My husband and I went to marriage counseling this morning. Between us, we have four children, his daughter, my two daughters, and the mischievous little minx we have together. We’re a modern blended family, with all the complications that brings, in addition to the usual stresses of married life: finding time for romance, communication, finances, dealing with teenagers. As we shared our stories, the counselor prompted us to turn our statements into questions. “Inquire of the other,” he said. “The more you define the other person, the farther you get from actually knowing them.”
Here’s my latest on the Huffington Post, an article about The Phenomenon of Lashing Out
I promote my books. For one novel, I hired a publicist who turned out engaging press releases. She sent them to me for approval and then emailed them to every contact on her extensive list. She sent out dozens. That’s what I paid her to do and she was a responsible publicist.
A junior editor looked at one release, decided I thought I was better than other authors, and initiated a Twitter shaming campaign that lasted about eight hours.
It struck out of the blue. Suddenly my Twitter feed lit up with nasty tweets, many personal, directed at me. It was shocking and confusing. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Then I did the best damage control I could.
I can only imagine how horrible a longer Twitter shame-barrage would have been. Eight hours was enough to leave me with a few weeks of mild PTSD. I never understood the point of the shaming episode. What pleasure did the junior editor and her cohorts take in such scathing nastiness? What did they hope to accomplish beyond making me feel badly? I certainly never felt that I was better than other authors, though I will balance that by saying that I have worked hard over the decades to write thousands of pages of prose. I take pride in whatever craftsmanship I accomplish.
A very different episode. I went to pick up my daughter at her bus stop. As a writer, I work out of a small home office. I seldom dress up for that. I brushed my teeth that morning and swiped on sun block–that was the extent of my ablutions. I trotted to the bus stop in my usual stinky yoga clothes.
At the bus stop waited an attractive young African American woman. I sidled up to her and casually chatted, the way parents do.
She suddenly snapped, “I’m not the nanny! I’m the mom!”
Given the current racial tensions, I must preface my remarks by saying that this was a bus stop for a private school in Manhattan. I am sure that this well-turned-out young woman had been mistaken for the nanny. Probably more than once. Few of the private schools here are as well integrated as one would hope. Most are putting honest effort into greater diversity.
On this particular occasion, this young woman correctly noted the calculation in my eyes. Then she incorrectly interpreted it. Yes, I certainly did look at her and make a judgment. But it wasn’t the one she projected onto me.
I was thinking, “Traci, look how nice she looks. You need to dress better. You don’t have to come to the bus stop looking like a schlub. For pete’s sake, woman, take twenty minutes to make yourself presentable.”
I think women of any race will relate to this self-criticism. But until the other mother spoke up, the issue of race had never occurred to me. It was about me looking dowdy.
At the time, I was surprised and flustered. I murmured something like “That’s what I thought.” I felt badly for this woman whose life experience had brought her to this point of assuming that another mom was judging her when I was only judging myself.
Another example. Now I confess to a certain tolerance for unconventional people. There are many worthy trapezoidal pegs; I don’t want to force them into square holes. Unfortunately, this attitude means that sometimes nutters slip inside my sphere. I did business with one such. My husband and a friend gleaned that this person was shaky; they warned me. I didn’t heed them. I should have, because when I made a decision this person didn’t like, they sent me dozens of crazed, threatening emails full of violent imagery. I blogged about this before, because I was helped by an organization called haltabuse.org that works to stop email harassment.
What these painful and bewildering episodes have in common is the phenomenon of projection. The Twitterers, the other mom, and the business fruitcake took something within themselves and projected it outward onto me. I knew this intellectually at the time, but it didn’t solace me. I had to work with myself to return to my center in the face of the onslaught. I think, for the Shamers and the Harasser, that’s what they wanted: to hurt me.
Obviously the mom felt that she was standing up for herself. Though she was projecting onto me, my interaction with her fits into a different category because she didn’t intend to cause harm. Nor did I feel hurt by her. I felt surprised, then I felt compassion.
Indeed, what continually surprises me about our culture now is how little compassion there is, and how widespread the phenomenon of lashing out has become. It often goes along with high self-righteous indignation that reeks of self-pleasuring. I have come to believe that self-righteous indignation is best enjoyed in private.
Recently my husband sculptor Sabin Howard came into the spotlight when he, with architect-in-training Joe Weishaar, won the WW1 Memorial design competition. Someone used social media to disparage Sabin, claiming that Sabin’s beautiful neoclassical works were “Nazi-like.”
The irony is that Sabin is at least one-quarter Jewish. His grandmother was a German Jew. His mother is Italian and I will never forget the dinner when Zio Carlo, upon hearing that I am Jewish, leaned over and whispered, “Ours is an Italian Jewish name. We are descended from Jews who were forcibly converted.”
One hater posted a video of Sabin sculpting in a friend’s studio as “proof” that Sabin’s work is Nazi-esque. But this studio belonged to a dear friend who happens to be gay and recently married to his long time partner. Since Sabin is famed for his male nudes, which are sublimely beautiful but not eroticized, we have, in our inner circle, many cherished gay friends. The Nazis would not have appreciated Sabin’s Jewish heritage nor his inclusiveness. Nor, I dare say, his Jewish wife.
I remain proud of Sabin’s neoclassicism. Beauty is beauty; we don’t have to allow a single ideal of beauty to languish as the province of murderous sociopaths. I wouldn’t give the Nazis that satisfaction.
Ultimately, I don’t want to give satisfaction to those who lash out, either. But it’s worth noting that negative projection causes pain. We are all human beings here, even if social media and email allow for depersonalization and anonymity. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Indeed we all do.
Enchantment Overlooking Magic Mountain
Some lovely and generous-hearted friends invited us to stay in their beautiful Vermont home while they were elsewhere. So Sabin and I drove up and found ourselves in a sumptuous and homey palace. There’s a view over the rolling green hills and trees onto Magic Mountain, and a private pond with lights for night time swimming.
I find myself so relaxed that my adrenal glands are pulsing with let-down. My creative angst is nearly replaced with languor. Sabin has set himself up in the dining room to draw the relief panel for the WW1 Memorial.
Our labs Molly and Gabriel are ecstatic. I took them to the pond yesterday and Molly, our chocolate lab, ate some little green frogs before swimming around to look for ducks. Gabriel joined her. Then they ran out of the water to jump on me and I had to laugh even as their enthusiasm ensured that I was wet and smelly.
There are a zillion of these little green frogs, and when do you ever see frogs anymore?
My husband Sabin spoiled me on my birthday. Some of my friends did, too. It was a delicious experience.
We started celebrating early because we had to make a trip to New Hampshire. So we went out for dinner on my birthday eve. The restaurant was The Fig and Olive, which I love. I’ve never had a bad meal there. The chicken tagine was fantastic! I love their fun drinks, also.
On the day of the anniversary of my birth, we drove to New Hampshire. We crowned the day from a small peak.
Then we found a charming American tapas restaurant called Tavern 27, which served the most delicious appetizer type foods. Sabin and I both ordered steak, though I got a small one. The meat was buttery soft and delectable, falling off the knife in luscious little bites of the tenderest flesh. Our kind, attentive waiter explained that it was organic meat from a nearby farm, in honor of New Hampshire’s state tradition of healthful food.
My friend Micki put together a beautiful image for FB, acknowledging me with much love. Don sent me flowers. Lots of emails and phone calls.
It was too much fun.
The Oceana Beach Club Hotel in Santa Monica
Never before have I posted a review of a hotel on my personal blog. But I had such an enchanting experience at the beautiful Oceana Beach Club Hotel in Santa Monica that I decided to write about it.
Please note: I have in no way been compensated for this review.
It’s true I showed up at the Oceana feeling off, trembling with the remnants of a stomach bug that had had its slithery way with me.
It’s true I had a mediocre experience with a supposedly nice hotel prior to finding the Oceana on a third-party booking site that offered an excellent deal.
Notwithstanding, the Oceana surpassed all expectations. From the moment I arrived, I was graciously welcomed by the kindly staff and soothed by the cheerful, elegant surroundings. The gentlemen in the valet parking booth treated me with good-humored kindness. Mason and Jordan and the other guys were lovely!
It was hours before official check-in time, but the lady at the front desk phoned housekeeping to see if there was a room available. She was apologetic that none was yet ready and offered to call my cell phone as soon as one became available. She offered suggestions for lunch if I wanted to walk out into sun-drenched Santa Monica.
Sometimes when I book through a third party for a discount, I get treated like an ugly stepchild. Not at the Oceana Beach Club Hotel. I was treated with courtesy and respect.
Best of all, the room was gorgeous: spacious and peaceful with lovely furnishings. I walked in and my spirits lifted. There is something about being surrounded by luxury close to the sea that soothes and elevates you!
The Oceana provides bicycles for guests to ride, and I rode extensively. I pedaled to Whole Foods and to YogaWorks nearby on Montana Ave. My second and last morning, I rode along the beach just after sunrise. ‘Glorious’ suggests light emerging…and it was such a ride.
I ate one meal at Tower8, the hotel restaurant: lunch. A grilled chicken panini that was sumptuous. Having eaten little in a few days, I devoured it. But even if I hadn’t been off my vittles, I’d have enjoyed this well-made sandwich.
The pool was appealing though I didn’t use it. The ambiance was fun and bright and posh.
The location of the Oceana, on Ocean Avenue overlooking the beach, was spectacular. It’s easy to get to the boutiques on Montana and the shops on the Third Street Promenade.
I recommend the Oceana, and I give it 5*.
Announcing THE YEAR OF LOVING
I am delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of THE YEAR OF LOVING.
Art gallerist Sarah Paige’s world is crumbling. One daughter barely speaks to her and the other is off the rails. Sarah is struggling to keep her gallery afloat in a tough market when she learns that her most beloved friend has cancer. In the midst of her second divorce, two men come into her life: an older man who offers companionship and stability and an exciting younger man whose life is as chaotic as hers.
Sarah’s courage, humor, and spirit strengthen her, but how much can she bear, and what sustains her when all else falls away?
THE YEAR OF LOVING is available on Amazon.com for pre-order. Publication date is October 10, 2016.
Look for a blog tour in November from Bewitching Book Tours!