So I'm traveling now from Maine to NYC via the bus. Watching the lovely greens and blues of Maine gradually give way to the somehow different blues and greens of Massachusetts. This will then lead to another bus in Boston.
I've just discovered that I made another snafu in the great US-UK etiquette confusion that has to do with my job applications and hope I have not messed myself around consequently. Some day I will learn, some day but for now I still make dumb mistakes. To recount the mistake would compound it, so will remain mum on that except to say I feel dumb.
Believe it or not, I spent the earlier part of the day touring replicas of Columbus' boats, The Nina and The Pinta in Portland Harbor. My mother and I were realizing it was probably the first time we've ever done anything touristy in Maine, like ever. We're From here...So why was I there? Well, I had the idea of writing a novel in draft form in my grandmother Jani's POV (as part of her autobiography). I have her two actual draft novels to draw from but decided that on her way from Europe back to America on the boat she may begin to think about what Columbus was thinking and then what it would be like if a woman tried to pass herself off as a man to be on this first boat....and then weirdly enough these replica boats were available to see. The novel will be called Claude/Claudia and I am here to tell you there is nothing more fun than writing a historical novel in someone else's voice, especially when that someone was attempting to write best-sellers. All literary pretensions vanish and it is (excuse the pun) smooth sailing.
I have photos from this tourist experience, which I will share if not now, tomorrow. But perhaps I will make this a blog post over time...yes, I will do that, so for now back to watching the world go by.
A few hours later leaving Boston for NYC on a Greyhound, where we go from the world of POR to BOS (Portland to Boston) on Concord Trailways where you are expected not to speak on a cell (mobile) phone at all except emergencies to Greyhound where you are asked to 'limit' your cell phone usage and be considerate of other passengers.
Greyhound buses used to be smelly, horrible things filled with people who had nowhere to go. I know this because I used to take them when younger, sometimes alone (from 8 or 9 years old - my parents telling the bus driver a young person was on board alone, but still...) and sometimes with my beloved Aunt Barb (David - stepfather no. 2) up to Maine. The stations were smoke-filled and depressing. If I was with Barb it was OK, she had given me a little suitcase with flowers on it that I loved and with her it felt safe and exciting. When alone I would usually befriend a slightly older woman who would usually humor me for the ride and tell me how smart and mature I was, which I believed. One time I my hand had been slammed in a door before I had to get on the bus and I felt quite vulnerable and sad to get on the bus, that time alone. Sometimes the bus was so full I sat on my suitcase. Luckily, that was a long, long time ago...but there are shadows of that sometimes like now, when I'm feeling quite raw and vulnerable. Not sure what's next and all that, and even though I don't think my husband is a bad guy, the imminent separation makes me feel abandoned. Not a good mix.
So embarrassing to write all the above, would far prefer to stay in the realm of ideas, but the more I am alive, the more I am sure that ideas, feelings, experiences and all of that are mixed and not as separate as we would like to believe - or perhaps I should just say 'I' would like to believe. My whole life I've thought I could get a pass if I could figure shit out intellectually or creatively. That somehow that would save me from these intense feelings of vulnerability and at times even helplessness. Should I say this aloud? Should I hide these feelings instead and pretend all is well, like I have for 48 years? That somehow hasn't worked so I'm trying a new tack. I'm going public. I'm assuming, perhaps incredibly wrongly, that others have had these feelings too. And are embarrassed by them and perhaps don't talk about them except maybe to one or two others. And perhaps, in all honesty, that's what we're supposed to do. Perhaps this is crazy saying this out loud.
I come from a background of a lot of very sophisticated obfuscation of feeling behind words of psychologically sound advice with the emphasis on Words. It is a life's work untangling some of these gordian knots.
But the benefits are huge. Somehow allowing myself to talk about this stuff openly has opened up new terrain with my parents for example. This morning I felt a connection with my mother, allowed her in in a way I haven't for ages, if ever. The more I can trust myself, my own experiences and story, the more I can trust her. This feels right and good.
I also need to say something here, especially because I talk a lot about my background, which was very difficult. My mother has spent the past 24 years trying to undo what happened in the first 23 of our lives. I believe she was helpless to affect a change in what/how she acted for a lot of reasons back then and I have forgiven her. I still have to work through some of the story and the memories, but it's not a matter of dredging up old resentments, it's about working through feelings and senses of myself created by these events. There's a big difference.
(Aside: hilariously, a very adult sounding little girl on cell phone behind me saying in answer to how she is now "I feel bored to death...so what you are doing?" It's the way I probably used to sound...)
And as for the generational nature of how neglect can happen, after a particularly bad incident where I was left with a babysitter who had been cleared by an agency but turned out to be psycho, literally, my grandmother Jani was one of the people who encouraged my mother to give custody to my father (who punted and left me with his parents), saying "Kids are resilient, she'll be fine."
Ha, said my mother with infinite sadness when she told me that story last night, as we were going through Jani's photos and letters together.
Yes, said I.
I think it's so easy, when hurting someone, whether adult to adult or chid to adult or adult to child, etc. to believe the other one feels no pain. I've been guilty of that, am still guilty of that and I believe that is true of most people. It is so easy to believe as Ivan K says in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov that no one suffers as much as I suffer. The precise quote is something closer to "No one can believe that anyone suffers more than he does."
There is another way that manifest, too, though, which is to always see another's suffering and never be aware of one's own and this can cause the photo negative version of problems. I used to be that way, and while it may sound like some Zen nirvana of enlightened compassion, it's not. It meant that when I would count how many people were in a room, I was always one short, because I forgot I was there. Literally. These last years have been about landing back in my own battered, imperfect skin and bearing it. Sometimes I wonder if this was such a great idea, but I think it was/is probably necessary. However, it's meant for some ugly moments and embarrassing times and suchlike.
However, as I write all this, I keep hearing in my mind T.S. Eliot's admonition that "humankind cannot bear very much reality" and I wonder if this blog is just that...too much reality. Isn't it better for it to be formed in neat packages, told in doses, leavened with humor at strategic junctures, etc.? I assume since it appears folks are reading this, that there is some use in this strange soup of reflections, memories, ideas, rants, raves, dreams and nightmares. Hope so anyway...
OK enough Greyhound memory-rambles....More when I get to NYC.
I am HOME! In NYC, that is, my friend Julie's UWS apartment, fan going, eating a Barzini's caesar salad and drinking a Diet Coke, having endured a 5 1/2 hour bus ride because of an accident and traffic. But here's the amazing thing. I get off in Port Authority - OK not your garden spot of the universe, right? It's whenever the fuck at night, and I'm about to say to myself, it's dirty, it smells why do you say you love NYC and then, it happens - what always happens - I feel peaceful, safe, calm...and this is Port Authority OK, a big fluorescent lit bus stations for godsake. But I feel peaceful and like I can breathe and somehow not so hopeless anymore.
I wrangle my bags up escalators, walk outside and find a taxi right away. I know how to signal a taxi here with just a look and it works and the guy is nice and he helps with my luggage and closes my door for me. And I just glide uptown and I think I don't know why it is but I live every square inch of this city fiercely, even the bits I don't like one bit. I love them and I love it and I wonder: should I move back here if I love it so much? It's tempting right now, very. I mean I have some kind of weird thing with this city. I know I'm not alone with this feeling, but it seems to have grown in intensity since I left.
However, I remember vividly when my first marriage broke down (can you see a theme here, I can...sigh...keeping up the family business....), walking in the Village somewhere and feeling, viscerally, this city will hold me. I am held here. I will be OK.
Isn't that weird? I mean this is NYC not some small town somewhere or where I grew up or anything. There is only one other place I feel this way about and it's the Orkney Islands in Scotland, which oddly enough has a similar water current along the Pentland Firth as does the East River.
My little islands that I love. One popular, one remote. One so remote Google earth hasn't even found it yet. And one so popular everyone feels they know it from movies and TV. What is up with that?
OK, I am tired and probably babbling so will end this now and finally post, a day late and a dollar short etc.
Oh but, one other thing (the phrase my mother thinks will be on her tombstone - one other thing)...if you're interested in my last post, read the comments back and forth between Panther and me. She has the Brit perspective and it's interesting. If anyone else wants to chime in, please do.
OK goodnight, sweet dreams or good morning, good afternoon or whatever it is for you now...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.