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. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.

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 a new book recently completed.

I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

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

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The war is over...and I don't know how to live outside a war zone

I have not written here in a while. But as I was walking along in Inwood Hill Park tonight where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet, and watching the reflection of the setting sun (the sun itself was behind the cliffs that rise up here on the top tip of Manhattan between the park and the Hudson where the old growth forest still grows), I could hear someone play an electric guitar...not particularly well, but enough to evoke the 1970s and evenings as a child, sometimes riding in people's vans or old cars, and the odd comfort of that, teenagers or young adults playing Led Zepplin and me in the back somewhere doing whatever, but not in charge and knowing somehow for that moment everything was OK.

I then remembered this realization I had the other day when I was meditating that yes indeed the war is over, but I have no idea how to live outside a war zone. I don't mean that literally in the sense of being in the middle of an actual shooting war (aside from the time we lived on 106th and Amsterdam back in the early 1990s when in fact there were many gun fights outside our window - some with automatic weapons - so bad the police would not show up because - and I quote - "we are outgunned")...but as a child, not guns, but other war zones - some violent physically, some mentally, some verbally, some emotionally, but it was always a crisis and starting as a very young child I had to have my shit together. For instance, my mother has told me, when I was a baby and she and my father would fight violently, so I would hold my breath until I turned blue, which would finally make them stop.

That kind of thing. Rinse. Repeat.

Shift characters, locations, details but the out of joint song in which I had to keep my shit together, be vigilant at all times, and therefore could rarely be a child remained the same.

So, yeah, no, I'm not what you would call laid back. All the yoga and meditation in the world can't undo that shit. It can Help. A lot. It can keep me from inflicting it on others, and at times if I'm lucky myself, but it's not precisely a good run up to peacetime living.

I'm not going to recite my childhood. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog or my plays can catch the gist, but the point remains: no tools to live in peacetime.

Which means all the time living on overdrive. Shocking that I became an alcoholic, I know (ha!). But what is a miracle is that I got sober at 23. And still am. At 54. That shit is weird. But even so, still, no windshield and not really, you know, laid back.

BUT the difference is - when I had this realization while meditating, this time I didn't think OH NO, I HAVE TO DOOOO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. I HAVE TO HAVE A 10-POINT ACTION PLAN TO DEFEAT MY CRAZINESS. No. I did not go through that. Instead, I just breathed and heard a gentle internal voice say: and that's all you need to know right now.

You don't have to DO anything about it.

Just let it settle in. And I am. And just this. The NOT doing, the letting it settle in, is changing my life. It's kind of a miracle. Not by trying to change my life. Instead by Not trying to change my life. The miracle of acceptance. You accept a thing, hold space for it, and voila, it changes. With no effort. If I resist it, it just gets bigger and more intractable.

And so now, somehow, when feelings I usually find excruciating come up - certain types of sadness or boredom or anxiety or whatever - instead of trying to run away, I just breathe them in. I hold space. I witness. I allow the feelings. I look and see what's there for me to see, feel, experience. And then, yes, it all changes. By not trying to change it.

It's bizarre.

Which is all by way of saying when I heard that guy playing the guitar, I let the pleasant kind of nostalgic memory of those peaceful moments in my childhood wash over me. I felt the nostalgia, the desire to be young again, to have life ahead of me instead of at least more than half in the rearview mirror, and also the knowledge that there were these moments of respite - for all the crazy and the crisis. And that while I might not know how to live outside a war zone, I can allow myself these moments and don't have to judge or overanalyze.

Of course it doesn't help these days how much actual crazy there is in the world and violence and rampant injustice and plain old meanness and cruelty. But the fact is in one form or other that's always been there. I can allow the feelings of powerlessness in and rage and all of it. I can act as I can act, which I do, politically. I can write sometimes, create theater, do my little part. I can spin out, I can step up, I can step aside, freak out, be calm, get angry, cry, wonder what the actual fuck, have a moment of calm, take a walk, stay under the covers, call someone, meditate, stay alone, go be with people, dance, do yoga, write, take a nap, watch stupid things on Netflix, write in this blog, submit work, get rejected, get accepted, feel accomplished, feel like a failure, feel loved, feel lonely, wonder again what the actual fuck, and then breathe and let it all in - when I remember to do so.

This is the gift of getting older, staying sober for a long time, meditating every day, doing yoga when I remember (not as much as I should in other words) and trying to be a decent person - I begin to be able to accept the whole package.

I was also thinking walking home: I want to live long, because I need to figure it out, and then I laughed when I heard an internal voice say: that'll only happen when you stop trying to figure it out. Which, like, of course. But what a seduction it is. For someone such as me anyway.

At night when lying down going to sleep with crystals on me (yes I've turned into That person - try not to hate me), and I sense, my God/dess, so much energy in my head, my mind churning and churning Trying to Figure It Out. And so little energy in the rest of my body. So then breathing into that mysterious rest of me - the part - pretty much all of it - that I routinely ignore. Letting the crystals bring me to those parts of my body. Wondering will I ever allow my body to be fully animated? I don't know. Part of the war zone thing, levels of dissociation I'm not sure will ever go away. It's waaaay better than it used to be. At least I know my body is here. I can even feel it sometimes. A number of years ago, I woke up more fully to my actual emotions (as opposed to the word facsimile cover story that masqueraded as such). But I have a feeling my physical body is the most resistant to my awareness and acceptance. I am only aware of Problems - either physical aches and pains or with How I Look (always wrong) etc. Not sure I will ever be able to embrace my corporeal self, but that's got to be Ok. I don't want to doom myself to this dissociation either. We'll see.

I can breathe now. I can at times be touched. Sometimes easier than others. But I have always been "touchy" - kind of prickly in a somewhat sneaky way. On the surface, I am warm, but it's a patina, something to a certain degree I taught myself how to do. But underneath there is the shrinking away scared little kid, never sure anyone or anything can be trusted and always ready to pick a fight. It's complex. I certainly don't think I'm alone in this.

I'm afraid to even write any of this and publish it in public. What will people THINK?! GASP! As if...but still.

So, here I am. This is me today. Tomorrow or the next day I will post a bunch of things with schedules of events, a staged reading and two readings, all in June. But this is a different post. So be it.

As the African prayer goes: It is. Thank you.

Even if that means I never do know how to live in peacetime. I am here. And there is beauty - and even moments of peace - in the midst of the ever whirring chaos in my brain and sometimes heart.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Waiting on my room...

I may have written a very similar blog post about a year and a half ago.

I am back at Kripalu, a yoga retreat where I have come since 2003. 2003 was a potent year. It's also the year I found the Orkney Islands (well many people for millennia have "found" the Orkney Islands but you get the idea...).

Now - as in December 2016 - I am waiting for my room. Over the years, the place has grown and become more hotel-like and hence rooms need to become available. On the other hand, the view to mountains and lake is the same, and an undercurrent of deeply healing energy.

I came today on purpose, because it's the 11th anniversary of my miscarriage, the one after my wedding on our honeymoon. In Cornwall. It was a beautiful day, and a very sad and painful day for me and my then husband. I never got pregnant after that. Should not by rights have been pregnant then. I was 43, no IVF, had had an operation on my uterus to make it possible, but that somehow seemed to make me feel worse for a long time. So it was all a surprise, a happy one, and then it wasn't. I was 12 weeks pregnant, so it was painful, too, physically.

So for the first time since that happened, I have taken myself away from all that is familiar (well Kripalu is familiar, but not home and I'm not here with anyone I know) to walk through or screech through the feelings as the case may be.

Coming up by bus I felt the closer we got an almost exquisite sense of loneliness. I say exquisite not as in beautiful but as in so rarefied I almost didn't know what it was. Like distilled water, not mixed with any other emotion, either worse or better.

I then doubted whether this was a good idea, but then I realized, oh, of course, this part of grieving is that. It is lonely business. People can wave at you from their own shore and tell you about their own experience of such grief, and be holding you with love, but still you are alone in this ice floe.

It is grey and cold up here today, too, as if to kind of make the point. Underline it. On other hand, the weather in Cornwall was beautiful, the whole damn week that followed, too. We stayed there. What else to do? Go back to London and see everyone from the wedding and have them be pitying towards us. That somehow seemed worse. Would it have been? I don't know.

I think I was - I definitely was - in shock. So through all the blood and pain I hiked and hiked. Pad after pad soaking, trying to find places to throw them out. Why? Afraid of the pain? probably. Afraid of being alone and crushed by grief and loneliness. Definitely.

So, here I am. Alone. Waiting for my room.

Last time I was here, I posted a photo of this same view, and my stepfather David responded to it. He loved Kripalu, too. He died a couple days later, the day I returned - so that turned out to be our last communication. I found out the next day, as we all did. He was alone. He must have called 911 because an ambulance had come and brought him to the hospital, where his friend finally found his body. He was probably dead when he arrived. Massive heart attack. Out of nowhere. Boom. Alone.

So, coming up here felt way harder than usual. Was afraid even.

But as the volume goes down on the outside the world, the pain has a chance to surface. I do know from experience not just fortune cookies that experiencing pain mitigates suffering, but in the middle of it of course it can be hard to remember.

I haven't written a blog post in a while but this felt like the right time, if for no other reason than I am in the cafe drinking coffee and waiting for my room.

My temporary home for 3 days.

This is the view. I never tire of the way the mountains layer in color and form in the distance. One of the best things about getting out of the city is the ability to see distances. Even if misty and obscured.  There are literally shades of grey here today. And dark greens and blues...but mostly grey tinted by blue...

There is a lot of wind today - intimations of Orkney. Where I will be again this summer. These refuges I have been so lucky to find later in life. Where things change a lot, but there is something underneath deeper than these changes that remains.

It is precisely that to which I can attune more easily in these places and to which I attune more and more each year.

That is where that which can hold me through the healing resides. It doesn't make it less painful, but it makes it possible.

Friday, March 23, 2018


Hi all,

Just writing to say I am writing. I am writing now - after many years of writing for public consumption here, stage texts, many FB posts, and two books - for myself. A very private project. I don't know if it will ever see the light of day.

However, that is the mode I am in, so not sure how many blog posts there will be for a little while.

The outline of what I am doing is a deeply personal excavation project. I need to kind of protect the space around it in order to do it.

I will periodically announce things here, and who knows, maybe write some posts, too, but there is a shift, it feels right, and wanted to give you who have read this page a heads up.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

31 years of not killing myself one day at a time....

I have not been blogging much because I've been working on some new writing, something that may in fact never see the light of day but seems to be important for my psychic survival.

Somehow this relates to being 31 years sober as of yesterday. Because while I do talk about this process periodically, it's mostly something I do in private.

I can say this about that however: it requires a continual excavation of the self and a commitment to helping others do the same, to find a way to walk through each day without a drink or a drug to dull the pain. Or whatever else one might want dulled.

I am exhausted and not sure why I am writing this now, but today was a gift, was able to share some of what I have learned with a dear friend, go to yoga and feel my heart and how tight it is right now, how my shoulders are protecting it, how they probably always have been, how painful that is and how compassionate I need to be with myself even so. There is good reason for that protection. It is tempting to be disappointed in myself that I still hide out, still fear people, still fear a lot of things. But that is as ridiculous as being disappointed in anyone else for being afraid, which I rarely am, not if they are aware of the fear anyway.

Sobriety is a paradox of both having to become aware of my darkest and most vulnerable parts, but also somehow give them space, not reject them, because that causes denial or dissociation. It seems to be for me these days about holding space for infinite complexity including massive contradictions and conflicts within myself. I am committed to not exiling parts of myself because they are not convenient or are embarrassing or whatever. This can be challenging and sometimes a pain in the ass to be honest.

However, as I walk through this journey day by day, both internally and in some cases within my writing, I feel I land more firmly on the earth, touch down even to the ocean floor of my own psyche, that vast silence filled with strange creatures and detritus thrown from the surface that just kind of landed there.

I have some deep frustrations with some external situations over which I have limited control, some shame over certain career achievements not having been reached. So much shame I don't really want to say that out loud, fearing judgment. But since this is all about being transparent with myself, it seems absurd not to say it.

But the larger fact is for all this, I don't want to drink or take any substances today, and I'm not acting out in other ways to ease the pain or confusion. Sometimes that seems like a ridiculous thing to say out loud after 31 years, but since I am aware of people who have gone out drinking after 10-20-30 years sober, and some who have died as a consequence, it's not a small thing.

Long term sobriety is not glamorous, it's life experienced - everything all the time - with the volume turned to 11. As I have said before - life without shock absorbers...and no windshield.

However, there are moments like today when I can talk to a dear friend such that my experience of this walking can give relief, maybe shed light, or other times I can talk to someone who is new to this life and help them stay sober another day. Then all the muddling through and the seemingly at times absurd lengths I go to be honest with myself and others that frankly at times seems to verge on self-destructive, has meaning.

I wish I could say which way to go forward with my life was crystal clear. It's not. I have lived one day at a time for so long now I don't think I know any other way. Each day is about being more or less in tune with a sort of internal divining rod that I let guide me.

I do meditate every day. I try to do some yoga and walk. I write most every day. I try to be a decent human being. This year I'm also doing a fair bit of political work for obvious reasons, like - you know - survival, but am grateful for having found a way to do that that is both relatively simple and incredibly effective.

I hold space for others who are going through tricky changes and who are discovering their voices - in life and art. I spend a lot of time - that I love - working with other writers - as a teacher, coach, editor and friend.

I wonder what has happened to my theater work as a director, I seem to only be writing now for the most part. I kind of miss the rehearsal room but my internal divining rod has led me away from that for the lasy while. Will it lead me back? I don't know.

So much I don't know.

But I am sober. I have walked through a lot of life this way, more years than I was alive when I hit my bottom at 23 - a horrifying sense of not even existing in some way - not to mention not being able to even get drunk anymore. I wish I could tell you it's all been a glittering triumph or that I was a paragon of mental health, but that would be a lie. It's been a journey, one that still continues. A bumpy ride at times, other times exhilarating and seemingly effortless, some years full of grief and low level depression, and some moments even now, 31 years later, when it feels like there is a trap door that has opened up beneath me that I tumble down wondering when I will hit a bottom, seemingly lost and thinking: wait, what? I'm 54, shouldn't I be you know More Together Than This?

I try not to take these moments of confusion, which at times are painful, out on anyone, but sometimes I do, mostly the people closest to me of course. One of the things I am examining so closely now is how I navigate such things and why. Imprints from a chaotic childhood as an only child amongst multiple caretakers most of whom had wildly different value systems from one another and most of whom were not really meant to have kids but there I was - the proverbial inconvenient truth. Sometimes consequently, I feel safest when alone, because only then do I have to account to no one. That is an illusion of course, because it's not like all those people and experiences just vanish when I'm by myself.

Alcoholism amongst other things is a disease of isolation, it wants you alone in a room and dead. So, this is one of my primary conflicts, both desiring being alone and knowing at times I need to resist that urge. To allow others to see me in more vulnerable states, which I find so shameful, especially fear.

I was told when I began recovery: you need never be alone again. I did not understand it then. But I do now. I might feel lonely. I meet be alone, but I am not alone. I am connected to so many people and to whatever powers this internal divining rod and a sense - astonishingly enough and more and more - of a place amidst the cosmos. Hard to explain that and won't even try at close to 4am, but it's a great piece of knowledge - not as in facts but as in something far deeper.

Finally, also, a sense of happiness seeing people younger than me agitating for a new and better world. I remember so vividly being that age and agitating my heart out, but it was the Reagan era and no one listened. What a joy it is to see these young people be heard. It gives me great joy. My friend Spencer once said he felt that those of us who don't have our own children have a certain love to offer the world and young people specifically that those with children have to reserve for their own kids, and I feel that now more than ever. I feel an optimism for the future that I have never felt before. I don't know if I'll be alive to see it in full flower, because when I mean future - I mean Future as in 30-50 years from now, but there is hope.

I mean to do my best to help keep the world alive for this new generation to take over. I used to joke with my theater work I felt like those medieval monks who hand copied the Greek and Latin texts in monasteries to keep them alive until those ideas finally fueled the Renaissance. And I see now it's not just the theater, it's my whole life that is this, living and creating, in hope for this new world that now seems possible - a tiny glimmer on a horizon - one that I will make whatever is left of my life's work to not see extinguished.

What does this have to do with sobriety? A lot actually, because in staying sober and helping others do the same, it's the same kind of thing. Passing on what I have been given, keeping alive something that is only kept alive by free action of people who are never paid, except in the gift of our own sobriety, our own lives.

But now I have rambled enough for the time being. Thank you for reading, for bearing witness, for holding space.

Monday, February 19, 2018

I'm still alive!

Sorry to have been so absent for so long. It's been a lot this beginning of the year. The good news is everyone I know and love is still alive so far - a plus. Also my freelance life writing, teaching workshops, editing and coaching is moving apace. I am still seeking out an agent and sending parts of my two books to various places, and to some small publishers. However, my play Shit! was chosen for a play development program at IATI downtown, and will have a staged reading in June

My hope for the world at the moment centers on the kids from Parkland High School in Florida who are taking a tragedy and turning it into a movement. Those young people remind me a lot of the freshmen I taught at Fordham when I was adjunct teaching. This is a new and powerful generation, and I am proud of them and will do all in my power to support their work.

In terms of writing and my own life, I am waiting on a number of things, and may have some news soon, but since not sure when that will happen, I wanted to at least post the invite here for the reading of my amazing writing workshop coming up this Tuesday at Indian Road Cafe uptown in Inwood (NYC). Come along if you can. All the women in the workshop have impressed me with their excavating of deeper territories, accompanied by a sense of humor, born from experience...I too will be reading.

John made this lovely poster! Need a designer? Give him a shout!
We are beginning a new session of the workshop in mid-March, so if you want to join us, give me a shout (using email on flyer below), everyone is continuing on, but we can bring in two more members. Meanwhile, if you would like one-on-one help with your writing, I am working with people all over the world now as a coach and editor. I'd be happy to help you move along your own projects at whatever stage from very beginning to needing a final edit!

And, there is ONE spot left for the writing retreat I am leading to Westray (one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland) in July. If interested, get in touch. This island is magic, and you can get stuff done there that would seem impossible in real life. I don't know why, but it's true. Here is link to my post when up there this past summer: https://julialeebarclay.blogspot.com/2017/06/in-orkney-in-heaven.html

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Gratitude list (Life's what happens to you while you're busy making other plans)

So, it's been a weird year...for pretty much everyone I know.

There has been a lot of loss (personal and global) and of course insane politics. A lot I had my sights on I did not achieve or thought I had but then didn't (e.g. I was signed by an agent, but it wasn't a good fit, so had to let her go a few months later, so...as of right now, no agent). So, I end the year without an agent and still don't have a publisher for my first book or my recently-completed one (though that process has just begun).

On the other hand, a lot of other really good stuff happened and was accomplished.

As John Lennon sang:

"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."

Yeah, that seems about right.

To wit (aka gratitude list):

At this very moment painters are painting our bathroom and kitchen (requested in September).

I still have a roof over my head and food in refrigerator.

Bought some new clothes recently, thanks to Christmas gift.

I'm healthy even if could use to lose a few pounds (shocking, I know).

When I get myself there, I can still do yoga.

I have a nice little office area and a writing studio cooperative I can go to downtown.

My play SHIT was chosen for a play development program at IATI and will be shown in NYC as a staged reading in June.

I finished a new book, two new plays and wrote many blog posts and some articles this year.

I've begun a thus-far successful freelance writing, coaching, teaching and editing business, which I now do full-time, since I was graced with realization I had to leave being an adjunct professor because the pay and conditions were actually abusive. So far, this has been a good decision.

I love coaching and teaching independently, and helping shape writing as an editor and/or writer for individuals and non-profits. I also have discovered a talent for manuscript reviews that are helpful to the authors.

I continue submitting my work, even when it feels like a ten-ton weight. I have gotten some wonderful feedback even when not accepted and encouragement to resubmit. I am glad I have the ability to keep doing this, because the difference between success and failure with writing is the ability to withstand a lot of rejection in the process. Sometimes I feel the resilience and sometimes I don't, but I keep moving forward.

I love my newest play On the edge of/a cure. Not sure where/how to develop it yet, but had fabulous actors come up to my apartment and read it, so I know I need to do something...mulling on that.

The #metoo movement has brought light to dark corners and even if messy and hard, I believe it presages a new world coming. Assuming we can survive the patriarchal death star (not guaranteed). That movement is why I wrote the above play. Dealing head on with issues I've punted for far too long.

I've gotten involved in some political stuff that I think is effective and was one of the many volunteers who helped Doug Jones get elected in Alabama. May this and earlier local 2017 elections be a sign of things to come. Glad to have found a way to be effective and not feel paralyzed.

My newest play being read was one of the things that knocked me out of my paralysis.

The awareness that when I am not writing, I am being written. Therefore making sure I keep writing. No matter what.

A year of being paid to lead a book club. Paid to read a book I have chosen and lead a discussion on it by a group of smart, fabulous women. What a gift.

All of the people who have entrusted me with their writing in workshops, as a coach, an editor or manuscript reviewer.

John finally getting some good news about some issues in Canada, which I can't discuss in detail, but it's good news and a long time coming, will help us move into our future.

20+ years of meditating every day.

My fabulous cat, Ugo.

The love of friends and family, too many to mention, but you know who you are.

With a special shout-out to the friends of Bill and Lois W. that have led me to 30+ years of life with no windshield. The real hard core.

A rent-stabilized apartment in Inwood. (Artist credo: keep your overhead low.)

So many ideas for writing, art and theater projects I don't think I can finish them before I die.

My trip to London and Scotland this summer wherein I reconnected with people and places I love and did revisions on my second book (Girls Meeting God). The Orkney Islands are my spiritual home and had not been there for 7 years.

The fact I am leading a retreat back to Orkney Islands this coming summer that is almost full up.

The discovery of power of crystals (I would be rolling my eyes, too, if I were you, but for real they work).

An excellent yoga teacher.

The wonder of stove top espresso.

A snowy Christmas and ice storm that made the world a crystal palace. (Plus good heating, which made it fun to see from inside.)

Family and friends with whom to memorialize and then spread my stepfather's ashes in Maine and Brooklyn, a hard slog of grief, but mitigated by being shared. Though it still hurts and is an undertow to any joy.

At beginning of year reading excerpts in my grandmothers voices from first book, The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani at Poetry Marathon and Resistor project.

I created and designed a website for stories about other people's grandmothers, which you can contribute to if you want: Our Grandmothers, Our Selves.

A brief but important autumn retreat to finish final edits on Girls Meeting God.

Another play I wrote earlier in the year, Grieving for Dummies. Have not been sure what to do with that one. Maybe need to hear it read. Anyone interested?

Speaking of which, that I live in NYC and so when want to hear a play read, that isn't hard, because so many fabulous people around who are crazy talented and generous.

Inwood and the park, the water, the birds, the old growth forest.

A loving husband.

The people who joined us on the 16th for the holiday gathering for people who find holiday gatherings difficult where  we all talked about what we loved and hated about holidays and tallied up our losses, the difficulty of these during this time of year. The only requirement was no enforced gaiety.

Friends who take care of Ugo when we are gone!

Healthcare - this year anyway. And next. God knows after that.

The many, many people who give a shit and work in mostly thankless and anonymous ways to make sure people do have healthcare and a fairer political/economic environment.

Those who do the invisible work. I see you. I know many of you. You are the reason the damn planet still goes round.

A special shout out to the many, many women of a certain age who I have met over this year who are all supporting each other in ways great and small. The days of quiet desperation are coming to an end. An under the radar network instead is emerging. We are no longer going to walk quietly into the dark night to be rendered useless. Count on it.

Having discovered this year my own personal ocean floor. That which does not move. Hard to describe this, other than that way. I don't know if this happens for others when they are far younger, but for me it was this year. All the turbulence, the depressions, meannesses, joys, awarenesses...are the tide...beneath which is this floor. I get that geologically the ocean floor also moves, but that kind of works, too, because of course I am alive now, in this body and configuration now, and after that, who knows? I don't. But in this iteration, something solid has emerged. It's a touchstone. This happened during a meditation, of course.

When I started writing my grandmothers book, I had asked that I be given a kind of quiet confidence in my own voice, a stability that could not be knocked off course just for the sake of approval or whatever - a discernment of my own. So, even though it's been difficult, I am holding to my vision and this sense of an ocean floor has put a kind of foundation beneath that aspiration. I still have self-doubt of course and it's not that my work is perfect or anything, but it is giving me the strength to not just take advice that feels more like prevailing winds than true for what I am doing. I pray at some point I will find an agent and/or publishers who will also see what and how I see, but that I cannot control.

To all of you who read this blog, I am grateful to you. I don't know many of you, but I know you are out there, because I can see it in the stats. You come from all over the world and are in the thousands.  I hope this writing and accounting of a life lived on the edge of so many worlds in the early years of the 21st Century makes you feel a little less lonely on this planet in our connected/disconnected tiny/huge planet. I hope you feel love and some connection to the blue-green that makes our planet so special and livable. It feels so fragile these days - our lives here anyway - but here we are now. So I embrace you in whatever way I can.

In return, I gift you with my most successful New Year's resolution to date:

There is nothing wrong with you.

(The resolution part is if when considering an issue, it begins with something intrinsically wrong with me, I have to back that train back in the station and reconsider it from the perspective of there not being anything wrong with me. This works beautifully and over the years has led me to places I didn't even know existed within myself creatively and in life.)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What we have lost

I was trying to sleep tonight, but because of an exchange with a friend on Facebook, on top of many revelations in this past months in relation to the #metoo movement, I began to cry for what we have lost. All women. I will speak for women because I am one. I will speak for women because we so rarely have the chance to frame our own narrative, claim our own reality on our own terms, unless it's packaged in a way considered somehow acceptable or tamed through a "female" genre or whatever.

So, I will speak for women and what we have lost, any of us - who are probably most of us - who have experienced any form of sexual assault or harassment and its evil step-twin misogyny. Which then basically makes it all women, and what I want to speak of is what we have lost.

What we have lost is not so much about the events themselves, it is about how the effects of these events and the misogynist surround which greets us when or if we ever try to tell or don't tell or just exist afterwards, or during repeated harassment or assault, resound throughout our entire lives. The damage that does not go away, no matter how much therapy or recovery or crystal work or religion or dream work or art we make or yoga and meditation we do or careers we succeed or fail in or relationships that may even be - against all odds - loving we experience. Because surrounding us is fear, loss of confidence, the proverbial hole in the soul, a kind of brittleness that means the fluidity we always hear about is not available to us so certain events or sounds or motions or smells or enclosures or open roads or houses or ways people look at us or even the weather can send us right back to the event or events and there we are again, helpless, crying, enraged or whatever, but in some way reactive. In some essential way not free. I have fought this reality my whole life, that is what I learned to do, but underneath the fight is an abandoned and abused girl child and then adult woman who even when she tried to "make it" in the world faced resistances not faced by her male counterparts but was told she was "equal" so felt even weaker because why if she was "equal" did she feel so inferior and so...a felt shamed by a fundamental weakness, a sense of enslavement, a sense of total unreality with an underlying tone of fraud - all taken onto my own self, as if I had caused it all.

But this is not just about me, so here is a catalogue of some of the losses. This will inevitably only scratch the surface:

If we are women who were assaulted or raped or coerced explicitly or implicitly into what were somehow framed as "affairs" as tiny children up to tweens, we never have a sense of our own bodies, of any basic agency. We are dissociated. Usually we have been told not to tell, or that we are imagining what happened or that we somehow caused it or are inherently evil. So our reality is damaged, too. We cannot only not trust our bodies, we cannot trust our minds or even souls.

If even with all of this we find an art or career or something outside of ourselves to focus on and succeed, we will run into men in these fields who are either angry and ignore us or try to hit on us; and if they are in power and we accede then we are considered whores or sluts or "sleeping our way to the top" or if we don't we are considered "bitches" "cunts" "ice queens." This assessment includes all men who engage in non-consensual sexual touch or talk from bosses to some guy on the subway trying to get our attention to male relatives or whomever - men who want us to do what they want us to do and if we do: we are prey. If we don't: we are a threat to be neutralized.

If we somehow find a way to create a tough enough skin to navigate all of the above, our intimate relationships with men suffer, badly. How can we drop that tough shell to allow any kind of intimacy? Or, if we do, how will we know who is healthy and what level of vulnerability is OK versus who is gaslighting us by telling us we are "too hard" and then abusing any trust we allow ourselves? Or maybe we even end up in an actively abusive relationship and can't tell the difference because it's so much like home. Then maybe enough of this finally erodes the career we may have wangled, or maybe we want to succeed badly enough that we never let anyone near us. So we lose any real human connection.

If we try to have children and can't or can, any number of consequences follow, too numerous to begin to even list, but given how motherhood is framed in this country, there is literally no way to do it right. You will be considered either cold or smothering or helicopter or uncaring or whatever, and if you don't have kids you have to justify it to everyone over and over and over and over again, even if you had miscarriages and other events in your life no one in their right mind even wants to know about, so you create a cover story and that cover story sticks and...

This is the biggest lost of all: basic reality, because in all these cases - abuse, harassment, childlessness, motherhood, being single, being stuck in a bad relationship or somehow not able to give yourself what you need to create, you tell yourself and others cover stories to protect yourself, and those cover stories make your life in some fundamental way a lie and you know that and you may go to zillions of years of therapy and go to every workshop ever known to human kind and still have that feeling, because until such a point as you are allowed - as John Lennon sang - to "feel your own pain" you will never be close to your reality, but...

If you Do finally feel your own pain and then you try to talk out loud about it, woe betide you, woman. Because then All Hell Breaks loose and people get very, very. very angry indeed because your reality does not accord with theirs and/or threatens theirs and you are shut down in many ways great and small, from either writing or talking or being published so this can be seen or if it is published someone will claim you are lying or stole it or are a vindictive bitch or whatever...

And meanwhile, too, there are all the subtle ways as an adult you are policed, by men catcalling you or not catcalling you, by men paying way too much attention to your body or none at all, by being seen as meat or seen as nonexistent - and these are usually the choices when dealing with everyday sexism and misogyny. (And no it's not all men, but it's a lot, so if you aren't doing all this, that's wonderful, and we're probably friends, but please don't decide you have to tell me that, because all that means is you are acting like a decent person and frankly I, we all, need more than that. We need you men to speak out against the sexism and misogyny and harassment you see. We need you to be John Oliver talking to Dustin Hoffman. We need that level of ally. I welcome you all. I sincerely do). But so, perhaps you dress in sack cloth because invisible is easier or you dress in a more "sexy" (according to whatever standard - usually not female) way but then have to negotiate all the attention you get for this and suffer being blamed if any sexual harassment occurs or if you are the sack cloth variety being disbelieved if you tell anyone sexual harassment occurred, because you aren't considered "sexy" and on and on...

If you are raped as a child or adult, you live in fear of men for the rest of your life basically, and even if you weren't raped, you live in fear of being raped - and perhaps upon hearing a story of how someone was raped, you start judging that woman for being drunk or out late or wearing sexy clothes or walking alone in a park or at night or breathing too loud or whatever and what you are doing then is delineating the walls of your own prison wherein you are not allowed to do these things without consequence, so much so that if Someone Raped You it would be your own damn fault for dating, getting in a cab, walking in the dark or just wearing a skirt or pants or again you know breathing while female.

Which leads to the biggest loss of all - our sense of self with agency and without a seemingly bottomless well of guilt and shame wherein we drown every day because no matter how abusive or horrible anyone has been to us in a relationship or at work or some asshole on the street somehow it is Our Fault. And nothing - literally Nothing - in the larger culture says otherwise...

Until now.

Until #metoo.

Until a powerful man and then men begin to lose their jobs because at least some women are believed and some of the damage is exposed and some reality is revealed and you think for a second - maybe two - wow, maybe someone will believe me. Maybe there is a place for me here after all, as I actually am.

My real life.

But then once that sinks in, you start to cry and cry and cry, because you are, say, 54 (or 68 or 75 or 42 or whatever) and you realize How Much Of Your Life You Have Lost, and if you are an artist How Very Much You Have Lost in terms of time, depth without fear, alacrity, any kind of effortless connection to authentic creativity, to the confidence to put your vision out there, to somehow exist without the constant drum beat of self-effacement, poverty and the inability to inhabit your own work, whatever it is - or even if you can for a time, some part of you is failing failing failing and if not propped up by some external structure just fading out - in part because if you are my age or older you got no mentoring in school because all the professors were men and hated you or hit on you or just plain ignored you in favor of their young, male proteges and you can't say any of that of course because then you're just an Angry Woman or a Bitch, etc. and no one likes that so you sway and twist and cajole or sometimes fight but all the energy expended ust to get maybe 1/4 of the resources and 1/8 of the exposure, but you are told you are Equal so you feel like an asshole because if you are Equal why aren't you measuring up and then the constant level of harassment or fear or being ignored as you go out into the world and and and...

This is what we have lost: millennia of women's voices, creativity, vitality, and love - yes, love, because real love can only come from freedom not slavery - and what you probably think of as women's love isn't love, it's a learned response to save us from being hurt. It looks like love and nurturance but it is bred out of fear. Not all love of course, but a lot of what we are told to think of as love - all of us who have been injured since children anyway, it is almost torture to contemplate what it might mean to really love. You need freedom to love. You cannot be living in fear. I know very few women who don't live in fear. So...do the math.

We find ways, we are resourceful, but some essence needs to be freed, and now IS being freed and here is the thing, my male friends especially I hope you can hear this:

It Will Not Be Pretty.

This is a tsunami of pain, secrets and lies - lies told out of self-protection - of either the abused or abuser - that is coming out, it will wash away many things and be indiscriminate. It is not now - nor should it be - about "scale" or - the last refuge of scoundrels -"nuance" - it is about Millennia of repression being unearthed and it must happen.

I honestly believe this is the only hope for our future on this planet, no joke. Think of it: over half the population enslaved - not to mention all the intersectional issues that I just can't address here but know exist - in terms of race and class and how that impedes so much and hurts in similar ways and intersects with this sense of slavery and fear. But right now I want to talk about sexual harassment and abuse of women and how that intersects with the bedrock of misogyny in our culture.

I beg of you all - including women who I sense have a desire to put a stop to this for whatever reasons - either people you like are getting hurt or you are afraid of facing your own damage or pain or rage - I don't know - you have to let this unfold - go where it goes, take its course.

I entreat everyone to take the time to mourn what we have lost. Stop minimizing it. Stop deciding some victims are more virtuous than others or some assault and harassment is "real" and some is "no big deal." It's not true. You can't be a little bit pregnant with this. Your body knows when it has been violated, and most violators know exactly what they are doing, even if they try to subsume that awareness in elaborate self-justification or garden variety denial.

This pain must come out, we must see the extent of the damage, we must not look away, No Matter Where it Leads.

We must face what we have lost: the beauty, the creativity, the intimacy...and give that loss its due and then only once we have accepted that, really accepted that, will we know how to rebuild. Only then do we have a prayer of not rebuilding it in this way. I know this sounds utopian but I actually think this is necessary for our survival as a species.

On a personal level I hope I can honor all the damage. I cry, yes, but then I stop myself, afraid of the depths of the pain, the rage, all of it. I pray for the confidence to allow for it. I pray for you, too, for all of us.

We have a chance here. A real chance.

I hope we take it.