Zibby Owens: Welcome again, Sheri, to “Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books” take two. [laughs]
Sheri Salata: Hi, everybody. Oh, my gosh. I'm so happy to be here with you.
Zibby: I'm so happy you're here. This is so fun.
Sheri: It’s an honor. You've had all the big authors on this show. I'm just a little first-timer with my little publication day today. I'm so happy to be here.
Zibby: It’s so special to interview you on your pub day. Thanks for making the time today. It’s really awesome, and for showing me how to set up this little tripod so we can now have video as well as audio, up close and personal.
Sheri: Look at this room. My goodness.
Zibby: Now we have a view of the door.
Sheri: This is the dream room.
Zibby: Thank you. The Beautiful No, tell me about this book. I know because I read it. Tell listeners how did you come up with the idea for this book? What inspired you to write it? What is it really about?
Sheri: Really, what inspired me to write it was a conversation that I had with my publisher who’s also my editor, Karen Rinaldi, at Harper Wave. She felt like I had something to say and that I had a story to tell. Certainly, I had a front-row seat to all the most prolific wisdom-keepers of our time. I had the ride of my life. I found myself at fifty-six realizing that, with a rough, rocky start in my twenties, but by thirty-five I had finally manifested the beginnings of the career of my dreams. At fifty-six, the reckoning I had to do was that I hadn’t manifested the life of my dreams. One area, being someone else's something, someone's mother, someone's employee, someone's spouse or partner, that does not a full life make. I had to have a real moment with myself. I had to say, listen, I deserve to live the life of my dreams. Nobody knows more about making dreams come true than me.
Zibby: Live your best life.
Sheri: Right. It’s high time I start doing that. That's kind of what the book is about. It’s lots of stories on my adventures along the way, the little gems that I've put in my treasure box, things that have become my spiritual foundation and the beginning of a reimagination of the middle of life.
Zibby: I loved how when you were writing it, I could really see you. You'll be like, “I closed my journal. That was enough for today.” I felt like I was in it with you, like you were using the book to help yourself and we got to come along with you.
Sheri: I'm so glad. Here's the truth. I come to this conversation with you filled with humility. I'm really only talking to myself. When I have a conversation like this, with you or even when Nance and I talk to people on our podcast, I'm inspiring myself. This is all I want to talk about. How do we elevate our lives? How do we have full-on joyride that all of us are dreaming of? What are the little practices we can put in every day that's really going to catapult us to that life of our dreams we say we want to live? I need inspiration. I need reminders. I need tools. I need to make this conversation part of my everyday vibrational atmosphere. I'm really just having the conversation with myself.
Zibby: I'm going to eavesdrop on your conversation. I'm going to be a fly on the wall.
Sheri: What it does, though, it’s so unbelievable to me how it lands on other women. It’s almost like we’re so all in this together. We just need to somebody to say, “I know I had the big, crazy, glamourous, fabulous job, but it’s not enough. I didn't make all the right choices. I don't always put myself first. I am shitty at boundaries. I need to really learn how to love and treasure myself so the second half of my life are even more glorious days than the ones I've already lived.”
Zibby: During this book, you somehow discover this new business of yours that you've launched. I love how you wove it in. Now it’s this whole big thing. Tell me about The Pillar Life’s beginnings.
Sheri: Nancy Hala is one of my BFFs for thirty years. She was my pal in Chicago. She was the Friday night chardonnay friend. We had our own two-person, little book club, which you'll appreciate.
Zibby: I appreciate it.
Sheri: We'd go to Barbara’s Bookstore in Old Town. We'd get our book signed, Kaye Gibbons, Wally Lamb. Those were the days. Then we'd go have our chardonnay. We'd have a chat. She was married. I was single. When men would come up to buy us drinks, we'd be like, “Away with you, sir. We’re having our book club.” So crazy. She and I were both at this crossroad. I had the big, huge job and very little else. She was a freelance business writer and had raised these two fantastic kids, but we both had similar longings. What if this is only halfway? What are we doing with ourselves now? Are we retiring? Is this all we get? We both want soulmate love. We both want health and vitality and wellness. We both want a really solid spiritual foundation. Even though our dream lives looked different, we decided that were going to shift our relationship to become super intentional. We were going to inspire each other and support each other and uplift each. That was going to be our business. We were going to literally figure out a guidance system to help us stay on track for everything that we said we wanted. That's when The Pillar Life was born. It was so crazy.
Zibby: Now you have a whole website. You have all your pillars spelled out. I was looking. Do I get to pick and choose what I need help with?
Sheri: You can do whatever you want. Here's what I know for sure. Oh, my god. I can't believe I just said that, [laughter] a little tribute to Oprah. After many, many, many fits and starts in my life and trying everybody's programs -- I had closets full of books and programs and memberships and things. What I've realized now, and this may seem fairly obviously once I say it, but nobody’s else program is going to work for me. I need to be the creator of my own program. I’ll take bits of wisdom from you, and you, and you, and this piece, this tip, this practice. I’ll try this. I’ll sample things. At the end of the day, at a certain point, we all have to become the experts of our own lives. With have to. There's nobody else that's going to come on. As much as I wanted it, as much as I prayed for it, as much as I searched and searched and searched for the expert who was going to be the expert on me, nobody is. That must mean that I'm supposed to be. That is really the shift that I made three years ago.
Zibby: Now you're helping others. You even have this whole workbook I saw where you can craft your dream quest. It’s so action focused. It sounds like you just want to help people through what you've been through, which is amazing.
Sheri: If it’s valuable to other people, I say read the book. Download the free companion workbook. If the language resonates with you, if it stirs your spirit, then maybe it'll be super helpful.
Zibby: Do you find yourself at all sliding into some of the other habits with your big, old job with Oprah and the whole rest of it now that you're focused on this?
Sheri: Totally. One of the things that really caused a lot of struggle for me and caused a lot of unhappiness, quite frankly, was the idea that I was going to sort this out perfectly, that every day I was going to be so perfect, but I could only hang onto perfection for this much time. Then two, three weeks, two months, six months until I run the half-marathon. Then it would all fall to pieces because I was almost white knuckling it. A couple things that I did that might be helpful to other people but certainly is changing the game for me is finding that tender voice, that compassionate, understanding tender voice, and using that voice in my head instead of the critical, “You're unworthy. You look really fat in that. That was a stupid thing to say. You'll never do this,” that voice that somehow gets automatic play when you don't pay attention to it.
So tender voice, and then really understanding that it’s going to be a game of net-net, meaning there's a month when I will make eight steps forward. Everything is humming, my meditation, my plant-based eating. My workouts are going great. I'm easily able to reach for great-feeling thoughts and stay in a really high-energy mode. Then all of a sudden, I’ll just be drowning in cheese and chardonnay for two days. I used to do that for long periods of time. It’s two days and say, gosh, it’s so interesting. I really don't feel that well by the second day. I'm a little despondent. Things look a little blue or gray. Then I go, okay, we made this many steps forward. We took three steps back, but it’s a four-step game. If I'm going to be unconscious, which I will be because I'm a human being, it’s going to be for two days, not two years.
Zibby: I had a similar moment the other day. I've been trying to -- what happens if I don't eat a lot of sugar? Then of course, I had a cupcake. I was like, I blew it. Then I was like, oh, my gosh. One cupcake? Last week I would've had maybe three cupcakes. At least I ate it slowly. Do you know what I mean? It’s all about the progress. I would've had a lot more cupcakes last week. At least I had one. Every week it’s something else.
Sheri: For sure, and also using being a little sweeter. “Oh, my goodness. Don't be so silly. Let's keep going. Go have a glass of water.”
Zibby: You had so many funny things in your book. You said that Waze, for you, is a world-class rut buster. I loved that. Can you explain that a little more?
Sheri: Here's what I think happens to us. If you're a little bit older, like in your forties and fifties, here's my cautionary note to one and all. You might not even know you're in a big, fat rut. I sure didn't. I had moved to a new city, LA. I had been doing this job at OWN for five years since the show had ended. You don't know that you're in a rut because when you're in a rut, you've got canyon-y sides on either side of you. You've got to get out of your rut to go, oh, my god, I was in a rut. What was so funny in LA was I didn't know where I was going. I couldn't get from here to there without an app on my phone. Otherwise, it would've been old-fashioned with paper maps out all over the place. I didn't know where anything was.
Zibby: I moved to LA after college. I had a Thomas Guide. Do you even know that is?
Zibby: It was a book with spiral bound. I would go a few feet. Then I would pull over. Then I'd have to flip the page of the Thomas Guide and get to another page on the map. Then I'd get on the 10. Then I’d pull over. Oh, my gosh.
Sheri: You know what I'm saying.
Zibby: Now I'm like, this is the greatest invention ever.
Sheri: The great thing about Waze is it never took me the same place the same way. I was like, why aren't we going that way, Waze? I couldn't go the old way because I couldn't remember how to do it. I'd have to go the new way. That's when I realized at a certain point once you're out of your twenties and if you have children, you're done having them, and you've had the first grade, the second grade, the third grade, all of a sudden there's not a whole lot new coming into your life, new experiences. That feeling of newness, that's the lifeforce, my friends. That's the “Oh, my god. Life is so delicious.” You've got to feed yourself those new experiences. That's one I know.
Waze got me thinking about that. Then I signed up and I took an Italian class. I was the worst one. I went to knife skills class at Sur La Table. I was the worst one. What I could feel was in my brain. The energy of my body was now flowing more forcefully. I called it fresh joy. Wow, there's so much to do in life in a way that I think that I was maybe in a rut, maybe borderline depressed. It was just same old, same old. Make coffee the same way. I drive to the store the same way. I'm so habitual and patterned. I don't even realize how routinized I've made my life.
Zibby: Tell me also about your passion for your English bulldogs. You had this great chapter in the book about -- is this a bad topic?
Sheri: No. It’s a good one. I wrote about Kissy, Kissy the underdog. I have two English bulldogs, Bella, who I adopted when she was a baby. She was eleven weeks old. Then two years later, I adopted her mother. There was a series of coinkidinks and mystical things that happened. She was really a farm animal, not a puppy mill. She was a farm animal. She wasn’t a pet. All of a sudden, I was the EP of The Oprah show, and I have this farm animal that I have to help become a real princess.
Zibby: I love how you asked a doctor if you could do plastic for her underbelly. They were like, no. It was too expensive or whatever.
Sheri: She arrived, and all her nipples were dragging on the ground. Holy moly. I don't think I've ever even seen anything like this. We live in the city. What am I going to do? Strap her up with an English bulldog puppy bra? This is so terrible. When I asked the vet, “Are there any procedures that can be done?” The vet looked at me. She goes, “That would be like a massive mastectomy.” That doesn't sound like that's a good thing to do to a dog. Eventually, her body sprang back into shape. For those of you who are animal people and have pets, my Bella and Kissy, I look at them as my little Buddha Zen masters. They bring forth things in me that nobody else could. Wherever I go when I'm with them, I'm always in a space of unconditional love, freely given from me and received from them. Even if I don't do that perfectly in my human relationships, that unconditionality, at least I have a way to surround myself with that full time.
Zibby: You should do a children's book, Bella and Kissy.
Sheri: Oh, my gosh. I should! Wouldn't that be good?
Zibby: Right? It would be amazing.
Sheri: They're super cute too.
Zibby: The mom comes to visit. I can see the whole thing.
Sheri: Good idea.
Zibby: We can come back to that later. You had this great line about the way that age fifty-six looks on different people. I still think you could really do this with forty-two because I feel like I can see the differences already. You wrote, “You can tell by the way we move, by the way we talk, and the language we use. You can tell by the way we dress. You can tell by our energies, the smile in our eyes, or the listless, exhausted state of disappointment.” What you're saying is how it looks different on everybody and how these are the things that make you tell people apart. There's this whole you've-been-to-the-ball-and-had-your-chance moment that is just written on people's faces. How do you think people get there? I know the pillars are sort of the answer to this. When you're in it and you have the walls and you know you're in this disappointed state, what are little things people can do?
Sheri: First of all, I'm going to say to all of you who have human children that I have enormous compassion for you because children truly do put you in a state of aging. You start with a little baby. Next thing you know, they're five feet, six feet tall. You can't help but compare yourself on the human aging plane to them. You're surrounded by proof that you're aging constantly. I can kind of forget about it. Bella and Kissy look the same as they did ten years ago. I'm not as reminded constantly about that. That's something to be aware of.
Zibby: I would also say, though, I'm so focused on my kids aging that sometimes I don't look up. Sometimes with my little guy, you're so looking down. You see other people. Then you're like, oh, my gosh. Where have the last twelve years gone?
Sheri: Right. That's another issue too.
Zibby: Oh, my lord. That's not how I feel in my head. I feel like I look twenty-eighty, but I'm not. [laughs]
Sheri: Here's the thing I think is really interesting. You talk to women who are eighty-five. They still feel like they're twenty-five too. That is always going to be our state of being. If you feel like you are one of those women who are cloaked in disappointment, you feel let down by life, you feel like you're out of gas, I would say this, excavate, create, cast. Create that tender voice. Begin to coax yourself to little practices, little things, little victories, little wins. What you're trying to do is you're trying to stir the hope pot. You're trying to get the energy of a little bit of hope going in your life. Once you get that little bit of fire started, all of a sudden, maybe I could do this. Maybe I could make a new recipe. Maybe I could go for a walk after dinner. Maybe I could have four glasses of water. Gosh, I feel so much better when I'm hydrated. Maybe I can take a hot bath. Maybe I can read a new book. All of a sudden, those dreams, they can start really small. The recipe for failure is to go so over the top that you feel like it’s impossible, creating more stress on yourself. Just a little bit of hoping stirring, you want to do. One thing leads to another. Pretty soon, you're like, wow. What else can I do?
Zibby: You revealed in your book that you had been in denial of dealing with a lot of your own stuff for a very, very long time. Yes, you have this book that you have to write. How do you think you were finally able to access all this stuff that you had smooshed down over the years? What let you, at that point of life, let it all come out? Dealing with the death of your brother and things that you maybe didn't have the bandwidth to focus on at the time or grieve then, what let you do it then?
Sheri: There were so many things that I had been unconscious about or I had shelved or put in drawers for another day. “I’ll deal with that another day.” I had massive weight issues. The sudden death of my brother, I completely compartmentalized and went in survival mode. My mom was dying of cancer for five years during that as well. I had a big, big job. It was easy for me to use that job, that all-massive, beautiful, sparkly job to go unconscious about everything else because at least I had that. The beginning of being willing to tenderly look at the rest of my life and say okay, let's go, was really a little bit of a sense of fear.
As Nancy and I were crafting what our company, what our work together was going to be, we both said it’s never too late to live the life of your dreams. We believe that. Then in parens, if not now, when? If not now, when? For me, I would ruminate on that. I would keep saying that over in my head. I'd say it’s never too late to live the life of your dreams. If not now, when? Then I would whisper to myself, and if not now, maybe never. This is what we have. We have this now. You have to decide. If you're feeling disappointment and a little broken and tired and that feeling of being out of gas and there is no more new for you, let's say that you're lucky enough and you're eighty-five and eighty-eight and ninety, you never want to say to yourself, why didn't I do that? Once I really had that decision and I was willing to become more conscious, why didn't I? That's the emotional background on how you can make that possible.
Zibby: I recently read, I think it was Katie Arnold’s memoir Running Home, but it was another book where they were dealing with their kids. It was some horrible situation. She says, “Someday, we’re going to laugh about this.” The husband says, “It might as well be today.” She thinks about that all the time. Why wait to laugh? Let's just make it in the moment. It’s a different approach to the everyday moments.
Sheri: There's also something about when you're getting ready to take a good hard look. What are the griefs you haven't processed? For me, it was my brother’s death. I went into survival mode. He had four kids, a beautiful wife. My parents were devastated. I had to go back to work because it was season twenty-four of The Oprah Show. I saved that chapter for last because it wasn’t writing a chapter about how I had processed something. I was going to have to write the chapter about him to process that grief. I kept putting it off. I'd be like, let's write that chapter about John today. Nope. Not today. Not happening today. Finally, I'm out of time. I have to sit down. I have to do it. It was deep and dense and painful and cataclysmic, as I knew it would be. That's the ride to the other side.
Zibby: I love that. That's so nice. Do you find time to read?
Sheri: I do.
Zibby: When do you read?
Sheri: I read a little nonfiction before I go to bed. I don't want to get immersed in a huge story of fiction. I did make an exception for City of Girls, Liz Gilbert’s new book. She's a dear friend.
Zibby: I have not read that yet.
Sheri: It’s such a good summer romp. It’s fantastic. I'm reading everybody who shares a book birthday with me. It’s been fun.
Zibby: Nicola Harrison and Lisa Barr also have books that come out today, The Unbreakables and Montauk.
Sheri: Oh, really? I'm going to read those. I'm going to read everybody on my same book birthday. I'm really, really enjoying that. I go back and reread.
Zibby: You do? That's interesting.
Sheri: I do. I go back and reread my favorites over time. I'm a big fan of the Gore Vidal series, the Lincoln series, the civil war stuff. I love to read that.
Zibby: Impressive. That's tough to read before bed.
Sheri: I know. Little bits.
Zibby: What's coming next for you? Any other books? You're going to write the children's book I mentioned.
Sheri: Yeah. Let's talk about that. We’ll talk about that after. You can guide me on it. That's a great idea. I'm going to enjoy this. Nancy and I have big plans for The Pillar Life. We’re putting together a proposal for a whole series of Pillar Life books and inviting in all these great experts that we've discovered for ourselves. Maybe I will. I just moved to a small town. Big city girl, I just moved to small valley town. I'm planting my own crops. I might write about that. Who knows? I might do some writing about that. Our podcast is super fun. We love doing it, “The Sheri + Nancy Show.” People call. I'm happy to consider opportunities and things. I finally understand that you can do what you love, with people you love, for people you love. It can be super easy.
Zibby: That's very inspiring. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors who are sitting down now to try to do what you did?
Sheri: I will say to aspiring authors, this was very hard for me. The first year, I was a year late on delivery. What it was changed about three times. Without the unwavering, compassionate heart of Karen Rinaldi, my publisher, I probably would've just shelved the whole thing. I had my producer, perfectionist thing. I kept getting a little jangled by how deep I had to go. I'm like, god, I'm going to feel like I don't have any skin on when I go walking around the world.
Zibby: That's what made it so good.
Sheri: I'm so glad.
Zibby: Those are the best parts.
Sheri: I skinned myself a little bit. We’ll see.
Zibby: That's awesome. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books” and for sharing your story with everybody.
Sheri: Hi, moms. Hi, everybody. Really, I'm so honored you asked me. It was so great to be with everybody.
Zibby: You too. Thanks for coming.