Wanted to not keep writing about this but the fact is it's breaking my heart. Today - well yesterday now - was what would have been my mother and my stepfather Tom's 29th wedding anniversary. Last year I was in Maine with them both and we ordered in Chinese food to celebrate. It was a fun and light time and not one anyone thought would be the last. We had had Thanksgiving a couple days earlier - same there.
While my mother has been dealing with the grinding day to day loss of Tom for months now, I don't have nearly as much in person presence to mourn except intermittently and I realized today quite painfully that this is one of them. The next one will be Christmas, which was the last time I saw him alive. My mother will be here for that.
I have been so concerned for my mother's well-being, I have not paid enough attention to my own loss but today pushed me over the edge. Because my mother made it clear she was OK with me staying home in NYC over Thanksgiving rather than coming up to Maine because I was so fucking exhausted, I have done so and was given what I now as a gift of a cold to slow me down long enough to know how excruciating this loss is.
My good friend Julie suggested I come up with some phrase that was more adequate than stepfather to describe my relationship to Tom and I am stumped, not because I don't get what she means - stepfather sounds so distant and he was anything but. This suggestion is what started my crying today and feeling my own pain - to paraphrase John Lennon.
I'm having a hard time typing because I'm crying while I'm writing. I know this is a good thing because it means I finally feel safe enough to feel this, that I'm letting go of the sense of shock and emergency that I entered when he died because of concerns over my mother and also probably just because it sucks to feel this much pain.
I may have written this here already and if I have apologies but Tom really got me, he understood me in a whole and real and unsentimental way that only someone who really loves you can understand you. For me to receive this kind of loving attention from a male person (not in a creepy way - I hasten to add in case that's not crystal clear) was a first. I'm not sure if I've found its like in the world, the only person that comes to mind was my drama teacher in high-school Terry Ortwein, also deceased prematurely, from Parkinson's. So it is a profound loss of someone who is quite literally irreplaceable in my life.
I know many of you who read this will have experienced this kind of loss in your life and if there is a gift here, it is that: to know another's suffering, to be able to sympathize as well as empathize with another's loss.
My friend Julie passed on this Rilke quotation she heard on the radio show On Being. I read it at Tom's internment:
"The great secret of death, and perhaps its deeper connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves."
I believe this is true. But it does wound us first. The gift only comes after that.
Yes, but today - after crying Round 1 this afternoon, I sat and watched the twilight turn into the gloaming over the inlet at the tip of Inwood. I saw gulls and geese and loons and herons turn colors from white to grey to silhouette - and the train and the moon and the radio of the young couple who sat on a bench near me, sipping coffee from the cafe. Taking it all in. One of the last blog posts Tom commented on involved me staring out at this beautiful little bit of the world, sun gleaming then, wind brushing the light into whirlpools of diamonds. I noticed this at the same time as bemoaning the racism across the bridge that had killed a young man who was friends with a student of mine. It's all here. It's all real. This is it. This is us. It is all of it. Cherry picking or gloom mongering is distortion. My shadow side these days is the light. I am just now beginning to see glimmers of my shadow.
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.