“Trust your gut.” I’ve gotten this advice from so many people that it’s difficult to point to a single person who has helped me get as far as I’ve gotten with that goal.
Asa part of our series about women shaking things up in their industry, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gloria Squitiro.
Gloria Squitiro is published in Harper’s, See Beyond and Medium magazines and is the author of the bestselling May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision: The Side Effects of Bravery, the first in the three-book C’mon Funk memoir series. The second title, C’mon Funk, Move Your Ass: How a Demure Little Wife Made Her Husband a Big-City Mayor, publishes May 24, 2023.
Gloria dreams of building an Artist Healing Retreat Center on the Big Island of Hawaii someday.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you better. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up in a really weird house.
I came into this world knowing things. I don’t know how I knew, only that I did. This didn’t go over so well in my New York Italian home. Girls in my family didn’t get to have a voice, and they certainly didn’t know things. Only special people knew things. Special, meaning males.
It has taken me a lifetime of therapy to untangle my childhood. To overcome my superstitions. To release my anxiety born from not being heard. To cope with insecurities from unmet emotional needs. To free myself of self-doubt.
My earliest memory of rejecting intuition dates back to when I was two years old. Our family doctor came to the house to remove my newborn brother’s shriveled-up umbilical cord. I was so scared of that thing. When the doctor left, something told me I shouldn’t look in the trash can. Yet, already doubting my gut, I looked. And there was the cord, back to frighten me.
I began sensing spirits hanging about when I was around four or five. My parents believed ghosts could control people. On the one hand, the idea of ghosts terrified them, but on the other, they revered people who could see them. My Uncle Carl was one of those people. Not me. Because what little girl could be powerful or special? So it was that I suffered the spirits alone.
Returning from the bathroom one night, I saw a man standing against the back wall of my bedroom. I was so petrified I couldn’t scream. When my voice finally returned, the sound was so bloodcurdling that my father was instantly at my side, searching for the intruder. No one was there. And he didn’t get mad, which was strange because he usually popped off in a rage whenever disturbed.
Seeing that spirit was one of the biggest reasons I was afraid every moment of every day. I was terrified of going to sleep and even more terrified of waking in the dark. When I roused, I’d implore myself to keep my eyes closed. But sensing someone there, I couldn’t resist. Making a deal with myself, I promised I’d crack an eye and only look at my mattress. Which didn’t help, for there on my bed were all sorts of creepy things — like dried-up animal bones — scattered about me.
That’s when the story of the cherry man came to life. My little brother San and I shared a bedroom for ten years. Just outside our window stood a cherry tree. Every time the wind blew, the branches would scratch at our window and scare the shit out of us. Using this to my advantage, I told San that as soon as he fell asleep, a cherry man jumped down from the tree and danced a little jig on our windowsill. I even outfitted the guy with a top hat and cane, hoping the show would be exciting enough that San would stay up waiting for it to begin. Because if he was awake, then I could go to sleep, knowing there was a sentry on duty, unknowingly on the lookout for ghosts. That didn’t work, either. I was only five, which means he was only three, and what three-year-old could stay up all night?
I remember thinking when I turned ten, I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. I was. To soothe myself, I started planning my escape from the house of torture. I imagined being Cinderella, married to Prince Charming. But instead of Prince Charming, God gave me Funk, a six-foot-eight hick from West Vagina. He was nine years older than me, a professor at my college. After he deciphered one of my dreams, I was taken with him. Once he snagged me like that, we moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Soon after, my childhood girlfriend died. Laurie was nineteen, and her death sent me into a debilitating, four-year bout of anxiety. I ran through six therapists before finding one who could help. Ed said I had to find my voice. Let out all the things I wasn’t allowed to express as a child. Poor Funk suffered through my unleashing of twenty-four years’ worth of pent-up thoughts.
Now I was still anxious, but not like before. Funk and I returned to therapy for couples counseling to learn how to resolve arguments. Before long, I was solid enough in myself, and Funk and I were solid enough in our marriage, and we felt it was safe to bring children into the world. I gave birth to Tara and Andrew via unnecessary cesarean sections.
My C-sections motivated me to start my business, BirthWays, which focused on stopping the medical establishment from slicing women open for no good reason other than to add another trinket to some doctor’s already-swollen pocket. Healthcare providers looked at me as a terrible nuisance, and my colleagues viewed me as a renegade in the field. My business was a success. At a time when the cesarean rate had risen past 20 percent, the rate for my students was what you’d expect from nature, around 5 percent.
Since weird experiences followed me into adulthood, it’s become my mission, to be honest, and open about the inner workings of my anxious mind. Through my writing, I hope to inspire others to risk shaking things up with “real talk,” In doing so, they too will overcome anxiety and live a bigger, more carefree life. Find their strength, power, connection, and purpose, and become a New and Better Them!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I talk about the elephant in the room — subjects that remain ridiculously taboo. You are loved or hated whenever you put yourself out there like that. But if you’re not dealing with controversy, then you’re not talking about things that matter. While it’s difficult to be hated, I can’t seem to stop myself from speaking my truth. The good news is, since that truth is often darkly funny, and since I love bringing a smile to other people’s faces and lending them the encouragement they need to evolve to a higher place of peace and joy, it’s worth it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made is only funny in a sick sort of way. I honestly thought that others would believe you when you speak the truth. But people believe what they want to believe. And that goes for whether what they want to believe is good or bad.
Rumi’s friend, Shams Tabrizi, speaks to this oddity better than me, “Hypocrisy makes you ecstatic, drunken with the Presence you feel. Truth makes you sad, discouraged, empty.” To me, Sham’s quote is why many people hate fake news yet gravitate towards it.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I have never been able to be a follower, as much as I sometimes envy that ability in others. But since the Universe didn’t give me the luxury of black-and-white thinking, I’m destined to live in the gray areas, questioning everything and fighting off doubt when my intuition leads me to my truth.
So it is that I have few mentors.
My acupuncturist is the person I’ve learned the most from in all aspects of life. I’ve known Reiko since 1994. In the space of one summer, she cured my son of an ailment that Western Medicine had been unable to resolve for three years. In fact, he was becoming worse from the medications prescribed.
Some people feel I am too forthright, yet I look like an Angel compared to Reiko!
I was overweight when I brought my son to her, and she shamed me about my weight. Instead of thanking her for curing my son, while I did write her that thank you note, I added that I wished I never had need of her services again because of how mean she was.
Four months later, I ate those words and asked her to help me lose weight. With Reiko’s guidance, I shed the extra pounds, but even more importantly, she taught me how to walk what she calls the Wellness Path: living a quality life (mind, body, soul) versus just living life.
Luckily, with age, I’ve learned to be humble, stepping with kindness with anything I say that is considered unconventional. Because if I want to affect change, I have a greater chance of influencing people over to my way of thinking if I speak kindly.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I believe anything you do with love to disrupt a negative in the world is “good.” For example, fighting to reduce the number of unnecessary cesareans was fighting a good fight.
Currently, I see a disruptive trend that is gaining popularity. Yet, I feel it is very destructive: tossing people from your life instead of getting in the mud with them to resolve differences.
All intimate relationships go through periods of change and growth, and it’s usually never pretty as it’s happening.
Cutting people out of your life is the easy way out, and it creates a victim mentality. And where has living in victimhood ever led anyone except into a greater state of misery and despair?
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- From Reiko, as I complained about my upbringing and my parents continued hurtful behavior towards me as an adult, “Gloria, they gave you life, be grateful. Give, and don’t expect anything in return. That advice helped me not feel like a chump for continuing to give when I felt I wasn’t receiving what I needed. And now that my parents are gone, I have no regrets about what I did or didn’t do for them. That is a nice place to be.
- From my Italian ancestor guide, Paulo, “You are more like us (meaning, from the people further back in my generational line) than the family you grew up in. The sparkles you see are magic, and they are within you too. You will learn how to wield the sparkles for good.”
- “Trust your gut.” I’ve gotten this advice from so many people that it’s difficult to point to a single person who has helped me get as far as I’ve gotten with that goal.
I can say one thing, though, meditation, which I resisted like I should resist unhealthy foods, helped me intentionally connect with Spirit. And that, more than anything, has helped me trust that my gut has the correct answer for any perplexing situation I find myself in.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
There is an epidemic of loneliness in our country right now, and I believe it comes from people being afraid to share their innermost emotions. They’re all bottled up, and because of that, many people have gotten really mean.
I don’t like conflict, but I push myself to be who I am because being risk-averse is oftentimes making people be mean and lonely.
My hope is that through my books and newsletters, where I share almost everything there is to know about me, I will inspire others to risk being their authentic selves and perhaps be alone rather than keep themselves hidden. Feeling alone when you’re alone doesn’t feel great. But feeling lonely within a group is worse. I prefer being with people I love and adore and who love and adore me. I’d rather be alone any day, rather than experience the sick, depressed feeling I get in my gut whenever I’m in a group, yet remain unseen.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women disruptors are oftentimes undermined by both men and women. When we’re told we’re wrong, we tend to doubt ourselves.
When my husband, Funk, was running for mayor, he asked me to set up his campaign headquarters for him. One thing led to the other, and I ended up being his campaign manager by default. And guess what? We won!
This is an example of how I had to fight hard within myself not to be filled with self-doubt, i.e., diminished, by a very high-up male campaign worker.
The pace in the campaign headquarters was so great that everything concerning our family dynamics had changed. But I wasn’t moaning. Because aside from feeling guilty about neglecting my kids, I was having fun working on the campaign, especially with Joe. And surprisingly, I found I was sort of good at it, too, maybe because the field was mostly instinctual, and my instincts were pretty honed.
I put aside the task I’d planned to do that morning and contemplatedBritt’s newsletter instead. With his Word document open on my laptop, I clicked Track Changes and began the arduous process of editing. Britt popped his head in my door just as I was about to make the first change, so I gently closed the screen of my laptop.
“Any luck finding volunteers to write letters to the editor?” he asked.
I shrank in my seat. Withering was my initial reaction when I was in the presence of the Brain Trust because they had undermined me at every turn. They scoffed at any opinion I articulated — and there hadn’t been many — making me feel silly for speaking up. Funk’s managers thought the same way some doctors do — that you shouldn’t have a viewpoint unless you have “proper” training. It‘s such bullshit.
When I was in a doula role at the hospital and told the doctor — who typically arrived on the scene twenty hours after contractions had started and after I’d been up all night with the mom — where we were at with the labor, I typically got back “Do you have a medical degree?” I wanted to reply, “No, but with the baby’s head bulging out of our mutual client’s ass, I really don’t think I need one.” Yet, I didn’t utter a word for my clients’ sake because the poor women had enough to deal with.
I winced each time the Brainiacs made similar off-putting comments. But now I was done with that. When I was trying to fall asleep the previous night, I had one of those visions I sometimes get. A presence from above seemed to think I needed a shove, something to remind me that I had become a New and Better Me. Recalling the message, I “threw my glamour high” and said what needed to be said.
“We’re not asking volunteers to write letters to the editor, Britt.”
“No one said. Well, I guess I just said.”
He gave me a long look as if I were a moron, which means the same as being a woman to him. I explained my rationale when I couldn’t take him staring me down anymore.
“That’s a hundred-eighty degrees opposite of who Funk is. Besides, Funk doesn’t need to enlist people to write phony letters. Supporters are already professing their love for him, all on their own.”
“Gloria, I realize you and Mark are into transparency, but this is what the other campaigns are doing, and we need to keep ahead of the game.”
“But Britt, we’re not like other campaigns. Funk’s different. He’s not in this for personal gain or ego.”
“Gloria,” he said and then paused dramatically, “he’s got quite the ego.”
I laughed. “Yes, Britt, you’re right about that, and it’s growing by the minute! But Funk’s competency and honesty are his niches. They set him apart from the other candidates. Besides, if he’s not confident in himself, why would anyone else be?”
“You won’t feel the same way when you see support for the other candidates lining the editorial page, ten to one.”
Okay, so this guy didn’t even do humor.
Losing mine, I countered, “Funk’s not posing, Britt. He’s here to do a job. Once he wins, that job will mean a lot of work. He’s not doing the ribbon-cutting thing that mayors here love to do. He’s not building more monstrosities downtown that the city can’t afford, and only to pay supporters back or as a tribute to himself. Voters are calling for a revolution, so we don’t really know what the ratio of letters to the editor will be by the end of this.”
Britt didn’t roll his eyes but believe me, cosmically speaking, he rolled his eyes.
I felt uncomfortable with his energy but carried on anyway. “Britt, if it turns out you’re right — if Funk isn’t what citizens want — the bottom line is, he’ll be happy to return to the life we had before. My knowledge is limited in this area, but it seems to me that people are craving a mayor who will look after their interests for a change.”
“That’s a novel thought, Gloria, but voters aren’t as intelligent as that.”
“They’re not stupid, Britt. They have eyes. They see the city going downhill. They might not realize it’s almost bankrupt, but they know we’re in bad shape.” I cringed after I said all that because, ewww, I sounded just like my husband.
Britt cringed too, but he cringed as if I were a child who was trying his patience.
His macho came after me harder. His steel-gray curls bobbed maniacally with each word he spat. “This is how it’s done. Honesty is for after the win, Gloria. If Mark wins. Which is unlikely. I’ll ask your husband what he thinks when he comes in.”
Once my husband won the election, he asked me to volunteer for him in the mayor’s office. Whoo-boy, did that cause a disruption! To this day, I remain the only “First Lady” who had a law drafted that banned me from stepping foot inside City Hall.
The reason being the top 1% didn’t want someone in office from the lower 99%, that someone being my husband. But since he’d been a beloved government official for the previous 18 years, the media came after me because going after him wouldn’t fly. According to one (female) journalist, the media wrote 500 “hit” pieces about me during my husband’s mayoral term. Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Rush Limbaugh have reported on me.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s deeply impacted your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
A book that greatly influenced me is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Frankl is a holocaust survivor, and he explains how people are able to survive despite the most dreadful circumstances. The key is to either have work you love doing, be a part of an intimate relationship, or change your attitude toward suffering.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I dream of building an Artist Healing Retreat Center on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve visited the same location on that island four times, for months at a time. Whenever I change locations, my writing is more inspired, but never more so than in this remote location on the Big Island. A by-product of my stay is that I transform for the better without even trying. It just comes unbidden. I go home a changed person.
This affects “doing a lot of good for a whole lot of people” because my vulnerability emerges more in my writing, and my readers resonate more with what I have to say.
My hope is that my retreat will precipitate the same effortless healing and transformation that I’ve experienced on the Big Island and help other artists evolve their souls and become better at their craft.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If this is torture, chain me to the wall!”
That quote comes from a Disney movie, Oliver and Company. So many times, we humans tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. If we would practice taking in the positive more often, we’d “trap” ourselves in the wonders of the world.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!