by Traci L. Slatton
My hat warned of twisting postures
an old rag, really, but after a quarter century
imbued with my fondness.
It was suddenly gone, vanished
as if it had never been yet it was
full of my cranium, and my hair, and various
dreams that had rattled through while it wore me
A pair of sunglasses featured
in favorite photos, me kissing my little daughter
growing in front of my eyes
asking to board away at a distant school
next to my friend the blonde Countess
she of evanescent visits
All that is
even my yoga
studio closed, the community
and the classes I enjoyed
the shala of my heart
a pair of suede boots my husband bought me. Will I ever find
all that is
like the close touch of a mate who has shed
over another woman,
younger than me,
and that faith misplaced
along with haberdashery and footwear and other
miscellany, even people.
Another warrior, a longer dog, a deeper backbend
to open my heart.
I move through until the body trembles denying
It is loss that is union.
I have raised four daughters: Empowering Women is a force close to my heart.
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
There are so many astounding Eleanor Roosevelt quotes that it was hard to choose just ONE. That great lady had it going on!
I travel a lot. I’ve been all over the globe, recently with my husband. Sabin has been involved with a national memorial–something that’s been all foible, all the time. But it has allowed him to seek out the means and methods for creating a world class, monumental sculpture. Note: Stay tuned for a novel called “Truth Be Told” about an author married to a sculptor who is making a national memorial!
At any rate, regarding our travels. There’s a lot of America-bashing that happens abroad. For example, in New Zealand, a country stuck in the 1950’s, where women are treated like it is 1951, it is quite the vogue to bash America and our materialism.
But those backwater Kiwis are missing the point. The point is that the United States produces innovation and ingenuity. We are a generative force for new ideas, new technologies, new strategies, new businesses. The US has ambition. It takes risks. It’s the most generous nation on the planet. It doesn’t know its place. And that’s what’s brilliant about the USA: generosity and boundary-lessness.
Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t know her place. She redefined what it meant to be a First Lady. She got out in front of the public eye and did humanitarian good. She said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”
I’m an American woman and proud of it. I do what I feel is right in my heart. I don’t know my place.
Plenty of men wish I did.
There’s a male fantasy of submissive women. It’s a weak male fantasy; it’s part of the attraction of porn, a visual representation of low consciousness in human sexuality.
The strong male dreams of strong females and their contribution, their partnership: “Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.
Women have something of special value to offer the world.
Now Sabin is working with an initiative for empowering women, and he would sculpt some of the Great Women who’ve done that by example. I’m so excited for him! Can you imagine Eleanor Roosevelt sculpted by Sabin Howard?
In a rich and deep way, his work has led to an extraordinary conversation between the two of us.
“What do you think an empowered woman is?” I asked him.
He gave a thoughtful reply about human beings.
I said, “Women are a subset of human beings, we have our own special contributions to make. Power means something a bit different for women.”
So here’s the cool thing: my husband and I have begun a new conversation in new terms–about Women’s Empowerment.
“Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Factual error in the New Yorker: I write this post not just for myself, but for all women whose ideas were misattributed to a man, and who were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat.
My husband Sabin Howard is making a national memorial, the National World War I Memorial.
He began with drawings. He drafted several iterations of a relief that would tell the story of the Great War.
One morning over breakfast, he was talking about the design and showing it to me.
“My goodness,” I said. “You’ve got Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey there.”
Sabin said, “Explain that?”
So I did. As a novelist, I’ve worked with Campbell’s ideas for years. For the purposes of storytelling, the beats of the hero’s journey are useful and important. I’ve been so entranced by Campbell’s work that I’ve talked about getting a PhD in it.
And so, with my explanation over coffee and scrambled eggs, began a critical and oft-repeated piece of the story around the WWI Memorial. The Hero’s Journey connection has been publicly broadcast, by Sabin and by others associated with the Memorial, including PR people.
This is my contribution to this worthy endeavor and I’m proud of it.
Sabin is an honorable man. He consistently credits me with telling him about Joseph Campbell. He says, “My wife told me about the Hero’s Journey…” in every public venue where he’s spoken–including at a meeting of the Commission on Fine Arts in Washington DC.
In the worlds of literature and academia, claiming credit for someone else’s work is called plagiarism. Sabin is well aware of that. He is extraordinarily brilliant, but I was the one who came up with the Hero’s Journey.
The idea is to give credit where credit is due. As a matter of integrity–don’t take credit for other people’s work. Sabin doesn’t. He’s honorable.
Then came a big opportunity: The New Yorker magazine decided to do a Talk of the Town piece on Sabin and his sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.
The publicist for the NYAA was happy and excited. She had done a great job! This piece would add luster to the NYAA, to Sabin, who was showing the WWI Memorial Maquette at the NYAA, and to the Memorial itself. This was a coup!
Sabin was happy. Despite the extraordinary–unparalleled–quality of his work, he has struggled for acceptance here in the New York art world.
“A prophet is not recognized in his home town,” I tell him.
The Talk of the Town piece went live online yesterday.
It contained a factual error:
“I realized, Oh, my God, this is like Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey,’ ” Howard said. “It’s a very simple story that everybody in every single culture has experienced.”
Sabin was out when I texted him about the error. He stepped away from a meeting to contact the publicist at the NYAA and ask for the article to be corrected for factual accuracy.
Here’s where the story gets interesting.
The NYAA publicist was less than enthusiastic about the update. She forwarded the request to the writer at The New Yorker.
Then she emailed back, “Anna…consulted with the fact-checking department on the request, and they feel since the piece doesn’t go into “how” the realization was made, it should stay as is.”
This is disingenuous. Sabin was directly misquoted and asked for his words to be represented correctly. He always says, “My wife said, “This is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.”
The New Yorker‘s misquote creates a factual error in the piece.
Sabin and I continued to push for accuracy. Sabin felt it was an injustice that his words were manipulated and that he was misquoted.
The NYAA publicist responded with increasing unpleasantness. She even told Sabin, “The story wasn’t pitched to The New Yorker as a piece about you and Traci.”
I emailed her,
Adding the words, “My wife remarked…” certainly does not make it a story about me and Sabin. Three words could not do that in a piece of this length. It does, however, become factually correct. It gives the piece an integrity that it currently lacks. Whether or not the magazine is attempting to be vindictive, they are acting in a way that has become a sore point with the parties involved. The magazine has been informed of a misquote and has chosen, this far, not to correct the piece.
The publicist was so appalled that I would continue to stand up for myself and my ideas that she got the head of the New York Academy of Art to email Sabin to tell me to back down.
Is that how the NYAA chooses to behave: by attempting to bully women who are standing up for their contributions? By attempting to get an authority to squelch the quest for accuracy and integrity? Women applying to the New York Academy of Art: BEWARE!
Regarding The New Yorker, here are my questions:
Is this how fake news starts: with journalists twisting subjects’ words any way that pleases them, and being unwilling to correct their piece when told about the error?
If The New Yorker makes a mistake and doesn’t correct that error because of specious and disingenuous reasoning, how is this publication any different from the fake news outlets they descry?
It’s disappointing that a venue that lauds its own integrity isn’t showing its integrity.
And there’s one more wrinkle in this sordid story. That is, there’s a concern about vindictiveness. The NYAA publicist and the head of the NYAA wanted us to stand down for fear that we would alienate people who had “been on our side.”
The NYAA publicist wrote us,
No press will be inclined to write on Sabin again, because it appears that he goes and attacks press who cover him. In addition, “fake news” is very inflammatory language to use and the New Yorker takes accusations like that extremely seriously – they have to, because of their political journalism. Claiming that the New Yorker is publishing fake news will attract a lot of unpleasant attention to you.
It’s a craven concern, but a real one. In today’s world, with its emphasis on expedience, the press might just step away from a subject who insists that his words be accurately represented.
Sabin said to me, “The New York Academy of Art will never work with me again because of this.” In order to uphold his personal integrity, he himself has to make a personal sacrifice that directly affects his career.
And so…I write this blog post for myself, for all women whose ideas have been misattributed to a man and were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat, and–come to think about it–for all the wives who are the unsung heroes supporting their husband.
Tender Loving Care for a Marriage
Sabin and I came to a dark and stormy place in our marriage.
That diction belies the fresh and cutting pain of such a place and time.
When we both returned to the marriage, we sought help in putting things back together. There are books, websites, and videos that have helped us, and that continue to do so. I write this blog for people like us who are working to strengthen their marriage.
It’s a deeply heartfelt journey to restore a marriage to love and harmony.
One resource for us is Dr. Dana Fillmore’s Strong Marriage Now site, www.strongmarriagenow.com. Her videos and blog posts tell it like it is, spell out effective strategies for working through marital issues, and offer hope to a bewildered spouse floundering with the despair of a marriage on the rocks. There’s not a moment of fluff. She talks about personal responsibility and strategies for effective communication. Of particular note are the videos on “How to Get Your Partner Checked Back In,” “Get Over Past Pain – Forgive,” and “7 Steps to an Effective Apology.” I also liked her “Surviving an Affair” series.
Dr. Fillmore emphasizes time spent together in her valuable “StrongMarriageNow System.” At least 8 hours per week, she insists. Eight hours per week, every week. I think back over the past few years with Sabin and I realize, if he and I had been spending 8 hours a week together, we never would have come to the treacherous shoals of near divorce. Her “StrongMarriageNow System” is important. It’s worth the investment of time and money for anyone who cares about their marriage. Buy it now.
Note: I’m not an affiliate! I used her program and found it helpful. Her program became a springboard for me to explore the wealth of published wisdom on strengthening a marriage.
Somewhere in Dr. Fillmore’s website or blog, she recommended “The 5 Languages of Love,” and I bought this book by Gary Chapman. Sabin and I both took the quiz, and we discovered that his primary love language is Physical Touch, and mine is Quality Time. Neither of us had our love language spoken to us when we were separated by vast distances. It was a recipe for disaster.
I liked this book “The 5 Languages of Love: The Secret to Love that Lasts” and I recommend it for couples. It’s worth exploring how you and your mate each feel and receive love.
Isn’t that ultimately the point of the sacred union of marriage? To share joy and communion and to make each other feel safe and profoundly connected to each other? To be the one person who is the bulwark against the vagaries of fate, the one person who’s always there for your mate.
Googling online one morning over my coffee–coconut sugar and heavy whipping cream, please–I discovered a YouTube Video of Dr. John Gottman speaking. He was giving a lecture at a Rotary Club on “Making Relationships Work.”
I was electrified!
Dr. Gottman is an MIT-trained researcher with more than four decades of experience in carefully studying marriages, what makes them work and how they fail. His “4 Horseman of the Apocalypse“: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling shocked me with their truthfulness. I saw immediately that Sabin stonewalls, and that I, yes, alas, I am critical.
It was evident that I needed to work on myself so I wasn’t critical.
In a general way, our pattern is mirrored by men and women at large. Dr. Gottman says that 85% of stonewallers in a heterosexual marriage are men.
Defensiveness is when we don’t take responsibility for our part, or any part, of the problem.
Worst of all is contempt. “Contempt is sulfuric acid for love,” says Dr. Gottman, and it actually erodes the immune system.
It hit me like a lightning bolt across the steppes to have these 4 toxic styles of relating articulated so clearly. I don’t enjoy having my failings pointed out to me, but I want my marriage to work. I don’t want to be a critical wife. I want to be a loving and respectful wife. Not a doormat–a loving and respectful wife. In fact, I intend to be a loving and respectful person.
Dr. Gottman also discusses what makes a marriage work, the strategies employed by “the Masters” who have happy, successful marriages. He talks about creating an atmosphere of fondness and admiration; about turning towards each other, especially when one spouse makes a bid for connection; about exploring each other’s love maps; and about accepting influence from each other. Especially, he notes, a husband accepting influence from his wife will strengthen the marriage.
I watched all the Dr. Gottman videos I could find, and then I bought some of his books. “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work” is wonderful. The sections on ‘Solving solvable conflicts’ and ‘Coping with conflicts you can’t resolve’ are useful in the loveliest ways. Every marriage endures conflict, even the happiest marriage. What matters is how conflict is handled.
It’s no easy thing to rectify and restore a marriage. It’s no easy thing to keep a marriage strong. Besides the internal relating styles that can complicate matters, there are external forces working to dissolve a marriage.
There are predatory women who want to scoop up other women’s husbands; there are low class women who come for a job interview and drop their knickers. There are selfish men who, if they want her, don’t care whether or not a woman is married or if there is a child involved. These sorts will manipulate to achieve their own ends. Their manipulations can be devastating for a marriage.
There are other negative outside influences that can derail a marriage. There are nasty in-laws. There are so-called “friends” who want to break up the marriage for their own spiteful or self-interested purposes. In my opinion, those types should be avoided as soon as they’re identified.
It’s easy enough to get married but hard to stay married. It’s the hardest thing we do, perhaps. It requires constant self-monitoring and constant accommodation and regular sacrifice.
Marriage requires sacrifice because it is sacred. Sanctity requires hard work and sacrifice. It’s the most poignant endeavor of all. It’s the hardest road to walk–and the most important, the most human.
To anyone out there who reads this blog post hoping for help for their painfully unsettled marriage: Welcome, and God Speed. I pray that these suggestions help you. I offer you my blessing.
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.
Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love
(reprise of a Facebook Post I wrote)
This is our family. We’ve gone to see the Tree at the Met for nearly 2 decades.
It’s love. Family is love, and it is everything. Family is real.
Family radiates from a marriage. Marriage is love, and it is everything. Marriage is real. Imperfect, unglamorous, full of laughter and tears: real.
Sabin and I have been married for 13 years, together for almost 18. We’ve stood beside each other, holding hands and enjoying holiday uplift, for nearly 2 decades.
Marriages are built on such things: trips to the Met and to Italy and to the pediatrician and to the kitchen to cook breakfast; shared jokes and shared Figurative Sculpture books and shared victories and shared burdens and, yes, shared challenges. Every life encounters conflict and obstacle, ache and loss. These are real, too. And they are so much easier to bear with your family, your mate, holding your hand–as Sabin and I have held hands for nearly two decades.
We’ve held hands through lean times and good times, through sickness and health, through the birth of our daughter, when I died twice and was narrowly revived by a doctor who had “never seen so much blood in her life.” We held hands and held each other in a spacious room in Venice while the rain pattered on the canal during our 10th anniversary.
Even though this year, 2017, has been so hard, forcing a lengthy and devastating separation, I affirm our marriage. Marriage is 1000 tiny threads that bind people together, and those threads are shared experiences. I affirm our threads. I affirm our marriage. Sabin Howard, I love you.