What Gives You Pleasure?

I was cleaning my apartment last week and pulled out a box under my bed. In the box I found a forgotten creative project: a little handmade book I made about seven years ago. I had handwritten on the cover “My Pleasure Book.”

a handwritten book of pleasures

a handwritten book of pleasures

In the book, I drew pictures of things that give me pleasure. “Being Flushed/Feeling Alive (from exercise, a new hope, a flirtation, etc.)”; “Head massage: wow-yay”; “Refrigerator Full of Food (Yum! Don’t have to go to the store)”; “Chanting at Yoga Tree on a Friday night.” I have included the actual pictures below. If you are reading this via email, click to display images. Or click here to see the post. The pictures are not to be missed!

I had completely forgotten about this little treasure, and as I flipped through the pages, I was so happy to be reminded of what gave me pleasure in 2006. Some of those things I still do. Other not so much. Remembering that a full refrigerator gave me pleasure then inspired me to do comprehensive grocery shop the next day.

The big theme of my current book project is pleasure. You will be hearing more from me on this theme as I write along. We need pleasure.

We need pleasure in our lives in order to glow. To feel good. And to be good. A person whose pleasure tank is running dangerously low has a hard time being sunny, generous, or caring about others. The inability to feel pleasure is technically called anhedonia. Pleasure fuels us, so we need to pay attention to what gives us pleasure. For our own sake, and for the sakes of those around us.

Here are the pictures of pleasures from my pleasure book.

Being Flushed/Feeling Alive (from exercise, a new hope, a flirtation, etc.)

Being Flushed/Feeling Alive (from exercise, a new hope, a flirtation, etc.)

Refrigerator Full of Food (Yum! Don't have to go to the store)

Refrigerator Full of Food (Yum! Don’t have to go to the store)

Head Massage Wow-Yay

Head Massage Wow-Yay

Chanting Friday night at Yoga Tree

Chanting Friday night at Yoga Tree

Our Wizard of Oz Walk (a gleeful family walk we all did as adults singing and dancing along a park sidewalk in Providence)

Our Wizard of Oz Walk (a gleeful family walk we all did as adults singing and dancing along a park sidewalk in Providence)

Here are instructions for making your own pleasure book

1. Gather these ingredients:
— some nice quality paper that is nice to touch and feel (pleasure even here)
— pens, markers, or crayons that are pleasurable to draw with
— your wonderful self

2. Give yourself an hour to sit and ponder, what gives you pleasure? Make a list. These can be sensual, sexual, daily life things, anything at all, fresh-cut flowers, the smell of baby powder, a zumba class, anything.

3. With your list, draw an illustration for each one and write under the illustration what it is about this thing that gives you pleasure. Do not worry about doing this well, do this in a way that you just enjoy and feel no pressure around.

This will be a great little book to take out now and again when you are suffering from anhedonia, to remember where to put your attention and amplify the pleasure in your life.

Explore your world on a Quirky Photo Safari this weekend

Today I’m sharing three of my favorite photos from my Quirky Photo Safaris and the stories behind them. When I need a dose of inspiration, I go for a walk. I train my eye to softly look for quirky things. I take corners at random by intuition. The photos that I find on a quirky photo safari always teach me something.

We go on a group quirky photo safari as part of my online class GetQuirky. We share the photos and what they mean to us, just like I am sharing with you here.

(Be sure to click “display images below” if you are reading this via email.)
Now I’m showing you some of my favorites!

tall trees on Honduras

I took this picture on a quirky photo safari in my neighborhood in Buenos Aires. This street Honduras in Palermo is unusually beautiful because it is lined with these tall trees. Something about the darkness called to me. Quirky treasures can be buried in our darkness, in the parts of ourselves that we have kept cloaked or hidden or neglected. That darkness can be fertile too.

@#$@# what people think!

It finally happened. I stepped in a piece of shit on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires. This ceremonious baptismal act happened while I was on a quirky photo safari taking photos of things that I found inspiring in their unusual or differentness for the April beta GetQuirky session. I spotted this bag in a window that says “f@#$ what people think” and then I stepped in a piece of shit as I took the photo. Kind of a hilarious moment, the photo was still worth it.

Bev, an award-winning quirk

I met the most awesomely quirky lady in her 60s, Bev, with purple flowers in her hair and purple strands of hair, just now at the laundromat in Oakland. I asked if I could take her photo for the GetQuirky Photo Safari and she said yes. She says she believes her greatest contribution to society is through no-action: no driving, no breeding, no real jobs. She gets by. She finds magic in dumpster diving and found some great champagne grapes today and a painting. When we parted, Bev told me, “Stay quirky!”

Do it yourself!
Go on a Quirky Photo Safari this weekend. Take an hour or two to unplug so you can plug into yourself. Go for a walk. Often walks alone are where we feel our spark and our creativity. A quirky photo safari gives shape to a walk.

Take as many photos as you want and enter your favorites in our #getquirky photo safari contest on Instagram. The prize: you can win a spot in the upcoming September session of GetQuirky.

Want the details on how to do a Quirky Photo Safari and enter the contest?
Sign up for the early notification list for GetQuirky and you’ll get an email with instructions.

As Bev says, stay quirky!
Lady Q Sasha

Join us in a #GetQuirky Photo Safari and win a spot in the next class!

truly quirky fashion spotted by beta GetQuirky graduateelorrainem

truly quirky fashion spotted by beta GetQuirky graduate elorrainem in Pittsburgh, PA

quirky license plate spotted by Sue Vittner in Portland, Maine

quirky license plate spotted by Sue Vittner in Portland, ME

get quirky graduate andreas found these quirky frogs on a wander in germany

GetQuirky grad Andreas (username tofudish on Instagram) found these frogs on a wander in his native Germany

The next session of my online class GetQuirky starts September 23. GetQuirky is a 21-day adventure that helps you to embrace your quirks so that you SHINE. In all areas of your life. Seriously, embracing your quirks can help spark up your creativity, work, dating, your relationship with yourself and others, even your sex life. (When you start to embrace your quirks, SO much more is possible!).

In preparation for the next session, I’m sponsoring a contest that I hope will get us all out to play and raise the collective quirky energy field!

Let’s go on a quirky photo safari! You can win a spot in the next GetQuirky online class in September.

#Getquirky Photo Safari Contest Instructions
1. Download instagram if you don’t have it on your phone already

2. When you are out and about, keep your eye out for things that strike you as quirky. Anything unusual or irregular, inimitably itself, that inspires you. We’re talking nature, art, fashion, signs, shopwindows, architecture, people, restaurant menus, gnomes! You can do this on vacation or at home, anytime.

3. Upload your photo using Instagram and tag the photo #getquirky. This will put your photo in the pool of all the photos tagged #getquirky. If you want, tell us what it inspires in you.

For inspiration, check out the #getquirky photos uploaded so far HERE.

The Prize!
The person who gets the most “hearts” (aka likes) on a photo wins on a spot in the next session of GetQuirky.

The hearts will be counted by September 9 and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Photos uploaded between August 5 and September 9 are eligible.

Why do this?
My 21-day class GetQuirky is designed as a series of creative and reflective adventures to help you celebrate the quirky in you and around you. We make the celebration of quirkyness a habit–and that helps us to get to know ourselves and shine.

Every weekend during the class, I invite you to go on a creative wander. We consciously unplug from the Internet for at least several hours so we can plug into ourselves.

One weekend, we go on a quirky photo safari. Often walks alone are where we feel our spark and our creativity. I suggest taking a walk. A quirky photo safari gives shape to a walk. We wander, take photos of things that inspire us as quirky, then share the photos on our private group and what they inspire in us. It can be deep, surprising, revealing—and fun.

The next session of GetQuirky starts September 23.
Click HERE to read all the details and sign up for the early notification list and get first dibs on registration.

If you have questions about the class or contest, post them here. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an Instagram user already to take part in this contest or to join the class. I’m an Instagram newbie and got the hang of it quickly. 😉 It’s pretty fun.

With love,
Lady Q Sasha

P.S. For inspiration, follow these quirkypeeps on Instagram. These “graduates” of the beta GetQuirky session know about quirky photo safaris:
You can also follow me: sashacagen.

Shock yourself with honesty, or, how I got started as a writer

Holding my copy of the Riot Grrrl Collection, I'm so proud and happy my zine writings from Cupsize are in this book!

Holding my copy of the Riot Grrrl Collection, I’m so proud and happy my zine writings from Cupsize are in this book!

When people ask me how I got my start as a writer, I say Cupsize. Cupsize was the stapled-and-photocopied zine that I wrote with my friend Tara Emelye. We wrote our zine back in the nineties before the Internet took off, when email was still exotic and blogs did not yet exist. The Internet has been a huge force for my work to take off, especially quirkyalone, but there was such an amazing power in making something tactile like a paper zine.

Tara and I called our zine Cupsize to ironically reclaim our ample bosoms. Our zine wasn’t about women’s issues, per se, but we were young women and we wrote honestly about our lives. We wrote Cupsize when we were in college. I also wrote for newspapers and magazines. It was thrilling to see my byline on the cover of the Village Voice, but it was really through Cupsize that I learned how to just say it. To explore whatever called to me. Tara and I had a great creative chemistry and we egged each other on, whether we were writing about the taste of grape soda or visiting a peep show in Times Square, bisexual chic or feminism and class.Read More

Liberation to Write Poetry (Bad or Good)

Liberation to Write Poetry (Bad or Good)

the bounty of life

Once upon a time, in early 2011, I was living in Buenos Aires with my Belgian best friend and conspirator in life Griet. Mostly we were obsessed with tango. Griet got me writing poetry. We would go to a cafe and each take a notebook, write a poem and share it with each other. Neither of us write poetry, so we had an untrained, silly, beginners-mind joyous kind of feeling writing poems. Then, if memory serves, we would actually clap!

I never allowed the possibility of writing poetry into my life. I submitted a poem to my college literary magazine in my first year of college and the poem got rejected, so I got the idea in my head, I am not a poet. But those afternoons with Griet were so fun. They gave me a novelty feeling, a no-pressure feeling, a kid-like feeling. I am at a point in my life where I want to cultivate that no pressure-feeling again, to make creativity pure fun again without worrying so much about whether something is “good.” So today I start with a no-pressure ode to heirloom tomatoes. I invite you to write your own no-pressure poem in the comments.

An ode to heirloom tomatoes

The Internet is full of life lessons
And I hate to write another
But there is a succulent juicy suck in an heirloom tomato
And you can even suck on one on public if you are brave
I like seeing people
Eat a tomato like a fruit
Break the rules of polite society
The boundaries between fruit and vegetable
The borders between public and private
The line between sweet and sour

A deep conversation about life with Frank Moore

Sasha Cagen (& Michael) – Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den from Frank Moore on Vimeo.

The performance artist Frank Moore invited me to “talk deeply” with him on his cable-access show The Shaman’s Den after I wrote this blog post reviewing his interactive show, Uncomfortable Zones of Fun. The email came the day after Christmas. To be honest, I was scared.

Frank Moore is an extraordinary man. He may be the quirkiest man I know. He’s accomplished so much even though he is severely “disabled.” He can’t talk or walk, but he has hitchhiked across the country alone, written books, directed plays, directed, acted in and edited films, regularly gives poetry readings, plays piano, sings in ensemble music jams, and continues to lead bands in hard core punk clubs despite having severe cerebral palsy since birth and never being able to walk or talk. He jokes that he gets more sex than most non-crippled men. He has something very powerful going on, and I wanted to know more about what that is.

Frank’s show promises it “will arouse, inspire, move, threaten you, not with sound bites, but with a two hour (usually longer) feast of live streaming video. You might get an in-studio concert of bands from around the world…or poetry reading…or an in-depth conversation about politics, art, music, and LIFE with extremely dangerous people! But then you may see beautiful women naked dancing erotically. You never know, because you are in The Shaman’s Den with Frank Moore.” I certainly wasn’t going to dance naked erotically online and did not want people to think that’s what I am about!

I told my new friend Michael, a science journalist and all-around inquiring mind, about the invitation, and he wanted to come. Emboldened by his company, I said, “Let’s do it.” I felt that it is symbolically important to do this interview; there would be a lot to learn from such a fearless and creative person.

By pushing ourselves out of comfort zones, we grow.

There is no complaining in Frank Moore’s world. That is what makes this rebel “cripple” performance artist, creator, and radical who has cerebral palsy so compelling—and why I wanted to do this interview. There are many fascinating twists in this conversation, and I recommend you watch the whole two-hour shebang. Your mind will be blown if you give this video your attention.

For me, doing this interview was like going on a trip, with no drugs. The video will challenge your patience as Frank slowly communicates. He “speaks” by using his red headlight on his forehead to point to the colorful keyboard-meets-Ouija board that sits on a tray on his wheelchair. He designed the keyboard with letters and his most commonly used words. He slowly picks out words and letters that Linda, who is sitting next to him on an exercise ball, reads aloud. He uses a tool that emanates from his forehead to paint and type. Frank made that painting that is sitting behind us.

How can any of possibly complain about obstacles to doing the things we most want to do when there is a human being like Frank who can’t speak or take care of his own basic needs, and has managed to live such a rich life? Frank does nothing for money, and only does the things he truly wants to do, so I knew there would be juice for me (and possibly you) there.

Frank is sharp. His questions often left me stumped. He asked questions like “How did you get started in your life?” (Not your work, but your life. . . )”When did you discover the power of quirky?”

After he interviewed me, I interviewed him, and my questions elicited an oral history of Frank’s beginnings: how he got started on his adventures as a teenager in a wheelchair who could not speak or walk. Totally dependent on others to meet his most basic needs, he set off across the country hitch-hiking to go to communes in Arizona, Massachusetts, and then back to California. Wherever he went he attracted people to him. Despite the “ugliness” of his appearance, and his incredible need, he radiates a powerful freedom from fear and a curiosity about others. He has a way of “seeing” people at their deepest essence level. There were plenty of difficult times along the way, but he kept going with the help of others.

Our conversation focused on the shortcomings of the couple to meet our needs as human beings. One person cannot meet all of our needs. Quirkyalone critiques the tyranny of coupledom as the model to which we must aspire at all times. Michael interjected the question, “What replaces the couple?” and this became in some sense a theme of our conversation. If the couple doesn’t meet all of our needs, what does?

Frank suggested my answer is “a fulfilled person.” I believe in the fulfilled individual—and the process of people being courageously honest enough to ask them what fulfills them. A fulfilled individual needs connections with others even if those connections don’t fit the model of a conventional romantic relationship. I’m still figuring out what replaces the conventional couple. I’m going to start researching quirkytogether relationships that offer us more freedom and flexibility to be who we really are (and I will be looking into that more soon for a future book) and I’ve always pointed to our significant others (plural) friendships and important family relationships.

Frank has a clear answer. Each word weighs a lot when it takes a lot of effort to express. For Frank, the replacement for the couple is the tribe: people living communally, or at least nearby, supporting each other, melting into one another. Melting is a big word for Frank.

Frank and Linda live with four others. Over the last four decades, their Berkeley community consisted of five adults raising two children. The children were encouraged to not favor the biological parents and see them all equally as their parents. Some people might call it a commune; they call it a tribe.

When they moved on to their street in North Berkeley, they met Betty, an older religious woman who went to church often but who reached out to them and even wanted to see their sex tapes (a big part of Frank’s work is about exploring what he calls nonlinear sex, or “eroplay”). Betty liked their vibe of love and communal living and they became friendly. She became part of the tribe, though she lives in her own home.

When Betty’s husband died, she was not able to take care of herself. Frank’s gang started to pop in and bring her meals daily. Without their assistance, Betty might be in a nursing home. Living independently in one’s home (as opposed to living with family or in assisted living or worst yet, a nursing home) is almost always the preference for elderly adults. The fact that Frank’s tribe has kept Betty at home is huge: this relationship makes an enormous difference in the quality of her life.

Betty is receiving so much love because she reached out first to Frank’s tribe, even though she is a church-going lady and they are known for sex performances and so incredibly odd. Her reaching out fascinated me. How many of us complain that in modern American society we don’t know our neighbors? That this is a lonely, atomized society?

The responsibility always starts with us to create our own communities and realities. When we act like Betty and reach beyond our individual self-encased bubbles to show interest in others, we never know how much connection we can build. We get to know each other at a much deeper level beyond the surface differences of our costumes and lifestyle choices.

Frank calls it “melting,” an idea that honors our connectness first, that we are not separate. His life has been dedicated to “melting.” I asked him why he had made all this art and done all these performances and he said he did it all in pursuit of this kind of intimacy and depth of connection with other people. I found that fascinating that his “career” was not about the art itself but about the relationship that he has created with others. I can relate, because I always want to tap into others at their depths, to pull away the veils of our exteriors and experience each other in what we are really feeling and thinking.