Episode 101: Loneliness and Belonging with Cat Moore

In Blog, Community, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, The She+ Geeks Out Podcast by Rachel Murray

Cat Moore. She is a delight and a joy. And has probably the best head of hair we’ve ever seen. Cat is the Director of Belonging at University of Southern California & President & Chief Communications Officer of ReHuman, which is an app that helps us create strong relationships among friends, family, coworkers, + neighbors. We talk about loneliness, belonging, and how her CLICK (Connect As Is – Listen First – Investigate – Communicate Kindness – Keep in touch) framework is needed now more than EVER.

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Rachel: Alright, we are recording to the cloud and roll in the cloud. Hello, Felicia. Hello cat.

Cat: Hey. Hey. How’s it going everybody

Rachel: Good. Well, you know, like, for n times, you know.

Felicia: Can’t complain for the end of the world.

Rachel: I mean, really, at the end of the day, but before we get too far into that world. I would love to introduce you to our lovely listeners. Cat is director of belonging at the University of Southern California, and President and Chief communications officer of re human and I cannot wait. And I know fellowship feels the same. To learn more about your journey. What you’re doing what re human is what director of Belonging means for before we get into it. Let’s just start at the beginning. Tell us your journey. Tell us your origin story.

Cat: Wow, it was a dark day on December 1 debut. Yeah. Well, yes, that is that is the question, right, that’s the, that’s the way I started my class actually at USC is kind of, what’s your story and so my story is that I spent the first two decades of my life in chronic loneliness.

That was fairly traumatizing and I grew up in a very small steel town outside of Pittsburgh where our big claim to fame was being the most radioactive town in America. So we had a giant radiation dump in the middle of the town. And it was just one of the most isolated places, you can imagine, and within my family system. My parents didn’t have friends until much later in their own adulthood. It was just a very isolating place and I just struggled immensely to connect at school and in sports and you know all the things. It was just very difficult. And in that time and area of the country, people didn’t have great language or concepts for any experiences, emotional experiences or otherwise beyond hunger and rage. Those ones like we knew what those were so there just wasn’t a lot of awareness and conversation around these issues. And so even though I was extremely lonely. I dropped out of high school and homeschool myself locked in my bedroom like it was for real folks and but I never once had the thought, I’m lonely.

No one ever approached me and was like, gosh seem like you’re lonely, how can we support you, like, that was just not. And so it was all happening in this weird internal space and I was desperately always trying to find a way to connect by earning it by proving myself by trying to make myself. Perfect. And then by traveling desperate to find like maybe there’s like soil out there somewhere that I can root in and feel like I can be me and belong and I went to USC as an undergrad and my gosh, I was so withdrawn at that point that I was actually self sabotaging relationships before they could even begin. So I would put books on the seats all around me in the dining hall, so no one would sit in a roller blade to class. So I would have to be near people I was terrified of being seen and known and rejected. It wasn’t until I was 28 actually and pregnant with my son and started going to the same crappy strip mall Starbucks in Los Angeles, day after day after day that something started to change. And as I was in that space. Like as a ritual almost day after day after day. My belly started to show and people started breaking the ice with me and it was this very slow process for me of trusting people letting them ask me how I was doing and realizing that they weren’t going to hurt me. And pretty soon they started sitting down at my table as they were waiting for their coffee to brew. And I was just sitting there listening to them. I wasn’t really sharing. At that point, or anything, and you know, these are people. It was a very diverse neighborhood in Los Angeles. That was rapidly gentrifying but you had people experiencing homelessness coming through the Starbucks. You had rock stars. I met the governor, short for Governor Schwarzenegger. I like everyone. And so it was like all in one fell swoop. This microcosm of the whole world. As well as, like, really compacted socializing for me for the first time in my life and probably within six months of starting to let people sit down and just listening to them and watching them burst into tears because no one had been listening to them. You know, for who knows how long in their life and like just I was noticing or just a rapid transformation happening within me and my own capacity to connect and just felt impact. On other people offering that an acute was starting to form at my table. People would be concerned if I wasn’t there every day. And you know even Perfect Strangers would detect that there was openness and availability there and would sit down and spill their life story. And so at that point, I really started to take it very seriously. Almost like a life calling and you know that community started spilling out the cafe then talking to hundreds of people who would never normally identify the other people there and be like, yeah, those are my people. Right. It’s like very unlikely friendships and collaboration started spilling out of the cafe and then you know I’m well, at that point, I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, my life is fixed, like everything is awesome. I’m like a little Christmas tree like I can connect. I can help other people belong. This is everything and then overnight. The bottom completely drops out of my life and my now ex husband. Essentially the marriage very bizarrely and dramatically ended and I’m left overnight as a single mom with no job and No family, no job prospects. I mean, I have a degree in philosophy in a downturn economy you into that wasn’t the smartest move but I’m like oh my god like what the hell am I going to do. And so it was at that point that the tables really turned and it went from being oh so cool. I can connect and oh relationships are so cool. And people are awesome too. Oh my god. Relationships are actually the infrastructure of life and we have to have solid relationships because we do not know when crises are going to happen. And we do not know what our own resources will be. And so I had to then turn the tables and start being the person who needed them to listen to me and needed their resources and you better believe in those moments when I didn’t. I was living out of my car with my son for 18 months only going home to sleep. And I was never thinking, oh, I don’t know if I want to tell this person what I’m dealing with because they might be a Republican. Or they might be a different religion or they might like. It’s like when you’re in crises, you immediately go to the universal common ground. That’s a human. And so humans were helping humans is what was happening in crisis, and it just sort of blew my own assumptions and expectations about what was possible. And who was able to be a friend to me out of the water. And so it was at that point that I started realizing like you know what this something really important is happening here for human life, not just mine and people started taking notice from various universities from various research tanks from Mary various media outlets. Because everyone around this time was starting to have these seem quite the same awareness of these same issues and same questions of, like, why can’t we all just get along. And what do we do about this loneliness epidemic? With no real practical solutions. And so, USC approached me a couple years ago. And this was in the midst of me also trying to monetize this as a skill set that was worth paying for as a single moms. I was trying to support myself and USC like we can’t, we’ve got a loneliness crisis. Not that students have never been lonely before loneliness as part of the human condition, but it had reached a tipping point. And they did not have a node University like a robust plan for how to meet students where they’re at and support them because they weren’t needing therapy. They were needing friends.

So sending them to the Counseling Center wasn’t necessarily what they needed and so USC brought me in to essentially see if I could adapt the strategies that I had learned in order to save my own sad life. In the coffee shops of Los Angeles and see what of that was transferable to the university context. And so we launched a number of pilots. That’s how I developed this class. As a space of belonging. For people for people across the university to explore their social experience. Learn within from each other. Practice creating conditions for connection in their real lives and normalize it. And they asked me, well, we don’t have a job title for you. This is so outside of the box. We don’t have a title, like there is no there is no you know title. If there was a title, then they wouldn’t probably have the problem. So they’re like, what do you want your title to be and I kind of felt like this ever happened in life where people are asking for. And so I thought about it for 300 seconds. And I’m like, we need a director of belonging. And the amazing awesome dean for Sony was essentially like yes we do. So that’s how that happened. It’s a story. Sorry. I know.

Felicia: So much to unpack there.

Rachel: And when did that actually start WHAT YEAR WHEN DID. When did you become director of belonging.

Cat: So I started conversations with them. Two years ago and I designed and I’ve been teaching click I just wrapped the fourth semester of it, the director belonging happened about one semester. And when we realized after doing the class that like, oh, oh gosh, this is like a big thing. This means a big you know role. To do a lot of work. So

Rachel: Then there’s that. And then there’s also re human

Cat: Oh yeah so real. So, so you guys I have so many things because the point is not to just create things to create things. The point is for me to meet people in as many possible places that they are as happy as possible. And the reality is that some of the most lonely people on campus or in the coffee shop or otherwise will never come to my class. They’re never going to come to an event, they’re not. I mean that that’s just not within their scope of possibility. Right now, it’s too scary. I never went to one of those when I was, I would never have gone to my own class. You know what I mean. But I would have read a book. I would have experimented with an app so re human was developed. As one way to meet people where they’re at and what we know, especially about Gen Z and millennials is they’re out their phone. There on their screen. So is there a way to befriend people where they’re at and empower them to connect on purpose on and off screen and so designed this app that essentially is running on the same click methodology. But it’s a different format for people to move at their own pace in their own way.

And deciding for themselves is kind of like choosing your own adventure app. So they’re going to decide for themselves how to adapt various reflective and active tasks in their real lives to connect with themselves. Their friends, family, and community.

Rachel: I love that.Can you tell people what click means? What does it stand for?

Cat: Sure can. Well, when you see get, you know, was like, can you do like develop a five week non credit class that can help people start to unpack their social experience. And I’m like, well, who knows. Sure. Week, something is always better than nothing. I feel like anytime someone is trying to do something to solve a pervasive human problem. My answer is always just do something, don’t overthink it. Do something you’re only going to know how to improve it. Once you start doing something, agree and oh my gosh. So, of course, my mind is like going in a million directions because there was no precedent. Right there was no research for me to read. There was no one to call up who’s been doing it for 10 years longer than I mean there was jack squat. And so I was really it was a very human centered design approach, which was really. And luckily, in that case, I was relying on 28 I guess years of figuring out how it doesn’t work to connect and then, you know, of course, this massive transformation. I had to connect and enable you to know thousands of other people who are different for me to connect so I was really designing from the inside out. And when I was thinking about what I was doing that enabled me to connect and others like what was like what was going on. Because obviously it wasn’t a program or a class. And so I came up with things like examining what had actually worked and happened across time for me and others. I realized there was a process. And so, click is an acronym. The first see is connecting as is. And so that’s like everyone’s like, Whoa, where do we start. Right, it’s a totally valid question. It’s like, well, the only place you can start is where you are, as you are. Right, we’re not going to make people go on some retreat. We’re not going to make them go into something like we’re not going to extract them from their life in order to like put them back in their life. You know, stay where you are. You got to become aware and present where you actually already are with the time you have in the spaces, you’re already in with your strengths and weaknesses and your constellation of issues like that’s where you start.

Rachel: I just had this visual of somebody walking up with all of their baggage. Yes, right down.

Cat: And I’m like, bring it on the track. I’m not scared of anything you got in that suitcase.

Felicia: What about the Li Si K part of it. Where are those?

Cat: Are there’re so yeah so that’s like the route, like in you know where we actually eat people like we got to get real here. And then L is listening so like once you, like, get real about where you’re at, really at the first thing you do is you start listening. You start listening to the person in front of you, you start listening to yourself. You start listening to the context urine. No one knows what to do until you listen like you have to listen first and then I investigate. So once you’ve listened, a little bit, you can start to ask questions about what you’ve heard and examine with curiosity and without judgment that information and those experiences.

Rachel: without judgment. I don’t understand.

Cat: Well, seriously. Oh my gosh. And I’d say, especially that becomes so huge in contexts that are very high performing

Rachel: Yeah, like

Cat: You’re not allowed to like mess up or not have answers. You know, and so we’re always very critical.

Rachel: Oh.

Cat: Yes, cells, especially definitely no margin for error. And that ability to ask questions that are not interrogations Is so freeing and it’s a skill that anyone can learn. And then the second see is communicating kindness. And so, you know, we can get very lost and overwhelmed and like, Well, what am I supposed to do if they say or what if this happens in way but And I just, like, try to distill it all down to like the core disposition that you need to be cultivating is kindness.

If you like to lose your way and don’t know what’s going on, like, make sure that to whatever extent you can you are being kind to yourself to the other people And like if your heart is in that way in the right place. There will be graciousness extended for all the, like, oh, I didn’t know if they wanted to shake hands or hug. Like, who cares if they know that your heart was in the right place. Like, it’s not going to matter. So that’s like the real core that I try to root in return us to And then the last k is keeping in touch right this is more of like being very, very, very practical. Like relationships are not magic. Like there are dynamics that are predictable and things that we can do. And if you meet someone and have an awesome connection with them. But you don’t follow up like, you can’t just expect, like, Well, I don’t know. I thought like, it would just happen. There was such a great connection. And so this is about being real about what it takes to maintain relationships, how to schedule for them, how to prioritize them. And because that’s where a lot of things end up falling apart.

Rachel: I love that so much. Sorry, Felicia, please go on. I was like, I love it. Oh, go on.

Felicia: You’re like, I want to say all the things. Really valid I feel the same way. I was just gonna say, I love that last part, especially because I know that in my own life, there’s been so many moments where I thought to myself, oh, I’m so stressed out and I have all this stuff happening and none of my friends are reaching out to me to support me and I have to take that like mental step back to think, have I reached out to any of my friends in the past, whatever amount of time because you know, maybe they’re also going through stuff too. And so I think that’s so important that it does take work. It doesn’t just magically fall into place all the time.That actually brings up another question that I had. So you were talking about the community that sort of grew up out of this. This being at Starbucks and I’m really curious how that sort of has developed or maybe not or evolved. In conjunction with you, starting re human and starting this director belonging position at USC and developing our llick and developing your own ideas around what was happening there. And is that community still active. Were there any fields around you developing this out further because I know sometimes when stuff happens or or starts really organically. When you start to have those conversations around monetizing and structuring it sometimes there can be some pushback there. So just curious what that looks like. Or is it currently looking like?

Cat: Thanks. Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. Um, the funny thing is, that community there started about 10 years ago just this past January that branch closed put out of business, essentially like Starbucks cannibalized itself like there were too many other Starbucks around there and the leadership at Starbucks was not making decisions based on which of our stores facilitate community which is their vision, why not it was it was a bottom line decision and that store did not pull in as much money as others. But I will say that there was something so beautiful. We organized a huge celebration with that store manager who was not the store manager that started it. There had been like five different store managers, but we decided together that instead of what often happens when a store closes is you kind of like slink out in shame. Because what your thing didn’t continue in like into eternity. And so we decided that we were going to take a different approach and say no this store this community was a beautiful being I love how you put that And it lived a beautiful life and now it’s going to change form and we are going to celebrate everything that this was for all of us and for the larger community. So we had this massive party, we called up everybody who had been part of it from, you know, the beginning of I was filming it and this is crazy. They let me take home my table and chairs.

an apron and an honorary aprons. i know I was like, completely bawling, of course, my son is there now 10 years old. And we’re like, walking out you know, just surrounded by this huge group of people and people who have become really family members and like the contrast between my going in there, utterly alone, unable to look at people to leave in that way. Was just like you know who’s the movie producer that wants to make that movie.

Felicia: I’m just, I’m so amazed that there isn’t like when you were talking to answer our original question, I kept thinking, in my mind, where some Broadway musical where’s the book like and

I know that our listeners can’t see you. But Rachel mentioned this before we start recording like your hair’s so

Cat: Michelle.

Felicia: I’m sorry I don’t normally like to call people to hair.

Cat: Don’t

Felicia: You have the most unbelievable head of hair. I’ve ever seen it.

Cat: Well I have to put a picture of this. Now I gosh I know now, now it’s like the fourth interview.

The fourth person on the call. Um, well. But what’s so funny, too. Well, one thing about the music that’s that’s really funny is, you know how Starbucks has this you know this whatever playlist that you’re like, Oh, it’s you know, dumb corporate whatever music, right, or at least that’s the critique of people in LA. Meanwhile I had actually needed so many musician friends through that Starbucks. That there would be songs that would come on the Starbucks playlist. And I’m like, oh, that’s Eric song. And I would call up Aragon, like your songs on Starbucks.

So, I mean, it became like we think of these corporate environments as being inherently hostile to authenticity. Right. And, but I’m like no, if you show up with an intention of being honest, you will elicit that from someone else. No matter what context urine. And so that was amazing, but yet to answer the rest of your question, no one had a problem with me. I mean, trying to make money from it. It might. It might have been different if I was going around to their tables like a basket. Or something. And I’m like, do you want us. I mean, so I wasn’t doing that.

Felicia: Yeah, I think you’re in the verb, like the Charlie Brown Lucy, where she likes sets a person.

Cat: Right. People were actually telling me to do that. They’re like cat. Lady, you know, and they didn’t really know how to actually think about what I was doing. So you get things like your yeah the Charlie Brown thing or you know neighborhood nurse the on elected mayor like things like this that we’re trying to capture like what was going on. And so I initially went after some grants and tried to get donors and things like that. But it really wasn’t until I turned it into. You know what, I think this is more consulting. I think that there are other leaders out there who are wrestling with the same problems and they don’t know who to call in to listen to their actual situation and help them grow something out of their own soil that can actually be embodied by their people. So yeah, no one had that like you sold out a cat. Now, maybe if I would have, you know, come back with some kind of attitude problem like that. I was on or no better than people or something like that. That would have been a problem but ya know, we were still going to the same Starbucks doing the same things. So I think as long as you’re operating with integrity, you know, and it’s genuinely part of your value system and how you live your life. Most people, you know, are only supportive. Good.

Rachel: I love that and I am foolish so secret note foolish and I am taking notes in the Google Docs and she wrote down the loneliness crisis. And I was like, can you please ask about that too. So I’m just like calling you out on that. I want you to be that I want you to ask your question.

Felicia: Oh, okay.

Rachel: I don’t want to take it from you.

Felicia: Know we actually as a sort of like behind the scenes for anyone who’s listening. So normally we have our little less than question and then we take some notes, just so we know what we might want to Title The episode or something that’s come up and lately I’ve been chatting back and forth, not like it’s taking away from your conversation, of course, Canada, just things that like themes or trend or things

Rachel: You just said so much to us.

Felicia: Yeah, there’s 30 come out. So something that actually had been mentioned, I think earlier in the beginning of our conversation was this loneliness crisis idea. And so I just made a note of that. Because I am always curious. To have you talk a little bit more about that because you mentioned that this was sort of in conjunction with what was happening, you know, with you looking for connection with what was happening in this community at this amazing Starbucks in LA, and then your work now with students and it sounds like also with corporations and other people ‘m just curious because the timeframe. You’ve had a couple years ago that this sort of all started coming together. And initially, my first thought was 2016 the elections, of course, can’t go any further without also addressing the elephant in the room witches coven and the fact that so many people are actually really viscerally experiencing real isolation and I’m just wondering if you could speak a bit more about this idea of this loneliness crisis where You’ve sort of seen it originate from and is it showing up differently with different populations or even over time.

Cat: No problem.

Felicia: What’s your favorite color question?

Cat: It’s brown. My favorite color is brown.

Rachel: And soil.

Cat: Thank you. Thank you. Um, yeah, I mean, well, you know, just the zoomed out perspective is like loneliness is not new. Like, regardless of what your worldview is like in the Adam and Eve story. The very first modification that God makes to his plan was like, Oh, shoot. It’s not good for man to be alone. And so this is like that narrative and picks a worldview. Like, there’s always going to be something that’s like about aloneness, so this is a fit and separation. So this is a very, very deep long old story. I think over the last several years. There has just been a huge spotlight put on the issue because one, I think it has worsened. But also there was a Cygnus study in 2018 i think that was like this super thorough study and analyzing all these different factors that go into why people are experiencing loneliness and who’s more affected and where and is an income related and you know all these different things, but then the mean finding was it over half of the population is experiencing loneliness. Gen Z is the loneliest generation we have. It’s the first time we know that we’ve been following this data that the youngest generation is lonely. Usually it’s seniors. And single moms that are single parents, it’ll only be a subset of all lonely people but when they came out with that research they were linking loneliness to all of the physical health consequences. And so then I think it became like this big thing like Oh shoot. This isn’t like half the people are bummed out. That’s too bad.It was like, oh, oh, wait a second, you’re telling me that it’s the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day on my physical body. Oh, that’s a game changer. And then I think that there were also a lot of links that were starting to be made. Between loneliness and depression and anxiety and substance abuse and like all of these cascading issues that seemed to be tied to a common root of, like, people are not getting their social needs met. And so I think that there was just a huge spotlight put on this issue and then a massive scramble in my opinion to like well, let’s do a bunch more research and like, Let’s develop a bunch of nonprofits and like, let’s do it like this big scramble to understand it more and develop I guess like systemic and programmatic responses. And so I won’t. I mean, you know, you’d have to like look into each of those individually to see how effective any of them have been but that’s absolutely not how I approach the issue. I feel like there is no such thing as loneliness with a capital L. That’s an abstraction. And so when we say 54% of people and like give these millions of people numbers and all of this stuff. The problem. Problem feels just completely crippling and so then people want really big responses.

Right, like we need to appoint a minister of loneliness into the US cabinet, you know, which is what the UK did and I’m not trying to make fun of them. I hope that that’s working but that in and of itself will not actually change anyone’s experience because all we have are individual human beings experiencing highly complex things in our lives. And loneliness being one of the experiences, they’re having but their loneliness will only get on nodded. One on one. And engaged, you know, at a hyper particular level. And so we when we get into this epidemic language and crisis language and like all the sirens start going off and people are like, you know, there was an opposite in the New York Times that was like we need a war on loneliness and I’m like, No, no, we don’t need any more wars. And we certainly don’t need to, like, be in an attack mentality. Like, if anything, you know, that just betrays and misunderstanding of what the experience of loneliness even is. And the last thing someone experiencing loneliness needs is someone coming at them like what are all the solutions, you know, And so the we have to be careful about like we want to bring awareness about how serious this is and how traumatizing the experience can be if our social needs go on met but I think the real switch of the conversation needs to be to what are people actually experiencing like individuals in our lives. What are they actually experiencing, what do they need and being willing to ask ourselves, what am I willing to do about that.Because if that’s not where the conversation goes there will be no, there will be no plan or program or research that will ever be able to step into that 18 inch gap between us and say, How are you doing?

Rachel: That it’s funny to go back to what you’re saying about not, you know, the war on loneliness. There was a part of me because I tried to formulate titles during the conversation. And it was like, combating Louis. Oh no, that’s not a good title, nevermind. So, scratch that.

Cat: I mean, and that’s just me. That’s just those are the categories that our world hands us right

to do almost everything. Through and this is much more if we’re going to get into metaphors, go straight to the garden or, you know, with planting and nurturing and tending and pruning and seasons and because the goal is life. Right. The goal of wars is basically death and winning but the goal of, you know, some kind of gardening metaphor is so much more suited to relationships that are nurtured and grow. I mean, I developed. I had to develop an elaborate chicken metaphor. When I first started trying to get donors to try to describe what I was doing. And I’m like, I don’t know. I think we’re all weaving these nests and I guess I’m like a mother collector. And I’m like, like helping all the funky chickens like to feel welcomed into hatch and to fly and to make the road and gosh. The length. I’m going to describe what’s happening here.

Felicia: That you said that to me, my partner used to work for a restaurant that was chicken themed so he literally had I think they’re probably in this closet that I’m sitting in. He has shirts that say, motherfucker.

Felicia: But I think to your point, it’s so true. I think just as a society we are even taught. It’s just part of our fabric right that we were, we attack things we try to beat. We try to fight them, you know, I was thinking as you were talking about. The whole dynamic between cancer patients where there’s, I think it’s becoming more and more of a conversation where there are people who are sort of at the end of life stages where they’re saying, I’m not gonna fight cancer and kick its ass because that will not make my quality of life meaningful and if this is what it’s going to be. I’d rather give up in a sense, but give up. To enjoy more what I have the fullness and and i and then of course that’s not true for every situation and whatever that sort of the what I was thinking about as you were talking and it’s just, yeah, we’re so even with this code situation where, like, we have to beat it like and that’s this really dangerous narrative that’s floating out there like you we’re not scared of code. We’ve got to punch it down. It’s like, oh no, the virus doesn’t give a crap. If we’re scared of it or not, like, it’s just the thing.

Cat: But I really appreciate your point.

Felicia: It’s not about fighting loneliness. It’s about acknowledging it to start with and then figuring out what it is like, Where’s it coming from and how can we, how can we nurture people as opposed to make them feel like they’re failing. If they don’t fight it to the fullest extent that they quarter or would

Cat: Write like almost, you know, just creating a second path. And if there’s two there can be three. And if there’s three there cannot be but creating a different path for people to explore and you know, a second narrative that’s valid that they can see play out. And yeah, the idea of befriending our own loneliness and each other’s because it’s there for a reason. And the more we can see it as part of our experience, not as something to get off of us like, you know, to attack or make go away and be curious and say oh hey loneliness. Today, what’s going on man. What do you, what do you, what do you need like

Felicia: This is this moment where we cue Simon and Simon and Garfunkel

Cat: Seriously. Because you know it’s one of the things that, you know, loneliness, has been very stigmatized.And so that only deepens it if you feel like you can’t acknowledge it or talk about it. And what happens often is you go one of two ways is you either turn on yourself and say something’s wrong with me.  Or you turn on other people in the world and you say something’s wrong with everybody. Yeah. And the one or both.

Rachel: You can always do.

Felicia: Yeah.

Cat: I did both. I did.

Felicia: A lot of people do it to be really

Cat: Honest. Yeah.

Rachel: Are you an only child

Cat: I was not. I had an older brother who was five years older than me. But I think because of the gender gap and the age gap. And who knows, whatever other gaps. I have very few memories of him and me together. And it wasn’t until we both became adults and he actually lives in San Diego is telling you

Rachel: Throw this

Cat: One, I forgot. Sorry. Yeah. No, no worries Copa brain now. Yeah, I still blame everything on my mom brain. Like used to be valid way like for the first two years when I was still like nursing and I’m like, why biology’s all jacked up 10 years like mom brain so

Rachel: I know it’s in because I’m an only child and you know pride pride myself on how much I love being alone. And it’s just such an interesting time. Now I think about how I am literally shocked at how important human connection is. Is and how much we were taking for granted, those little moments like especially I think after like the first few weeks when, if you go out to like

you know, a grocery store or whatever and you would, you know, there would be someone else. And everyone’s messed up. But then if you saw somebody face, like if you were distant but saw someone’s face and had a conversation from a safe distance I just remember having that for the first time with someone who I didn’t know a stranger and felt elated. After that experience. And I was like, wow, human connection. I think so much more appreciated now than it ever was. And it leads me to one of the questions I had, which is sort of the silver lining that I’m taking from this as well, sort of forced to to literally stay apart and finding all these new ways to be connected. Do you see that there are any positive sides to what’s been happening.

Cat: Yeah, I’m, I love, I love that story that you have and I, yeah, I have seen that within myself but also just around me and the people that I work with kind of an awakening right to almost like you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Right. And I think that a lot of people are also taking this step to realize like, oh gosh, I guess there’s been a lot of people who have been lonely before covering it and this is what it feels like. So it’s created an empathy bridge to populations. That is just more isolated, think of people in retirement homes. Single parents are people living in remote areas. And the list goes on. People working three jobs, you know, with no time to really connect meaningfully with people in their lives. But yeah, I have seen so many Silver Linings this season has given me even more motivation and hope for what’s possible for us. As we keep moving through this you know uncharted territory together. I’ve seen people really start to get pretty existential and really, kind of like take stock of their own lives. How they had been living and why where they’re currently at and where they want to go. And I think this time and space is just surfacing a lot of things because of our business. And preoccupations, and just habits. We never attempted to write and often because taking stock in that way and paying attention to those may be buried social needs or buried life purposes that just didn’t fit in our schedules. You know, giving space to those. Now, I think, is creating like a re prioritization of people’s lives and people are actually a lot more willing to take risks in those directions I think kovats created this like In in certain ways an equalizing effect where your bosses and every industry like no one’s exempt like everybody is having to shelter at home, you know, for the most part, everyone’s having to navigate changing social relationships. And so people I think are more willing because everything has been flattened temporarily at least they’re like, well, now’s the time to be awkward and join a new meetup, because everyone’s having to do it. So I think that there’s also been an increased willingness to experiment as well as a re prioritizing of people’s lives, mainly around relationships.

Rachel: Yep, I totally, I totally agree with that.

Felicia: Yeah, I was thinking, too, in terms of, you know, the interactions that we all have on a daily basis, even if we’re single or not partnered or don’t have roommates, whatever. There’s still those little moments where it might be, if you take public transportation, for example, like I know that there are people on the bus on the train, who I don’t know who they are, but they’re like my commute buddies. Right. And if they’re not, they’re almost like Starbucks. Right. Oh, where’s this person today. Or if you get your coffee from somewhere. There’s the person who works there who you kind of know where the front desk person or all those millions of little tiny interactions that make up that fabric of our social being in relationships. And then when that gets taken away. It’s really, it’s really a lot, you know, to just realize, Oh, I haven’t talked to someone in person. Or haven’t seen anyone else beyond my immediate family for how who knows how long. But I’m interested because I think that Rachel and I have seen this sort of almost like a little bit of a mini roller coaster with how people are reacting in terms of looking at this as an opportunity or too much initially. Everyone was sort of panicking and scrambling and then it was like Okay, great. Now, the world is at our fingertips. We can talk to anyone and be anywhere and do all the things and do all the meetups and see all the people virtually and I think now we’re, what does it end of May. We’re starting to see the downturn, a little bit where people were like zoom fatigue is real. I’m tired of being on my computer. I’m tired of being on video. I don’t want to see myself anymore. Let’s go back to the phone calls. So I’m really, I would love to hear from you in terms of your own experience because you’re doing so much and doing so much in this particular really weird intense time. And so, so many of us are feeling drained. Can you share how you personally stay motivated, do the work and to stay so present and so thoughtful around all this.

Cat: Sure, I just live on Twizzlers. But my son really wants to live on Twizzlers being from school.

Rachel: Can make a recommendation because I love Twizzlers. But only only really in one circumstance doesn’t really exist anymore, which is going to the movies, but

Cat: They’re totally a movie.

Rachel: They are movie food, but what I love. And Felicia knows this is I love having a Twizzlers and popcorn because you get the sweet and the salty. And so I just go back and forth.

Cat: This is the, this is the best, most balanced strategy.

Felicia: About once

Rachel: Again,

Cat: Yeah. But seriously, yeah. So yes, that is the trend that I’m seeing right where and that’s like the pendulum swing, we see that in all kinds of circumstances in life. Right. And so I think as this continues on. People will increasingly be trying to endlessly. Find the balances. Right. And so I think just part of the strategy, so that we don’t feel maybe like at the mercy of this weird unknown future is I try to like reorient back into like what are like the things throughout human history that humans have done to like stay rooted and grounded and joyful and to kind of like bullying in to some ancient practices that have just been like time tested and to create intentionally create like a balanced rhythm for yourself, regardless of what happens with your job or your economic future. Like all of these huge unknown things. I feel like if we can create even a mini set of rituals or rhythms for ourselves that keeps us connected to our bodies connected to our minds and healthy ways connected to our emotions connected to our physical environment and to each other. That’s one way that we can ensure we’re not just going to be completely tossed about by what’s going on. And I think it’s a very under used muscle group that most of us have to develop practices around being alone and doing that well without having it tip into massive anxiety or all kinds of fear or you know, crippling loneliness. But I think building some space to say no, it is, it can actually be extremely healthy to be alone and to use that. Well, um, so I feel like we kind of need a strategy for ourselves. That’s keeping us grounded, apart from like whatever other people are doing with zooming and otherwise. And so for myself. Yeah, I just, I feel like a lot of it is.

Rachel: Oh. We went from losing.

Felicia: Last year.

Rachel: We went from losing video to losing audio and it is definitely not the most flattering frozen picture. Will be cutting this part out. But I might take a screen grab of it because it’s kind of hilarious. Let me get that okay capture. Good. Thank goodness for the beauty of editing.

Felicia: Oh my gosh.

Rachel: You’re doing okay.

Felicia: I am. It’s just, 

Cat: Sorry, guys.

Rachel: No, it’s okay. And also, I know that we’re totally out of time. We have a few minutes. We have a few more questions. Do you have time. If yes, great. If not, totally understand. 

Cat: No, I do. But I should let you know I have to call zoom because I did a reunion to click that one month mark. I was not meeting together on Tuesday, and I got kicked out of zoom like 10 times in that meeting. Have you guys been having trouble with zoom?

Rachel: I mean, I’ve had trouble with their customer support. Yeah. So good light.

Cat: Yeah, I don’t know why I keep getting kicked out. So now I’m kind of worried like, it’s going to do it again. But like, why don’t we just try to do what we can do.

Felicia: Yeah, no worries and and I totally lost track of time so didn’t

Rachel: Have a great conversation. I think that our listeners will really get a lot of value from it. And the last three questions. We have I think are also very valid so that the last two can be very quick, but just really quickly, I would love to ask. Um, can you share any advice you have for people who are looking to create a work culture where people click and how people can begin to do that work, whether you know now we’re in a post coven world.

Cat: Yeah, absolutely. And I would say, like the number one thing is to make sure that you’re starting where you actually are from within yourself, and in the space that you’re already in

with the people you’re already around as opposed to saying what kind of systems or programs or events can we create to facilitate this I think starting one on one is the number one thing by embodying the kinds of dynamics we hope will permeate a culture. It’s like deciding to show up as you are, and create a space between you and another person that invites them to show up in their full humanity and have like a genuine three minute interaction. So get real and get tiny is the principle there.

Rachel: I love it.

Felicia: So looking ahead. What’s the big vision for you?

Rachel: Oh my gosh.

Cat: Hold on to your seats. Domination.

Rachel: So she says,

Felicia: Why aim low go for the big box, you know?

Cat: Because I want to like we were saying, I want to attack and dominate. Um, no. I mean, gosh, like I really, I really try to proceed with, you know, who is actually on my horizon that I am

responsible to serve and care for and I kind of never know. I mean like if you asked me 10 years ago, like I would have been able to, like, you know, like to be the director of belonging. I mean, I just can’t ever predict my life. But what I will say is that I have become increasingly convinced that I like who I am. I think I can be of the most service and help by moving more into media spaces. I am trying desperately to finish a book proposal this month. Starting a podcast and I hope to have a TV show, and that is not because I’m interested at all in being on camera or having this be about me like I actually hate all of that.

Rachel: I mean, your hair is going to appreciate

Cat: The one, the one thing that seals the deal. Maybe, but it’s because I think what is missing. The could be so enormously helpful is saying this is an ongoing conversation that everyone has a right to participate in that we need all voices at the table. Everyone has wisdom and solutions for their own life within them, and we need to create a conversation space that refuses to stop talking until every voice is heard. And so I feel like we don’t have a sustained conversation.

That has normalized this as a normal human need, and that is actually incentivized participating in this kind of conversation as, like, whoa, you’re taking care of yourself and those around you, rather than stigmatizing it so I want to create like a joyful fun experiential space for anyone to enter into without having to be part of a certain organization or sign up for a certain class or that sort of thing so fast. 

Rachel: Cat, you’re speaking our language, we had to do some stuff together. And yeah, I love that.

Cat: And my hair come

Rachel: Oh, I would be upset if it didn’t.

Felicia: Tip to invitation. One for you and one for your hair.

Cat: Yes.

Rachel: Your hair will be your plus one. That’s hilarious. And then our final question which we love to ask all of our guests. What are you currently getting out about that has nothing to do with your job or work.

Cat: Oh my gosh, you guys. Where do I begin?

Rachel: Other than Twizzlers.

Cat: I bet you guys there is a candy problem happening in this House, and it’s not my son’s it’s my brother. Um, I mean I’m fairly obsessed with tiny houses. I desperately want a cabin in the woods, tiny house and all the fixings right like all of the forest creatures that go along with a tiny house. The Lumberjack husband. That goes up, but he was emotionally with it. You know all the poetry that goes with it and I’m pretty obsessed with Mary Oliver. I don’t know if you know her. She’s amazing. She just passed, not that long ago. And drawing I draw a lot of a lot of strange cartoons.

Rachel: It was like pencil drawing painting. We’ll talk about that as well.

Cat: Those are my. Those are my geeky things

Rachel: I love that. Oh my gosh. Cat, you’re incredible

Cat: Oh, you guys. I’m so grateful to get to know you and talk about these things with you and discover the work you’re doing. So let’s just help the humans.

Rachel: Above it

Felicia: I love that. What a great note to end on to.

Rachel: You guys, thank you so much.