So it's like my birthday and I'm 48 and I am wondering, like probably others before me have also wondered: how the fuck did I get so old??? I don't feel like I'm close to 50. Am I? Dear God...etc.
On the other hand, I'm in East Hampton, Long Island at my dear friend Julie's place and it's sunny and low 70s (F - lo 20s C...), the smell of pine trees and spruce and almost deafening birdsong...along with a few lawn mowers, it's true. I'm writing on her deck, which means I can barely see the screen but it's worth it to be outside.
So, as has been my experience many times in my life - at least since I quit drinking and even some times before that - when life gets weird - the friends are there, old or new, to pick me up, hold me and make me feel cared for on the deepest level.
A brief break for eating breakfast and deciding on what luxurious path to take today - when to go to spa, have massage, walk on beach, etc.
Then talking about separation with Bill and the sadness, especially today somehow, wishing to celebrate with but cannot. No birthday greeting as yet and all that. Then realizing that it's up to me how I spend this day and waiting for someone who may be on the way out of my life is probably not the wisest option. Perhaps best to focus on Julie and the lovely friends who are in my life.
And this has been the gift of so many times in my life, and the friends who have been there for so many years are still here now, so many of them...a note from my high-school and college friend Veronica saying she was reading the blog and to come to stay with her in San Francisco and rest. She is the one I visited at Wesleyan when I chose to go there instead of Yale. She's also the one who handed me The Serpent to direct at college, an experience that changed my life by changing my goals as a theater director from interpreting writing to creating rituals and experiences that did something rather than said something, that were ensemble based and about moments of profound shift in the room.
The ideas changed and evolved but the core experience was that shift from the telling of stories that represented life to making life happen in the moment in the room. So Veronica looms large in my life and to have her reappear is comforting. Another friend Renee from college will be meeting me in Connecticut after I meet my big Catholic family I've never met before in my life. She was part of my first lab in NYC, which was the basis of all the work I've done since then, as a director and writer. We both have crazy childhoods and therefore our first response to most tragic things in our own lives is laughter. You recognize people who have experienced a certain level of trauma by this quality. It's not the laughter of indifference or discomfort - it's another kind altogether, and it's what binds us. If I had to guess it comes from a place of: despite all this that is happening right now I survived the psycho/s and this is nothing in comparison to the sheer blind terror of that. But I think that's a reduction and the laughter is even more mysterious again and also has to do with an even deeper knowledge that all is OK even so. I will not try to defend this or even explain it, because it really does defy explanation. It makes no sense and probably can lead to dubious political ideas, so I'll leave it there.
So in this moment as the sun now comes over into my eyes and begins making the typing outside idea become even less tenable, I feel so many things - a certain peace and contentment, an almost unbearable sadness that is somehow contained as if held in a loose fist on the right side of my chest...not like it's being choked off but also not everywhere.
There is a breeze making leaves rustle gently and little whispy white clouds in a blue blue sky.
Yesterday in NYC, I saw a man who was playing guitar - or playing with a guitar more accurately, and muttering. I gave him the wide bearth one learns in a city and walked by a little bird headed wooden sculpture on the sidewalk with a folded piece of paper beneath it, which was a good 100 feet away from the man but pointed towards him. As I was passing it, the man said, "Look at that sculpture, the little wooden sculpture, and imagine that it's me." I did not know if he was talking to me or not, as he repeated this refrain and others were walking by as well. But there was something haunting in the refrain. Like he knew the little wooden sculpture was more acceptable and less scary than him. I wondered if he hoped someone would open the note that appeared to be underneath it. I kept walking in urban fashion but wished, as I often do, that I had more courage and would look at the note or at least look at the man and see what he was trying to do or say instead of instantly thinking: psycho and walking along.
I suppose with my background which involved a couple seriously dangerous people with psychosis I could be forgiven for this response, but it still disappoints me. And I think it's more symptomatic of a contemporary fear of the unknown than deep past trauma. However, I've always tried to stay out of the force field of crazy and/or drunk people on sidewalks everywhere, which is probably wise...
Another friend I'd like to give a shout out to right now is an old high-school summer program era friend Dave Maine, who has been writing for a long time and has a bunch of books out and is about to publish another one...You can see the link to his blog here at The Party Never Stops. His wife Uzee also is writing amazing-sounding books with great titles like 'The Geometry of God', and those are accessible on his blog. The reason I mention this is we just got back in touch after many years, and I stupidly threw him over for my crazed unrequited love of Jim now Jenny. Whenever we've been in touch, he has been going from strength to strength and from incredibly cool girlfriends to now deeply cool talented writer wife, who he clearly adores, respects and supports. So you can see I was foolish. His biggest fault when we were together was that he really liked me, and I didn't like me, so you can see where it all went wrong. Anyway, the fact we are friends now, after all this and my stupidity is a tribute to him more than me and I remember even back in high school, he was the funniest and best writer of the lot. So go read their books, like all interesting writers they need support and are teaching, etc. to make ends meet.
So, you can see for all the losses and weirdnesses in my life, I end up with these incredible friends and somehow land on my feet rather than my ass...or when sometimes fall on my ass there tend to be cushy pillows about. Another example of this was in January 2010 when my father was dying and a friend of Julie's husband David, Teresa let me stay at her place in Sacramento, a city I knew not at all. And she and her cats welcomed me like family and held me through a crazy time. I have written about that elsewhere and am sending it off for publication, so fingers crossed and if that happens, will add a link here. But the point there is: I made the plane reservation having found out my father was in the ICU and had no idea where I would stay or what I would do when I arrived, and moments later an email arrived from Teresa saying that of course I could stay with her (David having sent her an email maybe 30 minutes earlier).
I'm going to mangle the quote but Kierkegaard says something about life is lived forward but only understood backwards, and the moral of the story here is sometimes you just have to act and pray and then the safety net appears. So far that has been the case for me. It's when I spend lots of time trying to anticipate every possible problem that might come and draw up elaborate plans for safety net creation and maintenance with 10 point plans, etc., that I am usually in trouble. Because I am then obsessed with worry and outcomes and not trusting the silver thread, which is always there. Always.
Which doesn't mean I don't try to do the do-able or act like an idiot, but sometimes actions and decisions need to precede their logical or practical considerations. That's what God or Goddess or Whathaveyou is for I think...those moments, and of course all the rest of them when we walk around deluded that we are the center of the universe and the masters of our fate, when even the most purely scientific understanding of the universe would obviate that notion...but hey. We have brains that manufacture the micro-fictions moment by moment of direct sensation so we are story-telling and receiving machines no matter what we want to do otherwise...I suppose the trick is to know the stories are fictions and true and not true at the same time...and crucially: they can all change.
The story this moment is: the sky is blue. The birds are singing. The gentle breeze is blowing. There will be a lunar eclipse and I can barely read this computer screen. I hear cars and a plane. I hear wind in trees. My shoulders hurt from typing and my reflection is in this screen.
It is my birthday.
Thanks to all of you out there who have helped me get this far, it could have been different. I could have died much younger. I am alive and as Raymond Carver once said wisely about the second chance at life some of us are given for no reason other than grace: 'all the rest is gravy.'
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.