Your Voice Matters (and Coming into Contact with Reality)

A lot of people are saying, “It’s not that bad,” “Let’s wait and see.” Some men I know are telling me “everything is going to be OK.” I personally don’t want to be told that everything is going to be OK right now. This is the power of denial. When someone shows you who he is, believe him. If someone mocks a person with disabilities, believe that person is cruel. If that person lies and say they never mocked the person with disabilities, we are dealing with a pathological liar.

I think I have a high capacity to look at the terrible shit that is happening in our country now because of the commitment I made to healing my own shit about four years ago, and this is what I am writing about in my current book project and what I help some coaching clients with. Healing from sexual abuse or assault. Sometimes people didn’t come to me with that but it comes up as we talk about other parts of life.

As I am reviewing a draft for a class where I need to submit 125 passages and an outline, I see a lot of the passages I wrote about my own life apply to this political situation too, the desire to throw your whole life up in the air in a radical way because everything feels so shitty (what some Trump voters wanted to do, voting for Trump for them was like throwing a grenade, and I did that in my own personal way years ago), the natural human tendency toward denial to stay comfortable (what many liberals such as Jon Stewart have been doing by saying, It’s not so bad, and what I did for decades), the need to look the truth in the face to make change and heal (that’s our only way forward, being real about what is going on).

I am writing about a churn in my life, and I think we are going through a churn in our country.

Here’s one passage that makes me feel this.

“I was in denial for a long time. It was too painful to look at the past. So I just kept moving, making lists, making plans, next date, next man. Until someday the fun catches up with me and I realize I never actually got to connect with anyone because I realize that I never unraveled whatever painful things that were holding me back. If we never look at the truth, we will repeat the same patterns. I would never suggest that everyone should move to another continent, but I would suggest that everyone take the courage to look at whatever they have been avoiding looking at. The thing you have been avoiding does seem to hold the key to freedom. What I would say much later is that the churn is for people who need a radical change in life, and the churn is what will bring their subterranean problems to the surface. There were things in me that were so deeply embedded that the problems were not obvious, what was causing me to be so unhappy, to believe I was unlovable, and to get lost in a job that I didn’t want, and it was through submitting to the wild ride of the churn that I could even discover what was actually even going on in my life. In essence, a churn is not to solve all your problems but to even know what your problems are. This is a big step. In order to heal you need to look at the thing you have most been avoiding looking at. In that thing you avoid the most, that’s where you find the path forward.”

Many will deny reality.  In personal growth work and politics I believe that the path forward is always about coming into contact with reality, painful as it may be. Denial is very seductive but we cannot afford denial. And there’s a lot of fertility in shit. We need shit to fertilize our gardens.
  
Believe in yourself, believe in your voice. Quirkyalone is permission to take up space in the world whether you are single, coupled, gay, straight, bi, trans, disabled, any race, any religion. You as an individual have a dignity that is sacred. The worst instincts of people are being unleashed and magnified by a pseudo-leader who has legitimized cruelty and hate. But your dignity exists and it cannot be taken away.
 
This vision of the world being advanced by Trump would take us back 50 years before the civil rights and women’s movement. Quirkyalone emerged in a historical context where women have economic freedom. Where we learned we could choose relationships out of desire and not because of our need to be in them for economic survival. The world that Trump is advocating and his supporters long for is a patriarchal world where the white man is at the head of the table, and he saves us (and jobs) with his so-called strength. It doesn’t matter what his policies are or that they change constantly because his supporters trust him as the white male savior. We have come too far over the last 50 years to give up our dignity and go silent.
 
Your voice matters. It matters now more than ever. Every individual voice adds up to a vaster chorus of people calling for kindness and sanity.

With love,
Sasha

5 Reasons to Vote with Your Vagina (Men Too!)

From Pussy Riot's amazing new music video "Straight Outta Vagina"

From Pussy Riot’s amazing new music video “Straight Outta Vagina”

Susan Sarandon says she wouldn’t vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton because she doesn’t vote with her vagina. But what’s wrong with voting with your vagina? It seems like a great way to vote to me!

Here are five reasons that I invite you to vote with your vagina. And if you’re a man, go ahead and pretend you have a vagina! We women are asked to act like men all the time, especially at work, so hey, try it out, just for a day, see how it goes and let us know. My friend and fellow author Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project, says, “I’m proudly voting with my vagina. If I could get it to hold a pen or pull a lever, I would. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.”

Maybe you can’t hold a pen with your vagina or imaginary vagina, but here are some reasons why you can proudly vote with the intention of your vagina, at the least.

1) Your vagina knows things. Just ask it how it feels.
The vagina is a surprisingly strong place for intuition. Voting with your head and your heart too, but don’t leave your vagina out. Ask it! See what it says. I consult my vagina on all kinds of decisions. I just ask it, how do you feel? I wait and see if it purrs. I’m serious. I am not kidding! I’m writing about this in Wet!

2) When you vote with your vagina, you are voting for safety of all vaginas.
The vaginas of all women need to feel safe in order to walk through life healthy, happy, and to feel turned on. The Orange Cheeto who boasts of grabbing pussies doesn’t feel like the candidate who would give us that safety. My vagina for one instantly snaps close to the suggestion of a Donald presidency. No!!! Some people would say, well, Jill Stein also has a vagina but Jill Stein is not going to win and protect us from the threat of a Donald presidency.

3) The vagina is the source of human life–it must have something to say
The vagina has tremendous creative power. It’s where all human life comes from. This is literal and symbolic You don’t have to be a mother to feel the creative power of your vagina. As the proud owner of a vagina, you can give birth to many things in life–creative projects, gifts, communities, friendships, and your life itself.

4) The vagina likes pleasure and a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable.
One woman mentioned that her vagina would prefer George Clooney in 2016. That’s a nice thought but if we must be real, a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable. It feels terrifying. Terror disrupts the nervous system and puts us on high alert all the time. So if we are interested in pleasure we must do everything we can to avoid this fate.

5) It’s high time we have a vagina in the White House.
Since 1789, there have been 43 U.S. presidents. There has never been a vagina in the White House presidential office. Malcolm Gladwell explains here why people don’t like Hillary Clinton by saying what I have been saying over and over again. The answer is simple. The answer is sexism. The right wing has been going after Hillary since the 90s when she dared to say she wanted to fix health care and do more than bake cookies. No other First Lady ever was so bold to take on real policy projects and not diminish herself. She went on to become a Senator and a Secretary of State, and her approval ratings are high when she’s doing her job and low when she seeks power. Why? In 2016, people are still very uncomfortable with an ambitious woman. The dirty secret which is not a secret at all is that the US is still uncomfortable with women in leadership positions. That’s why people chant “lock her up” on the basis of nothing and slap bumper stickers about the size of Hillary’s bum on their car.

To move our country forward though it’s time to tap the power of our vaginas. And someone’s going to have to be first. Hillary is the one with tremendous grit to withstand so many attacks and keep going. And she’s tremendously qualified.

So, will your vagina be voting tomorrow? What does it have to say?

Before you vote, be sure to watch this new music video “Straight Outta Vagina” from Pussy Riot. It’s amazing!

PS. If you like me want to avoid four years of Donald, there’s something you can do to help. Make some phone calls right now, even ten minutes makes a difference when we all chip in. I endorse this calling tool for phone banking. This tool is great, I made calls using it Saturday. As my fellow author Sara Eckel (It’s Not You), who also writes on singleness, has put it, using this tool is a great way to alleviate election-eve anxiety.

PPS. I don’t normally do a lot of political endorsing through my platform as an author and coach. But this election is extraordinary we are looking at a situation where democracy is in danger and dictatorship is a possibility. States that were thought to be firewalls for Hillary Clinton like New Hampshire are now in play. Itt’s time to pull out all the stops to steer the country in the right direction. Vote, vote, vote, and make calls tonight if you are inspired. And the rest of the world, thanks for pulling for us!

Sex and the Single Quirkyalone: How to talk openly and honestly about sex . . . before you have sex

If you are a quirkyalone, and you’re looking for someone to be your life partner, you may find yourself single for an extended period: months or yearssssss. How do you keep touch, sexuality and sensuality present and alive in your life while you are single? How can we be “wet” when we are single?

To answer these questions, I’m taking a little tiptoe into the world of podcasting with this podcast with the great Carolyn Arnold, a social scientist, educational researcher, and friend. At the age of 58, Carolyn started a 50 Dates project to find her life partner. She found him by date 49! I’ve interviewed Carolyn about what she learned about loving herself while she went through the ups and downs of dating here. What’s interesting about Carolyn too is that she had a lot of lovers while she was looking for love because sex and touch are important to her. She didn’t want to be celibate and she knew she wanted healthy touch in her life.

In this podcast, I interview Carolyn about how to have lovers and have sexuality be present in your life when you are single and looking for a life partner, and don’t want to be celibate. How do you avoid the pitfalls of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, fantasy/illusion (I thought this was the start of something but he never called!), crossed boundaries, doing more than you really want to do, and more. In essence, we’re talking about how to have clear communication before you get busy and have clear access to your yes and your no at all times. We give you some scripts you can use even.

Carolyn is working on a memoir about her 50 First Dates Project, and in this podcast, we talk about what she learned about having having sex and lovers while looking for love. Carolyn has gone to many Northern California alternative relationship and sexuality seminars and she has learned a lot about how to set boundaries and communicate what you want with a partner in open, honest, loving communication. I’ve been on a parallel journey, and so Carolyn and I have often talked over her kitchen table about how to have conversations about sex when you are dating.

Here are some things we talk about in this conversation:
• How to have a conversation about sex before (or while) clothes come off to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. We give you some scripts you can use to open a conversation about sex. In essence, the conversation starts with the question, “Do we want to be sexual?” Carolyn thinks you can have this conversation before anything happens. I think it’s a little more natural after kissing.
• The “monogamous mindset of dating” (if you start dating and quickly become exclusive, you can get awfully attached when you start having sex, but are you sure this is really the person you want to be with?)
• Being truly at choice in sex at every moment and why this is important to have access to your yes and your no at any moment, and never feel you have to finish what you started (you have to be able to say no so that you can truly say yes)
• What is sex (is it just intercourse, or can we have a more expansive definition that might or might not include intercourse and might feel like what you actually want to do?)
• How to have supportive lovers while you are dating and looking for “the one”
• Menopause and why you might want to keep your sexuality alive during your 40s (based on Carolyn’s experience)

Listen to the podcast here!

Breaking the Silence on Sexual Abuse in Vice

Breaking the silence on sexual abuse in Vice

Breaking the silence on sexual abuse in Vice


I published an essay called “What It Feels Like to Watch Trump as a Sexual Abuse Survivor” in Vice in the wake of the video documenting Trump’s sickening bragging comments about grabbing women’s pussies. As the headline indicates, publishing this essay was no small thing for me. Publishing this piece was the result of five years of my own personal work to be even able to name that this incident happened to me, understand how it’s affected me, and to then write about it in a national magazine. Wow. Healing the effects of sexual abuse and assault is actually a big theme in my current writing project Wet and in my work coaching women. And even in the Tango Adventure, because I’m using tango as a way to help women reconnect with lost parts of themselves, their sexuality and sensuality chief among them. These are parts of us that get stolen from us when we live in a culture where we don’t feel safe, but confidence and sensuality are important and powerful–it’s our birthright to feel good and feel pleasure in our bodies. Here’s the essay. Check it out and let me know what you think. Originally the essay attracted some terrible haters but then my quirkyalone readers came to the rescue with fabulous comments. You’ll see.

The True Cost of Grabbing a Woman’s Pussy, and Why Pussy Will Grab Back

pussy grabs back November 8

pussy grabs back November 8

The psyches of all women are affected now. One of my friends posted on Facebook, “All women I talk to right now are so filled with fear and anger right now that someone who hates women this much and denies their consent could be president.” Another female friend wrote me, “I feel like Trump has climbed into my bedroom and I am thoroughly disturbed.” I have been on edge, more anxious that he could win, more worried about what I wear when I go out in the street, angry that a man who boasts about sexually assaulting a woman is at the top of the Republican ticket. I sent out a version of this editorial to a couple of newspapers and one op-ed editor wrote me back, “Interesting piece but this story has dominated the public conversation since Friday and now readers are starting to move on. I can’t use the piece.” The news cycle may move on, but we have not.

Trump brushes off his 2005 comments about grabbing a woman’s genitals without her consent by saying they are a distraction from important issues facing the country. It is not just a “distraction” when a woman (or man) experiences a sexual assault. A sexual assault has lifelong psychological and health consequences, not just a person’s ability to enjoy sex but also her mental and physical health on every level. Sexual violation certainly has not been “just a distraction” in my life. My experience was childhood sexual abuse, and it’s made it difficult to be in a healthy relationship and may have contributed to my autoimmune disease. Not a distraction. Not really.

How did we even get to the point where a man who boasts about sexual assault, and then says this is “locker-room talk,” is the Republican candidate for president? I wrote a calm clinical essay prosecuting Trump for consistent disrespect of women but when I showed it to a friend she said, “Where’s the emotion?” I wanted to stay factual because I was afraid of being called an “angry woman.”

There’s a lot to be angry about but I suppressed my anger for many years. I stayed silent about the abuse that happened to me as a child, never telling anyone until I was 18. No one told me to stay silent, but I grew up feeling it was my job to protect everyone else from the truth. Everyone else’s feelings mattered more than mine, and it was better to leave the room rather than stay in the same room with the abuser. The cost of sexual violation accrues in the silence and the shame that goes along with that silence.

I’m unwilling to be silent anymore. Trump is an abuser and he’s abusing (and gaslighting) the whole country. It’s obvious this is not normal locker-room banter. Most men don’t gleefully brag about sexually assaulting women. His pattern of extreme disrespect toward women is well established. Just last week he was up in the middle of the night tweeting about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “disgusting,” and a “con,” and claiming she appeared in a sex tape with no evidence. He has been accused of rape three times (Jane Doe in California alleges he raped her when she was 13) and he’s said if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed it would be up to her to find a new situation. He also said on The View, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” (To which, the hosts laughed, “Oh, you’re known for saying outrageous things, who are you, Woody Allen?”) People making jokes about these comments is exactly how we got to this point.

Too many people don’t realize there are lifelong psychological and health costs for survivors of sexual assault. I’ve been researching the links between sexual abuse and emotional and physical health because I’m writing a memoir where an incident of sexual abuse is part of my story. Men and women who experience sexual violation often face years of feeling damaged, alone, and unlovable. Abuse and rape lead to clinical depression at rates 11 times the general population. Survivors struggle to enjoy sex, feeling like they are objects, and to form trusting bonds in intimacy. There’s a growing body of evidence that rape and sexual abuse negatively impact physical health too. Recovery from sexual assault and abuse is possible and it takes effort, courage, money, and often years.

Canadian writer Kelly Oxford shared five of her sexual assault experiences and asked other women to tweet theirs. She told the UK Guardian, for 14 hours, she was getting 50 stories a minute. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network estimates that 1 in every 6 American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I’d hazard those numbers are low because many people never tell a soul. As I’ve told people in my network about my writing project, 60% of the people I tell eventually confide a sexual violation happened to them too in childhood. They don’t always say immediately. That’s how deep the shame and silence goes.

Donald Trump will continue to say outrageous things for the next month, but let’s not forget: he was 59 when he boasted that he could he could grab women by the pussy whenever he wanted because he is a star. What I’ve realized from my own healing from sexual abuse is that anger has its place. Let’s not be afraid to be angry. Anger is a chance to draw a boundary, to say no more, to say back off. So it is with all my righteous anger that I say it’s inconceivable that we have even gotten to this point where this man is up on the national stage in the debates. A vote for Trump tells other people this behavior is OK. Republicans, you need to take responsibility for nominating this man. He needs to be off the Republican ticket. Now.

The Power of the Quirkyalone Vote this Election

The election is now just five weeks away. It’s impossible to avoid the news about the candidates (whose names in this sentence, anyway, shall go unmentioned), but in the end, we are not just voting for individuals, we are actually voting for our future. And more than that, this election is a chance for us to recognize our own power.

What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we continue to promote policies that reflect a vision of the world that used to exist, or do we start to create a world that reflects who we are, a country were now unmarried women are actually in the majority? The question is, do we wake up as a group and start to exert our influence on public policy (which then affects our possibilities–can you take time off from work to care for your sick single aunt, can you get birth control paid by your health insurance)?

Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies, wrote an important essay in New York magazine on the rise of the single American woman voter as the most potent voting bloc in the country, back when Hillary and Bernie were still slugging it out in the primary. Now, we have the opportunity to make Rebecca right but only if we actually vote. 

So, if you haven’t registered, now is the time.

Here is a list of the voter registration deadlines, state-by-state. We are approaching the 30-day deadline for many states, so the time is now to hop on it if registering to vote has been lagging on your to-do list.

From the New York magazine piece. . . 

“. . .how much of an impact single women will have on this election and on public policy in the years to come depends, in large part, on whether they begin to recognize their growing political power. Part of this is simply a matter of getting out the vote. According to Page Gardner, in 2016, “for the first time in history, a majority of women voters are projected to be unmarried,” but going into the previous presidential-election season, nearly 40 percent of them had not registered to vote. . . 

The independent woman, both high earning and low earning, looks into her future and sees decades, or even a lifetime, lived outside marriage, in which she will be responsible for both earning wages and doing her own domestic labor.

This is the new social compact that she requires: stronger equal-pay protections that guarantee women’s labor will not be discounted because of leftover assumptions that they are likely to be supported by husbands; a higher federally mandated minimum wage, which would help to alleviate the burdens of poverty on America’s hardest and least-well-remunerated workers; a national health-care system that covers reproductive intervention, so that those who want to terminate pregnancies or have babies on their own or wait until they are older to do so are able to avail themselves of the best medical technologies; more affordable housing for single people, perhaps subsidized and with attendant tax breaks for single dwellers who choose to live in smaller, environmentally friendly spaces; criminal-justice reforms that address and correct the injustices of our contemporary carceral state; government-subsidized day-care programs; federally mandated paid family leave for both women and men who have new children or who need to take time off to care for ailing family members; universal paid-sick-day compensation, regardless of gender, circumstance, or profession; increases rather than continual decreases in welfare benefits; reduced college costs and quality early-education programs. Come to think of it, these policies would benefit lots of people who are not single women as well.

None of this is easy, or likely to happen quickly, especially not with a Republican-led Congress. But it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship between American women and their government. Single women are taking up space in a world that was not designed for them. They make up a new republic, a new category of citizen. If the country is to flourish, we must make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built around the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.”

So let’s do this. Here’s that list of voter registration deadlines by state, with links to information to help you register to vote in time.

Behind the Postcards on the Tangasm, Coaching, and Why I’ve Chosen South America over Silicon Valley for Now

BTP-insta-sasha

Chris Tyre over at the lovely blog Nomad + Camera interviewed me about why and how I chose to leave Silicon Valley tech stress for a more artistic life in South America. And how I got here. Plus you can read up on the tangasm. Why wouldn’t you want to read about that? Here’s the lovely Nomad + Camera interview that’s published today!

Chris Tyre interviews digital nomad types all over the world about how they have created new lives for themselves. The interviews are well worth reading.

Read the full interview here and read the other inspiring digital nomad stories too.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I Might Even Do Again: My Mother-Daughter Social Impact Cruise Experience with Fathom

My Marilyn Look on the Adonia

My Marilyn Look on the Adonia

David Foster Wallace (RIP) and his hilarious essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again” on the “nearly-lethal comforts of cruises” shaped my opinion of cruises. In 1996, Harper’s Magazine asked Wallace to go on a cruise and write a long postcard back and the result was a hilariously snide series of paragraphs that made cruises sound like hell: floating germ factories of overconsumption. After reading the essay, I thought I would never go on a cruise. Plus, I’ve generally been an independent traveler who likes to get deep into the culture and meet people when I travel. Going on a cruise was not on my bucket list. More like my not-to-do-list.

When I got the opportunity to go on a “social impact cruise” for free this year with the newly formed wing of Carnival cruises Fathom Travel, dedicated to social impact travel, I had to wonder, do cruises and social impact go together? What does that even mean? Fathom invited me on as a blogger to spread the word to my readers and I thought, well, volunteer work on a cruise in the Carribbean. Interesting.

Fathom, a dot.org, it turns out, is a very unique newly launched line within Carnival, one of the largest cruise ship lines in the world. Founded by Tara Russell from Boise, Idaho, who has a background in startups and nonprofits, Fathom has a mission to combine personal growth, volunteerism, and travel, to bring out the greatness of human potential through travel, cultural immersion, and what they call “social impact” volunteerism.

Since I offer a transformative travel experience through my own 7-day Tango Adventure personal growth trip in Buenos Aires, I was curious to see how a big company would approach a transformative travel. Would the volunteer work feel genuine, and could it ever offset the environmental impact of a cruise ship?

Ever intrepid I decided to find out.

Mother-Daughter Bonding, Meeting Up in Miami
I invited my mother to join me, since I live in Buenos Aires and she lives in Rhode Island, this would be a chance for mother-daughter bonding. We would meet in Miami. My mother said yes but she told me later she was afraid she would hate being on a cruise. I felt the same way, but I had actually looked at the website and saw the cruise was integrating yoga, meditation, storytelling and design-thinking workshops along with service projects in the Dominican Republic. I nudged her along to keep an open mind, and so we made our travel plans and we met finally in downtown Miami, the day before the cruise was set to sail.

Mother and daughter lost in residential #littlehavana after a technology fail with uber … Seeing the real Miami!

A photo posted by Sasha Cagen (@sashacagen) on

7 Days from Miami to the Dominican Republic, and What Would Happen???
The cruise would be 7 days long, Sunday to Sunday. We would start off from the Port of Miami, sail to the Dominican Republic docked for three days to do the service projects and tour the country, then sail back for a day and a half to return on Sunday.

The Sunday to embark finally came, and it was thrilling to finally be ready to see what “cruising,” which I would learn is a verb, is all about. I felt a glee when we first boarded, as I walked through the elegant lounges, bars, and dining rooms, and then out on the soupy-air Miami decks looking at the incredible blue of the water. When I proclaimed that I felt like I was on the Titanic on Facebook and my long-time friend Sara commented that only a true Titanic lover would happily make that comparison. I wasn’t really worried about sinking, no. I was just expecting tacky. The aesthetic of the ship of dark woods, antique lamps and artwork, combined with posters with inspirational travel messages, was really appealing.

The Adonia holds 700 people, as opposed to the 4,000 or so that go on a normal Carnival cruise (the kind Wallace was writing about). The sales director later said they consider the Adonia a mix of English country and rock and roll, and that’s fair, since they also had a cover band on the ship with dancing nightly (which brought together all the generations to dance). At our first dinner we shared a table with Monica, who works for Carnival, who said a normal cruise is as big as a football field and you would have to plan your entire day when you leave the room. To me, that sounded awful. But the Adonia was manageable.

The food — and the service — was fantastic, I must say. I was nervous since I have celiac disease and double-checked to be sure they would have gluten-free options. Not only did they have gluten-free options, they had two special diet cooks who would make me almost any dessert I wanted. Every night a waiter would take my order for the next day so they could prepare special meals for me. In fact, if anything, the food was too good. Even as a celiac I ate way too much. David Foster Wallace was right about the overconsumption if not the tackiness.

The people? There were a lot of families and traditional folk, but there was also a bit of everything. We met an Ottawa woman who worked for the Canadian Army in a long-distance relationship with an economics professor from Mississippi, who met up for the cruise. We met single travelers who came just because “they needed to do something” and the trip was a deal at its launch. We met adult sisters traveling together, an aunt who took her nephew on as a graduation present. I connected with some fabulous travel agents who want to do purpose-oriented boutique trips for their new travel agency Intention Travel. They may collaborate with me on the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. Here’s us having drinks.

Assessing the “social impact” in the cruise

Making a clay water filter with liquid silver and sawdust with the organization Wine to Water in the DR

Making a clay water filter with liquid silver and sawdust with the organization Wine to Water in the DR


So what about the social-impact part of the cruise? What did that actually mean? The Fathom staff was made up of mostly young people, some Peace Corps volunteers and Teach for America alums on the staff, and they had partnered with local nonprofit organizations on the Dominican Republic to organized half-day or day-long activities where the ship’s passengers could sign up to “make an impact.”

The impact activities ranged from helping to pour a cement floor for families who had only lived on mud floors, and planting trees to helping create water filters using liquid silver in pottery to kill bacteria and provide safe drinking water, to teaching English to kids and adults in communities and schools who wanted to learn.

My mother and I took part in two “impact activities.” One one day we worked with the local chapter of a global organization called Wine to Water that’s helping to create technology for safe drinking water around the world. Fathom charged $30 for the water filter activity, which went to support the project. The technology was fascinating: we helped make clay water filters that blends clay, sawdust, and liquid silver to kill bacteria.

Another day we trucked out to a village to meet with a community of kids and adults who want to learn English. We met in their homes to practice vocabulary. Here are two of the kids we practiced English with. When you imagine they are getting to practice weekly with native speakers you realize this adds up over time and can make a real impact on a community.

So were the social impact activities genuine? Do they make a difference? I wondered if the social impact would be real, but my mother and I were both impressed in the end. At our final dinner, she said, “You go to church or read the newspaper and people are all talking about these problems with the environment, safe drinking water, poverty, and then here’s this company that’s not just talking about it, they’re doing something and it’s actually effective.” It is impressive. Some of the cement floors are going to families who have infants.

We participated in the sixth cruise to the Dominican Republic and the cumulative impact so far of the cruises have been:
• 728 English learners learning English from the participants who come to practice with them
• 8,000 seedlings for plants in a reforestation project
• 1,679 cocoa nibs sorted for 49,000 chocolate bars
• 3,850 sheets of paper create for a recycled paper project and job opportunities for the women who work on this project
• 16 homes poured with cement floors
• 316 water filters made with liquid silver, sawdust and clay helping 1500 people get safe drinking water without having to buy bottled water, reducing disease and lost time from school and work

Some fun stuff: Waterfalls! Is there anything funner?
We also did fun stuff in the Dominican Republic. My personal favorite was climbing up waterfalls and then shooting down or jumping off them. I must say my mother was quite the trooper for doing this seven-waterfall hike. We’re lucky no one hurt any joints or limbs. Many thanks to our incredible guide Leoni Vargas who took these photos and was able to navigate these wild falls with his phone in a little plastic bag to keep it safe, then he sent me the photos.

Back to a “supposedly fun thing I would never do again.” Would I go on a Fathom cruise again? Yes. It actually was really fun. I love being wrong sometimes. Life is much much more interesting when you are wrong and discover something new.

Here you can see my mother and I discuss the “Fathom Experience” over cocktails by the beach in the Dominican Republic, by the “Malecon” (boardwalk) of Puerto Plata, near where the ship was docked for three days.

Why #imwithher

hillary clinton quirkytogether#imwithher.

I resisted that slogan at first, because I thought, isn’t she with us?

But at the deepest levels of my bones, after watching the amazingly inspirational DNC last night, I’m feeling #imwither.

Many of you might not be. Some of you don’t live in the U.S. Some of you still want Bernie. Some of you might be voting for Trump or Gary Johnson. Or not vote at all.

But I want to lay out for you the import of electing Hillary from a #quirkyalone perspective. And why I hope you will vote in this important election in November. And even get involved in local, one-on-one campaigning. That’s how campaigns are still one. One-on-one talking to get out the vote.

Quirkyalone is inherently a feminist philosophy that presupposes that women are full human beings who don’t need a man to complete us or to live a full life, even if we do want to be in close or committed relationships with men for some or all of our lives. Quirkyalone as a mass phenomenon is only possible historically since women en masse have gotten access to education and the opportunity to have economic equality.

The truth is it’s still often hard for a single woman or mother to make it on her own, or for a woman emerging from divorce to make it, in a world where women are still paid less than men (let’s change that) but we have vastly more freedom than we did before because we don’t need to be married just to survive.

Where does Hillary’s campaign for president fall in this narrative of the arc toward full choice in relationship and full female participation in life? It can’t be overstated the importance of seeing a woman take the reins as a leader in the U.S. There is nothing more delicious than this Quartz headline: “Hillary Clinton’s husband wore a fetching pantsuit to honor her nomination for president.” Last week we saw a trophy wife speak for her two-decades-older husband (sorry, but that’s absolutely what I see in Trump and Melania, with their 24-year age difference), this week we see a former president celebrating his woman’s career and looking pretty sharp to boot. We see dozens of others saluting her on the stage, saying there’s no one who has more experience or is better prepared for the presidency. Sorry Bill. Even you.

When Hillary was 15, she wanted to be an astronaut and she was told no on account of her gender. It cannot be overstated the subtle profound value of us finally seeing a woman in the driver’s seat of our country. Many other countries have or have had female presidents (Germany, Chile, Iceland, Brazil, Argentina). The US has been a powerful force for women’s equality but we also have vast amounts of sexism left in our country. The sexism gets exposed all the time with Hillary showing us how people react to a female candidacy (there are even plenty of “liberal” people calling her a “dog” and other dehumanizing terms on social media). Some of the media heralding the historic nomination of a woman president didn’t even feature a photo of Hillary, they featured Bill. That’s how uncomfortable people still are with a woman being in power.

Hillary’s presidency is a powerful show that women are equal. I don’t think we will even fully feel that until well after she is elected. How profound and sweet that is to really say and believe in a world that sort of believes it but indicates otherwise all the time.

#imwithher. Hope you’ll join us.

xo
Sasha

PS #strongertogether.

PPS #nohateonthispage.

PPPS My younger brother Dan Cagen wrote this on Facebook today, and I thought it was spot-on, so I will add this here:

“Obama ended his speech with a ‘Yes, We Can,’ his slogan from 2008. It was a message of hope and change and that better days are ahead of us if we all work together towards our goals. I’ve been deeply troubled over the last week since watching Trump’s RNC speech—part of me wishes I hadn’t subjected myself to that—and the vision of America he sees. Trump sees an America where you will be killed and your murderer will be a non-white person. It’s hard for me to reconcile that so many people in this country are supporting someone who feels that way. Hearing Obama bring back ‘Yes, We Can,’ and seeing the response in Philadelphia, was a reminder that there are still plenty who have hope and want a better future.”

Goodbye to All That: Toyota Corolla Edition

Saying goodbye to Martha, just half an hour before selling her

Saying goodbye to Martha, her soulful scratches and all

I was driving back from the smog check, and I felt myself fighting just the slightest tears. I felt that lump in my throat, knowing, yes, I have reached the point of no return. I’m paying $50 for a smog check and that means this is it, after much resistance, I am selling Martha, my 2007 Toyota Corolla, a solid presence in my life since 2008 when I bought her pre-owned.

Martha. Yes, she has a name. Do all owners give their cars names, like they give their pets names? Do all car owners get so attached to their cars? I don’t have a pet, or a child, but I named my car. Why would I be crying for 2,800 pounds of metal, steel, and plastic? My friend Liz told me I should write about Martha because I way I talk about her, like she is a person in my life. So I am.

First, some basic facts: who is Martha and why am I getting rid of her? Martha was my first car. I bought Martha when I was 34, relatively old to buy a first. I bought Martha during a period of big change in my life, when I went from writer to Silicon Valley product manager. I made more money and needed a car. Having a car felt like a luxury, a big step up the economic ladder. The name Martha just came to me. I wanted a sturdy, reliable car and Martha felt like a sturdy, reliable name.

Since then my life changed. I left Silicon Valley and I’ve spent three of the last eight years in South America writing, coaching/consulting, and dancing tango. I’ve held on to Martha for all these years, having friends drive her paying the insurance while I’m away, because I loved having Martha to come home to when I would be back in the Bay Area, sometimes as long as a year and a half. Recently I committed to living in Argentina to write a second draft of my memoir. Rationally it doesn’t make sense anymore to keep paying the registration and maintenance. It’s time to let go.

Even so, there is clinging to the past. To Martha! We say change is good but change is also hard. If we are honest, we are to some degree ambivalent about most things. Most things have good and bad in them. Change means giving up some things while you gain others. There’s the job you hate but the paycheck you love. The spouse you love and the spouse you can’t live with. There is a grieving process for most changes whether it’s leaving a place, a job, a person, or an object. Objects too have so many memories and emotions attached to them.

Liz told me Martha was replaceable, “She’s a white Corolla. You can get another white Corolla when you come back. It’s not an uncommon car.” I say, “No, those other cars won’t have Martha’s bumps and scratches. Those particularities.” Liz says, “We can dent the new car with golf balls and scratch it to replicate the damage.” I laugh, “OK, we can do that.”

There is soul in the history of an object, in the meanings we give our things over the years. The history is in those imperfections. I put the dent on the car in the first year when I was clumsy parking in a tight garage in San Francisco. At first I was ashamed that I had messed up my car so quickly. Then I decided the dents and scratches made my car unique. I could recognize her in a parking lot easily. That was an important revelation that made me feel better about my own dents and scratches.

I keep thinking of Liz’s implicit question, why does this car mean so much to me? She was more than a car to me. Martha and I had a long-term relationship of eight years, and a long-distance relationship for three of those years. For three of those years I was in South America. She was okay with me leaving and coming back, she never broke down when I went away. The car was an anchor. It’s the mobility, the status, but also the constancy: Perhaps Martha was one of my rocks. She gave me the freedom to roam and always welcomed me back with open arms.

When it finally came time to post the ad, and start showing Martha to buyers, I was nervous to show her. What if people felt different about her than I did? I posted realistic photos on Craigslist and got 30 emails, I showed her to four people and two out of four her wanted her. There’s nothing like having your car be wanted.

The lucky buyer was Jan, a mom buying the car for her twentysomething son Joaquin. I met Jan and Joaquin on a Friday afternoon to complete the transaction. It was time to hand over the keys.

I told Joaquin, “The car is special, so take good care of her. She is very soulful and she has a lot of care-taking qualities. Her name is Martha.” His eyes widened either impressed or freaked out but his mom Jan seemed taken with the name. “Like George and Martha Washington,” she said, as if this had some meaning to them. Yes.

We walked outside and I passed the key to Joaquin, the official handoff. I said to Jan, “I feel like I’m giving away my baby.”

She said, “We would call Family Services if you were selling your baby for $6600.”

I felt a little embarrassed and said, “I know, but it’s emotional.”

She said, “I know what you mean. When I sold my car I felt choked up too.”

So I walked home four blocks, saying goodbye to Martha, and also, hello to an unknown future. Having grieved already I felt more ready for the new chapter, come what may, whether that includes a future car or not. I felt lighter for having been courageous enough to let go. I felt free.

Goodbye to All that is a nod to Joan Didion’s landmark 1967 essay about leaving New York, “Goodbye to All That.”