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. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

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 having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.

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


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hampstead Heath and great improvised music by Lode in Dalston

It was one of those London spectaculars.  The sun shining and mild breeze so met my friends Antonia and Jennifer at Hampstead Heath, which is as wild as an urban park can be, spent hours talking, lounging under a tree and just watching the world go by in front of us.

I thought I was tired after that, but went to have dinner with my friend Bib and talked about various ways we are working on our respective art forms and went to see our good friend Alison Blunt play her violin and multiple household objects and children's toys with David Leahy on double bass and household objects and children's toys.  I cannot begin to explain how magic this improvisation was between them.

This was their first public gig together, they call themselves Lode.  They were playing at a new venue in Dalston - a part of London that used to be scary but is now so hip it's almost nauseating, though it has not quite died yet...There are many jazz venues there now, and it's a good place for them.

The music was magic because they are both virtuosic on their instruments (both classically trained) but also playful and without pretension.  They listen to one another and respond off of each other, neither competing for center stage.

But more than that, I could tell that something has changed in Alison, her presence is stronger and this is Her thing now...it's her music and she's embodying it.  Perhaps hearing of someone playing with the mixture of virtuosity and experiment, including playing a pan of water played just right may sound like a pretentious thing, but it was not.  The room was electric.

Alison said afterward that she felt naked and like she was 'coming out' - because this is her working with her stuff in the way she works in her music room at home.  Well, this proves to me that as I suspected being 'naked' in this way is a strong position.

She has also gone through many things in her life in the past year and had to endure a number of profound losses, and this has enhanced her music and her, in a way that is wonderful to behold.  Because of where I am these days, it was particularly lovely to see and hear.

It is late and I am tired, so I won't say more but if you see anywhere that 'Lode' is playing, make your way there, it's quite special.  You can link to Alison's website from this blog or click here

Oh and one more thing, to clarify my discussion in the last post about the lie I told myself about my father not mattering sounds as if I was saying others made me tell myself that lie, including my step-fathers.  While I did feel pressure as a child, the 'big fat lie' I was referring to was the one I continued to tell myself as an adult.  The risk I take in finally allowing myself to feel and see things from my own point of view instead of dissociating and trying to see it from everyone else's is sometimes I may get it wrong.  The second risk is that I am writing about it.  I apologize if I am clumsy as I stumble towards my truth, especially if it unintentionally hurts anyone.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

no way out but through....

I was wondering what I would write about today, aside from walking for hours and hours in streets and parks in London with my friend Sean, then going to a meeting of similar friends and talking about the sadness, then dinner talking about NYC and the feeling there of never being 'too much', which feeling I do definitely have at times in London...

and then I talked with my closest friend Julie (seen in blog posts circa June 15) and after crying for god knows how long, got to some of the core stuff underneath the sorrow about my separation, which has to do with some pretty ancient pain of abandonment.  I may have mentioned this a while back but my biological mother and father split when I was 2 1/2, and I was left with my grandparents, while my mother tried to find work and my father went I'm not sure where.  And I was picked up about a year later with a new father and driven up to Maine from Connecticut, confused and frightened by this new man who yelled a lot and whose idea of how to deal with a 3 1/2 year old afraid of snow was to throw her in it.  Nice.

Meanwhile, my father kind of receded until disappearing - a long story, but one of disappearance without explanation, even when I was an adult and asked, the best the poor man could say was "I couldn't deal with it."  I've since realized my poor father was not dysfunctional but instead afunctional.  But, and here's the rub, no matter what, I missed him, but told myself for a variety of reasons and not so subtle emotional pressures from my mother and all other fathers (3) that I did not miss him, nor in fact was he important to me at all.  This was a big fat lie.

And until seeing the two (count them two) pictures of my father, mother and me together when I was about 6 months and 1 year old respectively (which I found in January 2010 my father's belongings - which were probably actually my grandmother's originally) I didn't even realize I had any emotional attachment to the idea of living with my actual mother and father.  But when I saw those photos for the first time - oh my god.  I actually, for a brief period of time and no matter how totally fucked up (they fought a lot and violently - so violently apparently I would stop breathing, which made them stop fighting...) had a mother and father - no steps, no breaks, no room in someone else's house, no fold-out sofa.  A beginning of a sadness welled up in me and I cried.

But nothing like I'm crying now.  And that's because, as objectively painful as separating from my husband is, it's ripping at this ancient wound as well.  What I could not stop crying about last night was  the loss not only of my husband but his family (many of whom I reconnected with in Scotland earlier in June - photos etc. are in the posts from June 4-11), and his father in particular, who I actually love quite a bit and who reminds me in many ways of my grandfather (the one who changed his name to Barclay and whose real family, the Bukoskis, I only just found in May and met for the first time this June - see posts for June 16-19)...and the house he lives in, where Bill was raised since a baby and all the Stability that means for me.  And it's gone, or so it feels now.  And that just fucking kills  me.  The whole normal family thing ripped away again.

Now some of this is the sadness of now but a lot is the sadness of then.  And I really, really needed to have the conversation with Julie, my wisest, most compassionate, loving and insightful friend on this planet, to get to this on the deepest level.  And also my sadness about not having children myself.  Somehow allowing in all these losses and feeling them makes them bearable.  It's a paradox but an important one.

This is the power of being heard by someone who can hold so much feeling and has so much experience walking through this territory herself, and also the power of allowing myself to go through it and not diverting over to Something Else, whatever it may be.

There is indeed no way out but through...and if nothing else this whole last few years of my life has been an object lesson in this simple but profound truth.  And while I am not grateful for the pain, I Am grateful for the freedom walking through this pain affords me.  There is still a ways to go through this tunnel, but it now feels like a tunnel and not like every inch of the earth, the universe and everything else.  And I will walk through it.  Because I am now strong enough - with a little help from my friends.

Well, a lot of help from my friends, actually.  And whatever you want to call the powers that are greater than ourselves...today, let's say Kali - creator and destroyer, with a little Ganesh, the trickster, troublemaker, divine comedian, mixed in...and actually, that which I now connect with within me.  I never thought that would happen.  But I feel it now, which is why even with all this and even in most of the desolation (with some times of extreme exception) I feel connected on some deeper level to everything and everyone.  It's an amazing feeling and completely grounded in reality.  Not hooey in the slightest.

I have never felt more real, more human, more vulnerable, more strong and for all the pain involved, it is fucking worth it.  Wouldn't wish it on anyone, and wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, July 29, 2011

California dreamin' on such a sad but sunny day...

Had a hard time sleeping last night, just made it to yoga and forgot to meditate in the morning (very rare).  Finished taxes - finally - then could not get through to one of the government offices I need to speak with by Sunday - annoyingly, they keep you on the line with endless recorded messages, then tell you after that that the lines are not available.  Rinse.  Repeat.  So gave up and hope to call early enough tomorrow that the whole world isn't calling them at the same time.

Excited still about the possible independent researcher collective that seems to be brewing away quite quickly.  But when doing taxes again felt very sad and back into the crying sessions again.  Something about having to say my marital status is 'separated' and the finality of how it looks on paper - whether it is or isn't, it sure seems like it dealing with this stuff.  No matter if it's a good or bad thing in the end, I just feel bereft in these moments.

Yoga was a welcome relief as was meeting with some friends in the evening, but I came home early as I am exhausted from the not sleeping routine.  Also from having the obligatory paperwork conversations with my husband wherein we discuss how to tell what bodies about our separation, how to prove it, etc.  This is beyond depressing, as you can no doubt imagine and/or have experienced - and if so, my condolences.

The weather was beautiful here today, but feeling drawn to the West Coast of US again, would love to fly out and see my friend Veronica (from high school and college, amazingly enough) who offered her place for me to stay, not sure how to work that into everything, but feel a need to do that, too - an oddly strong urge, which surprises me, but ever since being in Sacramento for my father's death and seeing again the astonishing California landscape, the bug is on me...the Pacific bug I suppose.  And I think of myself as such an Atlantic girl that this is surprising.

Just in case you don't know what I mean by California landscape, below are some of my pix from one walk I took near Sacramento along the American River back in January 2010 with the lovely Teresa and her friends...to give you an idea....and sweet dreams...




Thursday, July 28, 2011

Doors opening where there only used to be a wall visible...

Just finished the surreal have the person you've separated from over to dinner thing - anyone who has separated from a long term relationship and still lives in the place shared with said person and has had them over will know the weirdness of this.  The weirdest part being it doesn't feel weird at all, until after the fact when you're alone in the house again.  A strange disconnect between the familiar and the rupture from the familiar.

I feel in many ways comfortable with holding a space for the ambiguity of this situation, but in other ways - like when I just typed that sentence and my whole internal physical structure went whaaaaat in some mysterious yet unmistakable way - I'm obviously not.  So I should say it this way: I am Attempting to not have a story-line here, cling to a way of thinking about this either in the negative or positive.  But that may or may not be humanly possible.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, today I started feeling how wonderful it will be to be in NYC for a whole month, uninterrupted, in one place, most of the time by myself - with writing to do and reviewing for FringeNYC for nytheatre.com.  I've never done that before and will attempt to bear in mind my rants and raves at critics in general when I try to do it myself.  I have a feeling I will fail miserably in being fair and even handed but will see.

I am so glad that I will be able to see friends without it being frantic and that I can just stroll around and meet up with people when I want and not when I don't want to do that and well - ahhhhh.  It just feels so Right.

I met up with some friends earlier and also just enjoyed just walking in what was a drop dead gorgeous day here in London - when it's sunny and mild here, it's just amazing, because I have a back garden and there's green space in the city, and it's just great.  Also, seeing the heatwave in the US, I am grateful beyond measure for the 70-75 F degree heat here in the summer - sometimes dropping to about 60 or raising usually max to 80.  Ideal.

My final day for dealing with taxes is tomorrow as I have to call another government agency with that figure (the UK is full of government agencies - many of which appear to work in parallel to one another but don't seem to Quite know what the other one is doing - it's a bit like the movie Brazil in this way) - managed to avoid them today but almost done.  Will start with yoga however - it's healthy Friday.  After tomorrow's paperwork is done, I hope to begin writing again and/or plotting theatrical projects.

Oh, that reminds me, a fellow named Ben started a discussion thread on a listserve on which I am a member about being an independent artist-researcher.  He, like so many of us, has a PhD but no permanent post - is doing ongoing research (which if you are an artist means your artistic practice itself, which - if you did a PhD - has critical stuff built into the system) and is wondering about how we get funding to continue our work in an academic as well as professional context.  Happily, not only I, but many people came out of the closet to say - yeah, me too, let's Do something about this.  And so we're going to get together sometime, probably in September and talk about how to unite, organize and think of ways of disseminating our knowledge and practice, outside of the begging fields of visiting lecturing (Americans: adjuncting), guest lecturing, workshops, etc., etc.  This is very exciting and shows the power of one person - in this case Ben - to simply say - hey, what's up with that?  And for a bunch of other people to say - yeah, good question - and begin organizing.  So simple, so clear, so brilliant for this, so thanks Ben!  And for anyone from the US or elsewhere reading this, we are thinking of this as an international endeavor.  Anyone interested  who is in NYC, get in touch when I'm around (mid-Aug to mid-Sept) and I'll tell you what's up on our end and get your ideas to bring to the late September meeting.  Or, if you're interested and can't do that, send me an email or tell me in comments, and I'll make sure you're in the loop.  This could be very exciting.

So, on that uncharacteristically optimistic note, I will send this post.  Here's to new doors opening, especially ones we didn't even know were there to open in the first place, new ways forward and all the good stuff.

p.s. as I was about to post this my good friend Renee (see picture and discussion of our relationship in June 19 post...) now living in Vancouver called.  We had a wonderful long talk about many things, but for public consumption, I realized talking to her that the performance I did at Southend-on-Sea is something I can bring elsewhere...not that performance, but the idea of being somewhere, getting images and words, creating a new piece and involving the audience...so if anyone who's been reading this blog is interested in such a project happening in your town/city/abandoned building, etc., get in touch!  Posts about the creation and performance of the show are in and around May 31 and July 13-17.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

shockingly feeling good this evening

You know, what I realize is this: if I'm willing to accept the sadness and darker feelings when the arrive at my doorstop unbidden, then it's OK to do the same for times of relief and even lightness.  My first instinct is to think: why is this happening now and try to analyse it.  But today I stopped myself from that - and thought - no, just let it be in the same way you let yourself cry earlier when certain tax items reminded you of happier times with your husband...let it be.

The day started in a somewhat lighter way than the last few because I did sleep last night - hooray! - and so woke up feeling relatively rested.  I also started watching a US sitcom last night called Frasier.  I live under such a rock from the mainstream culture that I had never seen it before.  My friend Jason gave me the box set telling me it's how he got through the break-up of his marriage.  I thought perhaps poor Jason was a little sad for that at first.  But then I started watching it last night.

Now, first - what's horrendous as with all US sitcoms - the laugh track.  Why oh why Dear Jesus do Americans need to hear other people laughing - Recorded Canned Laughter - in order to understand a moment is supposed to be Funny.  OK, so ok, so ok, it's horrible.

BUT, having survived that horror and watching it, and getting over the semi-crap replica coffee shop set, etc., I started to understand Jason's point.  The main character (who most of you probably already know so I apologize upfront for repeating probably stupidly obvious things, but who knows maybe a few of you out there are like me and have never even watched Friends or Seinfeld)...is a guy named Frasier, who is a shrink with a call-in pop-psychology radio show.  Not surprisingly, he's not the most together guy, nor is his brother the even more 'serious' shrink, etc., etc.  The thing is, the conceit of the show is he's moved back to Seattle after being out east having recently been divorced from his wife.  And he has to reconnect with his screwed up family somehow.  It's all on a very silly level, but somehow - given my state of mind - is moving in a kind of ight way.  Which is - again given my state of mind - kind of great.  So, perhaps this had something to do with the lightening of mood, I don't know.  Or maybe just switching my over-active brain off, which is always a good thing.

So, I'll keep watching it and see how that works as an antidote to too much thought, despair, etc.

But back to more serious culture, since the Belarus Free Theatre run is over at the Almeida, just to say the other thing I liked about it is that - like the theater I attempt to create - the physicality and visual field was equal to the text.  Neither was subordinated to the other, and this is the most impressive thing when it happens.  And now a rant - I read Lyn Gardner's review in The Guardian and would not be surprised if there are others like it in the British press - condescending, non-comprehending and attacking the piece for being 'too ambitious' but applauding the politics of the theatre company and their bravery, etc. (pat pat pat on the head - you can practically seeing the head pats!)  Why the critics here seem so unable to comprehend theatre that is for real challenging, dark, funny, sad and intellectual, I will never understand.  It is a continual frustration for me.  Not only has my work been uniformly shat upon here by mainstream critics, so has most all of the work I've seen here that I like.  I simply don't get it.

And, as per usual, the more academic or journal-writing types liked the show, because they know and/or at least comprehend the various avant-garde traditions that inform it, I suppose, and the fact that there is a big wide world out there, with different countries and languages and ways of doing things and everything!

End of rant.  But, please, if you read any of those reviews, disregard them, they are wrong.  And go see whatever they are doing in Edinburgh, it'll be worth it, I'm sure of that.  They are truly great.  Believe me, I do not say this about many companies or much work.  I mean like practically None.

So, there you go.

OK, back now....

The rest of my day was dealing with the Council office - a whole crazy thing I will not bore you with and more taxes - most of day dealing with that - will be done by tomorrow.  The never-ending paperwork festival...

Then to a meeting with my friends of sanity born out of insanity and throughout the day receiving lovely texts and messages from many friends, including one about light and serenity from Scotland - that may have been the turning point in the day, as from then on the lightening did begin, and I love Scotland more than practically anywhere else, so it seems reasonable that my good friend Antonia sending her energy from there could have affected me.  I know that sounds quite woooey, but there you go.  I have a woooey side.  Horrors.

The other thing I am doing is beginning to tell people I will be in NYC and I think this is helping, too.  I am very much looking forward to a whole uninterrupted month there in an apartment on my own, writing, living and also reviewing for FringeNYC.  Two of my plays will have just been published as part of the Indie Theater Now project, and it'll be the time to be visible and present I think.

Having seen Belarus Free Theatre I know now I need to be making theater again and soon.  Not sure how this will happen but want to find a way.  There is something that can happen in that space that happens no other way.  Paul Eluard said something along the lines that the proof of great art is that it makes you want to go out and make great art, too.  He's right.

I feel energized and ready to go.  With the writing and the theater making (which could be someone else directing one of my plays or me doing it, I don't know...or creating something from scratch with a group...), and I'm on the hunt for where that should be....feelers out, feeling...feeling....kind of emotional/spiritual diving rod of some sort...

And a sense today, right now, that it will happen, I am being guided, I will find the right place or places, I am being held and taken care of...such a lovely feeling, and I'll take it.  Who knows how long it will last?  But at least for tonight, a welcome reprieve and sense of optimism.  Nice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

the roller coaster ride I don't get to control....

I really do feel a bit monotonous with the grieving thing and apologize upfront for that.  The fact is this: pain sucks and grieving takes time.  I really wish I could be more clever and write about the State of the World but having a hard time even finishing tax forms.  So I'll be (relatively) brief.

The facts: cried most of the night and could not sleep, woke up later than I wanted, did manage to vacuum house and make a GP and dentist appointment, and some phone calls to a couple friends who I knew for a fact were worse off than me.  That helped.  I called my friend Lesley who could listen to me cry for a while.  I went to the local Council office and found out I was too late to get appointment there.  Went to a meditation meeting and shared some of this with folks there after we meditated.   Took a train and bus to friends Mary and Keith's house for dinner, where we did manage to talk about the state of the world, which was in fact a relief.  Summary recap: capitalism is bad and fucks over regular people, so what's next and how do we get there?

I was driven back back home and cried some more when I walked into the house and now am writing this.  Fun, huh?

I do hope eventually to have more interesting things to say, but the only thing I can say now of perhaps interest is: it's possible to bear a lot of pain without the use of alcohol or drugs.  Meditation is good.  Having friends is the grace note of my life right now and to all of you I know face to face or virtually, I remain extremely grateful.

Please wish me luck focusing again both on simple tasks at hand and then, please dear gods and goddesses, my writing and artistic work.  I must, must, must get back there.  Seems like a dark swampy mass of quicksand between me and meaningful creativity right now.   I used to be so good at compartmentalizing - which shows you that years of therapy leading to integration isn't necessarily a boon to even artistic productivity.  Fuck me.  I should have stayed crazy, I would have gotten more done.  Do I mean that?  Almost.  I will be greatly disturbed if I can't make work to the level I believe I should be able to anymore.  I don't actually believe that is the case...yet.   Time will tell.

OK, so just got a call from my friend Jennifer who reminded me: when you get on the growth roller coaster, you can't get off until it stops of its own accord.  In other words, I'm in a process, it's a continuum and: shock - I don't get to control it.  Hmmmm.  The Sheer Utter Control Freak in me Screams at this - Nooooooo!  But the other part of me, the one who seems to be driving the car right now, whether I like it or not, says calmly...yeeeeeesssssss.  And She's right.  Hmpf.

Time to get ready for bed now...winding down at least, looking forward to an hour of meaningless television of some nature.  Have been given DVDs and have the BBC iPlayer.  Must Finally switch off....

Monday, July 25, 2011

Belarus Free Theatre - go see it now.

Just saw the Belarus Free Theatre tonight at the Almeida in London.  If you can get tickets for the (brief) rest of the run, do so.  I have not been so excited by something I've seen a theatre in a long, long time.  The work is vital, political, global in scope, hilarious, heart-rending, serious, light, demanding and rewarding.  The actors and direction both are amazing.  The pieces are written very well by different authors from the countries that are being 'represented' on the 'flight.'

I was moved and astonished and want to give a special shout out to Aaron Landsman who wrote the USA section, which was hilarious (and also because I know him and collaborated with his wife Johanna Meyer on a show in NYC and London in 2002-03).  I don't have a program, thanks to the annoying UK tradition of selling rather than giving our programs so can't tell you the names of the other authors, but the writing was great in general - the last section from Macedonia was genius but then again so were other sections...I don't want to describe it too much because you really, really have to go and see it.  Maybe I will discuss it more later when the run - which is short - is over.

In case you don't know, though, Belarus Free Theatre is an underground theatre in Belarus, many of the members arrested and their work continually interrupted by police.  This piece seems to have been created internationally and with other collaborators, but I imagine has the same vitality as their domestic work.  They make this work at great personal cost, and I am glad to see they have found a way to present their work here as well.  I am not certain the hows and whats of this particular production, except to say, in case I haven't made it crystal clear already, it's worth going to see to remind yourself of what theatre can do that no other art form can touch.  Be present, be real, be live and confront us, in no uncertain terms, with what We are Actually like right now - not you or me or them but Us.  Right. Now.  Amazing.

I forgot almost why I did theatre for a while, and now I see this and it reminds me.

I was also sad not to share this evening with my husband as that is the kind of night we would have shared and it was very hard to come home buzzing to an empty house.  These are the many stages of grieving, I know.  I wish I didn't know that, but I do.

On the other hand, there is astonishing theatre in London, and that is a miracle, so do go and see it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

taxes, tea, tears and beauty

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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse is dead and that's very, very sad

I was very sad today anyway, so sad I could barely breathe.  But then I heard on top of it all that Amy Winehouse has died, mostly likely of a drug overdose.  And I thought: fuck.  Not again.  And, then, but of course, again.

This makes me very angry at many forces, not the least of which is our celebrity-obsessed culture, which leeches off of people with self-destructive tendencies, all those people surrounding her that were leeching off her fame and probably getting off on her self-destruction and the UK, where I live, for valorizing as it does the functional alcoholic-addict as some kind of fucking folk hero.

I know there can be this romanticization in the US as well, but it's nothing like here, believe me.  I don't drink, because I can't, and I find myself in social situations having to defend my lack of desire for alcohol, it has to be explained as if it's an unfortunate disease.

So, put this attitude together with Amy Winehouse's addictive tendencies, vast talent and celebrity and her surround of enablers and drug dealers and you can see where it's all going to go terribly, terribly wrong.

I saw my husband today and that ended up making me very sad before this news, so I am in a dark place anyway.  I know still that I need to sit in the ambiguity but I also wonder how long.  There's a saying I heard once that is apt for where I am now, which is "when one door closes, another door opens, but in between is a long, dark hallway" and that's where I feel I am right now.  Right in the middle of a very long, very dark hallway.

Neither of us were wearing our wedding rings, but we both are carrying them around with us, and that kind of sums it up.  It feels like a long drawn-out car crash that we are both trying to avoid but seem to know is inevitable at the same time.  So, I feel quite sad and like I am watching the end of a long, in many ways very happy relationship like in a dream when you can't say anything no matter how hard you try.  Maybe the car crash is about this stage of our relationship and maybe there's something on the other side of it but right now all I'm feeling is loss and very intensely.

I dreaded writing this post, and I think I will leave it here as I can't really bear to write much more.  Prayers all round for all those who are suffering today here, there and everywhere.

Friday, July 22, 2011

yoga and taxes

Feeling much calmer tonight most likely because I started the day with a yoga class and decided when I got back to do my taxes - well getting the paperwork together for it anyway.  I had good talks with friends and at the end of the day talked to my beloved cousin Darcy while she attempted to cool down in Minneapolis in front of her air conditioner while her boys were playing in the living room and her husband James was attempting to get Leo to pick up cards strewn all over the floor.  From the audible reaction, this was not going over well.

However, there is something very good about starting a day with meditation and yoga, bringing things back to breath and movement and then doing the next right thing, which in this case, is stupid paper work, because I am owed taxes back and need the money.  There is something grounding about it, and even though I can still fall into anxiety, something about moving forward with this and changing sheets and beginning a little of clearing out of papers, etc. felt right.

Talking to Darcy I realized that the main instinct I have is to allow myself to feel through the various options and allow myself - however uncomfortable - to stay in the ambiguity of the situation.  I am fairly certain this is the right option, even though I have many impulses to Go and Do Something in order to get out the discomfort of not knowing.  When I can articulate this to myself and others, I actually feel calm because I remember there is some 'logic' to what I am doing or not doing as the case may be.

I am looking at options when I can, cleaning bits of the house when I can, contacting people with flats when I can and doing stupid paper work when I can...and of course the yoga and meditation.  Last night I meditated in the evening as well as the morning and that was a good idea for that day.

Listening to the news from the attacks in Norway, you'd never know that the main person involved was Norwegian.  The headlines from papers quoted just now on BBC make it sound like a 'foreign' terrorist attack, when it now seems pretty obvious it's home grown.  It reminds me somewhat of the attack in Oklahoma in the US that everyone thought was Iran and it turned out to be 2 Michigan Militia guys, one of which was a Gulf War (1) vet.  Don't know what happened in Norway, and no matter what it is or why, it's completely horrific.  I spent some time in Oslo last year, so can imagine how shocked everyone must be, because it has to be one of the most peaceful cities I've ever seen, with calm, nice and prosperous people wandering about calmly and nicely.

The worst thing of course is the shooting of the young political people at the summer camp.  This is truly creepy for anyone, like me for instance, who was highly political as a young person.  On the other hand, I was way left of any normal political party and would have been - if anywhere - at some anarchist summer camp, if such a thing existed - which of course it didn't.  However, I was in many large demonstrations against various horrible things, such as nuclear weapons, the Reagan administration (I am That old...), Gulf War I and II, etc.  So the idea of idealistic young socially-minded people being gunned down, for whatever reason, is truly horrific.

I did send an email and found out - much to my relief - that my collaborator from last year Zoe Christiansen and her family and friends are OK.  I feel sorry for her and everyone in Norway that they get to join the 9/11, 7/7, Madrid club.  There is a level of safety you can never feel again, a sense of anything possible in terms of violence and all the attendant paranoia and lack of civil liberties that people decide is OK in order to perhaps avert another act of violence, but instead just makes us all more paranoid and potentially violent in response.

I now live in a country glutted with CCTV cameras, about 4-5 in any one bus alone, on every street, at every intersection, in every building, etc.  I think an artist managed to get all the CCTV camera footage of herself throughout a day or week and made a piece from it.  In theory you have the right to get any footage of you here in the UK.  I think it's hellaciously difficult to get all of the imagery, but if you can find it, it's yours.  Imagine - your every move supposedly alone walking through a theoretically anonymous city street, and it's All on Film...that just seems wrong to me.

There are so many CCTV cameras here in London that it feels freer in NYC, and that's saying a lot because there are tons of CCTV cameras in NYC, but nothing like here.  And this includes UK villages and towns as well.  I notice this in the US immediately - no CCTV in small towns.  What a relief.  In the US paranoia runs up against libertarianism and sometimes it can produce something like: less CCTV at least.  We all know the problems with this combo, so I won't go into all that.

But for now, a moment of silence for Norway, for those who lost their lives and those who love them and for the end of their sense of peace and safety as a country.  It's a shame because it is a gorgeous and deeply sane place in my experience, knowing of course I was just a visitor and therefore not privy to all the issues and tensions that are endemic in any country with a border that allows some and not others inside.  In other words everywhere.

Speaking of which, an even longer moment of silence for the hundreds and thousands of people dying in Somalia right now because they cannot get enough to eat in 2011, due to a horrific combination of weather and politics, local and international.  Of this we should all be deeply ashamed.  I know I am.  I gave my little donation to Doctors without Borders, will that help at all?  I don't know.  There are so many forms of violence though aren't there?

Well, on that fun note, I will sign off as I need to get some sleep.  And a note of gratitude for my peaceful little house tonight, for enough food and air to breathe and to all of you who got in touch to tell me you were there, sending love and prayers and in some cases (you know who you are) pixie dust (!)  I feel it all of your support and it is such a comfort.  And to my yoga teacher Christina who teaches me over and over in her lovely French accent how to breathe.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wiley E Coyote looks down....

OK, so now all the things in my life being up in the air is hitting me full force and I'm having the Wiley E Coyote looking down after he's run off the cliff moment.  Just high anxiety, fear, indecision, the works.

Have been going to places I go for sanity's sake with people who experience the world in a similar way, and that has been helpful, but when I am by myself the Fear begins again.  I am really feeling the levels of insecurity and not knowing and it's quite difficult.

Having trouble focusing on anything and then remembering maybe that's OK for right now, but then that causes anxiety and so on.  The final straw was today discovering that the month I am spending in NYC, already booked on a non-refundable ticket, may not be as straightforward as I had hoped, because of some big shifts in plans at that end.  I just frankly don't know how many more changes I can handle.

I am feeling particularly tortured by the question of where to live as in: what country and when that is decided, how to make a living and so on.  There are some options here most likely, so staying here is the safer option, but I'm not sure if I'm going to have an easier time to move back to NYC, in terms of having no commitments in London and so on.

I do realize there is some extreme freedom in this situation for which I should be grateful but cannot help today feeling overwhelmed.  And also very, very sad.

For the record, even my washing machine is sounding tortured right now, and if that breaks I think that may be the end of the last straw of sanity I may be renting out from something like a Higher Power.

So, please anyone reading this, send me prayers for calm and sanity and perhaps clarity, too.  I need help with the simplest stuff right now.

Having said that, I also know I am not in Somalia, not starving to death, but alive and well fed and with no one shooting at me, which means in the end, it's a good day.

That's all I got today.  Hope for more inspiration tomorrow.

But.....Just got an email from my mother that my step-brother has some horrible rash, abdominal pain thing and is in the ER, so it is just relentless, no wonder I feel full of anxiety.  It seems like so many people I am connected to right now are also in tumult.

Plus again with the washing machine....oi.  Note to self: do not risk putting in wash late at night.  Here's hoping the sheets survive.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

what happened to this day?

Do you ever have those days that just seem to get lost?  I had one of those today.  I think what I did was look for a place to live mostly on the internet, felt discouraged and didn't really move forward there.  But didn't do anything else I needed to do except get my hair done and went to meet with friends for sanity's sake.  I got incredibly wet in a downpour.  I came back home and wondered: what happened to this day?

Those days, these days, seem to get eaten alive by the internet mostly.  But I end up feeling anxious rather than relaxed when I realize a day has been spent doing Something but I am not entirely sure what, because nothing is there to show for it.

I could not focus on writing because became overwhelmed with anxiety about where to live, but can't seem to find a way to make that work right now either.  I know I need to do fun things like taxes and feel a physical repulsion thereto...I think we have a word for this and that would be: procrastination...laziness with more syllables.

But I do remember now what started my confusion - I walked out into our/my lovely garden and it made me cry, realizing I would lose it soon...and that sent me off into a whirl of sadness.  I then meditated and thought I should just leave the house and try to find a new place, but instead decided otherwise because I flipped a coin - seriously - and that gave me a different direction.  Sometimes when confused about actions or motives, I make amazing amounts of decisions by flipping coins.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it is true and kind of embarrassing to admit.  It at least gives me a barometer of my confusion.

So, obviously the clarity I was feeling yesterday has evaporated.  I guess this is normal considering everything going on and the levels of grieving I'm experiencing....but I hate it.  I really, really hate it.

Here's hoping tomorrow brings me a little more sense of direction or at least a way to relax into the lack of clarity if that's necessary.  Right now I feel like a little girl being turned around blindfolded before trying to pin the tail on the donkey at someone else's birthday party.

Wish I had something more brilliant than that to say, but the fact is I don't.  My hair looks good though...

Oh, that reminds me that when waiting for my hair to bake into the proper color, I was reading those horrendous 'women's' magazines and realized there is a consistent theme to the self-help and dime-store psychology of the articles: look at yourself, but not Too deeply.  There is a kind of implicit panic at the idea of anything which may require work or lead to any extended period of sadness.  And I think when reading this no wonder everyone and their brother takes anti-depressants or drinks too much or whatever - there's this unremitting pressure to be 'ok' and 'happy' and I find that deeply annoying.  As if there is some narrow field in which we are all meant to operate that is as interesting in shape as a cut-out paper doll.  Which, if you are a fashion magazine, is kind of perfect come to think of it.

May I just take a moment to advocate therefore for: intensive therapy when it's necessary, allowing yourself time to grieve any loss, and feel the intense joy of being alive when that process has happened, allowing yourself to feel every tiny inch of yourself, the light and dark and everything in between and accepting it no matter how seemingly icky or big or small or weird....and knowing that no matter how cutesy a little paper doll version of yourself may be, it's going to be boring and ultimately replaceable...unlike what really makes up you who are precious and irreplaceable.

This reminds me of a story recounted at a good friend's memorial service, and apologies if I've already mentioned it earlier, that Martin Buber tells about a Rabbi Zusya who when he is near death realizes that when he meets God, he will not be asked "Why were you not more like Moses?" but instead "Why were you not more like Zusya?"

Which is of course another version of the African prayer:  It is.  Thank you.

So I suppose I need to accept myself in the confused state I exist in now and this day as a vague one and trust that it is all OK.  I feel the sadness underneath everything right now.  I want clarity to take it away I think.  On the other hand, I don't want to just live in a film of fuzz either....

We shall see what tomorrow brings....in the meantime, thanks for reading and listening.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

writing is good and politics is addictive

Spent the earlier part of the day surprising myself by working on The Autobiography of Dick & Jani.  I actually started writing a forward and/or proposal.  Something just clicked and I started.

I then typed up one of Jani's particularly heart-breaking letters, handwritten to her parents after the break-up of her second marriage, which involved getting beaten up on the streets of Vienna by her husband, finding out he was having an affair with a 'girl from Vienna' (who he married after Jani, and is my step-grandmother), deciding to leave her daughter (my mother) with her husband when they get back to the U.S., even though she tells her parents in the same breath that he doesn't have much of a 'feeling' for her, while claiming she (my mother) is thrilled to be coming home.  So confused, so scared, so angry, so attempting-bravado about a job she thinks she'll get at ABC (which she did not get), how she needs to take the luxury liner back so her face will heal before she sees anyone and so she can have her 'last bit of luxury for a long time' and how this all could be her big chance to do something on her own.

Sadly, for the record, for whatever reason, she ended up back living with or near her parents in Toledo, Ohio, which in the letter she vowed would not happen, and then married her third husband, Earl - another disaster in the making.

What I have realized upon contemplation of both grandmothers is this one big thing: neither of them had a maternal bone in their bodies.  They felt like they had to play along with their roles as mother-wives, but it did not suit either of them.  The introduction to the book I have written so far has to do with this square peg in a round hole dilemma.  There are many reasons for this and neither of them are 'pure victims' of course, but it has occurred to me that a major unspoken fact is this: some women are not cut out to be mothers.  This may or may not have to do with some kind of disease or whatever, but it may also be that in the same way all men are not alpha males attempting to rule the jungle, maybe all women are not maternal.  And if that is the only/primary role you perceive is open to you at the time, then what?

Or, equally, if you do want to have children these days but also want a career and a career can only function in the traditional male trajectory that does not include breaks for having and rearing children, then what?  Yet another square peg in a round hole.

It's not about which choice you make, it's about having choice and paths that are designed with only one route in mind.  As my grandmothers were going through this from 1916 onward, the choices were far fewer and the pressures even greater than now to make the wife-mother thing work.  But, now, we have the new impossibility: Doing It All.  Whichever way you slice it, women end up a lot of the time as the square pegs trying to fit into a game board primarily designed by and for men.  And perhaps women, too, women that are happy to fit into the traditional frameworks.  So perhaps the more accurate way to say it is: it's a game board that operates off some ancient coding and has been refined by the people in power - not only political power but also aesthetic power - in other words, who rules the words that are spoken, written and published.  As this power shifts, so too does the game board.

Slowly...very very slowly...

So that was the first part of the day.

Next was remembering that the Murdoch Empire was going down in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in Parliament today.  And watching that was pure addictive fun.  Yes, I know that is probably a really shallow way of looking at it, but when the guy who started the station (FOX) in the U.S. that has arguably done more to destroy the fabric of any kind of civil discourse in my home country gets a pie in the face, you just have to dance around the room in glee.  There is no other human response.

Especially when Murdoch's wife then slugs the guy who throws the pie.  It's just so many chickens coming home to roost at once it's a delirium of joy.

Plus watching what I love the Most about the UK - that one of the most powerful men in the world has to sit through being grilled for hours by obscure members of parliament on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.  And of course the pie.

In case you have been living in a closet or don't follow UK news, one of Murdoch's papers here was found guilty of hacking into the phones of many, many people, but when they were celebrities no one cared that much.  But, when it turned out that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked, that finally made the public rise up as one.  Milly Dowler was a 13-year old who was abducted and killed, and the reporters were hacking into her mobile's voice mail and deleting messages to leave room for new ones - which gave the family false hope she was alive and the police completely confused about what or who to investigate.  This is clearly sub-human behavior by anyone's standards.  And that story has ripped open this scandal again and brought to light issues of paying off police for hush money and for information and reporters and editors from Murdoch's paper then getting jobs with the police, and Cameron hiring one of them, all of them having dinner and drinks with each other, etc.  A real mess...

I can only hope that this ripping open up of the musty closets will bring about the change it has the potential to make happen.  Especially the little cabals here embedded in the news, police and politics.  We shall see.  But in the meantime, it's great stuff to watch - pure theatre, mixing Dallas, Jerry Springer and every horrible gossip column Murdoch's empire has inflicted on us for Years....

Later, I did go and meet up with friends and have dinner, so did not spend endless hours glued to the radio (I don't have a TV, which in moments like this can seem like a real challenge, I must confess), but just had to mention it as it's transfixed this country, as well it should.

I will be very happy if this scandal reaches the US with enough force to eventually bring down FOX News - the TV station predicted uncannily accurately by Paddy Chayevsky and Sydney Lumet in 'Network' - a movie you Must see if you have not.  Made in the 1970s, it is not dated in the slightest - even the clothes styles are coming back so rent the movie.

My whole adult life I have had to live in the cloud of FOX and the hell it has wrought.  I can only pray now that the wheels of justice will grind as surely as they have ground slow.  I know it's my own idea of justice but dear god/dess the US left deserves a break from the right wing lunatic fringe battering it from every angle all day, every day, subsidized by cynical corporate interests stoking populist rage against the people least guilty of hurting the people who are made angriest by them.  God, it's depressing and these days even scary....

Emotionally, it's strange because I am somewhere between grief-stricken and oddly lucid.  I cry every once in a while and then just kind of move on.  I am very glad to be writing my book again.  I am very sad about the content of it but know it's truthful even if painful.  It looks like it's time for personal as well as political skeletons to come clanking ungainly out of the closet....It's all change....and that is good...

Still don't know where to live and all the practical stuff, but following the silver thread...hoping, hoping it'll lead to clarity soon enough...or maybe clarity is over-rated and is just about control.  Maybe it's time to stay open to as many possibilities as possible...

or...as the old song goes (cue Christopher Walken in white suit with demonic-yet-weirdly-attractive grin about to do a soft shoe number)..."Let's face the music...and dance..."

Monday, July 18, 2011

lovely day with Sarah on the marshes and in cafes to hide from rain

Today's post will include photos again.

I had a walk with my lovely friend Sarah, which started at Walthamstow Central and through the Marshes and into Springfield Park, along the River Lea to Stoke Newington to eat at a great Turkish restaurant called Testi.  Sarah was visiting from Germany and had done a radio show the day before, which I missed due to stupid meeting with landlords.

However, before Sarah moved to Germany with her partner Knut, we spent many Sundays walking the marshes, drinking lots of tea and coffee, brunches at places like Bodrum or Springfield Cafe or dinner at Testi.  So, for the first time in many years, we were able to have a similar day, which felt like a luxurious warm bath, familiar, comforting and embracing.  This is the Sarah for whom I wrote 13 Minutes... (you can link to it from this blog), when she had a radio show at ResonanceFM.  She and Knut now run Mobile Radio, doing interesting sound-music that I don't know how to describe except to say it sounds great...and you can check it out here: Mobile radio site

Here's Sarah:






What we talked about - relationships and their aftermaths, how people come together and fall apart, why and how to live in a country not your own and how that makes us stand in somewhat awkward solidarity with those from the country where we live but somehow outside it at the same time and our uncontained glee at the exposure of the Murdoch empire, corrupt police and politicians...and our suspicion that the exposure of this seemingly untouchable cabal began with the Wikileaks motherlode of official secrets being exposed to all and sundry...that perhaps 'we all know' certain things, but we don't Actually know until we see it in black and white...and that perhaps, perhaps all of this dirty laundry coming out means there can Finally be some change.  Optimistic?  Perhaps, but we live in hope...

Today, I felt happy to be with Sarah, at times sad over my separation, at times OK about it, sometimes feeling high anxiety and sometimes feeling relaxed and happy.  And always, astonishingly, underneath it all, this very solid sense of 'it's OK' - I still am amazed that this seems to be staying, this basic sense of myself, that seems unshakable, so far.  


And here are photos of our walk - you can see that the water in the River Lea looks like a painting of the sky, the duck and geese are very brave and/or hungry and there is fascinating and unexpected graffiti.  This area of London so far is the same as it was and this made Sarah feel happy as she had been staying near Liverpool Street, which area has been razed and turned into high-rise office building hell.  Luckily, we are far enough North to have avoided the worst of Olympic 'regeneration' - thank God.  You can see that for poor urban areas, there is a lot of green space and why we all who live near here feel protective of this area.




Is Lenin Skotch?  Hmmmm.


charismatic fowl...

read this carefully and understand that this is a real belief


Sunday, July 17, 2011

the possibilities are endless.....

So, after a ridiculous conversation with my landlords, which ended with at least a promise of getting my deposit back no matter when I move, with or without notice, I decided to take up my friend's offer to live in her apartment in NYC for a month, and will be there from mid-August to mid-September.  Hooray for that!  I will work on my grandmother's book and aim to get the proposal and 50-100 polished pages to the agent who has expressed interest in reading it.

I forgot to mention yesterday, because I posted what I wrote on the train to and from Southend, that when I got off the train I felt a desire to dance, which I haven't felt in ages.  As in going out dancing.  I haven't done that in so long and instead of tired after a long day, that's what I wanted to do.  I went home instead, as I had a computer and music stand with me, but the feeling of it alone made me happy.

I realize something happened last night in Southend that may be more important than I realized, something about connecting, about being OK with performing, about being myself in public and that not seeming traumatic or weird in any way, it actually seemed quite normal.

I've had a nice, calm day today, and feel weirdly free even about the housing situation.  Something about knowing I can stay or leave here when I want, and don't even have the month-notice pressure is a relief.  I am very much in the mode of throwing the spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

I may have already said this, not sure, but the thing I am realizing now is that I have this amazing opportunity to look at every aspect of my life afresh and make decisions about where to focus my energy, where to live, what to do and how to do it.  I can't control other people or who will or won't hire me or pick up my work, but I can re-look at everything.

It reminds me of a dream I had once, and wrote about in Word To Your Mam, in which I said to my friend Beth "Anything is possible" and meant it - I was looking, in the dream, at the universe like it looks through the Hubble Space Telescope - all those colors, planets and gases exploding, and my ex-step-father David was on a screen in the dream, a little blurry but present.

And I am so glad to be going back to the city for a month where I had that dream and more often than not feel that feeling.  I don't know if it's where I should live, maybe after a month there I will be able to feel into that decision better.  I do know if someone offered me a job there I could do happily, I would probably go as quickly as Christine Lagarde left Chicago to go back to work for Sarkozy's government in Paris, so quickly she left her glasses behind.  She now runs the IMF in case you don't know who I mean - one of those impossibly beautiful 50-something women with white hair, an impeccable figure, an astonishing demeanour and gorgeous clothes.  The kind of woman I just kind of stare at and wonder: how, how, how do you do that?  

I am not one of those women.  I know this comes as a great shock to all of you reading this, and I am sorry to disillusion you, but it had to happen some time.  On the other hand, she is twice married and twice divorced, so we may have something in common after all....except I don't think I will suddenly have a Corsican boyfriend drooling over me any time soon.  Ah well...details.

I think I will leave this post here, as I want to just keep the relaxing business going...and maybe dance around the house until I figure out where to go dancing in the city.  I am just so happy to not feel excruciatingly sad that I feel kind of thrilled.  I'll enjoy it while it lasts.  Even if I am Not Christine Lagarde...not French, not tanned, not 5'10", and not, thank the gods for small favors, running the IMF.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Showtime


 One of my favorite scenes in the Bob Fosse movie ‘All That Jazz’ is when the actor Roy Scheider, playing the Fosse stand-in who is killing himself with the dual use of alcohol and speed to keep up his directing schedule and life, walks into various bathrooms before various rehearsals or difficult confrontations, splashes his face with water, takes more drugs, slaps himself in the face and smiles at himself in the mirror with a kind of a grimace and says “It’s Show Time!”

I first saw that movie, as I recall, when I was still drinking and directing and directing and drinking, and even though I was only directing at university level, I felt I understood perfectly the sentiment.

I am on a train to do a show at Southend-on-sea feeling a degree of that now.  I have done this before, shown up for performances in every known state of distress.  However, the difference today is: I am – insanely – performing.  And I am performing something where there is a degree of improvisation and openness, partially due to choice and partially due to circumstance.  Life has barreled into my preparations for this show and I am feeling quite rattled.

Things between my husband and I are in an ambiguous place and while I talk a good game about living in the moment, etc., actually I fucking hate it and I really want to know what’s going on.  I am not getting a five point plan and even as I know that’s not possible right now or even desirable really, I am craving it, mostly because there is fuck all that is solid in my life right now.

I am typing this post now before the show, as I think it will be interesting to see what I write afterwards.  Right now, I am mostly full of dread.  I felt OK about it, had an idea during yoga, but then showed some of it to my husband, who was there to help me with the show and so we could talk, and he made some suggestions, which were good but also rattled me somewhat, along with the intrinsically unstable nature of our relationship right now. 

So, why did I accept his offer to come over and look at the show in process?  Fuck if I know, except perhaps the fact that we have generally had a good connection vis-à-vis our working processes and it was something he offered to do.  I felt when accepting that perhaps it was stupid, but went ahead and did it anyway.  As you can see, any ambiguity I am feeling consequently is firmly in my court in terms of responsibility therefor.

But I could not sleep last night, so rattled was I, and now I am on my way unsure of a lot.  However, I do have the visuals sorted and a text and an idea for others to make a group cut-up from these materials.  It’s only supposed to be a 20 minute show and it’s 36 minutes.  But still I feel underprepared, because – as with everything else – I don’t know precisely how it will go, how honest to be about certain things in my life right now or how guarded.

I am getting there four hours in advance in order to set up, try to run with certain ideas, get a bit to eat and be prepared for 8pm.  I found myself laughing ruefully at a ‘tweet’ of comedienne Sarah Silverman’s today in which she wrote that when she is lonely she talks to herself, except she refers to herself as ‘you guys.’  That is why I love Sarah Silverman.

What am I doing on Twitter you ask?  Good question again.  Long story, involving the need to get news feeds, and I am on it pseudonymously.  Thankfully I have a dumb phone so don’t look at it all the time, but the hypocrisy of being on Twitter and not Facebook has not gone unnoticed by me (my grammar check hates this triple negative…), don’t worry.  I am not entirely sure it’s possible to live a human life without some level of hypocrisy, but this one is particularly glaring.

OK, I think I will stop writing now and let myself breathe into this show…as much as possible.

***

On the train back to London.  It went as well as it could have done, meaning that in spite of my rattled self, a venue that was next to a rockabilly band doing a sound check, without a door that could shut in between and beginning the day in that room filled with day old beer and sausage husks, it went OK.

The reception to the performance was good, and there was a lot of enjoyment in doing the group cut-up, though if I were to do it again, I would organize it differently.  Because of the need to use a microphone, due to sound competition, it was awkward getting the mic to people and also promoted an atmosphere wherein people felt they needed to speak, so it went from paying attention to video and photos while I was doing my cut up text to a group exercise that ignored the visuals.  However, people did enjoy it, which is important and Michaela’s daughter Lili stole the show, which was charming.

Also, I did have the guts in the end to intervene with some personal stuff about what I’m going through now and the conversation with Hazel about our fathers’ deaths.  I received good feedback from that decision that apparently this material grounded the cut ups and gave an emotional resonance to the whole thing, which was good to hear.

Again, if I was to do it again, I would pace it differently, but the energy in the room was positive and so, all rockabilly bands aside, I can’t complain.  Also, Michaela’s husband said he saw Southend, where I think he has lived a while, from a different angle because of looking at it through my eyes, and that is always gratifying.  So, perhaps, my goal was achieved in that sense.  I also got to experience putting autobiography with cut ups, which is a weird-ass combination, and have that go over well. 

Performing was not horrendous, which is an improvement.  Usually I hate performing, because I can’t see the show, which as a director is the POV I’m most accustomed to having.  But because I had time to show some of what I was doing to some artists who were helping out, I could work with their feedback to influence what I was doing. 

Now, for the first time in a bit, I have no big thing hanging over my head.  I have stuff I need to do like taxes and details about housing etc. but no big performance to do or a reason to hold it together.  I am a little concerned this means I will fall apart completely, but I can only hope that this is not the case. 

Back to the land of ambiguity and no easy answers, no rule books and no one to tell you how you are driving. 

Weirdly enough next to me are two guys and a woman talking about psychedelia, Ken Kesey and Jimi Hendrix.  Given the fact they are most likely in their 20s, this is pretty funny.  I obviously don’t look very narc like as there is no attempt to edit the conversation even with my proximity.  Nice to know I don’t look too ancient and respectable.  Probably the dragon-designed yoga mat cover makes me seem ‘cool.’

OK, gonna stop writing just because I’m now resorting to eves-dropping for material, which means it’s time to give it a rest…

Oh, no wait a minute – meant to say – that the performance had this quality that was completely different than the scene from ‘All That Jazz’ – it did not feel somehow fake or put on for show.  I felt instead somewhat naked and exposed, but in a good way.  There was a connection with people because of it.  I don’t know why on earth it has taken me until age 48 to have this shock revelation – share your real life and people can connect, because people also have real lives, real losses and real grief, and that is where people connect emotionally AND that doesn’t preclude cutting up text and hearing/seeing in different ways as well.  Shock.  The incredible obviousness of this is breathtaking.

OK, now the people who were talking drugs and rock and roll are talking about their high end careers as engineers and stuff.  But they are dressed like Deadheads – those were people, in case you are too young to know, who followed around The Grateful Dead from concert to concert like a roving band of gypsies.  As the 60s morphed into the 80s, many of these Deadheads did end up getting jobs, like these folks, and dressed this way to concerts, but then were in suits all week.  But nowadays in 2011, you can dress this way to work as long as you are in a high-end technical enough job….the trenderatti.

There is now a definite smell of pot in the train and I imagine that smoking has occurred.  I feel like such a grumpy middle aged lady but I do get kind of sick of all the alcohol and pot smells everywhere….but then I can just leave the urban areas, yes?  Yes.  Do I?  No.  So, put up with it I must.

Grumpy now signs off….




Friday, July 15, 2011

JUST KILL ME NOW!!! - an excerpt

So because this whole day was spent working on the show for tomorrow (now technically today) and because I don't know how to put a video clip on here yet, below is an excerpt of the cut-up text I will be working with tomorrow.

I also plan to give pages of raw found text out to willing audience members in order to create a group cut-up of some nature.  The video and photo sequence is 36 minutes and how I interact with it with the text I've compiled, I will improvise, along with any audience members who want to join me.  I will also talk about a conversation I had with Hazel on the pier about both of our fathers dying.

Excerpt of cut-up text for JUST KILL ME NOW!!! - the poetry of Southend-on-sea


All profits travel the length of the pier

Do not enter safe and secure adventure
Your safety Prohibited

I want to like Shame

There is nothing
This Machine is Protected.

Dave loves Tom

Fire Exit
Taken from me

Beware of submerged obstructions
For local assistance, call free

Removal prohibited.

Watch children continuously
Proven the best protection

Don’t let anything spoil your dream

William I do not like you hiding

Hello
Don’t touch it

Shame about the moon

Warnings
Warnings
Warnings

Prohibited
Prohibited
Prohibited

Do not do not do not

DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN

Thursday, July 14, 2011

sort of procrastinating...but also accomplished a lot

So, I've got most of the visual stuff done for the show on Saturday (JUST KILL ME NOW!!! - the poetry of Southend-on-sea) but am still staring at the found text and uncharacteristically confused by words.  I usually cut them up and happily roll along that way but something in me is resisting this.  Not sure if it's just laziness or what, but I'm just kinda staring at the words and they are staring back.

I know I want to talk about the conversation Hazel and I had on the pier about the death of her father and mine.  I wonder if I should add anything in about current personal stuff or not.  And then I have the words from Southend-on-sea...Now, I've done cut up writing enough to know these things are not mutually exclusive so can't quite fathom my resistance.  I guess I just don't want to fall into old tricks or rely on them too much.

So, we'll see.

I also put on some music I shouldn't have that made me cry.  Not sure what the motivation was there, but that's been the result.  Hard not to feel the loss of something so big and not just cry.  And be angry and be a lot of things really...

On the good side, I did focus on the photos and videos and have something there that makes sense.  I wish I knew more about editing because I think there's some more sophisticated stuff I could have done, but I'm pretty OK with what's there.  I'm glad it's an art festival more than a theatre festival, because this piece is definitely a visual art piece primarily.

Part of my resistance with the words is this I think.  I don't want to be redundant or just wordy for wordiness sake.  On the other hand, I might also be nervous about what might come out with the freedom of cut ups, because sometimes they can cut quite hard and deep, even with humor.

As you can see, I am cleverly writing this post instead of confronting the issue at hand, but so be it.  It's midnight and I've spent all day on this project.  Tonight I may begin the text work but also might wait to wake up and see what the morning brings, except I need to take my yoga class (no yoga = physical and spiritual misery)...but then again after that, I may be fresher.

I talked with my good friend Renee today, who I mentioned in a post in June, when I met up with her after meeting the Bukoskis.  We were marvelling about being friends for over 30 years and how that is one of the grace notes of getting older - old friends.  Hearing each other's voices provided great comfort and of course the crucial sense of humor honed in difficult circumstances.  We have very similar values, and find these values diminished greatly in this brave new world of virtual friendships and rampant consumerism of everything, including people.  Luddites unite...etc...(said the woman with the blog...)
But seriously, there is a concern she and I share about the quality of communication between people, whether anyone is willing to stay for the long haul with anyone else, how easy it appears to disengage and how hard to find ways to be with and connected on levels that are not merely surface or convenient, and how strange it feels to still not be just chasing after money and security after all these years.

I know I should care about all that more, but I don't.  I just care right now that I do something on Saturday that can bring at least one moment to someone that they would not have had otherwise that opens up some little window and lets in some fresh air, some quality of attention, perhaps a question or a feeling not experienced in quite that way before.  And that shared moment will be about a live encounter and human contact with each other in a room, something which cannot be bought or sold or even replicated.

Those are my dreams, that is my goal....opening up the windows, seeing things afresh, but that which is usually overlooked or discounted or taken for granted.  Nothing and no one should be taken for granted in this world.  I think if we could all agree on that, that'd be a good start for the kind of political change I'd like to see, not based on tired power paradigms but something deeper, more lasting...

I have a feeling there are probably a lot of people out there way further along on that than me, and they probably live in cooperative communities and in places not hooked up, jacked up and adrenalized by the  Twitteratti.  I am still too attached to the urban, the buzz, the idea of the Something that can be captured in certain places...

The other thing Renee and I were talking about was how even now when we go to NYC we both feel immediately the energy and the sense that anything is possible.  I don't feel that as strongly anywhere else.  There's something about that place that is special.  I am fairly certain I will be spending a month back in my home town soon and will see if that feeling persists.  And how it is to write there.  That will have a lot to do with future decisions....feeling through things, bit by bit...

OK, now back to my writing for the project or to sleep, but must end this here.  Hope to see any of you who can make it at Southend on Saturday.  It's free and there's lots of fun stuff going on that day, including a literary festival I think....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Housing issues are a guaranty of insanity

While trying to focus on my work today, I was rattled afresh by my landlord and landlady telling me they would not give me a new sole tenant's agreement, which I need for a variety of legal and financial reasons, and that they want the house back relatively soon anyway.  This means of course a new and urgent upheaval and one I am not happy about anymore than separating from my husband.

This also meant that instead of doing a lot of work on my piece today, I've ended up on endless phone calls with various people know know the housing laws, etc.  I now need to return to the piece.  I had an anxiety dream last night about trying to perform it improvisationally in a pool, and was surprised that it started out well - after I was very late because looking for an outfit in which to recreate a baptism, but instead of white I could only find red fabric (so obvious these dreams!!!) - but then the performance got all confused and I was kind of embarrassed and realized I didn't have a clue what I was doing.  Later on there was an incident involving not enough clothing.  I mean, this is junior high-school grade dreaming, folks.  So embarrassing!

I was joking with my friend Mary that the show may be me talking about what's going on with my life and why the show is not all the things it was supposed to be while letting unedited video and photos roll behind me to prove I had in fact planned to do a real show, but this is not That show....this may in fact happen.  We'll see.  Even if not all of it, some of it will have this element, because if life isn't proving it's dominance over every single one of my intentions right now, I don't know what the hell else is going on and the best way to show that may be a seriously fractured, seams-showing kinda show...

We'll see.

Today for the most part I've been typing up all the found text from various sources (rudely interrupted by landlord visit).  Below is an excerpt of some raw found text (which I have not yet edited or cut up in any way) and below that some more photos...

Text from the Southend-on-sea pier:



Insert token into reader + barrier will automatically open

Gas Intake Room

Fancy a career change?


Danger Open Trench past this point

Talking Telescope!

Visit the Lifeboats?

Give way to lifeboat emergency vehicle

Anglers!  Beware of submerged obstructions in this area – loss of fishing tackle is likely.

No smoking.

Danger lower deck.

Access forbidden to all unauthorized persons
Visit lifeboat at pier head

Emergency Response – Penalty for Improper Use

The Sundeck is Open to Visitors

William I do not like you hiding
Hello
Don’t touch it

***



ASLI  OZCAN

AMARILDO + ELIANA

The Airscouts were here

Karlina Dian

Holy  Sham
Megan loves Nan
Dave loves Tom

Harold Bruce Grant –
Beloved husband, father + grandfather who sailed these waters + who loved this pier.

JB4LK

LITTER
BAILEY N.  TOM K.

ABI LOVES SUKU

god shot in fractured window

outside looking in to 'Adventure Island'

'American Whip' - note flags...

nicest graffiti I've seen in a while...