Let’s hang out from Kerry Lander, Melbourne, Australia
You don’t want to miss this Quirkyalone Day gathering, Pandemic-edition! As they say in Argentina, this online party is imperdible (unmissable) . And seriously what other online event could be better? Sign up here to get the link.
On this happy moment when we are on the verge of banishing the pussy-grabber-in-chief, I present to you a short pussywalking video. Kerry Lander, a lovely and very creative quirkyalone from Melbourne, Australia, learns pussywalking with us in Buenos Aires in the Tango Adventure.
Black Lives Matter Protest June 5, 2020 Providence, RI
I sent this message out to my newsletter list, and I’m sharing it here too so I can share this post on social media with readers who are not on the newsletter list.
I have been sitting with the question of what to say in support of Black Lives Matter in a message to you for about five days now. I attended a Black Lives Matter protest with my father in Providence, Rhode Island last Friday (the city where I grew up). (All the demonstrators I saw wore masks, and we did too. We kept distance at the back of the march since my father is 73, and I don’t want to get the coronavirus either!)
I wanted to write an essay about going to the Providence protest during the pandemic. I started, but I haven’t finished. I am a slow writer in general.
While I like to write from the “I” about what I see through my eyes, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of making this about me, because this is definitely not about me.
What’s happening now to protest George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police is about something very big, about our common humanity and the experiences that black people have been going through all their lives while white people like me get to sit in relative safety and comfort.
I don’t have to worry about my safety while driving, sleeping, jogging, and existing the way black people do. If I haven’t said it before out loud, I acknowledge my white privilege.
So this morning I want to send you a short message that says simply:
***Quirkyalone (and I) Stand with Black Lives Matter.***
My work as a writer and coach doesn’t end with Quirkyalone, but it started there, and that’s how many of you came to know me. Quirkyalone is a word and concept that seeks to uplift people to know you are good enough just where you are, whether you are single, married, or anywhere in between. That includes everyone, not just single white women in their forties.
Once about two years ago someone posted on my Quirkyalone Facebook page, how come you don’t acknowledge gay people? I felt defensive. I wrote about sexuality and gayness in Quirkyalone.
Year later after the initial sting wore off, what I take away from her comment is this:
It’s important to say out loud what we feel in our hearts. What we assume everyone already knows may not obvious.
I stand with Black Lives Matter because an injury to one is an injury to all. Because there has been a system of racial inequality in the US and around the world that has benefited white people economically and in so many other ways that has been terribly harmful for black people. This system of racial inequality that touches pretty much every aspect of our lives *must* change.
Change is not an overnight process. Black people and their allies have been fighting for liberty for centuries since the dawn of our country. I am hopeful as I listen to the voices who are emerging now calling for real, meaningful change. More people are listening. And the only way real change happens is through social movements–when people come together to demand change. The powers that be do not roll over and give out reform without a push from the people.
“Ever since people across the country began pouring into the streets to protest police violence, Dakota Patton has driven two hours each day to rally on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol. He has given up his gig jobs delivering food and painting houses. He is exhausted. But he has no plans to leave.
“This is bigger,” Mr. Patton, 24, said. “I’m not worried about anything else I could be doing. I want to and need to be here. As long as I need.”
For all of you living this intense moment, I send you love and care for your well-being.
I’ll be back with more.
If you have any suggestions for me I’m always open to hear.
Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to live their best lives + do their best work. Author: of Quirkyalone + To-Do List. Forthcoming: WET.
The best way to stay in touch is to sign up for my newsletter. See you in your inbox!
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.