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.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Love letter to New York City and Coming Home

As anyone knows who has been reading this blog this past month, I am deeply in love with a Canadian named John.  Because he will be arriving on Tuesday to visit me for the first time and see NYC for the first time, I am falling in love with NYC in a new-old way all over again.

As anyone who's read this blog since I started it knows, I love NYC passionately.  But now I am re-seeing it, remembering when I first encountered it and how much I loved it then, too, even though I could not even wrap my mind around what I was seeing and experiencing.  I am also seeing, with renewed intensity all the little things I love - the color combinations, open and closed spaces and sights and sounds of the subway for instance.  The combination of beauty and grit, the quiet dignity of most of the subway workers and all the people that make this city hum.  The way light shines off glass, brick, trees, water, people, cars and store fronts.  The rhythm of the city, the way it has a beat always, the way you can look up, even somewhere you've lived for a while and see something new, hear something new but it all fits into the beat of a city that never stops...except for the moments it does - those gorgeous grace notes, when there is suddenly no traffic, a kind of pause, like the moment between the in and out breath...and then it continues.

Things that John has noticed while we were Skyping that I sometimes tune out - the rhythm of the beat of the steam heat radiators when they are clanging - the sirens that come in loud - the salsa from the street, and suchlike...

But there are the many practical grace notes of NYC.  This week I want to write a paean to one that is close to my heart and is saving my uninsured ass: the free and low cost health clinics.  The one I have signed up for recently and at which I have had the most astonishing set of experiences is the William F. Ryan Center.  If you are uninsured or indeed have insurance they take, please avail yourself of this incredibly well-run facility.  This is a clinic where not only are you treated like a human being, all the doctors I have had are great and the level of care is Very high.  All the staff are polite and appointments happen on time or very close thereto.  Because my income is low, for each appointment I pay $35.  That's right: $35.  One was a comprehensive physical, including blood tests.  Another was an eye appointment (with in depth testing).  The last was dental, including at least 14 X-rays, a precise diagnosis and excellent cleaning.  I have been referred to gynecological services at a partner hospital for specialist treatment and have a follow up medical appointment with my lovely female doctor in six weeks.  Each visit, I repeat: $35.  OK, if it was the NHS it would be free, but for the U.S. and for top flight care, this is astonishing.

So between John who continues to astonish me with his love, generosity and care (not only in words but many concrete actions) and NYC itself with its many places someone like me without insurance or money can get care (including: Harlem Breast Clinic: mammography & pap smears - where when I needed a second test, I was sent - for free - to Sloan Kettering and the HHC low cost hospital care plan, which means I have access to emergency room and hospital care for very low rates), I feel so Taken Care Of on both a very deep emotional, spiritual level but also in practical, physical terms as well.

The world is conspiring to allow me to exhale.  This showed on my blood pressure checks, which were perfect.  I am so much calmer than I have been in ages, if ever.  I am way happier than I've ever been in my life, ever.  But it's a calm happy, a deep joy, that pervades most every interaction I have with people.  This can include conflict, too, because I am feeling less like eating shit these days, so if someone is pissing me off, they get to know that.  In the nicest possible way of course (!)  This makes me feel happier, too.  Because as the old saying goes: if you don't want to be a doormat, get up off the floor.

So as I prepare for the love of my life to visit the city that I love, I am feeling pretty damn fine.  I am hoping John will feel at home here as I do.  He believes he will and since we share so much in terms of temperament and perspective, I am hoping that is the case.  It took me so long to get back here and I don't relish the idea of leaving any time soon.  The fact remains, ever since I lived in NYC the first time (1982-83 working for the now-defunct WPA Theater as their production manager at the wise old age of 19), I've felt like I was in exile whenever I lived anywhere else.  You either love this city more than anyplace else in the world or you don't.  I am one of the former.

Finally, I am overjoyed to be living in Inwood, an area of NYC I did not know existed until I moved back in October 2011.  This is the best place I have ever lived in the city.  I would never trade the wild mix of nature and city, its edginess (as in being on the top tip of the island), its Lack of Hipsters (though there are some signs of a few in the new cafe near the 207th St. stop - the laptop-latte crowd with the thick glasses - you know the kind - but so far they seem harmless enough...) and its still affordable rents...Long may it continue!

I love New York!

I love John, too!

So, putting these two loves of my life together will be marvelous.  Assuming we can work out all the many details in order to make this happen, I will not only feel at home, as I always have in NYC, but I will be able to create with my beloved Canadian a Home where my heart, soul, mind and body can rest.  This will be a first.  I am delighted that it looks like the place this most marvelous event in my life ever will happen is my beloved New York City.  Which is why when I see John for the first time ever at a place as strange as Port Authority Bus Terminal (!), the first thing I am going to say to him in the midst of that fluorescent-lit chaos too early on a Tuesday morning is: welcome home.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The war is over.

This phrase "the war is over" keeps running through my mind these days.  The main reason of course is John, the love of my life, having appeared so unexpectedly, spectacularly and irrevocably in my life, blowing my mind in every conceivable way.  I have written about that in the past few blog posts, so will not review that territory other than to say: yes, it is real and happily, as of today, he got his passport so we will finally be in the same physical room (not to mention country) together relatively soon.  That has been a cause for general merriment and celebration between us.

So, the war is over in this deeply personal part of my life.  No need to fight, defend, hold back, etc. and that is just an astonishing gift, the gift of the resting heart - held safely by another.  Breathtakingly beautiful.

But happening alongside this (and this movement had begun before John and I connected and is part of how we did connect - because I was following this train), I began to give up other wars as well.  I decided to stop fighting the fact I am an artist first and foremost.  And, most relevant to my recent past, I have decided to stop my war with academia by surrendering the field for now.

Yes, I have a PhD, which means I fit myself into that ill-fitting model long enough to do that, like the proverbial jigsaw puzzle piece that almost fits, but doesn't quite.  The role chafed.  I chafed at everything to do with the process.  I succeeded, but almost as soon as I had, I thought: really?  Why on earth did I do that?  The irony being that in defending the artistic process as a methodology, I feel like I seriously hurt myself as an artist and independent thinker.

Don't get me wrong, I have lots of friends who are academics and know people who thrive and do great work in that environment.  This is not about: academia is horrible, etc.  This is about: academia is horrible for me.  At least for now.  [update Aug 2013: Glad I said 'for now' because as all things turn, so has this - again.  I am seeing places in academia (which is of course a big 'place') that I may be able to thrive.  The main thing I need to do is make sure it's the right fit, in the Spinozan sense, wherein we make each other bigger rather than smaller.  I am re-opening my mind to this possibility, and I feel the need to write this here in case one of the places I apply and/or contact reads this blog post and wonders WTF I have applied at all...]

It's been 3 years since I received my PhD and only now do I feel I can go back and read my beloved philosophers like Deleuze & Guattari with joy again.  Instead of looking for proofs, justifications and footnotes, I get to listen to their music, enjoy their provocations and make work and have ideas in response to their actual, activating playfulness and subversion (humorously enough, autocorrect tried to change subversion into supervision!)...

And my work, which I am tentatively moving back into now can happen outside of the stultifying frame of "research."  It's not research other than into the creative process itself and in order to make better work.  It doesn't exist as raw material to make better theory.  Not for me anyway.

I feel like I'm detoxing from having been in a cult of some kind...which means that I was in the wrong place.  Again, I will say, for lots of people this is Not their experience in academia, but for me it has been. [update: and again, as above, I am beginning to see, now that I'm not locked into the places I was that there are alternatives where people are experimenting with new models and where I may fit]

So, the war is over.  I go away now.  I let the academics do their thing and I come back into myself.  All of my goals now are about becoming a self-sustaining artist and teacher (preferably doing independent teaching, such as at The Brecht Forum, and every once in a while at any institution that likes what I bring to the table as an artist-teacher such as Hunter).  [update: I have recently been hired to teaching writing at Fordham and am deliriously happy about that, hence my reassessment of this whole situation.]

I love teaching.  I love my students, passionately - and therein lies the rub for me.  Because I can't teach except with 110% of myself involved, which means it depletes my creative energies.  If it didn't, I would not be bringing everything I can to the table, which would be robbing my students.  That is unethical and frankly impossible for me to do.

So, I have to balance even teaching with my creative energies.  In June, I will turn 50, so my energies are not infinite anymore.  They haven't been infinite for a while, but the fact of their limitations is more and more obvious the older I get.

There is a paradox, though, which is: when I surrender the idea of what I "should" be doing or become,  and instead focus on who I actually am and what I do best, I have way more energy and things seem to flow.  I met John during a week when I had thrown up my hands to the Universe and said: OK, where next.  I woke up every morning and before checking email, etc. on my "smart" (aka idiot-making) phone, waited to remember my dreams and wrote them down.  I was doing this partly guided my Marion Woodman's experience as recounted in Stephen Cope's excellent new book The Great Work of Your Life (which I highly recommend).

Hilariously, one dream was about a dating site (!) that a friend had recommended.  So, against all my better judgment I decided to sign up to this site (OKCupid in case anyone wants to know...) and within minutes, John appeared, because he had put into his search field "Deleuze" and "photography."  Much to his surprise, someone showed up (only one): that was me.

I hated the dating site, except for this interesting Canadian dude with the philosophy/art thing going on, so signed out of it fairly quickly but not before exchanging email addresses with John, who I thought would be an interesting pen pal (seriously)...so, there you have it.  Oh, and in case anyone wants my sage dating site advice, here it is: if you want to filter out creeps, don't publish your photo (because if someone can't be bothered to get to know you without knowing what you look like, what's the point?) and be honest about who you are.  Don't try to give answers you think people want to hear, because then you will be dating someone who is dating a facsimile of you, not you.  Simple, but true.  It was the very idiosyncratic nature of our profiles that drew John and I to each other.  They simply did not look like anyone else's.  That's kinda the point.

Another random piece of advice, completely subjective: Canadians are great.  Believe it or not, the daughter of my best friend's husband met her partner, now wife, on OKCupid, too - and she's Canadian.  Not sure what is going on with our friends North of the Border, but whatever it is, hooray!  You all are the best.

Speaking of which, one of my best friends, also Canadian, Dr. Kélina Gotman, is an academic and she rocks the house.  She is a perfect example of someone who is creative, vital and sustained by academia.  She and I work together beautifully, because there is a synchronicity there.  Her writing about my work (links to that on blog in right margin) is gorgeous.  This is why I know academia itself is not stultifying in and of itself.  It's the Spinozan thing wherein certain bodies enhance one another and others diminish one another.  The interaction between the bodies is all.

So, the war is over.  I am not attempting to fit into jigsaw puzzles with pieces that almost fit but don't quite, whether it's professionally, creatively or personally.  I was beginning to feel my way along this road again when John came along, but his presence has lit the path and made me feel held and more secure on what had seemed like a pretty damn lonely road for many, many years and looked to be pretty gloomy up ahead.  What a difference true love makes!

Here's to finding the right traveling companion (and your very own path - because if you're not on your own true path you won't find your true traveling companion) and a wish for you all that you find the right companion or, if you already have, that you never, ever take that person for granted.  He or she is the greatest thing that's ever happened to you, so please don't forget it.  I hope I never lose the knowledge of deep love I have for John right now, the sense of cherishing and deeply felt, abiding joy.  There is simply nothing like it and certainly nothing better on this earth.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You know someone loves you when...

You know someone loves you when you show them, unbidden, unasked for and unexpectedly the most vulnerable part of yourself, which in my case, I will hereinafter refer to as the Total Anxiety Spiral, which involves speaking rapidly, making very little sense, alternating between tears, contradictory declarations of intent and regrets for the inability to make sense, etc...and that person, in this case my most wondrous Canadian (details in earlier posts) is able to hold space and witness this meltdown without either (a) running, (b) attacking or (c) condescending...but instead listening with compassion and grace, and helped me through the Total Anxiety Spiral to a cherished moment of calm.

And let me assure you, we are not talking about 5-10 minutes here: we're talking Hours...and - wait for it - on Skype.  OK.  So, this person with whom I am so deeply in love, has proven to me once again his capacity for love on a level I've never experienced.  And in fairness to anyone else I was ever with before, I've never revealed so much of myself in such an undefended way before.  But there is a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on here, because if John had not already proven his trustworthiness, which he has done many times over this past month, I would not have risked being visible on this level.

This experience is proving to be the most healing thing ever in my whole life, with one major exception that involves what I have needed and continue to do to not kill myself with substances for over 25 years...but that is the ground beneath my feet and this experience is what is referred to in the badly lit rooms with uncomfortable chairs where I meet people like me as "beyond your wildest dreams."

And like yeah - beyond your wildest dreams as in: how could you dream it, because you didn't even know it existed.  So, like, some serious gratitude to the universe for this gift that keeps expanding day by day and against all expectations on my part of collapse and fears, rational and irrational, that accompany such a deep and irrevocable falling in love.

Which is yet another thing I have never experienced: a mutual surrender.  It's the opposite of the hostage situation where you're waiting for the other to flinch or run or attack.  We've laid down all our weapons and stand in front of each other defenseless...which is not easy...but is possible when the other person is doing it.

And then sometimes one person - that would be me - suddenly experiences a Total Anxiety Spiral - which would be the cue for someone to pick up a weapon to defend against that shit - either him or me. But neither of us did...and this simply blows my mind.  This is the kind of thing I thought in some rarified theoretical part of my brain and some tiny besieged part of my heart was possible but 49 years on earth was doing away with any hopes I would find it.

But I have and that amazes me.

Another kind of love I want to speak about briefly is of my Hunter acting students.  Our class is over and their grades are submitted, so I want to say to them all: you were an astonishing class and I know you will all go on to rock this world no matter what paths you take.

Because they gave me permission to do so, I'm going to add two photos of them vamping, some with fairly hilarious interpretations of the yoga poses I had them do at the beginning of class each day.

So here they are, my lovelies from Fall 2012, who I will miss very much:

Jelana, Dillan, Hermeise, Ladie, Silvina, May, Lissette, Jakayah, Gisella, Kyriakos, Amanda, Jose, Celina & Erica
















Anyone who teaches knows there is nothing more moving than teaching a diverse group of students (in this case, ranging from 17-46 and from all parts of the world) who are enthusiastic, curious, creative and responsive to a whole range of stimulus from physical work to pretty heady ideas.  I had the privilege of reading their journals this past week and was astonished at how much they got out of the class and the required text (Joseph Chaikin's The Presence of the Actor - if you are involved in theater and have not read this book, do so now.  NOW.  It's a must.)

So, thank you my lovely students for making this semester a thing of beauty and making teaching seem close to effortless - and definitely worthwhile.

Now, it is time for me to focus on my writing...and teaching some of my own work - oh that reminds me, I have a workshop upcoming at The Brecht Forum Jan. 26-27 (details on right), or you can click here to register.  Having just seen Pina, the Wim Wenders film about the incomparable Pina Bausch's work, which I had the privilege of seeing in the early 1990s and changed my life, I can assure you this will influence the workshop!  So whereas I usually begin with text work, I think we may begin with movement and then bring in text.  Not sure of that, but her heartfelt work has re-moved me and I want to bring some of this into my more 'traditional' cutting it up workshop.  So, it should be exciting!  Also there will be time for participants to make their own work and bring their own expertise to bear on what we do (whether it be performance related or not).

So, come on down to The Brecht Forum for the workshop if you can - they survived Sandy (just) - but experienced a lot of flooding, which is why all notices going out late - and could really use and deserve your support!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Just a quick note to thank all of my lovely friends who carried me through a very challenging year, which included the death of my beloved stepfather Tom and brought with it many losses, and to those same friends who are now rejoicing with me in the most delightful and unexpected part of 2012, falling in love in December with my wonderful, brilliant and gorgeous Canadian.

I look forward to 2013 now with wondrous expectation, especially since a relationship begun on Skype (!) has already born fruit in terms of my grandmothers book.  This is because the material is dark and I was muscling through it in the context of five years of grieving and cascading losses.  This was in some ways a dangerous and dubious proposition for my mental and emotional health.  Having John in my life, who is determined to lighten my load in any way possible, has given me space in real life to work on the book without worrying I will get lost in the quicksand of the material.  Or, more accurately, it allows me to get lost in the quicksand, because I know someone - in this case, John - will be there to pull me out if necessary.

Before this extraordinary human entered my life, I had a friend who said I could send her a text before and after I wrote, which I did for many months.  This was incredibly helpful because there was a remote witness.  Another friend suggested I write for 15 minutes a day, which freed me to work on the project slowly.  Yet another friend was very supportive of my writing in general.  A writing mentor read the first few pages and gave excellent feedback.

This is all by way of saying: we never really write alone.  What I am learning by having John in my life is how much I no longer have to do alone, including finding all of my own inspiration and emotional fortitude and strength.  I've never been with anyone who I felt had my back in this and so many other ways and I already see the positive effect not only on my own self but on my writing.

I've been able to reread about 2/3 of what I've written and see what is there, to affirm the multiplicity of voices and the shifting line between fiction and non-fiction rather than conform it to what I think maybe it should look like and begin again to feel, hear, see my own voice and process as a positive thing.  I feel alive and vibrant again as an artist and it feels wonderful.

Happy New Year, everyone!  I wish, pray and hope for you the love I have found in this life with my beloved John, which is something I frankly did not know existed until now.  It just puts everything else to shame.


As a wise Yogi tea bag (!) said yesterday "When there is love, there is no question."

Yes.