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 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC 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. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.

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 now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. 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

In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.

In May, I directed my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which now includes an award-winning chapbook of my short-story White shoe lady, which you can find on the sidebar. I also have become a certified yoga instructor in the Kripalu lineage. What a year!

And FINALLY, I have created a website, which I hope you will visit, The Unadapted Ones. I will keep this blog site up, since it is a record of over 8 years of my life, but will eventually be blogging more at the website, so if you want to know what I am up to with my writing, teaching, retreats and so on, the site is the place to check (and to subscribe for updates). After eight years I realized, no, I'm never turning into One Thing. So The Unadapted Ones embraces the multiplicity that comprises whomever I am, which seems to always be shifting. That may in fact be reality for everyone, but will speak for myself here. So, do visit there and thanks for coming here, too. Glad to meet you on the journey...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Love letter to birthday girl Patti Smith and urban fashion trend confirmed

OK, so you want to know what's trending in young urban fashion in NYC - spotted by me at least 3 times: pajama bottoms as outdoor clothing.  This applies to young women and men - I have officially spotted this in: Harlem, Washington Heights and around Union Square.  So I'm wondering if, in line with the pants down to the knees look a la prison, the PJs as outdoor clothing could be originating from the clothes you would be wearing if evicted in the middle of the night and/or find yourself on reality TV.

These thoughts are what cross my mind when I am this tired and yet amused...also, must say that the most polite teenagers by a Mile in NYC live up around me (Wash Heights and Inwood).  These are kids who will get up and give you a subway seat - which also tragically means I look That old - but still, where else does that happen?  In my general experience in wealthier neighborhoods the kids seem to be oblivious and act as if the world was theirs and theirs alone...So, just sayin in case any of you are parents up here: well done everyone!  And in case anyone thinks I'm talking West of Broadway, I'm not - I'm talking East of Broadway...if you live up here, you'll understand.

Still not sure of NY Eve plans, but have a feeling I'll end up at a meditation event, because that feels, so far the most right - it's not the retreat, just a 2 hour thing...and then join my other friends at the St Marks poetry marathon on the 1st.

Finished Just Kids today and discovered it's apparently Patti Smith's birthday so in the incredibly unlikely instance that she's reading this blog: Happy Birthday, Patti!  I can't believe you're 65.  You still rock my world.

Just found a poem I wrote when 23 called 'dancing with myself in a window to patti smith' - don't worry I'll spare you my 23 year old poetry, which is especially embarrassing when I realize she was already beginning to form her band around that age with those amazing lyrics of hers...but OK, OK, I won't go there.. The sentiment does ring through it, and it reminded me of being that age and how her music saved me and I mean saved me through a couple rough years before I was able to finally stop drinking and such.  Her anger and her ability to both articulate and flow with it - a purity of spirituality deeply grounded in the real world, that most people would find dirty and unholy, but that she manages to make holy by the way she speak-wings it - it's hard to describe how important this was to me.  I felt incredibly lonely in those final miserable self-destructive years that to most people looked like a young woman achieving a lot but was instead me completely self-destructing from the inside, like a house with a pretty good paint job but infested with termites about to take down the structure.  And you know what, if I hadn't survived, I wouldn't have found the help I did before I killed myself quickly or slowly, as that is precisely where I was heading with all due speed.

So, I am grateful to her and to all those lovely men and women who supported her, so she could be one of the first true female rock stars on her own terms in a way that makes sense to me even today.  No small thing in the 1970s.  Fabulous.  And a sad reminiscence in honor of Robert Mapplethorpe and all the others who died of AIDs...my personal list, which only includes those to whom I was close includes: Derek, Oskar and Dennis, but there were many, many more...the list would take all night...

So, that's all for me for now.  Time to crash and hope I will have time to write something a little more coherent tomorrow.

Today I spent talking to lots of people about a variety of things from religion and spirituality, to breaking up with husbands and fiances and how I managed to get sober and stay that way for close to 25 years.  A very good day but I am toast...grateful toast, but still crispy fried...

G'night.  And in case I don't write here before it happens: Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Back home and all books unpacked

So I can finally see my floor again.  I took out all the remaining books, which are now wedged beneath the sofa bed among other corners, etc.  I only have 4 unopened boxes, and they are files, which await my purchase of a file cabinet.

In attempting to buy a file cabinet and another bookcase (after debacle of attempting to pick up a free one, I think I will instead get one from a store and have them deliver), I have ended up in the same confusion I did trying to pick a smart-phone.  While there are no monthly contracts to consider, there is this issue of having to assemble them yourself, which I find daunting.  This probably seems stupid to the average bear, but I do.

I am very tired now, but have a much cleaner place, up to and including changing the shower curtain liner, so feeling glad of that.  I am wanting to allow for some kind of peaceful ringing in of the New Year no matter how I decide to celebrate the transition from 2011 to 2012.

My cat seems happy I am home, but once again Marietta was a great cat-sitter so he's not at all freaked out.  He is now attempting to open a closet door, because he likes to open closets.  Also, in case you don't know this, cats love cardboard.  He is a much bigger fan of my boxes than I am.

Have been collecting many ideas from people who act and teach acting for my class and need to create that syllabus soon.  Have so many good ideas, including my own methods, that it is an embarrassment of riches, but do need to figure out how to focus it.  All the syllabi I was given are so wildly different, I see I have quite a lot of latitude, which is great but also a little scary.

However, now it is time to allow in these last two days of the end of the year, feel through it and allow this time to consider the tumultuous nature of this past year, lessons learned and how to move through the next one - not as a strategy board but allowing in the deeper bits.  Rinpoche, the guy leading the retreat I may or may not do has a teaching on the website for centers devoted to his teachings in which he refers to how we perceive - erroneously - as 'stories' and 'cinema' - so of course I instantly liked him.  I tend to agree.  However, I don't know if I can get up for all the early morning sessions.

More on all this later...now, to bed...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the train...

Apologies in advance for any typos...I'm uploading this after very long bus-train journey...

So I survived the Christmas season, hurray!  Now on the way back to NYC and contemplating what to do for New Year.  I know I’m not into a big party, wanting something contemplative…feeling a deep need to connect.  May go to a Tibetan Buddhist retreat in NYC.  Not sure, but I like the idea of a retreat that includes the city, because that’s how I experience it and I also don’t want to leave my poor cat again.

Jan. 7 is looming as well, which is the second anniversary of my father’s death, which was probably one of the biggest turning points in my life.  Last year I was working like a lunatic on a doomed Arts Council England proposal so managed to workaholic-it.  That’s not an option this year.  Well, of course it’s an option but not one I want to take.  The meditation retreat can go all the way through to the 7th, which seems somewhat auspicious to me, all except for the I’m not really a Tibetan Buddhist part.

I’m really not an –ist in general, so that’s always the issue.  On the other hand, there are some interesting sounding things about the teaching, so not sure…obviously, you will know which way I go on that eventually.

The important part is this:  I know I want to connect with my deepest self.  I know it’s there and all deconstructionist tropes aside, I believe in it.  Not in the sense of a ‘character’ with delineated traits, etc., but in the roiling molecular vibrating energy that exists and when I tap into it, through my writing, art, theater, meditation, yoga, meetings, etc., I feel better.  What I don’t know right this moment is where I need to go right now to meet it.

Whether to allow myself to sink into my work, take a moment (or a week) to connect in a more directly spiritual path, whether it needs to be meditation or yoga, etc…These are the most luxurious of luxury problems by the way, but whatever it is, I do want to allow myself to sink deeply into it and not feel I have to hold back in fear of offending and/or losing someone.  The advantage of being single of course is this.  I don’t have to worry about how my actions will impact an intimate partner.  I think perhaps if I am fully honest, I used these partners partly as an excuse…though the fear of loss was real.  It’s so easy to blame someone else, even if not technically blaming…using their existence in some way to explain a lack of a depth of searching in a certain way.

Also, sometimes, given all the academic stuff I’ve read and the philosophies, etc., there can be a hesitation about ‘seeming’ stupid for following certain paths.  I haven’t read Mary Karr’s Lit yet, but did read an interview with her wherein she said the thing she’s done in her life that has shocked and alienated more people than any of her alcohol or drug abuse was converting to Catholicisim.  While I am in no danger of that conversion, I do know what she means.

I did my time as a young teenager as an Evangelical Baptist making a fool out of myself and feeling like an ass after I un-converted, so there is this hesitation, too – won’t be fooled again, etc.

I do have a spiritual path that I can’t write about openly, though it is available to anyone who seeks it.   Some people do write about it openly, but I can’t bring myself to do that due to the traditions inherent in it.  Sounds way more hooey than it is.  If you’re interested, get in touch with me directly, and I’ll tell you.

What I want to be able to do this year, is make work that goes wherever it needs to go, in terms of medium and forms of expression – that I allow to be stupid or foolish if need be, that I stop worrying about all that crap and just let it flow.  I know that’s possible.  I also know I will worry, that I have pride and vanity and cannot pretend to be holier than thou in this regard.

But I want my work to be an offering not a marketplace product and this is always the conundrum for me.  Even reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, she and Robert Mapplethorpe dress in these very specific ways to make an impression and fit in or somehow offer something to certain art scenes.  And I find even this somewhat dispiriting.  I mean OK she’s talking about when they are 19-22 or thereabouts, and I did my share of deliberate dressing then, too, but I get this sense that certain poses and ways of appearing are necessary to be taken seriously in some art scenes, etc.  I know this actually.  But for some reason, I just resist and resist and resist this.  Why?  It’s not that big a deal and everybody dresses to some degree of conformity or non-conformity to find ways to fit in or distinguish themselves from one group or another.  I do that, too.  It’s impossible not to do this.  I fear there is some hypocrisy in me involved here.  Or maybe just fear that I’m no good at it, and I resent people who are good at it.  Could be that stupid.  You never know.

This all relates to my work, too, because as anyone who’s even read this might gather, I have a thing about getting to the relatively unvarnished truth, whatever that word means anymore – though at this point it’s become such a cliché to undermine the word truth that I’m beginning to feel like resurrecting its tired ass just to be contrary.  Who me?  Imagine.

But what I mean is getting closer, because I don’t think it’s possible to do it completely, but closer to the chaotic, multiplicitous reality of our daily lives, thoughts, feelings, impulses, drives, dreams, nightmares, ideas, goals….because I distrust instinctively Programs and Solutions that Offer A Way to do Whatever or become Whomever…The fact I do follow a series of spiritual steps is a miracle consequently.  I do this for one incredibly simple reason: it works and is the reason, as far as I can tell, that I am alive.  Intellectually, it makes no sense and in fact can be torn down in about 5 seconds flat.  But it works.  Go figure.

So this is what I mean…that is true but I still hold to my intellectual ideas and fancy concepts, etc., and so many people do the same.  So why attempt to iron out the contradictions when it’s impossible anyway?  Why create these fictional story lines to make ourselves feel…what?  Better?  Worse?

Sometimes I think my desires in this regard are hopelessly adolescent and that I should just get over myself and go along to get along – get with the product-creation program.  ‘Brand’ myself…and my God think of that means!  Cattle are branded.  It hurts and involves a hot iron.  And we do this to ourselves?  Voluntarily?  Who benefits?  Us?  Really?  Really?  I’m not so sure.

My brain has now switched off, so will stop writing.  I’m on a train that does not have Wifi so am writing this offline…will upload when I arrive.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And now a message from another member of the 99%

I keep forgetting to talk about Occupy Wall Street and I don't know why.  When on Twitter, I'm very aware of the movement, follow it and comment.  My energy has needed to go to teaching and settling back into NYC, but have been doing all of this with an eye to OWS.

I want to write about it now, not most likely to say anything different than anyone else has said, but to add my voice to the mix - to say how many people I've spoken with of all races and socio-economic backgrounds who are in accord with its goals, up to and including my hairdresser today in Brunswick, Maine.  She said: I can't fight the system so I don't worry about it or get worked up.  I said I supported OWS and was optimistic about the possibilities for change.  She said, well, yeah, maybe things can change.  But, she doesn't expect it to change.  She lives on $12,000/year while raising 3 kids.  She is divorced.  Her new partner is a trucker.  He gets angry about how things are and she says she doesn't because she doesn't think the system will ever change.  She is not a fan of LePage, the Tea Party yahoo who is governor of Maine, and who wants to cut back on the only way she can afford healthcare.  I get the sense talking to her that she may have voted for the guy because he waxed poetic in his campaign about having grown up on the street since he was 14.  She says he's doing nothing he said he would do.  I don't know what that was, but whatever it was, he's not doing it.  Instead, he cut taxes on wealthier people, declared a budget gap and is now trying to cut benefits to the most vulnerable, like Cheryl and her much-needed medical benefits.

When I mentioned to her the Tea Party is funded by big corporations, she does not seem surprised.  I don't ask her if she voted for LePage, but I wouldn't be surprised because until Occupy Wall Street, the only visible angry and organized group was the Tea Party - the only people saying something against the bank bailout.  Now, finally, there's another group of people talking about injustice and - crucially - income inequality, too.

The NYTimes now regularly has articles like this one Economic downturn took a detour at capitol hill about how average Congresspeoples' incomes (in the millions) and regular folks' income (median @ $40,000) are wildly disparate.  In NYC we have a mayor who is solidly within the 1%.  With all due props for being an avid arts supporter, Bloomberg's treatment of OWS has been pretty dire and his economic status would be counted on anyone's ethical chart as a conflict of interest.  But no matter...we're all Adults here, right?  Oh, no, wrong, because OWS can't even be on the public sidewalk in front of his house...Hmmm. Wasn't there that little bit in the Bill of Rights about the right to peaceably assemble to petition the government to redress wrongs, etc...?  Hmmm.

And what I love about OWS and all the other Occupiers and of course on a whole other level that I can't even imagine in Syria, et al, is the ability to keep coming back, to not give up, to be a pain in the ass, to protest no matter what, to occupy whatever needs to be occupied.  My favorite current OWS occupation being of foreclosed homes, a brilliant move...


This post was interrupted by talking on skype with my good friend Bib in London who is preparing for a gallery show, and it was lovely to reconnect.  I sometimes wonder when talking with her whether I should just focus on having my work done in galleries, because she gets and has always gotten my work.  She was one of my primary collaborators with Apocryphal and we seem to have infected each other with our respective disciplines.  She says that her sculptural work has become more theatrical, in place, created as part of a moment and a location.  My work theatrically has become easy to put into galleries.  It's been a good cross-fertilization artistically but sometimes hard to explain to the gate-keepers of our respective disciplines...strange, that.  I pray and hope one day this will change...

But, now, in real life, it's time to pack...

I'm travelling back to NYC tomorrow - there's a rehearsal for a reading of We live in financial times happening as I type in my apartment while I am here in Maine.  I love that.  A beginning of my letting go - I hope - of having to control All Things relating to my theatrical writing, etc...We'll see.

Good night and happy post-Christmukkah pre-New Year...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Un-Christmas stories

So, in line with the last post about the changing POV of movies, just watched Point Break (1991), which I saw back when it came out or soon after.  This was one of Kathryn Bigelow's early films, FYI...

The POV begins with surfers, goes to FBI and back and forth, and ends in a surfer-FBI stand-off, with the surfer mentality winning in the end.  Even though the surfers in question rob banks wearing masks of ex-presidents.

Before and during breaks, I am reading Just Kids, the book by Patti Smith about her friendship/love with Robert Mapplethorpe.

These are stories, in one case fictional, in one case non-fiction, of people going to passionate extremes.  The fictional story is of course Hollywood and therefore has all the familiar testosterone-induced tropes, seen - as done so effectively by Bigelow in The Hurt Locker - through a female director's POV.  But nonetheless is burdened with cliches.  So far the Patti Smith book is not, except of course for the fact she and Mapplethorpe met and happened upon NYC in the late 1960s, so the places, music, etc. do have a kind of familiar ring to them.  On the other hand, as someone who moved to NYC in the late 1980s (and lived in the city for a year in the early 80s), I too recognize the strange exhilaration of hitting the city broke and with 'that magic feeling, nowhere to go...nowhere to go...'

However, their companionship is inspiring even at the beginning of the book, and I look forward to reading more.

But the point here is that in the movie and the book, the POV is more 'criminal' (movie) and artist/outsider sometimes shoplifter (book).

I find it cheers me up, this POV, because the whole cop gets his/her guy thing feels tired and somewhat smugly self-satisfied.

I think as someone who is in her late 40s and newly single and essentially re-starting out in NYC (after 8 years in London), I feel a kinship to the status of outsider - not following the script...somewhere over the coloring lines and not generally fitting in to anyone's idea, including my own, of where I 'should' be right now...and guess what, after the tears and the sadness about the loss/es, what do I feel?  This same sense of exhilaration, of possibility...and a quiet knowledge that yes the book/s will get written, yes they will get published, yes it will all be OK.  There's a line in Smith's book, at the end, about recovering lost things when "We experience a moment of respite when all sense of bad luck vanishes."

I have been having these moments recently.  Then waves of inconsolable sadness.  Then these moments of respite.  It occurred to me this evening - perhaps this is the grace of getting older - you begin to understand - that is how it is.  These things follow one another.  There is no reason to fear the inconsolable sadness, because it will be followed by these moments of respite.  Rinse, repeat...

And then sometimes, even, moments of intense connection to what could be called a higher power or God or whatever, like the time I was standing at the bus stop in San Francisco and was rocketed out of the universe somehow past all the stars to I cannot tell you where, but it was past everything there is that we know and then just as quickly shot back to where I was. My feet of course never left the ground, but I have never forgotten that moment, have written about it a number of times, especially what followed - seeing a mother yelling at her son and knowing even that, too, was OK.  OK is not the right word, 'as it was meant to be' is also not the right phrase.  There is no word for this feeling, sensation...no, not feeling, not sensation - knowledge...a knowledge of something that has never left me - though I often forget it just when one would wish one would remember such a thing.  But then - no.  No, I don't.  I know it.

Life since then - I was 24 - has been all about allowing that moment to be followed through on in some profound way.  I have failed utterly at this most of the time, but it's worth it, so so worth it.  It's like the wonderful Joseph Chaikin line "To express the extreme joy of being alive at a certain moment is practically impossible and really worth trying."  But joy - even that word - doesn't cut it.  Words simply don't cut it.  They feel so partial, like the 'failures' T.S. Eliot refers to as each attempt...to describe this.....

So I will leave it there.  I call these un-Christmas stories, because they are not about following anyone or any rituals laid down by others.  If there was a Jesus, I'm not entirely sure Christmas would be his or her thing.

I've had a lovely day, except for one dip into inconsolable sadness, so this is not some adolescent snit about consumerism or the hypocrisy of religion or whatever.  It's just reaching toward something else that may not be contained in this story, the one we mostly ignore on the day anyway...or maybe it is a way of attempting to reach it as well.  I don't know.

But I will say this, if you haven't yet, and you are an artist or have ever felt called to plunge into things outside of all reason, and if you were ever/are now young and finding your way through a place as crazy-loving-strange-beautiful-unforgiving-graceful as NYC, give yourself the pleasure of reading Just Kids.  Patti Smith has always been a favorite artist/musician/lyricist/human of mine, but this is spectacular.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Love and gratitude for the holidays...

For some blessed reason, probably to do with having to gone to a meeting of folks like me earlier and spent the early evening cooking spaghetti sauce with my mother for dinner and brownies for dessert, feeling very peaceful and grateful this Christmas Eve.  Feels not hectic or weird and for that I am grateful, too.

Below is the photo I sent some friends as a card, from November in Inwood...no snow but festive colors!  I'm in Maine now, with requisite cold and snow, so feel properly Christmas-y.

Happy Holidays...and many blessings and love to you for the season...

Inwood, NYC 2011 - photo by Julia Lee Barclay

Friday, December 23, 2011

decorated a tree and walking through...the holidays and American culture

Am doing the holiday at my parents' place in Maine melt into non-specific goo thing...it's sad as I knew it would be because my husband is not here and there are other family memories that come up when tree decorations that go back many years come out of the box.

On the other hand, last year my step-father Tom was very ill and so Christmas, while meaningful, was also very sad and kind of scary.  This year that is not what is happening, so while I have loss in one sense, it is not that kind of loss for which I am grateful.

I'm watching Christmas episodes of Frasier now - in between writing this.  Our tree is now decorated with the usual mix of ornaments from 100-5 years ago.  My parents are in bed and I'm about to go upstairs and read.  I come up here thinking I will find time to work on things but then end up in this haze, especially around Christmas.

I think that just kinda has to be OK, though.  Today did some errands with my mother, which was pleasant.  In places like Maine, though, I feel the fact I can't drive.  I'm so used to cities and such, I'm not used to the feeling of being stranded unless someone drives me.  Note to self: re-learn to drive.

I am though OK, that much I know.  Was feeling badly but then talking with my mother found myself saying: you know, I'm really OK.  And I am.  And this is the constant amazement - for all the loss and things I want to do that haven't gotten done, etc., at depth I feel deeply OK.  Like the opposite of falling apart.

There is a really weird ad on TV for Marc Jacobs - a designer I presume?  Then an ad for exposure to asbestos law suits.  Late night TV is weird.  (OK, you really needed me to tell you that, I know, I know...)

It's also odd watching a TV show go through its seasons through Christmas specials.

I'm noticing now some of the really weird stuff about American culture, that I kind of knew before but having lived out of the country for long is now so blatant, like, for instance most all TV shows are cop shows or some form of crime fighting thing.  The subtle or not-so-subtle message now is that forms of violence for the 'right reason' is OK in pursuit of so-called justice.  This has shifted somewhat in recent years in that now torture is OK and there are more women who are cops and detectives, not just secretaries or assistants.  The groups of cops/lawyers/detectives are generally multi-racial.  But there is a basic line of law enforcement: good (except for corrupt ones) and everyone else: either naive or bad.  The truth is out there and one of these people will find it.

In other words, all the humanity is on the side of the cops/detectives.  When I was very young, I remember TV shows like 'It Takes a Thief' with Robert Wagner, which was a thief's POV.  I had a weird attraction to this show, but for the life of me I can't remember why...but I did. I ate dinner in the living room to watch it.  There were movies like Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Even the Godfather films were from criminal POV.  Now it's all about the cops.  The difference in the culture between the 1970s and now.  We are now inflicted with post-9/11 TV.  Of course this was the trend anyway, but now it's a solid.  Get behind the law, trust it and know It's All For Your Own Good.  Scary, right?  Right?!

OK but true confessions: I do like the show Frasier, which follows a divorced psychiatrist who has a radio show, in case you, like me, didn't know that until recently, even though the show ran for years and has been re-running for even more years.  At least it's not a cop show.  It's silly but enjoyable for someone like me right now...for perhaps obvious reasons...

Well I hope you enjoy the holidays, whichever ones you celebrate.  I think the biggest lesson for me this year and what this season can be about at its best is simple: go where the love is and stop chasing it or demanding it be or pretending it is where it's not.  Sounds simple, right?  It hasn't been for me.  If it has been for you, I commend you.  If it hasn't been easy for you, I understand.  Here's hoping it's that kind of year for us all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful day on the train

In the miracle that is modern travel, I can blog on the train.  It is drop dead gorgeous outside the train window.  Sunny, mid-winter side-lighting - the train goes by the ocean (Connecticut Sound), which is as still as a lake.  If there could be such a thing as crimson blue that would be the color of the sky - not red but a depth of blue.  There probably is a word for that - vermillion is it?..but then it resolves into pale blue with clouds in between - I'm forgetting the name of these kind of clouds - they are long and flat, dark on the bottom gently white and puffier on top.  Whispy streaks of light cloud between.  Trees without leaves making outlines in the skyline.  No snow at all, not a smidgen.  Ah yes, now the pylons and eletctric grid, now a wetland and houses on the Connecticut Sound, all the little colonials dotted along the water.

Yesterday saw Rauschenberg's private art collection and it was truly astonishing to see what he surrounded himself with because of course looking at it all together, you see one of his combines - everything from John Chamberlain's twisted car metal (and weirdly Chamberlain died yesterday just as Nicole and I were admiring his constructions - 1924-2011 - a good run and RIP - gorgeous work he made) to John Cage and Morton Feldman's scores.  Also one of Stockhausen's miraculous musical constructions.  Merce Cunningham's notes, lots of Andy Warhol's work and even, Even a 1986 construction by Damien Hirst that had Soul.  I was shocked, shocked.  There was a Calder chicken - lovely, a number of Duchamps, of course, a Kurt Schwitters collage and Jasper Johns...also a Joan Jonas drawing of a wolf-like creature that was magic.  There was, too, an amazing black and white photo of the New Jersey skyline from Manhattan circa 1980 while Battery Park City was being built.  I can't remember the name of the photographer but wrote it down somewhere because I want to see more of his work.  The sky, similar clouds to the one I described above - the photo was about 3-4 feet long... beautiful.

Ooh now there are swans.  I think we are close to Providence, where I was born.  Where my father went to RISD and aspired to being an artist.  He was an artist, I wish he had pursued it more.  Is that why I stopped?  Because of the connection with him?  I don't know.

Yes it's Providence, and the train is making that lovely train whistle sound - the one I can hear from my apartment in NYC as well, because I'm close to the Hudson Line.  It's a haunting sound, whether you hear it from far away or are in the train.  Something about train travel has soul - it means something.  Why?  I don't know, but there's a rumble to it - something about tracks meant only for the train, these bridges, this water, this blue, this pale sky.  The water.  God, I love the water, tidal water.

Providence, what a name for a city.  Some abandoned warehouses - so many of them now have been colonized and turned to 'good use' as software companies or art galleries or whatever.  I know that's good but because my childhood was spent going up and down the Northeastern corridor on Amtrak, I miss the abandoned warehouses.  Something about the resplendent nature of the dilapidated 1970s before everything had to get so godforsaken Done Up for the 1980s onward.

Something about a world that was Not seamless.  Remember that?  Before we were instantly reachable, GPS-able and able to blog on the train - back when people who were reading, read you know books instead of iPads, Kindles or whatever.

What are we losing?  Something about the tactile, the visceral even, smells, tastes...I say this typing on my Macbook with my smartphone next to me, FYI, just so I don't sound like I'm trying to pretend I'm anywhere else than Right Here With Everyone Else...though I can't seem to get into the reading on a tablet thing.  A friend leant me his and I haven't used it yet.  I went to B&N yesterday and bought a bunch of books. I counted and I have at least 1000 books in my studio, at least.  Already filled 3 7'- shelves and can use 2 more.  I love books, as in printed books.

I say this and then remember I should tell you that three of my plays are now available online.  They can be purchased for a little over a dollar at Indie Theater Now.  They are all listed on the publications list to the right of the post.  The new plays, some of which have not been published elsewhere are:  The Jesus GuyBesides, you lose your soul or the History of Western Civilization and Future Worlds: Tricorn Init!  If you like my writing on this blog, please do check out this site and maybe download some of these plays, because unlike any other publications so far, for these I can actually get paid a small royalty for each purchase....So, support an experimental playwright, go on!  There are lots of great playwrights on this site, and I think there may be some way to get a subscription as well...

So, having just waxed poetic about hard copies, I now tell you to buy something online.  Oh well.  Anyone who has been reading this blog will not be surprised at a lack of consistency.  Anyone who knows any other human being in any depth at all will also not be surprised at a lack of consistency.

By the way, when I thought I was close to Providence, I was wrong.  I think we were in fact close to New London.  There was a Block Island Ferry, which means of course: New London.  You can retrace back to earlier posts for grizzly details about my time living in Waterford and New London.  Basically think: Liars' Club meets Connecticut Valley (the Valley, btw, is Not Cheever country or any of those other writers who write about Connecticut, meaning suburbs of NYC - the only well-known writer who had even a slight bead on the Valley would be Richard Ford - it's a class thing...)

I think I may wrap this up now and read an actual paper book...something crazy like that, as the woman next to me texts like mad, eats chips (UK: crisps), wipes grease on her trousers and listens to her iPod while also looking at her iPad.


Wish me luck!

Christmas blues and prayers for something like joy - like, say, joy

Was plowing along today getting stuff done and happy with myself for doing it, up to and including see the show at Gagosian Gallery of Rauschenberg's private collection.

Then watched a silly movie called Kissing Jessica Stein - the subject isn't that important except that it deals with relationships, identity and being true to yourself and the last song was about letting someone go and it just made me feel very sad about the separation with my husband and it hit me again like a ton of proverbial bricks that this will be the first Christmas in 10 years I have not spent with him and that when we first got together was Jan. 11, 2002 and I knew he was arriving that Christmas, so was happy and excited that he would be visiting me in NYC even in 2001.

Now I am going up to my parents' house tomorrow alone and it kinda sucks, like a lot.  I should be asleep but I can't stop crying.  Will hope that at some point that shifts, because I do need to get up relatively early.

I really wish at times like this that I was the kind of person that could glide into a new relationship quickly, but I'm not.  I was even saying earlier today to my friend Nicole that I feel OK about being alone and like I never want to be with anyone who has any doubts about being with me.  I felt it at the time, now it just feels like brave talk.  That's not true, though, because I know there has been a change.

But that doesn't take away the raw, horrendous pain of the sadness of grieving.  But I just read something today in a book's epigraph, which I hope proves to be true:

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take joy.

- Fra Giovanni Giocondo

I feel I have been very long in shadow.  In yet another book today, I read an Emerson quote about blocking the sun through one's own shadow.  So, maybe there is a theme here.

The sadness is real, yes, but I need to be brave enough, some day to take joy.  I will need a lot of help with that.  It does not come naturally.  It's scary even.  I hate admitting this.  I really do hate it, because it feels like I'm short-changing grief.  But am I?  Has pain just become a habit?  Have I simply experienced so much loss in my life, it's grooved in like an old pair of shoes?

Dear God, Goddess, Whomever/s...if this is so, please help me surrender this habit.  Please, please, please.  Show me the joy within my reach and help me to take it.  For some of us who did not have real childhoods I think this may be harder than for others.

On the other hand, in going through old papers, I stumbled upon something truly astonishing - a photo of me lying on the bed in the cottage in Maine - a bed on the sun porch.  I have two kittens sleeping on me and I'm reading a book, but I've taken it away from my face to smile - sincerely - for the camera.  I can't quite place my age in the photo.  But the obvious thing is this: in that bed, with the kitten and the book, I feel safe and happy.  I think I may be 12 or 13.

I loved the cottage, and I always felt safe there.  I was always safe there.  So, maybe there, maybe the memories of that cottage are the place to start.  Not to wipe away the other stuff, but to remember this part of me, too, the part that survived, thrived even.  I fear writing this, I really do, like I'm somehow diminishing all the other crap.  But perhaps not.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps happiness and even joy is not a fake.  Perhaps it is the shadow that is the illusion.  Wouldn't that be amazing.  Wouldn't it just?

I have a feeling the reality is somewhere in between, though.  Because in the same way you can't have life without death, you can't have light without dark.  The contrast is what defines the essential nature of the other.  But I have been spending a lot of time in the dark.  Maybe it's time to let in a little light and see what happens - hopefully I haven't just atrophied into a fungus.

We can only hope.

OK, really gotta get some sleep now.  Next post will be in Maine...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

driving, driven, then driven mad in a day when nothing goes to plan

This was one of those - thought I had found free bookshelves, but needed to pick them up.  A combination of one friend with van and another who could drive came into focus, but got difficult.  I knew in my heart of hearts I should let it go and go see The Muppets Movie with my friend Christian as planned...but No It was Too Important to Pass Up Free Bookshelves.  The other friends involved were also extending themselves past their limits.  And we all paid for this, the driving friend got the worst of it when she was driving her motorcycle to pick up the van and a car ran into her.  She is OK, but her leg needs to be x-rayed.  She insisted - in a way I know I would have done but nonetheless made me nervous - that she drive back to her house and go to a hospital close by.  When she called me she was waiting in the ER and with another friend.  She apologized to me over and over again.  Even though that was absurd, I knew if I had been her, I would have done the same.  It's psycho.  She even wanted initially to drive the van to pick up the bookshelves, even though she was limping.  I talked her out of that at least.

There are therefore no bookshelves in my house, which is not the issue at all here.  The issue is: why did all three of us extend ourselves past what we knew we could do?  I was exhausted even before this little misadventure, N with the van was supposed to be spending time with his partner and E was supposed to be having a leisurely time with friends at a dinner party.  I know the answer, sort of, and will let those of you are also friends of Bill and Lois W figure it out all by yourselves.  It's that driving force - that can drive you to succeed sometimes but mostly just drives you and in particular drives you mad.  It comes stealthily in the guise of 'helping others' or 'this must get done' but it's a liar.

I came back home exhausted and insisted on unpacking more boxes, which is why I'm writing this at 2:50am.  I can't let myself be human anymore than my other two friends can.  It is in fact a disease.

On the bright side, I only have 11 boxes left on the floor (a few are already in closet).  And only 8 are unopened.  There will be space in closet and such for most of the rest of stuff but wanted books out.  We'll see.  I imagine somehow more bookshelves will appear on the island of Manhattan.

OK, I am beyond toast now, so signing off.

I am grateful beyond measure for my lovely friends and hope we all finally learn to take care of ourselves.  I think I know my New Year's resolution now, and it will have something to do with putting myself first - finally.  It's always the better way - ironically enough for everyone involved.  Because when I overstretch Everyone Pays at some point...But even writing it 'putting myself first' I hear the voice of my psycho babysitter telling me I'm selfish, my angry grandmother saying the same and my angry first step-father.  Basically the whack jobs of my childhood.  So, like, consider the source.

I want to schedule some time at Kripalu, a lovely yoga retreat, maybe at the beginning of the year, to launch this and also to be there on or around the anniversary of my father's death, which is Jan. 7.  Please root for me that I manage to do this rather than listening to all the specious objections in my head.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Women, voices, ownership...and not unpacking

After a marathon session yesterday (hence no blog post), I did no unpacking today, but instead went with a friend who had extra tickets to Relatively Speaking a Broadway show of one-acts by Ethan Cohen, Elaine May and Woody Allen.  The real writer of the three playwrights - by a mile - is Elaine May.  The other two pieces by Cohen and Allen were sophomoric (as in: if Cohen had written it at 14 it might be considered semi-precocious, clever comedy but for an adult - meh) and a series of one-liners justifying in retrospect his marrying of his step-daughter (Allen).  Ha ha ha.

OK, so...was glad to see the Elaine May play.  Also really glad the tickets were free and my friend Tamara and I agreed in our assessments of each piece.  Marlo Thomas, btw, can still act (she was in the May play).

The surprise was later tonight after watching Downton Abbey (don't hate me - it's just weirdly compelling watching it now that I've left the UK - has a whole other feel to it - but more on that whole thing later in another post), was a documentary called The Woodmans, about the photographer Francesca Woodman, who killed herself at age 22 in 1981 and her parents and brother who are also all well-known artists.

I was so struck by the documentary for a number of reasons - the honesty of her parents, the whole family's devotion to art, but more than that, the way people talked about Francesca's work as if she would inevitably become famous when one of the many reasons she killed herself by walking off the top of a building in Soho was that she didn't get a stupid NEA grant.  Obviously, that was not the only reason, but my point is it is obvious watching the film that her photos were/are amazing but that they are only Now being recognized, because what she was doing was so spectacularly ahead of her time.

The heartbreaking journal entries including her being harassed by her boyfriend late at night for not making real art ring so weirdly true to me (as I have had similar relationships with men at that age and even into my 20s and 30s - both romantic/partners and professors and so-called 'mentors'...).  Seeing her work, it is so obviously a female language - I am not one to use that term lightly and in general despise it when others do...but here it is important, because I think that's why it was overlooked.

Apparently in the early 80s photography was not as big of a deal as it is now, which could also be true. But if you go look at her stuff you may see what I mean.

So, I take her death personally, even if clearly she had her own reasons and obviously many people have had these issues and not killed themselves.

It just makes me angry how long - in general - female artists have to wait to be recognized, to be SEEN  or understood on the most basic level, because it's a different language, or can be.  Or maybe it's just the way we present ourselves.  The amount of conversations I have had recently with women about how we wish we had even a tiny ounce of male ego - the ability to easily justify one's own work and not take every criticism to heart or as gospel or to be defensive, etc. - is extraordinary.  The ability to self-promote without shame.  The ability to hold to a vision without the need to justify...etc., etc...

I'm not blaming men here, by the way, in case any of you are feeling that - no, I'm Admiring that about you and wish I had some of it!  I do have some but not nearly enough...and certainly had none at age 19-20. There were so many things I was doing then artistically, theatrically and with writing (though some just needed to get better) but more importantly ideas and presentation...and directing...but I could not stand up for them.  I had enough guts/ego/whatever to make work but not to push it forward the way I should/could have done.  And if I had had any of those skills would be in a much better place today.

I know that probably sounds like self-pity, but I don't mean it that way - it's just a fact.  I can see all the lines of thought - ideas - art I did not go down out of fear and kind of now wish I had.

I also have gone down some roads and had some success with it, but I have not developed these things as far as they could go, and so watch others pick up where I left off and get well-known for doing so, which is both somewhat gratifying and then incredibly frustrating.

These people are usually men.

So my prayer is: please god/dess who/what/ever you are...please allow me to own my own voice/path/ way and stop waiting in some weird cosmic lobby for permission.  I have found my voice in many ways, but I need now to OWN it, which is different.  It is ownership itself that is part of the problem actually - one way I don't tend towards naturally...I share this with many other women (and some men).  So the language gets very confusing.  Is it possible to OWN non-ownership, e.g.?  You see where it can fall down...

However, seeing a documentary about someone who is now famous, but was not in her lifetime, because this weird machine basically killed her (that's how it appears in any case)...but then having eaten her alive decided to valorize her (no better artist than a dead one, naturally...), I am grateful for avoiding that fate, so far...

Not that I'm in any imminent danger of fame, mind you, but the eaten alive thing...I feel I've had some brushes with that...

I want to keep living, but along with that, I want to keep creating...I want to know before I die that I have put everything out on the table that I can and that I will have the guts to do that no matter what the reaction from others.  I've talked a good game on that one, but not sure I've walked the talk.  I don't think it's possible to not be affected at all, but I want to not be so easily influenced.

I think at least this is within my reach.  All the other stuff about recognition is out of my hands anyway. Wish me luck...with that and finding a place for the 17 or so boxes of books and papers in my Rubik's cube of a studio apartment.  I'm almost out of shelf space, so we're about to get down to nooks and crannies and shoving stuff into the closets.


But then again putting my books where I want them and beginning to take ownership of this place is fun.  There's the 'o' word again and no I don't mean orgasm, I mean 'ownership' - way more radical for women I think...in the way I mean it anyway (clearly I'm not talking about products...)

G'night and blessings to you all.  I wish for you all ownership of your own voice in whatever form that may take, especially for the women, but including any men who need the encouragement - yes, I do believe gender is a construct, just like all the rest of reality, but it does not budge easily... inside or outside...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More unpacking...

which is of course a metaphor in and of itself...only got through about 8 more boxes tonight.  I really can't seem to do a lot at a time, but somehow am almost half-way through, so the math makes no sense...

Tonight the thing that did me in was looking through my first art sketch book.  It was a drawing I did of my mother, back when I was 13 years old.  This was when it was discovered that I was "good at art."  The drawing actually does look like my mother and it made me realize tonight I was actually quite good.  This realization made me cry, because I know I did not know that or if any part of me did know it, it was only as an external validation, nothing I could own.


I'm watching a movie called The Station Agent as I'm typing this.  It's kind of great - about a small guy (a dwarf) who inherits a train depot in Newfoundland, NJ and is befriended by a Latino hot dog vendor and a female artist separated from her husband whose son died a couple years ago who almost runs him over, then a young black girl who also likes trains and meets him while he's walking the track.

I love this kind of film, simple, human and hilarious and sad because the people are hilarious and sad - not fancy plots, just people.  Nice.


So now during the commercial break: back to Julia and visual art.  Because I was brought into the advanced art class at 14 (the one for seniors who were 17 or 18), I felt honored but also pressured and inadequate.  And this is the real fact: at that age, I could not bear the amount of time I had to sit by myself to work.  I was so frozen that there was no there there, only an ice cold tundra, so theater, the group sport, won out.  I ended up directing originally before writing, probably for the same reason.  Though I did write a lot, it wasn't with the same precision or skill and definitely not the joy that I experienced working in theater.

This makes me very sad now, to think that I made an artistic decision primarily based on the fact that I could not sit with myself for lengths of time.  I mean I could and I did, but I did not enjoy it, it felt lonely - because I could not keep myself company.  I could not because I had exited the building very early on to survive.  I also did not understand myself as creative at all.  I felt like a cipher of some kind - a very weirdly talented (because I was told I was tho I didn't believe it) puppet, basically.

I wonder if now the reason I am feeling more inclined to writing and photography is that I feel more and more comfortable within my own skin.  I also don't feel like a puppet, certainly not empty or frozen. I don't feel the need to jump out of myself, and when I spend time alone, I generally feel better and warmer than when I am among people for too long.  If I am too social for too long these days, I feel somewhat drained and diffuse.  I do like seeing people, but there's something enjoyable these days about time spent by myself, especially oddly enough that I am now separated.  Before when I was with B and he was gone, I would feel lonelier, because I was theoretically married, but I was alone.  Now when I'm alone, it's me and my cat and that's cool.

This movie I am watching kind of deals with similar things to do with self-acceptance and social exclusion.

But here's what I find: when I am connected with myself, it's a lot easier to connect with other people and balance out the time to spend with and spend alone.  When I'm running around too much or doing too much Stuff, I lose all that.

Note about TV commercials during holidays: there are an awful lot of ads for diamonds....B asked me to marry him close to Christmas in 2005, so I imagine this will continue to be lots of fun...this so-called season.


Just watched the end of the movie and it was as understated as the movie itself.  Simple and nice.

My cat is lying next to me - he finally did make it up to the loft bed last night and slept with me for a while.  It's just astonishing to me that this was the cat who would not leave the space behind the sofa a little over a month ago.

There's hope for us all, furry and less furry creatures.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unpacking London (and the rest of my life)

It started with the movers showing up at the improbable hour of 8am.  If you knew movers were driving from Pennsylvania and you had not been given an ETA, would you think they would show up at 8am?  No, me neither.  So I drag myself out of bed (a loft bed, so it's a maneuver), answer the doorbell to the building, throw on some clothes over my nightgown and answer the door when this older fellow rings that bell telling me he's got a delivery.  I am bleary and still cannot believe they are here.  He comes in to look at the apartment, thinking - as I did in advance - there's not enough space, then leaves to 'prepare the delivery.'  I run into bathroom in my 5 minute window, throw on regular clothes and make coffee.

I then 'supervise' the arrival of 53 items, mostly boxes and watch my studio apartment transform from living space to storage facility.  The guys leave and I give them a tip.  It's New York, you have to tip.  They seem charmingly surprised, but in a mannered 'we have to pretend to be surprised' way - but also seem grateful, too.  This paid off when the guy returned with two boxes we had both forgotten.

Then I started pulling out clothes and such, thinking that would be the easy part.  That was the dumb part, because the London smell came out of the boxes with the clothes and linens.  Then I could not figure out what to do.  I managed to leave the apartment only twice, and of course ran out of cell phone minutes.  As the day wore on and I tried to find places for stuff, I cried more and more.

For some reason, even though I had shelves at the ready, I could not open the book boxes.  I did after talking to a friend who asked me what I could do to help myself, as by that time I was freaking out, crying and not knowing what to do next.  I said I wanted to unpack two boxes of books so I could see the TV and zone out.  She said that sounded like a good idea, so I did that, then went for a walk and talked to my good friend Julie and proceeded to sob while walking and talking in Inwood Park at night.  (Don't worry I was on well lit paths)...I realized that books were so potent because when things were good with my husband, we shared ideas and our work and that was very important.  We met when he took a workshop of mine in London.  This was a huge part of our relationship.

So somehow unpacking the books, just two boxes, brought all this back and I cried and cried, wondering how something that had been so magical for a long time could turn so...what is the word?  I don't know.  But to the point where we have separated and will most likely end our marriage.  That just makes me so incredibly sad.

I have put the duvets on my bed and wonder about my sanity, because the London smell is still there, but I can't stand one more night of sleeping with something that is not 100% cotton.  I know that sounds snobby but my skin is dry...OK, either that or I'm insane.  I don't know.

I did talk with good friends, one of whom Nicole listened lovingly and then distracted me by making me talk about my acting class at Hunter (she had some good ideas) and told me her good news about her impended NYTimes by-line...check out the Neediest Cases story tomorrow - it should be hers!  Congratulations, Nicole!  She has worked so incredibly fucking hard for this and I don't know someone who deserves it more.  And on the off-chance someone from NYT is reading this: promote her from clerk to reporter you fools.

It's late now and especially because I barely slept last night, I'm off to bed now.  For the record, I still have 30+ boxes as yet unopened.  This may seem like a bad thing but for this overachieving, workaholic this is victory.  I stopped, ate take out food and watched silly television.  This for me was the right thing to do.

Tomorrow is another day and hopefully some more boxes will be unpacked.  The sadness will continue, but hopefully some happiness, too.  All of my life's possessions are in one room now.  A strange thing to say at age 48, but there you go.  My friend Julie said: when you return to the apartment, bless it all.  It's all part of you, the mess, the stuff, everything.  Bless it.  That made me cry even more and then I did what she said.

Ugo the cat has been particularly loving today, which is sweet.  He also gets a little antsy when I don't play with him so did that just now before writing.

I am all in now...and home.  The dream is over...(in the John Lennon lyrics meaning of that phrase...as in: the illusions are gone...or that dream is over...)  I am very sad.  It doesn't matter if it's the right thing to do, it sucks.  

But as someone said at my writer's meeting yesterday:  So, I woke up today, like usual, suicidally depressed...and then it was time for lunch.

Here's to making it to lunch...and speaking of which RIP Christopher Hitchens.  Another person taken too early for reasons I think I understand only too well...though the presenting issue was cancer.  God bless.  Even though he'd hate that - the God part - so never mind - secular blessings...whatever...

But for those of us who are alive: let's try to make it to lunch...  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

when I stop pushing myself, stuff happens

So, having restrained myself from acting on self-hating needs to Do something for the past few days, today I woke up and wanted to write, so I did.  The whole thing had a lovely, easy vibe to it.  I'm scared to write this, lest I somehow then make it a mandate.  Because mandates never works for me.  I'm one of the few writers I know who hates a deadline.  They make me freeze up.  I need to Not make myself do anything for anything to come through me.

After writing - and I stopped myself after a bit so I could do the other things I needed to do - everything else went more easily.

I was having lunch the day before with my friend Dana (who writes the Momover blog - see link on blog roll) who reminded me of the principle of detachment. Somehow, it stuck.

I got all the paperwork done I needed to do and prepared the apartment for the movers coming tomorrow. I have shelves up and ready for books and a closet almost empty for boxes.

The moral of the story here is: when you need rest, rest...even if imperfectly and even if watching TV.  The old pseduo-Buddhist cliche someone scrawled in the tunnels below the dorms at my college holds true: don't just do something, sit there.

For me, all creativity has to be voluntary.  I cannot do it under any form of duress or pressure.  It just won't budge.  Some people can, but I am not one of those people.  Something in me dies inside and I just feel beleaguered.  I hope I remember this, because it's important.

Other things that don't work for me: formulas and rules.  Sometimes guidelines can help, but only if they are flexible.

If I am being paid to do a specific job, like teaching, of course there are parameters and that's fine.  But if I'm teaching something on my own, like a workshop, the same principle of radical flexibility apply.

The other thing I'm happy about today - the writing gave me the sense that I only used to get from directing - namely a calm sense that things are OK.  Not a big whiz-bang sense of exhilaration - just calm, which is so nice.

I think I should stop writing about this, though, lest I turn even that into a formula of some kind and labor under certain emotional expectations. There is a very thin line for me between allowing myself to work and tipping over into workaholic, expectation-driven activity and I need to steer clear of that.

Literally Everything I've ever created worth a damn has worked outside of that driven state, and Everything I have ever created within that more dogmatic, externally-focused way of working has been deeply flawed or just plain bad.

The first play I wrote, I wrote blind with no idea what I was doing and thinking I'd gone kind of loopy but knowing it was meant to be though I didn't know what it was.  The theatrical techniques I created with a handful of actors and artists in labs started in labs with no expectation of anything coming out of it other than exploration.  As soon as the expectations began, the process dried up in some deep way.  Almost invisible this subtle killer of creativity (external motives - away from intrinsic value), but nonetheless deadening.

I want to keep following the voice inside me that said "leap and I'll catch you" and brought me back here to my beloved city, without knowing how the fuck it was going to work.  And it did.  That trust, that soul dive, that's the only way, The Only Way anything ever works for me.

Hopefully I can remember this more and more as I continue on with this life thing.  The less I force, the happier I am.  Thanks, Dana, and all of you who have listened to me recently and over the years, who have reminded me of this.

Oh and finally (and male readers, this last section for you is strictly optional), I have been dealing with peri menopause and have discovered a miracle 'cure', which is maca-based, called Femmenessence.  I am so not being paid by them or anyone (and refuse in fact to 'monetize' my site - by selling ads - because I'm a crappy capitalist and because of the aforementioned expectations thing), but it works and I was suffering, so feel kind of ethically bound to share this info with anyone in the same boat.  No more hot flashes and all kinds of stuff I thought died seems to be kind of waking up again - anyone going through this will take my meaning.  I'm also drinking a "Green Stuff" mixture, taking Black Cohosh and calcium and a multi-vitamin.  Can't say enough good things about having this turnaround, because wild horses won't make me take hormonal supplements, which just have cancer written all over them as far as I can tell...plus hormonal alteration stuff makes me crazy and I mean Crazy...But before addressing the symptoms, it was like living life with PMS.  No fun for me or anyone else...

OK end of female-health hour...

Wish me luck with the Stuff from London arrival tomorrow - expect it will be emotional, but also will be glad to finally have my papers and books.  Scared of the smell of clothes and sheets...smells are my madeleine...and London smells very different from NYC.

Time though for bed so I'll be ready for the movers...though God Herself only knows when they will arrive...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

still unspooling....

Still lacking focus and finding even basic tasks difficult - this is standard issue for me after doing lots of structured stuff - so wish I could just relax into it a bit more...

When I do rest - without distraction - certain ideas come into my mind that wouldn't happen otherwise, but I find myself at times too easily distracted by the internet and television and such and then think I'm being lazy, etc...not sure what is 'constructive criticism' of myself and what is just being too hard...

On the good news front on Monday saw the space at The Brecht Forum where we will be doing the reading of We live in financial times and it is perfect.   We will be able to Do things rather than just tell them even in a staged reading.

Today met with some friends and then sorted out some paperwork.  Feel like I should have been able to do more, but I couldn't.

Last night, I finished The Liars' Club, which I think is a miracle of a book and again will recommend it.  Even though it is non-fiction, it reads like an amazing story, in a good way - in that it moves from one unexpected place to another but with a sense of inevitability.  I hope one day to be able to do justice to some of my own life in that way... Right now reading Margaret Atwood's new story in The New Yorker who creates her version of this but with fiction.  Learning from the masters...

Don't think I'll be able to sit down and do my own writing right away (aside from the blog), so figure the next best thing is absorbing those from whom I can learn...

Ugo the Cat continues to get more and more comfortable and in one month is acting like the cats I had for years. This is a small triumph, and I'm happy he feels so comfy and safe here, though I fear I am spoiling another cat rotten.  Oh well.  Worse crimes have happened.

Not very inspired this evening, I fear...but wanting to keep with the integrity of this project - recording the experience of these days in transition as they happen even if not particularly glamorous or inspired.

Back to Atwood...g'night...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finished teaching and grading so have no brain...

Just finished the last grading of the semester, finished teaching last Thursday.  Consequently, I have the brain of a squid - no offence to squids but you get the idea...

I wondered why on Friday (the day after I finished teaching), I could not instantly focus.  I had planned that by today, Monday, I'd be back writing regularly.  Probably needless to say, that has not happened.  I am in desperate need of what I hope I can give myself right now: deep rest.

However, all my stuff arrives from London on Thursday so am wondering what that will bring in terms of space issues, etc...what I'll do with stuff and blah blah blah...I also have the voices telling me I have to be writing at least One of the books I'm working on...or else I'm a Fraud...(yawn...even I'm bored with my own self-laceration routine...)

I have some little things to do here and there and am doing them and I guess I'd like to believe I'm allowed to believe that's enough - I've been on GO since mid-June when my husband said he wanted to separate and I agreed to try that out.  I did not have the break I had envisioned in September in Orkney or any kind of break at all really (if you think I'm exaggerating - re-read this blog from mid-June on and please inform me when you get to the break part).

However, saying this, even SAYING this makes me feel guilty - like I should be on GO at all times, every moment...OR if I'm going to rest it has to be in some particularly wholesome zen yoga way that involves incense and focus.

Christ on a stick.

Please dear JesusBuddhaMaryJosephAllahVishnuWhoeverThe Fuck save me from this Driven Madness...this is workaholism pure and simple - driven by the dogs of self-hatred and exhaustion.  A nasty little demon, tiny annoying with bite like some particularly heinous parasite...

Which is all a long way to explain why there was a break however brief in this blog, as I needed to even Not to do this...

This feeling of MustDoNow is also blowback from some good decisions I made earlier this week to not to do something that would have been exhausting, so the usual pattern is this: first, feel ashamed of making that decision, then feel better, and even somewhat proud of myself, then find a reason to worry about something or a reason to feel badly about myself, then focus on a project I am Not doing and begin the process of lashing myself over the head with that.


OK, so I'm going to stop typing here and allow myself to Imperfectly Rest...or as someone once said to me: whatever's worth doing is worth doing badly.

Amen to that.

So I bid you sweet dreams while I go off and do something badly...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It was 31 years ago today...

well almost, by the time this post publishes, probably 31 years and a day...though also about this time of night I imagine...no pun intended, that John Lennon was killed.  As if Reagan winning the presidency wasn't bad enough, a month later a guy who just talked about peace was killed.

I remember reading somewhere that Hunter Thompson was talking to Ken Kesey about this and saying: "why him? Why not me? I'm the asshole" and Kesey saying "you never promised anyone anything, that's why."  I think he had a point.

I woke up the next morning (dec. 9, 1980) to my radio alarm blaring out the voice of a DJ saying "-n was shot last night" and then a Beatles or Lennon song playing - was it Yesterday?  Imagine?  Honestly, I don't remember.  I just remember knowing as soon as I heard the song that something terrible happened, the person's name ended with 'n', the Beatles were playing, so there was a good chance it was John Lennon.

I was 17 and in love with all thing Lennon at that time, which made me incredibly unhip in 1980.  I think I may have written about this earlier in the blog, but this was when I was at boarding school on scholarship and my similarity with most people there was slim to none.  I of course thought this meant something was deeply wrong with me and didn't realize until years later it might have had something to do with the gaping chasm of a class divide between us wherein most of them were raised to rule the world or at the very least (some female students) to marry a ruler of the world.  Many of them, for the record, now do rule the world.  No, I don't know how to contact any of them now, though I probably could through the miracle of social networking, but then again I'd probably have about as much to say to them now as I did then, i.e., not much.

The students I liked and admired were into things like punk and new wave and went to CBGBs on the weekends.  They seemed like they orbited a different social stratosphere than I did.  I listened to the Beatles, Abbey Road mostly, sometimes the Doors and the Who - living in some 60s la-la land that probably never existed and certainly bore zero resemblance to reality in 1980.

But to those of us who lived in that world, and there were a few true believers at Choate, mostly other smarty-pants scholarship students like me who were pale and serious looking and clung to each other in un-hip-smarty-pants-ness, Lennon's assassination was brutal.  We were depressed for days, some even wore black arm bands.  I don't think I went that far, either because I thought it was odd or because I lived in a whole house of people who didn't really care, were Way too cool for school and which I had somehow ended up in because I got along with the Dean of the Girls, Francelle, and her husband Ken because of my growing interest radical left-wing politics.  I used to spend weekends in their living room drinking tea and talking Marxism and Latin - you know, the usual way one spends Saturdays when one is 17.

I loved her tea, though - Francelle's - and the ceramic handmade mugs, the honey that was fresh from some honeycomb somewhere, that you twisted around a wooden ridged stick thing.  It felt warm and safe in her kitchen and living room.  I met her many years later and told her she had saved my life that year.  She told me I had helped her a lot, too, which totally surprised me.  But in retrospect, she wasn't your usual person at Choate, especially not with her then-husband Ken, who was from Trinidad and had hair that went up straight, which always looked like he had just put his finger in an electric socket...seriously.  But he would talk and talk and talk about left-wing political theories and ideas and they would reminisce about Oxford and I would stare at them and think: wow.  I would then research lots of these ideas for various papers and teach-ins and like whatever...so I was their little protege I suppose.

So why, to this day I can't figure it out, was I alone in their little TV room watching Reagan bounce on to that stage with 'his Wife Nancy' to the tune of Happy Days Are Here Again?  I was crying and crying, thinking: things are going to be terrible...which they were/are still/as in we haven't recovered from the damage done - and it's only getting/gotten worse.  And I was ALONE.  Very, very alone. None of the other girls in the house gave a shit as far as I could tell and why would they?  They were safe and snug as bugs in a rug (oh except of course for the ones who would die of drug overdoses and stuff...yes it was an illusion, their safety, but they believed it is the point...I didn't know how to reach my parents half the time - this made things different - perhaps they didn't either, come to think of it - oh never mind - let's just say they had more money and leave it at that...)

Then a month later Lennon gets shot, right after putting out the Double Fantasy album and that haunting Rolling Stones cover with him naked in a fetal position next to Yoko, fully clothed.  I stared and stared at that photo - riveted by the possibilities inherent therein - not the least of which was the gender reversal that was Unheard of in 1980, even that late in the day - this was truly radical.  Now, probably not so much.  Then, truly shocking in a good way.

He was shot when he was what 42 maybe?  I'm 48, so I've already outlived John Lennon, which is depressing from both angles: i.e., he should not have died so young and I have accomplished only a teeny tiny shred of what he accomplished in his short life.  Both of these facts depress me, his death more so, because I can still rally (she said bravely).  At least I hope so.

I'm not going to even talk about the shooter or all that shit because it's sensationalist well shit.  The fact of his death is what matters and that it was violent and unnecessary but probably given our weird aversion to peace inevitable.

Is the Occupy movement the beginning of the pendulum swinging back...finally?  Too soon to tell I suppose but at least small things are changing in the way people talk - it seems to be rearranging certain politicians' spines back into left wing alignment where they were supposed to be according to their rhetoric...and so long may it continue.

It's heartening to see people so aware, awake and close to fearless - rallying here and there - defiantly remaining leaderless.  I can't help but think Lennon would have loved this rebellion/Happening.  It's part politics, part Fluxus (the group Ono was part of when they met - you can see home movie like footage of all of them Jonas Mekas took if you happen upon the right gallery one day...on the Staten Island Ferry as I recall...).  That's kind of great.

The students where I will be teaching next semester, Hunter, are already occupying their school.  My favorite tweet was from one of their professors saying "I'll join you guys when I've finished grading your papers."  I look forward to doing the same, except it'll be even more fun since I'm teaching acting. My base text will be Joseph Chaikin's ʼThe Presence of the Actor' - a great manifesto about theater and politics and what he refers to as 'the set up.'  That and my own stuff.  Should be pretty great.  And it will link in effortlessly with Occupy.  Not in a didactic way, and no my students don't have to sign up for political action, etc., but the theatricality of it will be made apparent...and the idea of how to create theatrical spaces in public places and the theatricality of political action...etc...

So here's hoping the great big gorgeous spirit that was John Lennon (and yes I know he had his dark side and yadeyadeya...but come on so does everybody - but not everybody sings Give Peace a Chance until they are hoarse...right?) is delighting in this new spin on the dance floor of possibilities opening up.  I hope the creaking sound is of the pendulum finally taking a swing back and not the damn thing just flying off its axis...always a possibility...but even then, something New would happen...

It's late now, I finished my last day of teaching for this term today.  Hurrah!  So I can stay up late again and sleep past 6:45am.  Anyone who knows me will know how important this is.  I am one of the 5% of truly night people.  I have decided I am descended genetically from the cave nightwatch shift, the ones who were supposed to keep their eyes peeled at 2am for marauding lions or whatever.  A small but proud minority.  For whom a 6:45am start is cruelty.

Back to watching the cave...but now, hopefully Ugo the cat can take charge of that so I - who did have a 6:45am start today, can toddle off to bed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The objects for which there is no satisfactory solution."

The above is a quote from Joan Didion's newest book Blue Nights.  She is referring to the many mementos she has of people and time gone by, some of which is here or there in places that make  some sense and then there are 'the objects for which there is no satisfactory solution.'

This is why she loves non-fiction.  This is also why I love non-fiction.  As she said in the interview I mentioned yesterday, "there is more space" in non-fiction.  With fiction you are compelled to follow a narrative.  And as we all 'know' narratives don't take too kindly to 'the objects for which there is no satisfactory solution.'  Those must be tossed out as unwieldy, perhaps too beautiful or too big or too small, but for whatever reason not right.

So much of life in my experience fits into this category, which is why I resist narrative so strongly.  I feel it masks more than it reveals.

Having said that, in Mary Karr's excruciating memoir of her childhood The Liars' Club (referring to the effect one of her father's tall tales, as told to his group of friends, the eponymous liars' club, who listen to his stories in particular with attentive respect, even when they know they are being lied to somehow, or should do) "I've plumb forgot where I am for an instant, which is how a good lie should take you. At the same time, I'm more where I was inside myself than before Daddy started talking, which is how lies can tell you the truth."

So perhaps it is living on this line that's important - when writing 'non-fiction' knowing it is always to some extent fictional, contingent, subjective (Didion says when she started placing herself in her journalistic stories it was not the done thing but she felt it was necessary to allow the reader to know "who that was at the other end of the voice") and when speaking or writing fiction knowing it can penetrate to someone's core, but perhaps only if the recipient knows it's a lie.  In the section Karr is describing, it's the first time she is complicit with her father and knows he's lying.  Perhaps it is that knowledge that allows her the other feelings?

When referring to the other men in the liars' club Karr says "Daddy never fessed up to the lie that I know. It stayed built between him and the other men like a fence he'd put up to keep them from knowing him better."  So without knowing the truth of the lie, something is lost.

Didion was so clear that memory is a liar, that all we remember is what we do not want to remember.  I think she's right in the end.  If a memory is painful, we'd rather not have that, but sometimes, too, good memories can bring us closer to the lack of whatever moment/time/place/person that was.  She is obsessed in Blue Nights with "how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here."  She then repeats the phrase: "How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is another thing I could not afford to see."

She reads these phrases, says these things, sitting on a chair looking like an oversized, very calm exotic bird - quite thin, quite beautiful, thankfully allowing her skin to be wrinkly in that same exquisite way that Louise Bourgeois' face became carved with all her life's suffering and laughter mapped on it for all to see.  These women look heroic to me, like statues prior to death.  I imagine that is not how they feel or in Bourgeois' case felt, but to a woman like me (of a certain age...) these women are heros.  They have carved out their writing and art into the world, which finally appreciates it/them.  They have suffered huge losses, but they survived.  They see so keenly.  They are the wise ones.

Doris Lessing wrote about the 'wise ones' in one of her books, I think it was the Golden Notebook, and she speaks of these people as those who will walk through and over whatever is necessary to survive, not give up, give in, shy away.  She was writing that in her 40s I believe, in a bid to become one of the wise ones, which she of course has become.  Is.

Mary Karr is in her 50s and is walking the same path, is probably already a wise one, but I have no doubt will continue in this walk and become even wiser.  I hope she too survives well into her dotage so we can benefit from her words.  I hope I can live that long, too, so I can finish all the projects I so want to write and create.  I am not sure I can possibly finish them all, but I am lucky, I realize writing this, so lucky: to have so many ideas.  To want to create that badly and to have time (I hope) to do so...

My teaching for the semester ends on Thursday.  Once I have finished marking and get some paperwork into Hunter for the acting class, I will be able to focus on the writing and such for a blissful 6 weeks.  Well, that and all my shit from London arriving in a couple weeks and deciding where on earth to put it all. There will be many objects for which there is not satisfactory solution.  That will take about a week, then holidays, etc...but I promise myself as a solemn oath to take big chunks of time to write and do my own work.

I want to be one of the wise ones, too, which means I need to be more ruthless with my time and energy than I am.  This makes me wonder if I will ever be truly wise or perhaps more like my meditation practice (which I refer to as 'dumbass meditation' because I don't even attempt not to think, which is like impossible anyway - I just sit there, eyes shut, coffee cup to my left and breathe for about 25 minutes with coffee sip intervals - but 15 years of that every day!).  Perhaps, then, the best I can aspire to is dumbass wise.  Somehow that seems more probable and like attainable...

So, now to preparing my last review for this semester of the Fundamentals of Interpersonal Communication, God help us all and especially my students...I do my best.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"I simply decided to go without a narrative"

Joan Didion on her books from The White Album to Blue Nights.   Quote above is her speaking about Blue Nights - her most recent book about the death of her daughter.

Below is a link to this interview.  We'll call her my involuntary guest blogger for tonight.  Sometimes you just gotta give it up for the wise ones...

Joan Didion interviewed by David L. Ulin

All hail to the master realist with the cold-hot eye for what can be written down, how we make narrative and when it all falls apart.  Plus heart...no cold intellectualism here, just intelligence of all kinds.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not Just Another Fucking Statistic

OK, so now someone I know has died of this disease of alcoholism and in a particularly horrific way.  She was about my age and leaves behind children.  She was in fact probably the age of my friend Vickie who died of breast cancer, and so this is the weird thing: they are both dead, they both leave behind teenage boys, and the similarity ends there.

One person was surrounded by loved ones and as sad and unfair as it was, she was prepared and so was everyone else as much as that is possible.  She was able to be fully present and accounted for up until she died.

In this other case, this poor woman was not able to be present to herself or anyone else and in the end was killed by the disease that kicked her ass and everyone's around her.  I am just devastated by this.  In part purely out of sympathy for her and those around her and partially because I'm staring at a path I was allowed the grace not to follow, but which could easily have been mine.

Why me and not her?

That is the question that haunts me always.  Always.  It never makes any sense.  Why some people are allowed off the auto-destruction freeway and others are not.  It makes about as much sense as a cyclone or a tsunami.  I would yammer on about being protected by forces greater than me but then what does that imply about the people who do not survive?

Words fail.  Logic fails.

It all just fucking shuts down.

It's devastating.  Devastating like Hurricane Katrina was devastating - there is the natural devastation, horrendous and then the fucked up, dysfunctional way of responding to it.  The whole package: physical, mental, spiritual.  A total breakdown inside, outside and everywhere in between.

I just hope to hell that I remain as grateful as I should be for the gift of my life and never, ever forget how luck I am. I do of course like all the time.  All the Time...but I shouldn't.

What happened to this person could easily have happened to me at any time when I was actively out there trying to wipe myself out - or was that what I was doing?  Wipe myself out or as Jung said was it a low-grade spiritual search?  Is active alcoholism/addiction the attempt to let go of what can be referred to as the 'bondage of self' - not my actual self...but because the disease is so fucked up, the metaphor gets lost and the desire becomes death itself - not directly necessarily but ultimately that is the course.

The complete obliteration of the self by any means necessary.  The utter shame of being alive, the inability to live in one's skin the sheer utter self-hatred...and many times this comes about because of action perpetrated on people when they were children - actions that dare not speak their name for fear of more shame, abuse, violence, or simply the horror of not being believed (see in re: Sandusky, Penn State).  70+ percent of alcoholics are victims of child sexual abuse.  That's huge.  Some people become alcoholics just 'cause, but many have pain inflicted early on plus the genetic predisposition and many other factors besides.

Alcoholism is like conception - we know stuff about it but in the end no one Really knows what causes it, not really.  But like conception, you know it when it's happened.  The parallel ends there of course but still...

I hope this woman now lifted off the earth in horrendous fashion finds peace in whatever form she now manifests.  I hope those souls left on this earth to walk through the wake of her storm can find ways to do that that ultimately lead to serenity and love.  I know first hand how much fucking easier said than done That is and if I could fast forward the switch for any of them, God/dess knows I would and fast.  But I can't.

Anymore than I can do that for myself and my own grieving right now, which while real and sad seems quite small compared to this cyclonic event.  For the simple reason that I am alive and, as far as I know, healthy and as Raymond Carver once said about a similar state of grace "all the rest is gravy."

In terms of that, though, just want to acknowledge that my husband sent back a loving letter in response to mine and while we are saying goodbye for now it is without rancour or drama but with love and sadness.  It sucks but it is not any worse than it has to be and for that I am grateful.  Resentment makes things stick and cling and when I am lucky enough to be in a circumstance where I do not have to be filled with it, I am glad.  Anger to my mind is the not the same as resentment.  Anger is a feeling. Resentment is that feeling stuck, with hooks tearing at my flesh, demanding to be taken out by someone other than me while I keep screwing them in deeper.  It's ugly.  Anger is energizing, at times even pure, if vented and released quite healthy.  I'm not particularly good at that, I should add, but when I can do it, it's always a relief.

And love - where is that?  Still figuring that out, sometimes feel it, know it when I feel it and act on it - but real love - rare.  Real love is selfless and unconditional.  Hard.  Intimacy?  I say I want it but if I've spent so much time with someone I believed was not capable of it to the degree I thought I wanted, then what did/do I really want?  These are the questions I need to ask myself quite clearly without flinching. But with compassion lest I fall into a swamp of self-hatred that does absolutely zero people any good.

But for now: a prayer for S. and those she has left behind.  A prayer of gratitude for this beautiful day. and for all of you who are alive here now to share it.

Be grateful for this day.  Notice it.  Find some beauty somewhere no matter what.  Cry your eyes out if you need to and feel the sense of emptiness and lightness that comes after that can then be filled by something else.  Love something, someone, yourself...love anything, anyone, your cat...

Don't give up.  Just don't fucking give up.  Not today.