2018 was a helluva year. This is my personal, highly idiosyncratic take on the Best of 2018. I hope you enjoy the list and I hope it inspires you.
Best Movie: A Star Is Born. I cried like a baby at the end. Love always contains loss, love and loss nest inside each other like Russian matryoshka dolls. And how great was the music?
Best Book I read: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PhD. This was a tough choice, I read a lot of great books. I’ll mention Jordan Peterson‘s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos; The Coddling of the American Mind; John Medina’s Brain Rules; and Scott Adams‘ Win Bigly. Oh, and I’ve been working my way through Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. In the end, I chose the book that resonated most deeply for the way of the human heart. Dr. Gottman’s work is amazing, and he rocks!
Best Song: Shallow, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I mean, right?!?!
Best TV Show: The Big Bang Theory. I’m binge-watching. I keep plunking down the $ on Amazon Prime for each season. It just makes me happy to snuggle up with my husband at night and watch a few episodes–giggling at my own inner nerd as much as at Sheldon, Leonard, and the gang. “Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery…”
Best Place to Visit: The Dolomites. A world heritage site. Awe-inspiring grandeur. And after a day of hiking up and down the mountains, you get to eat Italian food! How great is that?
Best Restaurant in Manhattan: The Fairway Cafe. The service is spotty, the noise rattles the windows, and the food is tasty. Go for the yummy eats, not the ambiance. It’s New York for New Yorkers.
Best Yoga Studio in NYC: Yogaworks UWS. Thoughtful teachers, a caring community. Alas, it closed at the end of November. I miss it.
Cutest Grandson: Mine. ❤️
I give thanks for my children, my sweet husband, my lovely friends, my overly-gregarious dogs, my home, the books I’ve written and those I’ve read, good reviews that have thrilled me and not-so-good reviews that have taught me, the material resources of my life, the yoga practice that centers me, the spirituality that sustains me.
I am grateful that my beautiful, brilliant, hard-working, wonderful stepdaughter was accepted into medical school! Go Julia!
I am grateful for the extraordinarily generous donors who have given Parvati Press a start in the world, and I’m grateful for the authors who are coming on board with “the Millennium Falcon” of presses–and thanks to the ever inventive Chris for that image! Parvati Press really can outrun Imperial cruisers and make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
I am grateful for the times I get to travel, and especially I am grateful for the cities of Paris and Venice and Rome. And I love living in NYC so I am grateful for this ineluctable Big Apple.
I am grateful that I get to write books. Being an author is the coolest thing in the whole universe!
I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for those I love and for those who love me, and yes, Gerda, Lori, Michelle, and Jan, I am talking about you. The other ones in the inner circle, you know who you are, and you know that I am thankful to have you in my life.
For the unmet friends, unexperienced love, and unknown blessings that are coming into my life, I give thanks, and I praise the Creator, the great sun at the center, for the fullness of it all.
Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci.
It’s the new theme: writing again.
The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.
It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.
It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.
Change is afoot.
Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.
His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.
In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.
Why then this heart ache?
For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.
What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?
How have I betrayed myself?
I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.
Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability | Video on TED.com
I have been reading Rumi.
I do this whenever I am heartsick, soulsick. Usually it’s for something I can’t identify, though there’s always some exterior thing like a convenient hook to hang it on: my dog bit my little one and had to be surrendered; my 14-year-old told me a great big whopper; my in-laws have rejected their own grand-daughter and disinherited my husband as a means to communicating their supreme dislike of me; my husband is cranky with exhaustion and overwork and a long string of fourteen hour days; the publishing industry is in a stupid place, and largely, in my view, because publishers publish the same damn crap rather than searching out interesting work, and then they wonder why people don’t want to buy it; our financial situation is fraught, as is our situation with our two former spouses…. There’s no end to people and matters that will serve as an excuse. Rumi says, “Everyone chooses a suffering that will change him or her to a well-baked loaf.”
But I think that is preferable to avoiding the suffering, and failing to rise. That happens, too.
So there is all this stuff amenable to being blamed for my anguish, not to mention that it is that time of the month. But is the body or its relationships or its contexts really the reason for this melancholy seeking without an end?
Yesterday this poem of Rumi’s manifest itself to me, in a moment of bibliomancy, or at least I like to think that the Divine was smiling wryly at all my flailing about, and granted me this mouthful of grace.
Coleman Barks calls it THE MOST ALIVE MOMENT:
(THE SOUL OF RUMI, translations by Coleman Barks.)
I cried after I read it. I found excuses to cry all day. It’s something I rarely do. And then my husband showed me this photo on his iPhone of his Apollo’s outstretched arm. Even in process, it was beautiful: gesture and form, a supreme example of artistry. I cried some more, alone, in my bathroom, so no one knew I was being so silly. And I remembered why this man, this life, this set of choices that has led to this moment in all its bittersweet, empty fullness.
Among the myriad ways to categorize people is one I have developed over the course of my life. It has to do with the paradigm a person subscribes to. That is, is this person about power or is he or she about freedom?
I have found that people usually fall into one of those two camps. Not always, of course, and there’s flow back and forth. Even people who believe in freedom can race into a power struggle when they feel unsafe.
As a general thing, people who seek power are looking for power over other people. They tend to develop skills for manipulation, currying favor, seduction, and insinuation, especially the sly delivery of a put down or a compliment, the aim of either being to control the other person’s feelings and achieve a desired result.
Power-mongers’ diction will be full of phrases like “squash them like a bug,” “hold them in the palm of my hand,” “grind them to dust,” “kick their ass,” “beat them to a pulp,” etc. You get the idea. This soul-less paradigm sees people as either winners or losers; other people are objects to be used, objects who either gratify or thwart the power-monger.
People who source themselves in freedom take a different approach. They look for mutuality and reciprocity, for the “win-win” solution, for everyone to feel seen and validated. Their language sounds different, you can hear it immediately. There’s reference to inclusiveness and respect, respect for both self and other people. “We’re in this together” and “let’s resolve this.” Words tend to be courteous. Praise is given out of kindness or because it’s earned, but not to sway the other person into a desired behavior. Notice that “kindness” and “respect” are the operative modes.
I think it takes a lot of inner strength to choose to seek freedom. It takes faith, perhaps even a certain amount of enlightenment. I think it’s a choice each person has to make regularly, because in the flow of life, we regularly encounter challenges and tests. Who are we going to be? It’s the question we face every moment as we choose our paradigm, our Source.
I’m deep in the next draft of this WWII novel of mine, BROKEN. It’s brought up all these reflections because the second world war perfectly embodied issues of power and freedom. That is, the Nazis sought power over other people–over just about everyone. And they were perfectly willing to take away the freedom of anyone who disagreed with them, or anyone who bore the “stigma” of Nazi projections of inferiority: Jews, gays, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, Socialists, Communists, etc.
The Nazis believed in an embedded hierarchy that their god had established. I have come to understand that the belief in an external, hierarchical, gendered god–and by gendered I mean patriarchal–is the origin of a great deal of evil in the world.
So here’s the next draft of the cover of BROKEN.