As I attempt to write this post, which is about - wait for it - being happy and falling in love (!) after a long, long time of grieving and loss, I am wondering if blogs are designed for this. Perhaps they are meant more for either intellectual/artistic pursuits, specific interests or - well - painful/difficult journeys.
Well, perhaps at least I can focus on the New Victorian aspect: namely, that I am engaged in a courtship on Skype and email with John (the brilliant Canadian heretofore mentioned in my previous blog post). I now have a very, very special place in my heart for Skype, by the way. Because while not ideal, it is possible to get to know someone in a way email or phone without video would be impossible. Oh and also Canada, just because John comes from there. Yes, I'm that far gone: blame Canada.
New Victorian because this courtship has been based, initially, on ideas (a love of photography and post-structuralism), followed by gradually realizing there may be more ways of connecting beyond that, then "seeing" one another on Skype and engaging in endless and free-ranging discussions that move between all aspects of getting to know each other, sharing more than either of us could have ever imagined possible with one other person in terms of ideas, feelings, life-long projects, modes of being and so much more. If I go on, I imagine it will make people somewhat nauseous, so will restrain myself.
As some of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor and so the physical aspect of my romantic relationships has been colored by that in many and complex ways, but issues of trust loom large. So, this enforced extended - non-physical - courtship has provided us with a platform to get to know each other, with growing attraction, but without jumping to this part of a romantic relationship. Because I frankly don't think I would have the self-discipline to do this on my own, it feels like an (albeit at times deeply frustrating) gift.
John will be visiting me at the end of January, and for the first time we will be in the same room. This is because he needed to reactivate his passport. This delay I could do without, but believe it will continue to give us time to build a foundation of growing trust and just getting to know each other, which when you are in the middle of life means filling the other person in on A Lot.
There's a lot more to say than that, but because it feels so new and personal and kind of astonishingly beautiful, I don't want to say much more, afraid that I will somehow devalue this experience by over-describing it. I am aware that I am so much more reticent to share joy than grief, but please understand: this is such a new experience I am still wrapping my mind and heart around it. It does feel though like an enormous gift, bigger than I could have expected. In fact, it is the last thing I did expect.
There is one more thing, though, which is that falling love at 49 and 52 is very different than when you are younger. At the middle of life, you know what you want and you know a lot about yourself and the mistakes you've made. It becomes very obvious if the right person comes along, it is shockingly uncomplicated. My older friends and family who have experienced just this understand my experience more than my younger friends who seem a bit taken aback by the whole thing. There is also instant karma here, because I was so distrustful of how quickly my mother and Tom came together at the wise old age of 17…so here I am, of course, having a similar experience. Not in the same way on many levels, but still. Beware any teenagers what you judge now, lest you become it later on…!
In the meantime, you will be glad to know, I have gone to work, taught my students, been gradually organizing my office for writing - after having printed out the draft of what I have written of the grandmother book, as I follow the next steps on the grandmother book and other projects. I look forward to sharing more about all this with you in future blog posts, but for now figured I'd change it up a little and share the love…
Oh and hooray, it's the Winter Solstice! Despite made-up Mayan predictions about the end of the world (which the Mayans don't believe, btw), we're still alive! Once again the end-of-the-worlders have to go find another date on which to fixate their twisted death wish for the planet. Sorry kids. We're still here!
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.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
So I’m gonna save the best for last and give you the worst for first.
Divorce sucks. Deep thought, I know. Had a conversation with my soon-to-be-ex-husband a couple days ago. There was nothing horrible about it, except the subject: how to execute divorce documents. Now, this whole process is as amicable as it gets. No one’s lawyering up, we’re just trying to get it done. But even so and even though we both know it’s the right thing to do, the sense of sadness at losing a long-term relationship is enormous. After the call, I needed to find the marriage certificate, which he needs to file the papers. Opening up this original document, with signatures of our witnesses and us on that day just tore me up. As readers of this blog know, that was one of the happiest days of my life, in part because I announced that I was 12 weeks pregnant, which fact was a miracle. The next day was our honeymoon in Cornwall and the day I miscarried. One of the, if not the, unhappiest day of my life. Because of that day, the happiness of the day before was wiped out of my memory, as much as I tried to not let that happen, it did. This fact did not help our marriage. We had different ways of grieving and so it goes.
The phone call at first started in a friendly tone but by the end with the divorce details, it was pretty isolating. A sense of a gulf that can never be mended – the loneliness one must bear – well – alone. This is not a unique story. But it is still a sad story.
OK, so that’s the crappy bit. But wait, there’s more…
A number of artistic adventures that are potentially very interesting and a connection made in the most serendipitous way with a fellow in Canada who is as much of a Deleuze & Guattari fan as me. This after wondering for a while now, and even more so after my stepfather Tom died – if anyone would ‘get’ me again – meaning certain idiosyncratic ways of thinking/feeling/ seeing/creating, the resounding and entirely surprising answer appears to be: yes. So hooray for that. I will tell you more about this lovely human and his extremely interesting project/s at the end (along with links to some of his work) – so hold on for that, it’s worth it.
I will focus on the most interesting artistic project, which my good friend Spencer Reece is spearheading in Honduras at a girls’ orphanage called Our Little Roses. Spencer and I went to college together. I directed him in a number of shows, including Marat/Sade as Sade. From that auspicious beginning, he has become an Episcopal priest and very successful poet. He received a Fulbright to go down to this orphanage and help the girls there write a book of poetry that will be published. However, he realized that a book would not be enough to bring attention to this extraordinary place, so he has also managed to bring a documentarian, Brad Coley, on board to film this adventure. The blog for this project is at http://ourlittlerosesfilm.blogspot.com.
This orphanage and his relationship to it is an extraordinary story that I will let you discover on the project blog. The reason I’m mentioning it, aside from the fact it’s great, is that Spencer has asked me to go down to Honduras and direct the girls in a show at the end of the year. I was kind of blown away when he asked, then frankly a little scared, the orphanage is in what is now considered the most violent city in the world. But when I heard Dr. Diana Frade, the woman who started the orphanage’s description of the place and the work they do there (not farming the girls out to whomever, but instead educating them to become independent professionals), I knew I had to go. This is not only an important service in a country in which 62% of the population lives in abject poverty (no potable water, not enough food, no real housing, no education), this is a deeply feminist project as well. When she started this place 25 years ago there was no girls’ orphanage because girls were considered disposable, better off as prostitutes and maids.
Therefore, I will go down to Honduras, listen to these girls and help them create a show that expresses their lives as they see it. I want to stay out of the way as much as possible except as a guide to help them build what they want, because what seems deeply important here is that these girls’ voices get heard. Just as in the Frontline show Poor Kids, I want the girls to take center stage not some philanthropic, good for you idea any of us have about them. So, there’s that.
I also was invited to an African film screening in Harlem and realized as I was watching this Cannes nominated film from the 1990s Tilai that I had never seen a film about Africa filmed by an African director/writer. Like ever. This is shocking and shows how much we need to see these films. It was gorgeous and showed life on the ground without any reference to white people. Shocking (yes that’s a joke). I recommend seeing this film. The director of the mini-festival Fifi-Dalla Kouyate has reached out to me about potentially writing something with her, so there’s another potential project. I would be deeply honored to do so, especially after seeing her short film of young women and girls dancing and singing in Mali. There is a kind of ecstatic thing going on that about which I would love to know more. There are also big issues of women’s rights that need to be addressed that I know Fifi is intent on seeing that happen. I believe she wants to tell her story and that’s another story worth telling and hearing.
I was also privileged to see a reading of a new play by one of the downtown masters of dark comedy Brian Parks. His new play is called House and I hope it gets produced soon. The actors were all great but Eva van Dok was spectacular. Yes, Eva is a friend, but trust me she excels even her own fine self in this role. Won’t give it away but if you see this play listed, go see it. On the surface it’s a comedy about a house, but the darker elements involving deep-seated American psychoses bubble apace and explode (as anyone who’s seen one of Brian’s plays knows will happen). In this one, though, so elegantly it almost seems like sugar until it’s too late.
And now finally to the newest brilliant Canadian in my life: John Morton. Hi, John! (I did clear mentioning him and his work with him in advance, because it’s complex and I don’t want to short change it in any way.) Because I am not going to assume knowledge of post-structuralist philosophy to read this blog, I’m only going to describe the broadest outlines of his two larger projects and let you go find the articles and links yourselves for the advanced class.
The biggest project he’s embarked on for many years involves discovering what he refers to as ‘image writing’ (a kind of embedded writing on stones done by members of the First Nations in North America). He happened upon one of these stones on a hike one day, wondered what it was and has been researching and writing about it ever since. I am only beginning to read the writing about this project and he has said he wants to update the published research so will only say this about that for now. What excites me about it is the precision of the work, how long he’s been dedicated to it and that he’s been pursuing this on his own without institutional support (which isn’t to say if you are an institution, you shouldn’t contact him if interested!). He’s been working in collaboration with and sharing all his findings with members of the First Nations. Academic venues ignored these stones and their markings at first, but he confirmed it with a number of different tribal Elders that writing is in fact what they were doing.
A related project I can give you a link to is published in the online journal Rhizome and discusses the relationship of Deleuze to photography: the text is here and photos are here. This what started us off connecting, because he put in a search engine Deleuze and photography and I popped up. Thus began our online conversation (alternating between email and Skype). I am definitely Not going to summarize that article for any number of reasons, not least of which is it’s written with philosophical precision and multiple references, some of which I know better than others…
But, the most interesting intersection, aside from our mutual love of photography and a penchant for landscapes with vivid coloration, is that both photography and theater are considered the Enemy in most post-structural philosophies because both are considered to be representational and therefore reifying (confirming the solidity/importance) of broader, more accepted structures. However, because he and I are both artists, we see in these art forms the way they can create difference and variation. In my case with levels of address and presence and his with various ideas of points of view, subjectivities and positional variance. I am only now wending my way through the article but also seeing a potential interesting intersection with the Attendant of Deleuze and the Witness in my own work (inspired by the weird twin-set of Kierkegaard and yoga practice).
I am certain I will be writing a lot more about this intersection as time goes on, but I am ending with it here for my readers who have witnessed me grieving over losses for a solid year and a half. I wanted to share with you this connection, hilariously enough for anyone who’s followed me pissing and moaning over the academy and doing a PhD, made through good old Deleuze & Guattari and my new/old love photography. Hooray!