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.


Friday, March 30, 2012

The miracle of true fellowship and friendship

As anyone who read the last post knows, I was feeling about as low as a person can feel yesterday.  That lasted into today.  Teaching was hard.

I then started calling friends, and they started calling back.  After each phone call, I felt a little bit better.  Later in the evening I went to a meeting with more friends, some known and some unknown, and celebrated my 25 years of life without alcohol or drugs.  Other people were celebrating their anniversaries and we were telling stories, laughing, sharing pain - emotional, physical and every other kind - talking about walking through fires without the use of substances to dull the pain.  The gift is - after the walk - feeling joy, what Rumi would call "the sweetness that comes after grief."

We went to a diner and ate chocolate cake, drank coffee and talked with, to and at each other - laughing, listening, not listening - a muddle of humanity, people who you would normally not see sitting together.  You can see the confusion in other customers at the diner: who are these lunatics laughing their asses off - how do they know each other, they all look so different.  The miracle of our true connection transcends all the boundaries we usually observe in this country between class, race and various status groups, careers, styles, etc...the bullshit boundaries that in this atmosphere, happily, dissolve.

So now, I feel loved, human, vulnerable, OK and definitely: not alone.

I find this simple human contact and connection a miracle.  It has saved my life in every way for 25 years.

Thanks all you friends of BW and LW.  Wherever you are.

Thanks, too, to my civilian friends who reach out their hands with equal love and devotion for no other reason that this simple, beautiful fact: they are my friends.

I love you all, more than I can say.  Thank you.  I can walk through this fire because of you all, even those of you I've never met.  You can, too.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Weird, sad day and I'm too damn busy to even have time to cry it out

Had a very sad conversation with my soon-to-be-ex-husband today.  We haven't talked in months and I was kind of looking forward to speaking with him - until we spoke.  He is apparently now "more comfortable" that we have been separated for a while - which sentiment made me feel about as worthless as thimble full of shit. There is history here, meaning my history, for taking it this way, I'm aware of that, but still...Then we get to talking about divorce stuff, etc.  It seems there is some urgency here on his end.  He wants to be free and clear obviously.  I feel like a disease, the plague - something of that order.  It's not pretty.

I don't think he's trying to make me feel that way, just to be clear, but that's how it feels nonetheless.

He mentioned, because I was stupid enough to ask, that he's had "some flings."  I said that I had not, which seemed to surprise him.  His surprise surprised me because I have not ever been the "fling" type, which is kinda Julia 101.  Maybe I made this up but I thought when we first got together we both felt this way, but did he?  I don't know what of my memories of our relationship to believe right now.  I wonder at times if I made up the last 10 years.  It's that time of the separation - the time of the Stranger - the Who Are You? stage...through the looking glass.  I remember this bit.  Another repeat, last seen in a slightly different chord circa 2000.  I hate it.

I feel like that stupid-ass song those of you of a certain age will remember, the grating "I'll never fall in love again" - but without the sappy defiance - just a statement of sad, worthless thimble full of shit feeling fact.

Rejection sucks.  It doesn't matter what the fuck, whether it's the best thing that ever happened on God's green earth that you separated, it sucks.

And then I had to go get my teaching evaluation and pull an acting class out of my ass.  And yes, of course, I did.  Anyone who knows me knows that I did and can pull an acting class, rehearsal, show, PhD examination, whatever the fuck out of my ass even if the sky is falling in.  It's a "gift."  Ok, it probably is a gift, OK, OK...whatever.

Anyway, the evaluation was great - I'm a really good acting teacher.  I love being an acting teacher.  This continues to astonish me on all levels.  This does not feel like second best.  Teaching this class is giving me the same joy working in my own labs did or being in rehearsals has.  I just fucking love it.  And I really hope I get asked back, but because of the vagaries of adjuncting, there's no way to know if I will.

I found out on Saturday that I also love being an aunt.  I never really thought I'd be an aunt other than an honorary one, but my step-brother's son, Carson, was up in NYC and I showed him and his lovely girlfriend, Quinn, around the East Village.  They are theater kids (18 year olds from Florida), so showed them all the downtown places from PS122 to St Marks to La Mama to Red Room, The Public, New York Theater Workshop, The Kraine...and the travesty that is the boarded up Charas...told him the history of the area in my experience from 1981 onward...Tompkins Square Park, the squatters, Life Cafe and Rent, Allen Ginsburg, St. Marks books, East Village books...the Russian baths...diners that still exist and those that have closed.  We all had a blast.

My good friend Spencer who also is childless said to me recently that it comforted hum when he remembered as a teenager the adults that were the most influential on his life were all childless.  And I thought - hmm, I think that may have been true for me, too.  We - the childless - have the time.  We can hang out.  We are not burned out by being parents or besotted with one or two children who are Ours.  It's kind of cool.

Then Sunday had to spend An Entire Day Grading Midterms for my other class (not acting).  70 students in all.  You can imagine.  Horrendous.

I have so much to do this week and no time to do it.  So today after the phone call from hell, I had to talk with some folks including my mother to deal with the emotional black hole, all the while thinking: but I'm supposed to be writing stuff about my workshop at The Brecht Forum for posting on this and that website...but that I could not pull out of my ass.  I just cried and cried like a baby.  The only thing that got me out of the house was the acting class.

Once back had to post midterm grades and try to eat.  As doing both was watching Pretty in Pink, which I somehow managed to miss in 1986, and that made me cry some more (it's actually a pretty good film and record of teenage life circa 1980s).  When feeling as I do, seeing tales of young love is not wise.  I am neither in love nor young and feel as remote from both of them as one can feel.  New wrinkles appeared on my forehead today or were grooved in more deeply.

I should also be applying for teaching positions and am trying to cram that in along with everything else - like teaching, marking and having emotions...too much apparently.

So there it is my sorry tale of woe with nice bits mixed in...because it's all the truth.  If anyone wants to assure me that I am not too old for love and not past it, you are certainly welcome to do that, either in private or on this blog.  I could use a little propping up right now - just exhausted trying to keep the cardboard cut-out standing up all by myself.

Oh but before I leave off, a sincere and loving RIP to Adrienne Rich who died today.  An amazing poet and human.  Bless her for her wise words and brave life.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Go see GATZ by Elevator Repair Service at The Public - astounding

OK, so ever since I first read about Elevator Repair Service's show GATZ wherein an office worker reads the entire text of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which leads to his co-workers acting out the book in their office setting, I thought: that sounds brilliant.  I have wanted to see it for years and finally got my chance today at The Public Theater - all 6 1/2 hours of it.

I cannot say enough good things about the production itself or the brilliance of F. Scott Fitzgerald's book. I read it in high-school and loved it then (especially as a scholarship student at a boarding school, I could relate on a pretty visceral level to the Gatsby motif - the outsider who attempts to penetrate the inner sanctum of extreme wealth and privilege and finds himself thwarted in many ways small and large).  On the off chance you don't know the book and want to see the production with little knowledge of the story, I won't go into too many details.

But here's the thing: Fitzgerald wrote perhaps a perfect book that works on the micro-personal level and that resonates even now close to 90 years later on a political-philosophical level.  It has an almost mythical, tragic feel to it in the way it circles around and punctures with precision the illusory nature of the American Dream even for someone (Gatsby) who believes in it with all his heart and Almost achieves it, but then falls fatally short.  The last lines of the book make it clear that Fitzgerald believes this is true always - the green light on the other side of the bay seeming tantalizingly close, but is forever out of reach.

Even more extraordinary is that each sentence is necessary and works on at least two if not more levels.  Fitzgerald's words are meant to be read aloud (this becomes clear as you hear them read by the extraordinary Scott Shepherd - who reads the whole book night after night - that alone is amazing...).  Apparently, Fitzgerald read his words aloud to himself as he wrote.  The experience of hearing the whole book would bear this out.

The brilliance of ERS is that they decided to put this jazz age story in a contemporary, rather shabby looking office and populate the story with office workers.  This environment adds another layer of metaphor onto an already metaphor-rich novel.  It also keeps it from seeming nostalgic or dated in any way.  Further, the office set itself is in a liminal state between modern and slightly old (like the office of an off-off Broadway theater company, say whose office is furnished by Materials for the Arts).  The office worker who plays Gatsby (the amazing Jim Fletcher) types at an old-school typewriter.  Nick (Shepherd) tries unsuccessfully to boot up his computer, which leads to his discovery of the book that he begins reading.

There is also a gradual trajectory over the 6 1/2 hours from a literal office environment in which the book is an intrusion and the reader is an office worker to a gradual clearing of the space - not entirely - it's still an office but much more spare - able to evoke possible other realities (due in no small part to the extraordinary lighting design of Mark Barton, the gorgeously subtle, evocative and visibly orchestrated sound design by performer/designer Ben Williams and the deceptively simple but quite ingenious set design of Louisa Thompson).  By the end Shepherd transforms from a guy reading a book to the narrator himself, speaking directly to us, the audience.  After spending 6 hours, the space we share becomes obvious, the sound of his voice and his presence is intimate.  Fitzgerald's words resonate from 1925 to us in 2012 as a revelation all over again.

All of the actors are great.  The decisions about when/how to create certain moments from the text (which I sense were created by the actors and directors in collaboration) are done in such a masterful way, sometimes before, simultaneous to or after the text.  Sometimes carelessness is shown via a seeming accident with a drinking glass or throwing a large idea away is evoked by throwing a paper into a file cabinet.  Something being distasteful shown as a literal distaste on the tongue or delays happening onstage after the mention of delay in the text.  This does not take away from the feeling tone of the piece, though.  While there is no direct play at 'being emotional' and we always know we are in a theater, this gives space for the audience to respond, as it did tonight, in a visceral way.  They aren't having the emotions for us or trying to make us Feel anything, so we can.

ERS has been performing this piece since 2005 and it shows in the best possible way.  The ensemble is tight, people work off of each other with turn on a dime precision.  Many of the actors have been involved with ERS since its inception in 1992 and that shows, too.  John Collins has built an astounding company and in this piece the whole company has created an extraordinary show.

I rarely use this many positive adjectives in any review or writing about a piece of theater.  This was a privilege to experience.  Tonight, we gave the show a standing ovation, which it richly deserved.

If you want a theatrical experience that will restore your faith in theater, the power of words and the ability to evoke tragedy without being in the least bit nostalgic or sentimental, this is your show.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

staying still enough to feel the profound exhaustion

It's simple: I'm exhausted...on a profound level.  In some ways this exhaustion is from the past few years, in some ways it's exhaustion I've been keeping at bay since I was a child.  I kept it at bay because it was not safe enough to be tired.  I don't remember ever sleeping very well, though that doesn't mean I never did.  My memories are of restlessness.  The crazy babysitter I referred to back in January 29 post used to keep me up until 2 or 3am and make me scrambled eggs with ham.

Then there's all the moving we did, from the beginning.  Born in Providence, move 2 weeks later to Milford, moved after that from one house to another.  My father and mother splitting when I am 2, and I am left at my grandparents' place.  A few months or so later when I am 3, my mother arrives with new step-father, and we move to Maine.  In Maine we move 4-5 times, that is unclear, but at least: Peaks Island, Bangor, Pembroke, Gorham.  These moves happen within 3 years.  Then we move back to Peaks Island with another father.  Then to Waterford, Connecticut.  We live there for 3 years, interrupted by my 3-4 month stint with Mrs. Levine (the babysitter) in New London.  Then I am shipped to my grandparents in Cape Cod, to live on sofa to wait for father to summon me to San Francisco.  That doesn't happen. Remain on sofa for 2 more years.  Eventually brought back to Providence, where my mother and father no. 3 live.  2 years later, my mother and father no. 3 divorce, and I get a scholarship to boarding school in Connecticut, so go there each year and come back to another place in Providence with my mother, until the last year, when she gets together with eventual father no. 4 and they move to Washington, D.C.  I go home one vacation from boarding school to a place I'd never been in my life.  The next summer, I live in D.C., then go to university, back in Connecticut.  The next year I move to NYC to work in a theater.  The next year back to university.  The summer is spent in San Francisco. The next year to Italy for art school.  The next year back to university and finally graduate.  Then in the autumn move to San Francisco.  Take a breath.  Get sober.  Come back to Connecticut in summer to teach.  Back to San Francisco, to Palo Alto for PhD program, leave within a month, back to San Francisco.  Move in with roommates for about a year, then a studio, then move back to NYC after that.  Within NYC move to 5 different apartments.

Long pause while staying in one apartment from 1993-2003, but within that time lose one husband, live alone then live with man who will become my second husband.

2003 - move to London accidentally and live in 3 different places until 2011.  Travel to many countries during my time there and get a PhD from a university in Northampton.  Get pregnant, married and lose baby in 2007 then eventually in 2011 separate from second husband and move back to NYC in October.

So you can see why I might be tired and why, aside from that one time in NYC, I have little experience being in one place.  Also, during my whole adult life I have been focused on at least two full-time adventures most of the time.  Needing to make money and make my work, the two rarely happening at the same time.  Some blessed years yes but not many.

So now I am doing my teaching and precious little else.  Going to meetings, doing some yoga at home and meditation.  I am beginning on my writing project and will be teaching some workshops.

Still I keep thinking: you should do this and that and the other thing, but - probably due to meditation and a good friend's counsel, I am not.  I am sitting in the profound discomfort of a jonesing workaholic waiting for her fix.

Because of this, I am now in touch with this exhaustion - which feels both physical and emotional - like my whole entire fucking life is catching up with me.  From age dot onward I was a workaholic kid - always writing, poems, numbers whatever, doing something...was not allowed TV so was reading a lot too.  No complaint there, by the way.

But there was no space to grieve any losses, feel any pain.  I did go on crying jags when I was very little and when my mother was around and we were alone, she did comfort me through those.  But I think after the Mrs. Levine episode, I totally shut down.  There was no more room for any feelings.  I don't think I exactly had a rich inner life beforehand but whatever was there was snuffed out, especially by the time I ended up on my grandparents' sofa.

So guess what?  Getting my feelings back kinda sucks.  Doesn't make it any less necessary, but it sucks, it's painful and frankly I don't like it one little bit (as if I had a say in it - ha!).

My tiny little prayer to the universe is that whatever the fuck this process is all about that it is of benefit to others in some way.  I think it helps my teaching and my service work.  I have college students that come and cry to me now, literally, and I give hugs and help guide them through stuff.  I doubt that would be happening if I was cut off from the neck down.  I can hear them and see them, and that is good.  I can help others going through excruciating pain.  That is good.

Saw a Patti Smith documentary late last night and now remember her lyric "Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand."  She has suffered.  She is a mistress of grieving and working through it to create amazing gorgeous gentle angry music, poems, art.  I don't know what I will create out of this.  Haven't the littlest clue.

I have created a largish body of work but feel something new is coming and I really haven't the vaguest what it will look like.  Maybe it's in this writing project about my grandmothers, maybe something else. Maybe it's something completely new.

This is all I believe right now: I need to let it emerge.  As the wise woman said last Friday I cannot sculpt myself.  My higher power's will for me is to become who I am...even if that is always becoming, multiple, shifting...it's who I am now...and now...and now.  The longer I try to control this, the longer I prolong my suffering.  But I can't force myself to let go of this process anymore than I can force anything else.  The paradox.

Time to allow for the exhaustion.  Time for stillness.

I may begin writing here a lot less.  I already am writing less.  I don't want to just churn out words for no reason.  Tonight though wanted to note this process...

Now, to rest...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Words of wisdom heard today

Sometimes when you are feeling at your lowest, you are lucky enough to hear someone truly wise.  Because of the meetings I go to regularly, I think I may have an above average chance of that happening, but today was spectacular.

I was in a bad state, even after meditating a long time, in a swirl of negativity.  I got to this meeting, and the woman speaking who has been in recovery for close to four decades reminded us that we don't sculpt ourselves.  Instead we allow ourselves to discover and become who we are.

This may sound simple, but it's not.  Or rather it may be simple but it's not easy.  To allow oneself to become whomever one is supposed to be means letting go of All preconceptions either of one's own or from outside as to what/who one Should become.  That's really hard.  It's also crucial to allow whomever one is to emerge - even if that is fluid, the shoulds still need to fall away for the multiplicities of one's own to dance to their own unique beat.

I spoke with this woman after the meeting, and she said that what I am going through right now is grieving, not self-pity or depression (except inasmuch as that is part of the grieving process) and that grieving has a life of its own.  She said ever since her mother died eight years ago, her life has rearranged itself.  A few years ago she was telling a friend that she wished she could have her life back, and her friend said: this is your life.

Yes.

Maybe, she said to me, you're not supposed to be a workaholic anymore.  Maybe this is the new way.

This is your life.

Like they said to the unsuspecting subject in the show back in the day....

This evening I had a conversation with Rik who directed the reading of We live in financial times, and the 'plan' had been to talk about that, which we did a bit, but then the conversation veered off into an unexpected direction talking about educational outreach and ways I could bring my vision of teaching theater to fruition in our community, especially bridging the great East and West of Broadway divide (that seems utterly senseless to me on a million levels, but is a holdover of racism, classism and every kind of stereotyping on both sides of the divide - I know this because I live on one side and teach on the other).  This is truly exciting and allows my excitement about teaching at Hunter to have another possible outlet.  The more the merrier.

I just now spent hours working on my grandmother project, pouring over old poems of Jani's, answering questions I had about her life through them.  Matching it against the writing I have already done - seeing I got some things right by wild guessing and some things wrong.  Staring at photos of her with her first husband that I never met.  Seeing what I could discern from these photos about the nature of their relationship, trying to remember that in those photos she is only 20 years old.  People looked more mature then I think, their hairstyles, clothing and such, so if you saw that photo without knowing, you would assume she was in her mid-late twenties, not the child she was, holding a baby like a kind of trophy but clearly without even the vaguest clue what to do with Barbara Jane, her first child.  The poem of hers I found about giving birth to Barbara is all about pain.  Seriously, just pain.  I mean I know childbirth is painful and all, but wow.

Reading Doris Lessing's Alfred and Emily about her parents (Lessing having also been born the same year as both my grandmothers, but still alive) talks about how great it would have been if people like her mother had never had to have had children.  She talks about how great it is that women can go through life without children these days and how horrendous it would be for women to leave work and go back home to raise the children, because then they'd be like her mother from whom she spent her whole life trying to escape.  Her mother who basically said, as did/do many, I could have been this or that or the other thing, but then I had children and all that was over.  Basically the women's version of "I coulda been a contendah."

To walk through these poems, Jani's writing, Dick's photos, etc. is to walk through so much sadness.  Jani did try to reach her potential and in many ways did but at such a personal cost (not aided by her battles with various addictions).  Dick (Betty) never did.  But what does that really mean?  That's a whole other question and as it is 4am and I've been working most of the night on this, I'm going to wrap up this post and report back on that later.

Here's to the unexpected turn in the road, the rip tide, the brisk wind, whatever it is that blows you off your chosen path (chosen by whom?) onto the one you're actually on...walking by faith, even when (especially when) you don't believe in a damn thing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Trauma of Being Observed & The Grace of Not Knowing

OK, any of you out there who are teachers know what I'm talking about.  It's that time of year again, when someone comes into your classroom to Observe you teaching.  Horrendous.  I was observed back to back at both places I teach this week.

I felt the teaching went pretty well in both cases but the cosmic dread I felt, amplified in one case by mispronouncing the name of the person observing me (in my defense, we had never met, but still...it's up there in the irretrievable gaffe camp).

After both classes, I nitpicked myself to death and in one case (the mispronunciation case) decided this person would only say dreadful thing about me consequently.  Now the irony here is that I just taught a chapter on self-concept and how self-esteem affects self-concept and that those with low self-esteem do not act well while being observed, whereas people with high self-esteem shine.

I think, given that, I have either (a) schizophrenic self-esteem or (b) medium self-esteem or (c) self-esteem in things I know really well but in the basement when teaching something I don't know as well or am taking a risk that may or may not be working.

Before all this observing business, I was also rejected by a writing residency, so my so-called self-esteem was not at its highest level.

I wish, oh I do wish, how I wish that I believed what I say.  I say: oh, it doesn't matter.  Oh, yeah, being an artist means lots of criticism and rejection.  Hey look at van Gogh, Kafka, Emily Dickinson!  Oh, yeah, sure, I'm used to that.  Oh, yeah, sure, not everyone will like me.  No problem.

Lies.  All lies.

Reality: one person in a room of 500 doesn't like me.  All 499 other people do.  Guess who I notice?  That one.

Reality: every piece of criticism hurts like hell, especially when it's about my artistic work.

Reality: I can now accept, for real, constructive criticism...which is an improvement But if I don't agree with the criticism, I am not good at fighting back (another sign of positive self-esteem: being able to defend yourself against criticism).

You know how many years it's taken me to admit how worthless I actually feel?  This many years.  Even though it feels like eating glass, at least it's real.  I'm not deluding myself into some kind of piece of shit the world revolves around stance wherein I can diminish all critics in order not to feel the sting of the criticism.

On the other hand, for the record and all that...I do wish I was not so affected by criticism and rejection.  I wish I did have a modicum of healthy, actual, real self-respect.  I am guessing/hoping that staring at this steaming pile of shit called my self-concept means I'm on my way there in real life rather than in name only.

I can be equally swayed by positive feedback, and perhaps in some ways that can be even more dangerous (oh you think I'm good at this, OK, watch me do it again and again and again...applause please!)...but in any case the point is: it comes from somewhere else and where it needs to come from is me.  Not that I be impervious to others' opinions but neither swayed unduly.

On the good side, I am still working on my writing.  I have survived the traumatic observations, and now have to wait - impatiently - for the results.  I do know I did my best, was prepared and showed up. This is actually all I can do.  However, with one of them I was dreading it in a more despairing way because I thought the class (reviewing for a midterm) was going to be about as interesting as watching paint dry and think I may have made my own experience harder by that dread.  Thank goodness for meditation and prayer, without which I may have simply imploded.

Another good moment: having students in both classes ask me questions privately about things in their lives that are fairly intimate.  I feel good that I can answer some of these questions, hear them out and give good guidance.  This reminds me of the most important thing of all: I don't actually know why I am anywhere doing anything.  The most seemingly 'random' situation may lead me to a situation where I may be of more profound service than anywhere I could plan or expect.  This is not to diminish my artistic work, which I believe/hope is a form of service, but it's not the only kind and it's not really for me to say what is most important.

Back and back and back to the same place (a la Raymond Carver): if you should be dead, but you are alive by grace: "all the rest is gravy."

This ain't my show.  Over to You.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Here comes Ricky....

Live blogging Santorum's deep south victory speech...

OK now Santorum is wearing a lavender tie and suit as he sweeps the Deep South...He's gonna clean Romney's over-priced clock.  People keep telling me I'm crazy, but come on folks, look at the numbers.  He's been outspent 10 to 1.  He feels God is on his side and he does not doubt it.  If you know anything about the US outside the big cities and coasts, folks, this is the meat and potatoes.

Let me appeal to my time as an Evangelical Baptist to break it down for you, because if you're reading this blog, you probably live on a coast or outside the US and are sophisticated, secular folks who think people who actually believe in a religion are stupid or nuts.  Well, doesn't matter.  These folks believe what they believe, know that you think they are nuts, and don't care.  They pray for you.  Seriously.  When no one was helping in New Orleans some Baptist women from Texas went to help because "we believe everyone is Jesus and so we're going to take care of them folks."  Crazy?  Not necessarily.

I'm writing this while watching Santorum speak in Louisiana, speaking about his little girl, with the clear skinned children and beautiful wife behind him.  His sign behind him says "Made in America".  He's got a made up half-southern accent tonight.  In fact if you close your eyes, he sounds like Clinton just a little bit, which is kind of weird.  The breathless pauses, the weird flat face that could probably win poker against a grifter.

Santorum's only a few years older than me.  I think that is why I feel I can understand him.  I remember this guy.  He's the guy who would win the student council fight by calling the other smart kids pretentious, while getting straight As himself.  You remember, don't you?  Well if you were the unfortunate "brain" (my nickname - not meant complimentarily)...But these guys, they are the popular ones in what is usually referred to as "real America" (i.e., not NYC, LA, SF, Seattle, Portland, etc...)

"All the establishment against me.  You had faith in a grandson of a coal miner (steel worker?) in Pennsylvania...centrality of faith in our lives..." Uproarious applause.

OK now he's literally licking his chops.  He can feel it.  His kids look like they actually love him.  Is it an illusion?  Could be.  Does it matter?  Not if it looks good on the television...and now he's won Mississippi.  His wife kisses him.  He smiles.

And he's wearing a tie, a nice tie.  It reads to me: I'm as good as you, Mitt.  Screw the sweater vest.

Now there are young women singing a song they wrote for Ricky called "Game on."   "There will be justice for the unborn" is one of the lyrics - sung by young women.

Some more of the lyrics....

Game on
Join the fight.
We finally got a man who will stand up for our rights.

A man who finally understands that God gave the Bill of Rights...
Perhaps since Reagan a man who will stand up for what is right...
Factories back on our shores...

***

You can't make this shit up.

Most of my friends think Obama would beat him easily.  I would like to believe they are right.  I really don't know.  My money's still on Santorum.  Not because that's what I want but because his followers and he are True Believers....

Game on indeed.  Be careful folks and please Do Not write this guy off.

Finding new ways in...

The last couple of days I have begun to type up the work on the Dick & Jani project from my notebooks.  Of course, this means I am editing and rewriting, so have only made it through a few pages, but that's OK.  It's a relief to begin to see what I have written over the course of the year.  Today, after meditation, it was the first thing I did.  This feels so right, even though I am of course wildly self-critical about what I have written and all the usual self-doubt stuff that goes with writing.  I can't believe I didn't think of typing up what I have already written before, but perhaps because I am now not sick after a month of being sick, more seems possible.

The other reason this writing is important is that I am waiting to hear back from a residency I applied for to work on this project.  I did not want that decision to play a part in whether I continue with this writing or not.  Professionally is another way I can get way too caught up in others' opinions, the positive just as much as the negative.  I can get swayed way too much, no matter how much I say otherwise.  It nestles somewhere at the base of my skull and worms its way subtly into my decision making, never announcing itself directly but more like a CIA double agent...nonetheless it can have an effect, especially if I get caught up in waiting for an external decision.

I did the work for my acting class and had an interesting class bringing in exercises loosely based on Kristin Linklater voice work via two actor friends.  What I did not realize until today is that (a) she was born in the Orkney Islands (my favorite place on the planet) and (b) she taught The Open Theater back in the day, which was probably soon after she arrived in NYC in 1963.  I have given the students Chaikin's Presence of the Actor to read so all this full circle stuff is making me happy.

What I love about my Hunter students is that they can spend well over an hour working on relaxation exercises of various kinds, taking it on faith that this will help their voice, which it does and did.  They may giggle through certain exercises and gain and lose focus, but they try.  I am amazed each day how little resistance there is to these various ways of working, which are in many cases quite sophisticated and not the most direct route from point a to b.  It feels like such a privilege to teach them and to be given that trust.

Today walking across Central Park because of the change in time there was sun - hooray - not to mention many crocuses and daffodils and a sweet, sweet smell.  I know this is probably way too early for it to be this warm, but true confession: I love it.  Maybe because I've been in London for 8 years where spring begins in February, it doesn't seem too early to me.

I may have written this before but I am struck these days by how sensitive I am now to seasonal change.  Others who are my age and older agree that as you get older for some reason you feel it more.  Is it because we are old enough to realize there will not be infinite springs?  This is only my 49th spring and I would be incredibly lucky to experience that many more.  This is a limited time offer.  Mortality, especially after you lose a parent is more visceral, too, so perhaps all of this growth out of death, which leads to fruition, then going out in a blaze of color to death again bit also has more resonance.

Whatever the reason, I am happy to be experiencing it, noticing it and being glad for it.  I find my dread of the spring is diminishing.  It may return, I don't know.  I am glad today that I am enjoying it.

Having the writing to go to when I get up makes me happy to get up.  I am not as anxious.  I also don't feel as overwhelmed.  This must have something to do with the meditation I am doing.  I am grateful that after years of doing meditation in a way that was OK but not as disciplined that I find myself teachable again.  It's as if I was cutting tomatoes with a dull knife that has recently been sharpened.  

Here's hoping this trend continues, though I hesitate to say even that lest I somehow tempt fate.

Monday, March 12, 2012

new old beginnings...

Today was kind of lovely even though, thanks to daylight savings time, it started late.  I slept well and when I woke up managed to do some typing up of the beginning of the two notebooks filled with my Dick & Jani book/project.  It's rough but it's a start.  I wanted to do more but had told an old college friend I would meet him to see a concert of a composer friend of ours that was happening - happily - right here in Inwood.  I spent a couple hours watching new music compositions, enjoying some of it more and less but grateful for the fact that we are so spoiled here that we can attend such concerts for free.

Had a nice, super-cheap Dominican dinner, came back home and sent out a zillion invites to the workshops I will be teaching at The Brecht Forum in April and May (see side column for details on the blog).  I did this while watching some movies on TV, so the tediosity was diminished.

I am reading Doris Lessing's kind of amazing book about her parents Alfred and Emily, which includes a fictional past for them that she believes could have occurred if WWI had not.  She then follows that with the WWI reality.  Given the mix of fact and fiction in my grandmother project, I am soaking in Lessing's amazing feat.  She is a master storyteller.  I am so glad I discovered The Golden Notebook when I was young.  I really am not sure how I could have handled parts of my life if I had not read her wise words about smart yet emotionally vexed women.  Her ability to grasp all the political realities while zoning in on the most detailed emotional micro-scapes without losing the one for the other is nothing short of breathtaking.  She is a deeply feminist writer simply for this reason even though I am fairly certain she would bristle at that description.  No matter.  She is also a practicing Sufi, which makes sense of her earthy transcendence.

Happily, I feel I suddenly have time again.  The extra hour of sun makes everything seem more open.  There are daffodils and crocuses blooming.  I am almost happy, but way too anxious and suspicious of that word to allow myself to say that without cringing and waiting for a thunderbolt to come out of the sky.

I wonder if I should stay in the US.  The presidential race has made me painfully aware of the psychosis of our body politic.  That and the fear of not having health insurance.

But I have a feeling the simple reality is that I will feel weird wherever I go, and if I don't stay here for a time I won't really know what I can do here or not.  The world is now larger for me so no one place will ever feel like The place.  Probably from hereon out there will only be places.

The other problem with moving yet again is that I can fall into a pattern of blaming place rather than acknowledging that - as said in the wonderfully absurd 1980s film Buckaroo Bonzai: wherever you go, that's where you are.

I do want to spend some time in the UK/Europe in the summer to see how it feels now that I've been gone for a while.  With luck, I will work that out.  I'm hoping teaching these workshops again can get me started teaching my own work in various venues, including the UK.

Teaching acting at Hunter continues to be a joy.  I am surprised each week by how gratifying it is to teach basic skills to people without much training but with enthusiasm.

Meditation continues to be the cornerstone of my day, today was about emotions and thoughts, including positive emotions.  This is why I am so aware of how afraid I am to allow myself to be happy ever again.

Must end here as it's incredibly late thanks to the extra hour of sun....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring happens

Hello after a long pause.  I am still not entirely sure what to say right now, but have some photos of early spring in Inwood and that seems of note.

I have an ambivalent relationship with spring because it leads inexorably to anniversary of April 14, my wedding day followed by April 15, miscarriage day.  While this was five years ago, I still have no children and that's a wrap, and now I am separated from my husband, mostly likely for good.  This is my first year facing these days without him.  Because of the miscarriage, our anniversary was never just an easy day, but I had been looking forward to the time when that would change.  But now, that won't happen.  On the other hand, because we are not together, I don't have to pretend to be happy on April 14, so I guess that's a grace note.

This is the general tone right now, hence the reason I have not written in close to a week.  I don't want to just be a purveyor of sadness or violin background music.  On the other hand, I can't pretend I'm not grieving.

I have spent this past week meditating and making up teaching work left undone because of a month of being sick.  So part of it is simply tiredness.  And let's face it, I'm also depressed.  And no, I don't want to take fucking drugs for that, so please don't suggest it.  I'm not suicidal, I'm just really sad.

At random, I picked a PJ Harvey CD from my collection To Bring You My Love and am listening to it now.  I have not been able to bear listening to this album for years, because it reminded me of a time when I was way more open with myself and with B (our first year together - somehow we seemed to be falling away from each other for all the subsequent years even though we tried the getting married thing - didn't help - not really...I have some suspicions of why this is so but will not recount them here).  I spent the rest of the years trying to pretend this part of me that Harvey's music touches didn't exist.  I didn't do that consciously.  But I did it.  I knew there was a loss.  I probably blamed it on B, on the UK, whatever.  But the fact is: I was the one faking myself out, not anyone else.  No one forced me to stay in an untenable situation.  That was all me.

Dear God, I never want to do that again.  I feel like it's Groundhog Day as I write that.  Said it after my first marriage, too, for slightly different reasons, but not That different.  So, how do I trust myself ever again in relationship world?  Not sure I do.

But this I am doing differently: I am not even looking to be involved with anyone else right now.  Not even looking.  Seriously.  I know this and only this much: I am damaged, I need to heal.  I don't mean damaged by B to be clear.  I just mean damaged by the whole experience much of which was by my own hands, though of course we were both there.  Not to mention all the childhood stuff, etc.

After my first marriage while I didn't go flying out to find someone, I ended up in various romantic-ish intrigues fairly soon - some of which were real, some of which were loosely based on fact (like a hack job bio).  When B and I first separated, I felt like I should go find someone new right away, even though that wasn't 'healthy' mostly because I was sick to death with always trying to be 'healthy' which seemed to have produced nothing but yet another failed marriage, a kind of endless grieving process over a miscarriage, my father's death and a sense of chronic dislocation...etc., etc...Years of therapy and various recovery processes and where was I?  Sobbing in my bed at 2am.  Fab.

Quickly, however, cooler heads (mine) prevailed and I realized: You Are So Not Ready to Be With Anyone.  And so here I am - still alone.  No prospects.  I'm assuming B is with someone by now, but don't know for sure.  But then again, I always assume stuff like that.

This album, the one I have on now, I sent to him after our first 10 fall-in-love-like-in-a-movie days together in NYC, for Valentine's Day.  Up to that moment, we seemed to be on the same page - open and absurdly in love.  Then his response to this CD was somewhat muted and I was - secretly - crushed.  I didn't say anything of course, but I felt what I continued to feel for 10 years: I'm too much for him.  I have to back off.  I'm too intense.  I'm too....fill in the blank... Be careful.

10 years.  Be careful.  I'm too much.

See?

Who would do that for 10 years?  Whose fault is that?  B's?  Nope.  Mine.

Until I can honestly say to myself that I will never sell myself down the river like that again, it's me and my cat and a cup of tea.

I can't tell myself that honestly until I know in my bones that I am worthy of taking up space on this planet.  I would like to tell you after my 5 million years of recovery/therapy etc. that I can do that, but honestly, I'm not sure.  Sometimes I fear I am irrevocably damaged and real love is just a bridge too far for me in this lifetime.  Maybe that's true.  I don't know.

I do know I feel real love for a few close friends.  I have acted in moments out of unconditional love for a handful of people.  Those moments and the relationships that include those moments are the most precious things to me in the world.  Unlike all other transitory happiness, the memory of those times and what has resulted from that never dies.  There's a saying where I hang out a lot: you've got to give it away to keep it.  Yes.

I don't know if I will ever write something that I feel is what I could do if only....If only what?  Not sure...Had enough time, wisdom, real ability with words...was better, more observant, richer so I had that sensibility...more something.  Too much of that, not enough of this...etc.

But for all that, spring happens....not only in nature.  In me.

I love this PJ Harvey album tonight.  I am Not afraid of this part of myself tonight, the part with passion, love, need and that can cry it out loud.  I am reclaiming her.  Thank God/dess.

It's tentative like the buds on the trees in photos below.  But she will grow back, re-emerge.  She's not dead.  Because I have the opportunity to start over again - even if it feels a bit old at 48, here I am.  Again.  New again.  Spring again.

Yeah, there's grief.  Yeah it fucking sucks.  And yeah there's spring.  Spring tears my fucking heart out.  I want to cry all the time, but I will walk around in the woods.  I will breath in the new plants.  I will love the shit out of it even if it rips my guts out.

I don't want to ever feel like too much of anything ever again.

The beauty of NYC remains: it is impossible to feel too much of anything for this place.  That includes my friends here and everything I've been doing so far - teaching, friendships, readings, writing...etc.  If anything, I feel I have to get bigger, learn to take up space again.  I spent too many years trying to get smaller.  As my cousin Darcy's mother said to her once about trying to make yourself 'fit' in a relationship: "You can never be small enough."  She was right.

So I will leave you with some very early spring photos on this Daylight Savings Time night in the US.  The one good thing Bush did as president was move this day earlier in the year.  More sun.  Good thing.

Here's to never being too much....and to PJ Harvey.  An excellent British export.

no matter what...spring happens




relentless buds...





grass returns pushing away dead leaves






profligate yellow defying the brown (a lesson...?)

Ugo chillin'


ducks chillin'



Saturday, March 3, 2012

A quarter century lived by grace


Or as Raymond Carver said in a poem about his life after drinking and drugs: all the rest is gravy.

So in these past 25 years of gravy, given to me by the grace of what I usually call something along the lines of God or Higher Power or That Thing That's Way Bigger Than Me That I Totally Don't Understand But Somehow Seems to Have Saved My Life (hence the use of the word: God...or God/dess depending on how gender-specific I feel I need to be that day...)...and which also takes the form of lots of human beings who have found a way, like me, to not keep killing themselves with alcohol or drugs...and in whom I believe resides this God business...

In these past 25 years, I have done a lot.  And I've decided to break it down today into sheer numbers and lists, perhaps in oblique honor of Georges Perec who liked to do such things (though with considerably more panache than I'm about to...).

So here goes:

Lived in 3 cities in 2 countries (lived on Pacific, then both sides of the Atlantic).

Rented 15 apartments/flats.

Visited and worked as an artist, performing/writing/teaching, in at least 14 countries.

Founded and ran two theater companies: in NYC (1994-1998) and in London (2004-2011).

8 plays published (3 in anthologies).

All plays produced in multiple venues, directed many of them, though not all.  Some have won awards, fellowships, grants.  Some have been written about in major journals.

Directed plays by 6 other writers and at least 4 created by groups.

Performed in three solo multi-media performances, two of which were commissioned, one of which was published.

Taught as professor/lecturer at 6 universities/colleges in 2 countries.

Taught drama at one high-school and two high-school summer programs.

Led labs from 1997-2001 in NYC and 2004-2011 in London to create new theater techniques with artists from at least 8 countries.

Led workshops in these theater techniques in at least 14 universities, 6 international conferences and 6 professional venues.

Awarded fellowship to do a PhD in 1987 in US and fled after 3 weeks.  Awarded another fellowship in 2004 in UK and did complete in 2010 (miracle).

Given papers and presentations at 12 international academic conferences.

Been married twice, currently separated.

Was present at last breath of my father and was present for the dying days though not the death of a family friend who was more like family than much of my family.

Been pregnant twice, neither carried to term.  No children.

Flower girl at one friend's wedding.  A reader at another friend's wedding.

A reader at too many funerals.  Every gay man I knew in the 1970s, aside from my step-father David, died of AIDS (except for one who died of cancer).

Taken thousands of photos everywhere I have traveled.

Watched many shows in many cities, theater, performance art, dance - some amazing, most not so much.  Gone to galleries and museums in many countries.  Seen cinema from all over the world.  Listened to countless hours of WNYC and BBC news, music and talk shows.  Sometimes, even, watch TV.  Watched multiple seasons of Yankees and Knicks games.

Written innumerable words, which comprise at least 3 unpublished novels, none of which are entirely complete.  Have projects sitting on multiple burners.  Deep frustration about this.

Written innumerable journals and two blogs, one private, one public.

Spent countless hours in church basements listening to others talk about how not to act on the compulsion to drink or do drugs, and even more importantly, how to live.  Sometimes, I speak, too.

Been on boats in oceans and seas, including The Atlantic, Pacific, Adriatic, Mediterranean, Arctic Circle, seen icebergs being born and floating out of Disco Bay...seen colors of green I didn't know existed in the Orkney Islands and watched huge orange balls of sun set over the Hudson...heard silence in the midst of traffic in NYC and the sound of feet sound like a symphony at a subway intersection, watched the Thames roll along beneath what the Kinks called a Waterloo sunset, seen startling amounts of stars in clear skies, walked hundreds of miles of sea cliffs, beaches and hiking trails, seen hundreds of baby birds on a cliff face, heard the whistling sound of raven wings when alone on the ice in Greenland.

Spent many hours on planes, buses and trains.  Relatively few in cars, because I don't drive.

Had transcendent moments in theaters, watching actors do amazing things that only actors can do and had many not transcendent moments in theaters wishing I was anywhere else.  As Rauschenberg said "You can't have risk without risk."

Written a lot of poems, though far fewer than when I drank.

Filled up pads with drawings and some paintings.

Spent thousands of hours on the phone with friends and family sometimes connecting, sometimes avoiding, sometimes helping, sometimes hurting.

Short prose writing published, some academic.

Worked 12 years as a legal secretary, which necessitated learning reluctantly to type on a computer.

Written many grant proposals and applications, some of which resulted in funding/project commissions.

Innumerable lab showings, collaborations and strange little projects that pop up in the oddest places.

Adopted 4 cats - 3 of whom circa 1990 all died old, 1 of whom is young, adopted in 2011.

Have had the love of many wonderful friends, and no I can't count.

4 yoga retreats.

1 meditation retreat.

16-17 years of daily meditation practice.

10 years in total of therapy.

One life-changing spiritual experience that made me know that no matter how much I want to intellectualize it, there is a God and I got to see It even if for only a few seconds.  That's why I'm still sober today.  That was a gift.

***

So, here it is, the life that I could have easily lost many years ago...so far.  I hope and pray for many, many more years, because I am a really slow learner.  There is so much more I want to experience and do.  For instance:

Complete and publish at least one of my multiple not quite finished book projects before giving up and starting yet another one.

Find a relationship that works after I am truly OK with myself, so I will then finally know how to give and receive love (this is the one that seems like the way harder one right now...)

Keep meditating

Do more yoga

Start my own theater school.

Figure out my new camera, which scares me irrationally.  And in general not get so scared about things that come with a user's manual and take more than 2 minutes to figure out.

Finally finish unpacking and stop moving.

Give up the idea of finding home so I can accept wherever I am.

Be more effortlessly giving for no other reason than to be generous.

Be less concerned that I "get mine."

Stop comparing myself to others.

Stop being angry at people who are more successful than me.

Remember all the things I have to be grateful for rather than dwell on things I don't have.

Love more.  Love more.  Love more.

Live.  Dance.  Breathe.

***

Thank you all my lovely friends and family for lifting me through some very dark times of late.  Thank you God/dess for revealing yourself to me when I'm about to give up.  Without You I'm nothing....

Let's dance.





Thursday, March 1, 2012

Recovering from sickness blues

You know how when you've been sick for 2 straight weeks and you start dragging your ass around to do the minimum, then there's the blah, no energy, grey zone?  Well, that's the exciting place I am now.

Plus feeling lots of empty places, because for a variety of reasons it is now more emotionally obvious to me that my marriage is over and I need to now go officially claim all the spaces that B used to inhabit in my soul and heart.  It's like going into abandoned rooms where someone (he) lived and it kind of sucks.

This pain also resurrects the ghosts of much more ancient pain, the rooms of which seem not only abandoned but haunted.

Luckily, I have a couple good friends who can help carry me through this, because it just kinda sucks.

To give an example: my father was out of my life from about 2 1/2 onward and for years I convinced myself this didn't matter and I don't have conscious memories, still, of missing him - though I know from my mother I did, cried even when he wouldn't see me when I asked.  But I kept my last name (his family name - which is of course a lie as you can see from earlier posts, but no matter...).  I never let it go, not for any step-fathers and not for any husbands, which means I've stayed crazy loyal to this man I barely knew and simply had no ability to be there for me in any way, never mind as a father.  As my friend Julie says: that's your childhood passion.  And she's right.

This is why ending of relationships, even more so marriages, is so hard - it kicks up all the ancient pain.

The possible truly plus side of this is: if I can feel the pain and know in my deepest self that I did not cause that pain and did not deserve it, I can heal.  Sounds easy.  Isn't.  I drag this over-arching sense of responsibility into my relationships and that doesn't work.

I was teaching in my class today about healthy versus damaged self-concept, distorted feedback, obsolete information and how that leads to low and high self-esteem.  It's good stuff to teach but also difficult, because none of this stuff for me is a theory - it's deeply lived experience.  I think given the unusual level of attention in the class that it is for many of the students, too.

While I know I have a lot to look at in my own behavior, I also know that I tend to look too closely at that, and take on responsibility for things that are not mine.  Why?  It's easier than surrendering that control.

I'm fairly certain I've written about some of this stuff before in the blog, but it's what's happening again on yet another level.

No way out but through.  I just wish there was some magic door, short cut type thing.

I hope my next post will be more positive, and as there is a celebration upcoming, that is possible.

I'm ashamed of all this pain, but hoping 'outing it' will lessen that shame at least a little bit.