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.

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.

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