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.
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.
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
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.