Whoa! Thank you, WOW WOMAN: EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN AND THEIR STORIES for the beautiful feature this week! I'm pasting bits of the interview below, but you can read the whole thing and see all of the other incredibly diverse and powerful women that they have featured by clicking HERE! I’m so honored to be in their company!
SARAH HAYS COOMER: AUTHOR, SPEAKER, HEALTH COACH, DIET ABOLITIONIST, PEACEMAKER, ANIMAL LOVER, SOFTIE PERSONAL TRAINER
Ms. Sarah Hays Coomer’s incredibly diverse and rich background affords her a unique insight into human character especially when matched with a wondrous ability to write compelling books and connect with people. Ms. Coomer pulled herself out of trying situations, learned, evolved, and persevered. “The two things that were most impactful in pulling me out of that ditch were my female friendships and a deep, abiding reverence for simple pleasures”, she writes.
I felt welcome in Ms. Coomer’s cozy home, her sanctuary. As we chatted and I snapped away, I saw hints of Sarah’s past lives in the photographs and posters on the walls, but mostly I felt kindness and warmth emanating from this WOW Woman.
Where is your hometown?
I am forever split between Nashville, TN and Los Angeles, CA. My home, my family, my life, and everything I own are in Nashville, but I found my footing in Los Angeles in my twenties and it is the place I always go back to in order to root back in and ground myself.
What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
There were no straight lines for the first ten years of my adult life. I worked as a cocktail waitress, a street performer, a wholesale fruit and vegetable "salesgirl," a personal assistant, an actress, a bartender, a singer, an anime voiceover actor, a record store cashier, an office temp, a human resources coordinator, and finally a personal trainer. I had an Americana band called The Cash Diners and put out a solo record as well. I lived in New York City, L.A., Chicago for half a minute, and Nashville. In L.A., I lived in eight different places over the course of one year before landing in an apartment that finally became home. My heart has always been in the arts, but how that drive expresses itself has changed over time from theater to music to books to consulting.
I spent much of my early life fighting against myself: my body, my passions, my impatience, my insecurities. I reached a turning point around 25 when I decided to prioritize peace and balance over appearances or achievements. It clued me into my present state of mind and allowed me to be a lot more focused on others... though the process took another ten years to really settle. That shift turned out to be rare in the health and wellness space. I'm proud of writing and publishing two books in three years, but I'm even more proud of the love I've found for my body and everyone else's human bodies. It's pretty spectacular to live (mostly) free of judgment that way. I'm teaching mindfulness and wellness initiatives in corporate and nonprofit settings now and absolutely love that work. It's so affirming to see how much we all have in common and how powerful our bodies and minds are if we just give them a chance.
Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?
I was engaged to be married when I was 21-years-old. Three weeks before the wedding and one week before my college graduation, my fiance broke up with me via voicemail. It obliterated my confidence just as I was heading out into the adult world. Our love was consuming, and I was totally blindsided. I lost faith in pretty much everyone's ability to tell the truth and—worse—lost faith in my own judgment. It sent me into a tailspin of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders that lasted for years. What I didn't realize at the time was that I had handed my self-worth over to him, so when he decided to cut bait and run, I was left gutted by the side of the road. It was an awful experience, but it also forced me to do a lot of really valuable work that paid off in the end.
The two things that were most impactful in pulling me out of that ditch were my female friendships and a deep, abiding reverence for simple pleasures. I was a guy's girl in high school and college, but it was the women in my life who picked me up and kept me sane when I was at my lowest. And I developed rituals of walking, hiking, breathing, watching leaves fall, snuggling with animals, seeing concerts, and—eventually—enjoying food... little tiny celebrations of life boosted my mood and ultimately—I don't say this lightly—that approach changed my life.
Advice for other women?
My best advice is to take just a fraction of the respect you lavish on the women you love and admire and slather it all over yourself, your body, your work, your contributions. Your body is your greatest teacher. It will tell you when you are out of whack, and it will offer clues for what to do next. If you can learn to listen to it, you will find what invigorates you and what beats you down.
Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about micro-aggressions against marginalized communities, and many people (myself included) are waking up to the fact that we have unknowingly perpetuated those cultural norms over the years. But a lot of women are still missing the fact that we also commit micro-aggressions against our own bodies and our personal power every day when we apologize for how we look, when we shrink from opportunities or relationships because we think we aren't good enough, when we starve or stuff ourselves in an attempt to control our diets, or neglect to hear the messages our bodies are sending that we need more or less movement. It's an enormous challenge to show up everyday in our bodies and to treat them with respect, but it's also a fun personal challenge... to dance with how it feels to dress and move freely in situations we would have tried to manipulate or control in the past. We do a lot of harm by discounting ourselves, and we can change the course of history by changing the ways we perceive ourselves and the ways we interface with the world. As I wrote in Physical Disobedience: "Taking care of our bodies is a form of political action."