I spent most of the day dealing with my taxes again - this time starting at my friend Jennifer's place, where she showed me Again how to use Excel. The last time she showed me I was in a panic and had to get my taxes done in one day so could not remember a thing. Fortunately Jennifer is patient and works with small children, so she was just perfect to help me who when faced with Excel feel reduced to about age 3. Before taxes we talked about what's happening with my life and separation and housing issues, etc. I woke up today feeling unbelievably depressed...but then weirdly enough when meditating could not help but notice the beauty of the day and the garden, especially the sunlight and shade dancing amidst the movement of the leaves in the gentle breeze.
I need to add here before I go on that I just heard an amazing 30 minute presentation on Radio4 called 'Something Understood' hosted by Christie Dickason. It was about dealing with unexpected loss or change and could not have been more pertinent to my own life right now. The readings she did from poets and the recording of Louis Armstrong singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' just did me in. I was trying to make popcorn and just cried and cried. Especially the song, because I flashed to singing it when I was 14 and understudying a role in Carousel. It was just a rehearsal but I shocked everyone in the room but myself most of all by being able to sing the song a cappella, in tune and hitting the high notes. I was told by a psycho babysitter when younger that I could not sing or carry a tune and believed her. Apparently she was wrong. However, when I did try to sing later at my boarding school, I had this horrendous singing instructor Mr. Bartis who also told me I could not sing and that my face was too crooked to be a performer. So I stopped acting at all, taking up directing and later writing. I have since performed and I generally get very good feedback, but being the kind of person I am it's the negative comments that stick.
Someone please remind me to get over this. Dear God. But those wounds go So deep, don't they? The things said to us at impressionable times, when there's no one else around in authority or parent-like or whatever to contradict it. Just horrendous...
But back to Something Understood, it was an amazing program and I suggest you listen to it, you can find it here: Something Understood and it's free to listen to for 6 days. I was astounded by the host's insight, her own writing and the breadth and depth of what she was able to reach in just 1/2 hour. I am always amazed when something on relatively mainstream media can move me so much. I know Radio4 is not precisely commercial, but even so. I generally feel so alienated from most culture that is put out in any way that is not sideways or underground that when it happens I feel a sense of both wonder and a kind of relief - like maybe there is a way I can connect to the larger world - maybe I don't just have to live under a rock my whole life and hope someone may hear me chirping incomprehensibly beneath it.
And then there are taxes. I am not done with them. Another day at least awaits me of painstaking entry of every teensy thing in an Excel sheet so I have a viable record of my freelance life not only for tax purposes but for every other thing that needs it here. I wonder if I will ever make my way again as a freelance artist like I did for two years, and which screeched to a halt last year - as I lost my ability to somehow fill out forms properly. I made it this past year with a mix of teaching, little bits of freelance work and a tiny bit of money my father left me by accident - meaning, he didn't have a will but I was his only relative, so it went to me. This was a shock as my father hardly ever gave me any money throughout my life.
I wonder if I am irrevocably depressed in some way, if I'm in some way in need of 'outside help' again, etc. but then a friend reminded me yesterday - when did this separation start - and I remembered it's only been 2 weeks really so of course I am as sad as I am and no I don't have to pathologize it. However, I was also shattered by my father's death in January 2010 and by the miscarriage and follow up operations in 2007-2008 and before that a botched operation in 2006 and so I kind of feel like my life has been a series of slam downs from which I'm continually getting up just in time to get hit again like Cool Hand Luke in that famous fight scene. People tell him to stay down, but he keeps getting up and keeps getting hit again, over and over and over....
I hope perhaps there are alternative outcomes to this scenario....
But I guess it's not surprising I should feel a bit slammed and disoriented.
What I do not feel - and this is why the song You'll Never Walk Alone made me cry so hard I think - is alone. I feel even though yes shaken and weary from the sense of abandonment and all the crying like I am somehow connected to everything and everyone. I know I'm not alone anymore. It also helps friends keep checking in so I don't even have an extended chance to feel sorry for myself or like I don't have friends...but there is a deeper feeling of connection, and it's new. It's something that showed up around the New Year and was solidifying during my last few months of intensive therapy. I know I'm here and in so knowing I feel connected.
I need to add that I remember as a child not being sure I actually existed, that feeling growing to an existential panic by high school - one vivid memory of lying on my dorm room bed sweating with fear that I did not in fact exist, and looking out the window at people walking by and wondering if they knew I existed but knowing they were oblivious. This may seem drama-queeny, but I really did fear this. When I was 10 years old I ran into a telephone pole because I was distracted with the realization that other people could see me but I could not see me. I was looking at people in a traffic jam, examining their levels of existence and understanding of one another and bam, right into the telephone pole. I walked back as if it hadn't happened - embarrassed that someone might have seen me - and walked home. Usually in those days, the apartment was empty. The baby sitter thing had not worked out so I was just coming home to the apartment, which was above our landlady on Willetts Avenue in Waterford, Connecticut (behind the Howland's Department Store and Friendly's Ice Cream shop).
And so the sense of alone-ness and loneliness has been the most pervasive and consistent memory of my early life, interrupted only by the psychotic (literally) attentions of abusive adults. And I wonder why a separation will leave me feeling bereft and why I have historically stayed perhaps too long in relationships that are not working out? Hmmmm. Let's see....
I feel perhaps I have believed too fervently and too well in the power of therapy and certain recovery programs to make me better. I don't mean by that that I haven't changed, because I have and quite a lot, for instance this astonishing sense now of not being alone. But I forget then the power of the past, these deep wounds and keep hoping that they will somehow magically heal and I will be OK and go on my merry way.
This is not my experience.
This is also why I am alive today. That much I do believe. That because I do now feel the full weight of what is happening, the full pain and agony of loss and don't expect it to just go away, I am allowed to stay alive, not fall prey to my addictions and am given the strength to simply Bear it.
This radio piece I listened to talked a lot about this and the various ways to walk through darkness, including Wendell Berry basically saying it can be done in the dark and to shed light is to know about light but gives one no understanding of the darkness, that the darkness can only be understood by walking through it in the dark. This is so simple and beautiful and true.
I am being given this harsh gift right now, the paring down, the darkness. As the presenter Dickason said, it's not something you would wish on anyone, but you know there are gifts. For her, it was having a stroke in her 30s, becoming epileptic and in her recovery from that beginning her writing again, which she had abandoned.
God works in mysterious ways Her wonders to perform.
I have to believe that. I do believe that. Most of the time. And at other times, I just feel a lot of pain, but that's OK. It's real. It's mine and there's gold in the veins of the darkness, if I can just allow myself enough time to feel my way through the cave or tunnel or hallway or road...whatever it is...without walking back to the familiar or demanding sign posts where there are none. It's time to find my own way now.
Perhaps it is time, finally, to leave the past behind. Walk through this darkness and get to the other side. I am an adult now and not a child. I may have the feelings of a child at times, especially now, but I am not one. This knowledge is so important, because it allows me to hold that little sad girl and tell her it'll be alright. Never could do that before this past year, not like I can now. I wish I could have this and my marriage, but it seems right now anyway, that is not possible. That is sad, incredibly and indescribably sad, but it is bearable. Because when we can write about the darkness, as Dickason said in her radio piece, we are already moving beyond it.
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.