missing people

Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus
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Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus

The world is rife with panic and pandemic.

People are sick. People are dying. The COVID-19 respiratory illness is sweeping across the globe. No place will be spared.

Italy is quarantining. Have the Italians stopped their millennia-old practice of bussing on both sides of the face in greeting? 

I bet they have. Kissing is for the inviolate.

The macrocosm is a mess. In the microcosm, in the tiny whimsical, poignant slice of All-That-Is that is my personal life, a chaos stew bubbles.

One friend died of a drug overdose. 

Did she intend to die?

I was close to her during grad school. I remember her talent, her intellect, and her bright smile. Could I have done anything else to help her?

A beloved family member succumbs to cancer, by degrees. He’s in palliative care now. It’s hard to watch a good man die.

A beloved friend is mentally absent. Something has claimed her wonderful intelligence. She tells me the same stories over and over, sometimes beginning the anecdote mere seconds after finishing it.

I have pulled away from a friend whom I love. I can not tolerate her lack of truthfulness and lack of consistency right now. Usually I can shrug off her failings because I remember my own flaws, and because I have in mind her many wonderful qualities: her extraordinary generosity, her capacity for lovingkindness, her playfulness. But right now, the lack of truthfulness and lack of dependability feel like too much chaos, in a world that is seething with chaos.

My friend’s grandson passed
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My friend’s grandson passed

Today was the memorial service for a dear friend’s infant grandson.

There were photographs placed around the room in the funeral home. It was a room for congregating, with neat rows of chairs for the visitors and tissue boxes placed at strategic intervals.

Mourning is excruciating anyway, but yoked to a child’s death, it is insupportable. There are no words.

This friend of mine has been in my life for nearly 20 years. He was my advocate and counsel, and slowly, over time and mutual respect, he became a friend. Then a dear friend, someone with whom I can always share a joke. He and his wife have gone to dinners with me and Sabin; they’ve come to visit us at various summer rentals, and we’ve been to visit them.

He’s a good man. He loves his children. I can’t imagine what was harder for him, watching his daughter grieve her tiny son, or his own grief about his grandson.

It’s not my first experience with the loss of a child. My sweet nephew died 25 years ago. He simply died one day. It was years before his pediatrician figured out that he’d had a rare genetic problem.  I respect that my sister continued on after his passing. I just don’t know how she did it.

I sat in the memorial service and thought, This is the essential stuff of human life. This is it–stripped bared, down to the marrow in the bones–what life is about: loss, love, family. Togetherness. Having each other’s back when the worst happens, the unimaginable strikes. The solace of community.

It’s easy for people to get lost in a fantasy about life. It’s easy to get stuck in the quick and shallow pleasures. Especially in our culture, where there’s a cultural ideal of a beer commercial life, all frolicking in the sunshine with the hip gang. It’s a glib and seductive path.

It’s also all too easy to allow mundane problems to take over so that this moment now isn’t enjoyed and lived fully–with the juice squeezed out over your hands.

This moment now is never going to be perfect. But it can be savored–for those who are alive. I pray that I will always be alive until it’s my turn to pass.

“Remember that my son lived,” said my friend’s daughter. It came from her heart and pierced mine.

I had sent gifts but hadn’t yet met him. Still, I will remember that little guy.

 

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage
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Tender Loving Care for a Marriage

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.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

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
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Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

(reprise of a Facebook Post I wrote)Marriage and Family are Real Sabin Howard Traci Slatton

 

Marriage

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.

Marriage and Family are Real

Marriage and Family are Real

In the HuffPost, International Conference in Shared Parenting 2017
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In the HuffPost, International Conference in Shared Parenting 2017

International Conference Shared Parenting 2017

This week I took the train to Boston to attend the International Conference in Shared Parenting. This conference gathered together specialists in post-divorce child development from all over the world. I sat down with a very lovely Dr. Holstein to discuss the Conference, and I wrote about my experience in the HuffPost.

From my article:

…Despite advances in recognizing fathers’ fundamental rights to be equally involved in their children’s lives, the problem of not implementing that right continues within the legal system. At the same time, there’s a growing awareness that relegating one parent, whether father or mother, to second-class citizen parent status is not in the best interests of the child, when neither parent is actually abusive. There is a growing understanding that, post-separation, children need both parents to be fully present in their lives for optimal wholeness.

I sat down with Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder and chairman of the board of the National Parents Organization, at the International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston. The National Parents Organization has a mission to preserve the bond between parents and children. To that end, at this conference, the world’s most renowned child development experts in the area of post-divorce parenting have gathered to share their research results. How do children fare with and without shared parenting post-divorce?…

“Court practices haven’t kept up with the growing research evidence on the benefits of shared parenting, so our intention was to gather all the world experts in one place at one time to compile the evidence that needs to be recognized as a basis for changing what our current practices are in the courts,” Dr. Holstein told me. “Based on the work of world experts at our conference today, ‘Best Interests of the Child’ means shared parenting for most children.”

Read the whole post here.

International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017

International Conference Shared Parenting