So I'm on the train as I type this, traveling to D.C. to direct a reading of my play We live in financial times at Busboys & Poets for Monday night (see right hand panel for details) and feeling weird like I'm abandoning NYC, which is how I felt when I left NYC for the first time after 9/11, which wasn't until Thanksgiving of that year. Even more so then, I felt like I wanted to cling to every stone and piece of pavement, every tree, person and store sign, hoping it wouldn't move.
Now it's more about the people, hoping everyone will be there when I got back. Someone I met when I first moved to Inwood died suddenly a few weeks ago so that was rattling and very sad. He was someone who welcomed me and was a lovely soul. Seeing body bags coming out of Staten Island is also horrendous. I don't have a TV so the images come in fits and starts online, from the NYTimes and Twitter.
A moment to say: during an ongoing crisis, Twitter can be amazing if you find people to follow that you trust and don't get overly excited about rumors that come from unknown sources. I leaned heavily on Twitter during Sandy and before that the riots in London in August 2011. That was how I found my local MP Stella Creasy (in London) who was walking around checking out every rumor in person, until 3am each night. Her twitter feed, unlike the news was Not hysterical, was reasoned and had a lot to do with keeping Walthamstow calm.
Through Twitter this time I could keep up to date with details of power, subways, etc. without having to see images and more images of destruction or watch all the political posturing.
I am going in and out of some form of PTSD, that much I know. It takes many forms - goes back to 9/11 and further back than that. I am also simultaneously OK and stable. It's hard to explain this paradox, but it is my life these days: both feeling lots of emotions, sometimes overwhelming emotion, but at the same time able to function - but crucially NOT in some disassociated way, which may seem efficient and calm but is actually cover for lights on, nobody home and is usually accompanied by a low level sense of resentment that others can't keep their own shit together as well as me, thank you very much.
My functioning now is both on a much more basic, somewhat compromised level. I am exhausted, forgetful, sometimes just cry or want to cry. But I can also move forward with my basic commitments, self-care, caring for my cat, my artistic commitments, work stuff and other commitments to people with whom I meet in church basements on folding chairs.
My service during Sandy has been limited to taking friends from downtown in to my uptown apartment and going to meetings where people talk a lot about how they feel and how powerless we are over this and that. This actually helps as improbable as that must sound to any of you who have no experience of such groups. On paper, it really shouldn't work, the fact it does is no small miracle.
So I am grateful for those meetings, for my friends, for Amtrak trains working, for the subway rumbling back, for having had power and internet the whole time of Sandy, for not having had to lose my home or life or the life of someone very close to me, at least not this month.
Speaking of which, next weekend will be the internment of my stepfather Tom's ashes, a ritual I frankly dread. I have been to memorial celebrations, which are one thing, even funerals. But putting a body or ashes in the ground is excruciating. My last experience of that was a friend from London who lost his 10 year old daughter from a chronic illness. Seeing that little pink coffin go into the ground was unbelievably awful, though the place: a wood in East London, was so beautiful it was a strangely bittersweet experience. I just stared at Sean and his wife Laura arm in arm with their other two gorgeous little ones, love coming off them like actual light, astonished at their dignity, their pain, their grieving AND their gratitude for everyone. Life and death so close the line seemed almost translucent. Laura got pregnant again soon after Alice's death and they have another child now. These are people without a lot of money by the way, and if they had lived in the U.S. I don't know if they could have gotten the care and assistance they had and have in the UK.
These experiences of loss, all of them, are a hurricane. Some seem personal, but none of them are. That is what Job is about I believe - today anyway. Human powerlessness in the face of these larger forces. We can rant and rail against it all, we can resist what is, we can and do get angry, hurt, sad, cry, jump up and down and that's OK and natural. But it won't change a thing.
But in the same way these things don't happen To us in a personal way, they also aren't Caused by us. The whole surrender to reality thing is actually quite freeing. Because until we acknowledge there Is in fact a hurricane in front of us, we won't do anything to get out of its path or understand the carnage we see around us. I think this is in part what Nietzsche was on about when he talked in the Four Great Errors about false causality. So many things go into every moment that are out of our control. The tragicomedy of human experience is how much we think we do control when we don't. Or blame others for their actions for the same reason. Gods help us all.
Now that I think about it, the end of We live in financial times is an attempt to address this fact. So while I have frankly not been able to even think about this staged reading I'm about to direct, I have been experiencing it. In my Very Long history of directing (since 1980 = 32 years - yikes!), these moments can be quite fruitful because I am forced to look at what is rather than what I wish was there. The true reality of the room rather than my Ideas about it. Because I don't have any other choice, that's a damn good thing.
Having said that, I now have a couple hours on a train so should use this time to re-read my own damn play….
If you're in D.C. on Monday (eve of election day in the U.S., Guy Fawkes night in the UK - and what an interesting combo that is!), please do come along and join us. Dean Baker who will be joining us for the talkback predicted the 2008 crash and I for one want to hear what he says about where we are now and - selfishly - if the play embodies this in any meaningful way. I believe it does something philosophically, but am not an economist so want to know if I got any of that right or whether my attempts at grasping that world (especially as it relates to theater/tricks/feints are off.
Be well everyone. I miss you already NYC. Please everyone stay safe and please all of the social services and Occupy folks and everyone who's pitching in, take care of all the folks who are suffering. Thank you all who are doing this unsung work, and also the MTA workers, train folks, hospital workers, police, sanitation people, teachers, administrators on all levels…all of you: you are what makes NYC hum, strum and keep its beat and I love you all.
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.