Welcome to my blog..


"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani


Saturday, April 8, 2017

"You're on earth, there's no cure for that!"

Yes, the title of this long overdue blog post is from Beckett (Endgame to be precise). I have chosen it because I am considering the obsession we have for curing things. I have been reading an excellent book by Bessel van der Kolk entitled The Body Keeps the Score. It has given me great insight into and compassion for how trauma lodges in the body and can keep us trapped in certain cycles. As I read, I found myself hating myself (and other people) much less and understanding all of us who have been traumatized so much more.

Now, I am in the 'how to fix it' section. Some - many - of the ideas are excellent, and they are also clearly not meant as one-size-fits-all, for which I am grateful. He manages to speak of all of this without pathologizing people, and with great kindness in general. Some of this probably has to do with his awareness of his own traumas and the fact he, too, has worked with some of these therapies. He is a medical doctor, specializing in psychiatry, so the book is rigorous and not too New Age-y lost in the mystical sands of yore or whatever, but he is also somewhat skeptical of the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry and their offers of 'cures' that aren't cures but more like kind of awkward band-aids, that are very useful at times as that: band-aids, but not as cures.

I was cheering along, and happy to see some of the things I do are already patented healing technologies, such as: yoga (for safe embodiment and help with breathing), theater because it's theater and a safe way to work things out, 12-step meetings because people in community helping each other, and body work, etc. He also mentions EMDR (an eye-movement therapy - which he thought sounded hokey until he tried it and did lots of research and discovered it worked - for some - mostly people with adult onset trauma they could remember) and other things I haven't read about yet.

Again, yay, sounds great! (Haven't done EMDR and pretty sure I'd be one of those for whom it would only be of limited use, but may try it some day if/when can afford, etc...fun times in American medical world...blah blah blah...but this is relevant because a lot of these therapies costs a lot of money and are therefore inaccessible to most, whereas All insurance pays for the drugs these days - which makes me rather nauseous, but I digress...)

However, I did pause today, another day of crying over the memory of the miscarriage I had almost 10 years ago, and the way that all grieving makes you feel like a failure and how that probably taps into the April of 1966 when my mother and father split after a violent fight, and on and on and on...and I was thinking as I do every year: maybe This year, it'll be different. Maybe, This year I'll Turn it Around. AKA: maybe This Year I'll be Cured.

And I felt like crap.

Until I stopped thinking that way and stopped worrying about "being better" and just let myself feel how I felt: aka like crap, and teary and irrational and unable to focus and not knowing whether to take my laptop with me or not being enough to push me over the edge of more tears, and then just put the damn laptop in my bag in case I wanted it later and went out to where I was going - a place I can talk about stuff like this - and did.

In this place, you get a period of time to speak without anyone interrupting you. I asked while speaking that no one come up to me with advice afterwards, because I frankly would have lost it. A couple people came afterwards and hugged me and one person started talking to me in a way that seemed suspiciously like she might be about to give advice so I braced myself to flee, but no...that was not it - instead she asked if I could help her with something because she loved listening to me speak and thought I sounded like a healthy person.

In other words: by not trying to pretend to be 'cured' or whatever and in fact living in and expressing my confusion and lack of focus and teariness and rage at God or a Higher Power or WhatHaveYou, I helped someone else.

So, maybe this whole cure thing is oversold, is my point, and Beckett's line is a valuable reminder. Perhaps when we attempt to 'cure' we are instead masking a desire to control and harboring an illusion about immortality? Or some kind of semi-benign (probably semi-comatose) state in which we are 'serene' all the time. I put serene in quotation marks because I don't think that is what serene means. I think serene actually means the ability to be in hell, chaos, turmoil, joy, happiness, peace, craziness, aggravation or equanimity and simply witness it, be there and witness it. That to me is serenity. Or as I heard someone say today instead of "it's happening to me,"saying "it's happening." Not in a denial, pretend it doesn't hurt way - that's just fake Buddhism - but in a fully embodied, present yet holding oneself kind of way...or not. Just fucking freaking out maybe or sobbing or raging or whatever...but not trying to escape the pain.

And maybe - while of course there is some kind of traumatic response that needs to be addressed and I still hold out hope for relief of some of my symptoms and repetition compulsion - maybe...there is a need for a level of acceptance, too, of the messiness of life, of the fact that some losses are just too much to bear in whatever weird little narrow box we have of acceptable in our culture.

Maybe, as Leonard Cohen says, "there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." If everyone and everything was 'cured' where would we be? In the darkness?

This is not in any way to make light of anyone's suffering or the need to seek relief from it. I have no idea what your journey needs to be. Only you do.

However, my gift for the day because of rolling with my reality rather than trying to 'fix' it was to take two short walks in parks - in Central Park where I saw some trees in bloom like a purple azalea and some white maybe cherry? blossoms and saw about 12-15 tourists crowded around a small tree taking photos of an unfazed squirrel. A NYC squirrel. A show off. Behind them rose the bizarre Central Park South skyline that now looks more like a computer simulation than the Deco-inspired New York I pine for when large soulless skyscrapers tower over the few older buildings that remain. But I continued to walk and notice too the flowers and buds and remembered that no matter what - at least for now - spring keeps coming with its relentless life-force regardless of our architectural follies.

Then back uptown and walking in Inwood Hill Park and seeing the pink blossoming tree at the small inlet and watching the graceful white egret catch a fish after standing very, very still for a long time, and out at the point hearing the gentle tide of the Harlem and Hudson rivers lap up on the shore as the sun was setting and the daffodils and crocuses and buds ready to spring out given half a chance and a warm day and looking at the blue blue sky and remembering Cornwall in the UK in April 2007 where I lost my 12-week pregnancy on the first day of a honeymoon the day after the wedding (and also in NYC in September 2001) with the same blue blue sky and crying and crying and then seeing the little kids at the playground and crying some more and thinking thank God/dess, thank you, for the fact I feel sadness rather than anger at the kids or ignoring them or trying not to cry, so I can breathe and smell the soil that is damp and the grass as it is growing and hear and see everyone - and in Inwood I mean Everyone - playing some form of baseball - on a diamond or in a patch of grass or dirt and today - this day - see - for once - kids of every color playing together - and that doesn't always happen - so while I cried I was happy, too.

And the squirrels all running around like little lunatics trying to find the food they had buried in the fall. And all the life everywhere.

So I'm not cured...but I do hear the voices sometimes of the spirits of the two lives that began in me and did not ever make it out alive telling me they are OK, very OK, and that I will be, too, and I cry some more and see the white birds flying in front of the darkening wood, and it's like a painting and they are them and I know that and they are not them and I know that and I am not cured and I'm not sure I want to be.


Friday, March 31, 2017

I have a literary agent now!

So, here's some really good news. After 1.5 years of querying close to 100 agents, I now have a literary agent! This is a big step in the right direction for getting The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani aka 'my grandmothers book' published.

I have much else to say eventually about this and the state of the nation, etc., but since I know some of you who follow this blog are not on Facebook and such things, I wanted you to know.

More soon about upcoming website and hopefully the progress of getting the book to a publisher. But as it is gray and rainy in NYC today, and I am tired after an insomniac night, I am going to take a nap with my cat, who is - as I type - lying on my lap with his head on my arm. He's making a good case for napping...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

30 years is a long time

Honestly, these days since January 20, which was the memorial for my stepfather and the beginning of our Brave New World in the US simultaneously, has rendered me for the most part speechless. I have responded to issues piecemeal on Facebook and such, but here, I cannot find anything to say.

I have had a lot of thoughts and feelings about everything, but because I am afraid that everyone is being so reactive and that is not helping, I don't want to just add to the cacophony.

However, yesterday I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my sobriety and feel I should mark this kind of astonishing milestone somehow. When I last had a drink or drug, Reagan was President, there was a Soviet Union and a Wall in Berlin, most people including me still wrote on typewriters and even if some did have personal computers, there was no public internet; we had no cell phones and used landlines with receivers that were connected to the phone by a cord, and I had a cheap rent in the Haight in San Francisco. I was 23 years old.

The journey from there to here has been a bumpy one - I don't think anyone can live thirty years without bumps. The thing is if you are sober for a long time the best description I've ever heard of that experience is: no windshield. Alcoholics are born without shock-absorbers. There is biochemistry to support this, but that is the effect. Add to that traumatic experiences in childhood on, and you kind of have an addict and/or alcoholic-in-waiting. Some people avoid this fate, but many don't.

I didn't.

However, my drinking story is not that interesting, nor is anyone else's drinking story that interesting - at least not to me anymore. What interests me is finding ways to live sober, without the windshield and without taking it out on everyone else.

This is what preoccupies me, and what I have succeeded at in the technical sense for 30 years (aka no alcohol or drugs) but in terms of living a serene life or whatever, not so much. I mean I have to some degree, and I have meditated for over 20 years, practiced yoga for 16 years, done years of therapy, etc., not to mention going to meetings with people who are struggling to do the same kind of thing. All of this helps. And without all of this I doubt I would still be sober or possess whatever shred of sanity that I do.

However, loss still tears me apart. Another reason I haven't written is the grief over losing David, and then compounded by losing my step-grandmother recently, plus the country arguably, or at least whatever I thought democracy was meant to be. I feel exposed in the rawest way. Sometimes I can cope and sometimes - usually when in yoga class - I can feel deep vital parts of me shifting. I am being shorn of any pretense of pride or whatever, of any sense of "knowing" things. Does this make you wise or just insecure? We will see.

I do feel underneath all of this something is emerging, and I am being forced to surrender to forces larger than me on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis to move through. Sometimes this can even feel good. A lot of times I feel edgy, sometimes raw, sometimes like everything kind of just itches - not literally - but just - it's uncomfortable.

Sometimes I write about it, but recently I haven't been writing that much either. That field seems to need to lay fallow. It feels almost abusive to try to write now. I have been writing at an almost machine-like pace for years now, and I've hit the end of that line. The good news is I seem to want to be out in the world a bit more.

My fractured foot also has played a large part in my awkwardness this past year. I was unable to move for months without pain and now can move but still can't walk the endless way I used to walk, which was and is my favorite exercise. I feel I became almost agoraphobic, and am now peeking outside of that.

Meanwhile, through all of this, I am sober, and that is a miracle, because all of what I am describing would have been reason enough to drink - a lot. Though to be honest, breathing was enough of a reason to drink a lot most days I drank, so there's that. But the fact I can move through all this massive discomfort that feels like it's probably growth and who really wants that at 53 I ask you? Not me, I assure you, but I seem to have no choice. In fact this endless 'growing' bit appears to be the wages of sobriety. Apparently, if your tendency to mute the effect of all that wind hitting you in the face because of having no windshield is to drink and you stop drinking, or doing whatever else you used to get you through the night, then you are doomed to constant 'growth.'

Growth.

Sounds so lovely, so healthy, so fabulous, right?

Hahahahahahaha.

Think about it. Look at toddlers falling over when they try to walk. It's cool, because they are little and people are encouraging them all the time. But imagine doing this - on an emotional level - at 53. You kind of feel - well - stupid. My experience of long-term sobriety is like being a toddler over and over and over and over again - or like a snake shedding its skin, except when the old one goes there isn't a new one underneath right away. That kinda thing.

I'm not complaining - though goddess knows this sounds like complaining - just kind of trying to give you the felt sense of it. Because if you know any clean and sober people, you probably think they are batshit crazy, and you are probably right. Just remember, if we were drinking, game over. We may even on the surface have seemed a little more normal when we were drinking - until a certain point, but then...disaster, not only for ourselves but anyone around us.

For the vast majority of you lucky enough to not be alcoholics or addicts, just remember when dealing with your sober friends that we are wandering around with literally thin skins and everything is hitting us at 11. In my case that includes sounds, smells, visuals, emotions, tastes. It's like living in a hyper-reality.

There are some benefits to this of course, especially if you happen to write, make theater or art or music of any kind. You can be available on levels that are amplified. On the other hand, it can be hard - if not impossible - to turn down this level of sensitivity. I imagine therefore most of us seem hopelessly self-absorbed, and sometimes, yeah, we are. but sometimes, we just Can't Turn Down the Volume on life while it's hitting us like a motherfucker.

At those moments, I tend to retreat. But then can feel isolated and want to come out, but then feel agoraphobic because have retreated, etc. Weird cycles like that.

But I am also exquisitely attuned to the people to whom I am listening, whether in meetings or classes or with friends. I have learned tools over the years that I think makes me a good friend, especially not giving out advice unsolicited and even being cautious when it's solicited. I find most people - including me - don't want to be fixed, but rather want a sympathetic ear.

I do my best to help others who are trying to live without drugs or alcohol. I also do my best to put voices and work out into the world that might not be heard or seen otherwise.

I am not mentioning politics, because honestly, what's the point? Everyone is talking about it all the time, and I have nothing great to add. I only hope we keep trying to listen to one another and don't block off avenues of communication. The rest is too scary for me to even attempt to write about right now. All I know to do is what I have done with the seemingly impossible foe of addiction: surrender to what I am powerless to change and to work my ass off to change the things I can. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but the surrender has to come first, because if I'm putting energy into trying to change what I can't, I have zero energy to change what I can.

Right now, I am glad I live a life based on the concept of living one day at a time, because I could not cope with any of this otherwise without recourse to better living through chemistry.

I miss David so much it hurts. I miss in some ways my youth and ability to believe my own bullshit or was that confidence? In any case, right now I am tired. It is 4:12am. I don't know what else to say, and not sure anything I have said is worth a damn, but here it is. March 4, 2017. 30 years sober and with a car alarm whining outside my window as cars drive by. The car alarm has finally stopped, and so shall I.

Oops, no, forgot the most important part of all: gratitude. Grateful for all the folks who have helped me along the way. Those in and outside of meetings, who have listened when I was freaking and when I was celebrating, when I was angry and sad, when I was triumphant and when I fell on my face, who attended my weddings - yes that's plural - and helped me through divorces (also plural) - who have been there for me no matter what. Whether for a brief time or a long time. Without all of you and all your love, I would be sunk. Also to my higher power that I choose to call whatever - it changes all the time - and sounds so ridiculous in words and yet is there for me whenever I ask and no I can't explain it and yes it sounds absurd, but there it is and part of it is all of you. So, thank you. You all know who you are.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

David Berry's memorial on January 20

For those of you who responding to my blog post about my stepfather David's sudden and unexpected death, I am posting the invite to his memorial, which is on January 20 at 7pm at the LBGT Center on West 13th Street. All are welcome.

Yes, it's the same day as the inauguration. We are aware of that. This is the time we could get the space we wanted, which is a lovely space, and we are all certain David would find dark humor in the timing. We his close family and friends are going to spend that day remembering someone who made a real contribution to the world, and spent his life denouncing Emperors without Clothes. So perhaps now you can see the poetry here.

If you want to commemorate a great man, who touched many deeply with his plays and his person and was - of my multiple fathers - the one who raised me from childhood and introduced me to theater and writing, you are welcome to join us.

I wrote a longer post about him earlier, if this comes as a surprise, or you want to know more about him. There is also an obit in the New York Times.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Acceptance is not Acquiescence: It is. Thank you.

So, there's this thing going around on social media, Facebook specifically, wherein we are meant to choose a word for the year. Kind of like a resolution I suppose or a hope.

The word that came to me was Acceptance.

And when I thought of typing this on FB, I could see the flood of people yelling at me that I was 'normalizing' the situation (aka the orange one, etc.) and realized that there was no way I could choose this word without writing about what this word means to me in real terms, instead of what it is misunderstood to imply.

Acceptance to most (American) minds implies something along the lines of weak, passive, submissive, not fighting, wussy, whathaveyou. Whereas for me it means a discipline that can only be cultivated with strength of heart and soul that confers a kind of power and clarity of action that mere willfulness or bloodymindedness does not.

Oh how we love the stubborn, the bloodyminded, the willful, the violent, etc, etc in this country! And as has been proven many times, we have a real soft spot for narcissistic psychopaths.

Fun times.

However, what I am certain is needed now is not more of the same hurled back, but instead the moment, the breath, the time to first accept. Accept what? Well, I dunno, reality for starters.

If I become aware of something I don't like and act against it reactively the chances of my succeeding are very small. Or, I may succeed, but most likely it will be a Pyrrhic victory that will redound badly on me in the end.

If on the other hand, I take a moment or however long I need to accept the reality of whatever that is, including the reality of my situation and what I do and (equally important) don't have the power to change, then I have a chance of choosing an action in response that may be effective.

My default setting - and I don't think this makes me unique - is: awareness, action yesterday! This is tempting. It makes me feel like I'm doing something, but what am I doing? Who knows. It's a reaction. It usually doesn't work.

Let's take the election for example. I have to accept, whether I like it or not, that DT will be president. I can scream and yell all I want, them's the rules. Even if he did steal it somehow. Whatever happened has not been proven yet, so he's gonna be president. There is no such thing as my president or your president, there is only the president, and he will be it. To use the language from the Tea Party, who invented the 'not my president' trope for Obama is...unwise. Also just kind of pointless. The president is not a teddy bear or bff. The president is the president.

That's a start.

Second, the fact that millions of people voted for this dude. This is something a lot of people on the left including most of the cosseted commentariate (Studs Terkel warned against this cosseting - he saw a day like this coming where reporters and papers would stop reporting news that mattered to the 99% and then lose track of reality for anyone not doing well or in certain urban areas rich in information and access) refused to acknowledge. The reality of people that have been forgotten. These people were not forgotten by some like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but they were poo-pooed as - wait for it: 'populists' - the bad word if you are urban liberal educated, populism being just code for classist assumptions about folks usually referred to as 'poor white trash' outside of polite conversation.

So, a guy who could give a flying fuck about these people wins their vote, not because he's going to do jack shit to help them, But Because He Acknowledged They Exist.

That was a start.

Ignoring people you don't like does not make them go away.

Let me repeat that.

Ignoring people you don't like does not make them go away.

You can call them all the names you want. Still. Not. Going. Away.

So, here's the thing: and this is what acceptance means to me, we have to get in the same damn room. My grandmothers, the ones I wrote about, the ones who if alive would have voted for Trump and Clinton respectively, were never in the same room. They would not be in the same room.

There's the rub.

Is it all on 'our' (aka the left's) side to do this?

Absolutely not. It's on everyone.

Are there stone racists and people who are not pleasant involved?

Yes.

Do you have to put yourself in a dangerous situation?

No. Absolutely not.

Do we have to accept that there are people in this country (on all sides) that believe things so different from ourselves it seems as if we live in different countries, even different time periods?

Yes.

Do we still need to find a way to get into the same damn room?

Yes.

Why?

Because until we can accept one another as we are, we can't get anywhere. And I don't mean by that acquiesce or submit. No. I mean accept the reality of the situation, which is generally - especially when it comes to people we don't actually know in real life - way more complication and nuanced than we believe when we want to shove people into little stereotype boxes because that's ever so much easier than confronting or attempting to communicate with an actual, living, breathing human being.

Does this mean everyone is reachable?

No.

Are there violent, no good creepazoids who are probably not worth the time of day?

You betcha.

Are they the majority?

Doubtful.

So, we need to find a way to accept ourselves, each other and the full reality of this country as it actually is, because no, in fact it was not a different country after DT was elected. It is the same damn country. We are that fucking weird.

(And our voting system is that fucked up, too, granted - but still the rules have been in place all along and Obama managed to get elected twice.)

Are there aspects to our country we might have conveniently forgotten because it was - let's face it - easier than accepting them?

You bet.

Do we know they are there now?

Oh yeah.

Is it all pretty?

Nope.

is it real?

Yes.

So, we have to address what is real, not just try to put people back in boxes again or think that if we tell people not to say mean things they aren't thinking them. This is probably the greatest fallacy we have been laboring under for like a while, that if we can shame people into appearing to be non-sexist or non-racist or not homophobic or whatever, then they are reformed.

I think we now know that was a wrong assumption.

So, while I clearly do not advocate any such prejudices or hatreds, I do advocate finding a way to listen to each other without shutting each other down (again this would have to be done by all sides), so we can fucking hash this shit out. For real.

Idealistic?

Sure.

Necessary even so?

Absolutely.

We also have to FINALLY talk about class for real, and not assume when we are talking about race we are talking about class, because this is not true. There are in fact disenfranchised white people. They are way less likely to get killed by police and such, but poor white people are well and truly fucked nonetheless, especially since most folks don't even acknowledge they exist, including half of the poor people themselves. I get the whole issue of privilege. I do. But there are many different kinds of privilege and class is one of them. One of the ways the GOP keeps poor and lower middle class white people on side is by convincing us we aren't poor. It's ludicrous, and saying that it's all people of color on food stamps and such, which is ludicrous, but when we conflate race and class, we play into the GOP's hands.

So for me acceptance is about all this. Accepting the facts on the ground and that there are all these wildly different perceptions.

This is true on a personal level as well. If I find a part of myself I don't like, I can't just talk myself out of it. I have to accept it first. Only once I accept that this part exists can I begin to ask for help to have it relieved.

And now, here, I believe the same is true. I can't make DT or his minions go away, any more than I can singlehandedly push back late-capitalism or patriarchy in its death-star supernova, but I can accept these things and through accepting how they work, begin to act accordingly.

Accepting myself is key because I have to know what I can and cannot do in response. I have to know my energy levels, endurance, mental and physical abilities, etc. I cannot talk myself into being 23. I am 53 so have to choose my battles. Very carefully.

How does the word 'battles' work with the word 'acceptance'? Well, once I accept the situation, and understand the holistic complexity of it, I may want to work to change it, at least my response to it. But no matter what I do, I need to understand - as the Bhagavad Gita says - I can take an action, but I do not control the result.

All I am in charge of is right action in accordance with my deepest self.

In order to have a prayer of doing that, I have to know who my deepest self is, which means practicing self-awareness without judgment - which sounds easy, but is really fucking hard. I have to let go of all the IDEAS I have about who I am supposed to be or not supposed to be, all my little schemes and designs and listen for the still, small voice and act from there.

And also accept that that won't happen all the time either.

So acceptance is my word for this year, my prayer. I turn my life and my will over to powers greater than myself every day. Powers I do not understand but have had experience of in my life, too profound to deny, that have in fact saved my life. The fact I cannot explain this does not make it any less real. But the key to that power is acceptance.

That is a paradox, but it is true at least for this wildly imperfect human on this earth on this day in this lifetime.

So.

Acceptance.

p.s. I should add by way of full disclosure that what I am accepting today is that I am hopping mad about a lot of things personal and political and one of the things is grief for my dead stepfather who I know died in part in response to this fucking election and it just breaks my heart because it was so avoidable, but there it is. So acceptance for me isn't even particularly pretty - what I have to accept inside is sometimes a fucking shitstorm, but so be it. Because like I don't have a fucking choice. It is.

Which reminds me of my favorite prayer I heard once in London in 2003, an African prayer:

It is. Thank you.

It is. Thank you.

It is. Thank you.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

St. Mark's Poetry Marathon & The Resister Project

There are some amazing events I have been asked to participate in this January - beginning on New Year's Day. In real life I would be very excited about all this, and in some ways I am. Grieving for my stepfather has robbed me of enthusiasm, however, these events are going to be life-affirming, fierce, joyful and important, and they benefit excellent causes, so do come along if you can.

I am deeply honored be reading this year at the 43rd Annual St. Mark’s New Year’s Day Poetry Marathon at St. Mark’s Church on 10th St & 2nd Ave. in the 5-6pm slot. Here’s link to this amazing event, which was begun by Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg: https://www.poetryproject.org/events/43rd-annual-new-years-day-marathon-benefit-reading/

Starting January 5, I will be reading as part of the The Resister Project produced by The Dirty Blondes at Kraine Theater on East 4th Street in January. Dates and specifics of schedules all plays and readers here:  http://www.thedirtyblondes.org/the-resister-project.html Proceeds will go to ACLU. 

In both cases I will be reading excerpts from THE AMAZING TRUE IMAGINARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DICK & JANI. At St. Mark's it will be an excerpt that I structured like John Cage's Lectures on Nothing, using found text from the 1950s, both news and personal documents that I found in Dick's papers.

For The Resister Project, I will be reading excerpts that highlight Dick and Jani's political differences, because their lives as women who were born before women could vote during WWI and who would be 100 and 101 if alive today, embody the opposite sides of the political chasm into which we now find ourselves staring. If alive, Dick would have voted for Trump and Jani for Clinton. They are both my grandmothers, so I feel this schism on a visceral level. Clearly, I ended up on the lefthand side of the equation, but am deeply aware of the other side of this divide. I will be reading in their voices most probably from the 1960s, when a certain part of this divide cracked open, even though it goes back way further than that. I know it's an unpopular opinion these days on the left, but I believe understanding the roots of this are important and listening to all sides is a good idea, as is a sense of history when the present seems as if it is a surprising  development (even if it isn't). The details of other plays and such can be found at link above.

If you attend any of these events, do say hello. I'm not the most fun person ever these days, but appreciate hugs and kindness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rumi on grieving

I may have posted this before, but I'm posting it again, because this poem by Rumi that I have tacked up above my computer is saving me again.  Probably because of reading it this morning and letting it sink in, each line, I had a moment today, walking up the stairs from the subway to go to a writer's meeting, of grace - the kind of moment when you feel you are being carried.

I am praying for acceptance every day now. Of it all.


Here is Rumi (Coleman Barks translation):


This being human is a guest
house.  Every morning
a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy True Human
Beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles
you've been given, the door opens.

Welcome difficulty as a familiar
comrade.  Joke with torment
brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,
and then are taken off.
That undressing,
and the beautiful
naked body
                     underneath,
                                    is the sweetness
                                                that comes

                                                            after grief.


* * *



p.s. In case you want to hear my words and live in or near NYC, you can go to St. Mark's Poetry Marathon on New Year's Day. I'm reading in the 5-6pm slot - would normally send out newsletter about that but can't bring myself to do that right now, so announcing it here. It's a lovely time. Come along if you can.