I haven't written since writing about my stepfather Tom dying because there was not much to say after that. I just now wrote what I will be saying at his memorial service on Sunday, or some version of it anyway. It's so crazy impossible to sum up 33 years of life with someone that I just have to know I'm going to fail and do it anyway.
As my stepsister says the biggest difference between preparing for a memorial and for a wedding is that you have a year to prepare for a wedding and about a week to prepare a memorial. This is quite true. There are so many people involved, so many emotions, so many ideas of who Tom is and then the details like: caterers, guest books, photos, set up, etc...I kick into some weird plane that can be summed up in one word: director. As in theater director. Which I am. Sometimes I do this with grace, sometimes not, but if you give me an event where people show up and stuff happens to which they pay attention and sit in chairs while doing so, it becomes in my mind: theater.
That does not mean it's not sacred in any way, because for me the theater is the sacred-secular and because this memorial is happening not in a church but a maritime museum, it is that, too.
But it's real life.
And then again, anyone who knows the theater I do knows - not much difference there either. My theater was/has been/does veer more and more in that direction as well.
However, I have strange obsessions about: sound, possible interference, sight lines, where will people sit, will they feel comfortable, who says what when...how is that structured/not structured...
And of course I am not the only one having these feelings, which is what makes this experience so different from when my father died.
When my father died, I was basically the only one who was left standing who could make decisions. There were others involved, one a lot, but I was the only one capable of organizing myself out of a paper bag. Hence, my role was clear.
Here, it is not so clear because I am not The Only One. This is a good thing of course but it takes some getting used to, which sometimes I do with grace and sometimes not at all.
But I'm here. And meditating and praying and doing all the Stuff I do to try to stay on the near side of sane.
I had my hair and nails done today. Always a go to place when all else seems nutty.
I still feel Tom's presence around and about, especially when things seem like they may be getting thorny. I feel his compassionate tendencies and his ability to be discerning without being judgmental and I find myself surrendering to that slipstream...which works much better than forcing an issue with myself or someone else.
I spent a lovely evening at one of the many amazing wharf cafes in Maine, meeting and re-meeting members of the extended family, including many nephews last seen when they were quite small. The person I spoke with the most was my stepsister-in-law who was born and bred in NYC. Most people think I was mad to leave London, except people like her who love New York in that way that some of us do. It's like a first love that never leaves you no matter if you split up or not.
Having said that, I am happy to be sitting here now in Maine listening to the crazy loud bullfrogs in the pond on a cool but humid night rather than boiling in my studio in NYC.
I just wish there were other reasons for being here, and it's so hard to believe when I wake up again tomorrow morning that Tom won't be sitting in the chair in the den that I am looking at right now, smiling in his particular way saying sing songy when I trundle blearily down the stairs many hours later than he's woken up "Good morning, love."
But he's here, too. I know that. It's our loss he isn't here the way he was, but I feel he is somehow here even more powerfully. Even if not in the form that can buy me a stuffed lion named Harold.
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.