Because working on my grandmothers' book has been so all-encompassing, I haven't had time for the blog. This will not be a long post except to say: yes, I'm still working on the book...and, more than writing per se, my work consists of reading through hundreds and hundreds (probably in total thousands) of pages of one of my grandmother's correspondence, articles (published and unpublished), fiction and poetry (unpublished).
Her correspondence with one man from 1972-79 (the last years of her life) has proven to be fruitful, painful, hilarious, tragic, insightful and totally full of bullshit...Her ability to manufacture an entirely fake childhood & young adulthood (and weave it throughout the correspondence fairly consistently) for this person is extraordinary, as is her prescient political commentary and wit. Then there's her drinking (she tends to count glasses of wine as she writes) and what that does to both the quality and the substance of the writing. I won't say more than this because it's so key to the book, but as you can imagine it's quite a ride into some kind of whirlpool-like vortex - looking at aspects of myself in a glass darkly (both literally and figuratively).
I tend to bookend my work on the book with one friend (texting her when I've been working, sometimes before I begin) and then debrief with John (my beloved Canadian husband - who is stuck in Canada awaiting residency visa for US but with whom I speak every day and who - happily - will be visiting tomorrow for a few days - hooray!). I also need to speak with other folks who have similar experiences with growing up with and/or recovering from alcoholism in order to stay grounded in the present.
Sometimes I go overboard and asking others to help reel me back in or doing the reeling myself is very hard. I'm learning the balance...the hard way of course (I'm an expert in the hard way...) - through experience of doing it 'wrong.' But this is the only way to do it of course. No way out but through and all like that.
I have a number of months at the very least of research ahead of me. I don't know why I thought I could actually write this book without reading all of this stuff methodically, but I did. I was wrong. Shocking, I know. I can be wrong. Horrors.
So, I'm being methodical and am totally absorbed in this task. It feels like a generational inventory, an attempt to liberate the present from this deep past (which goes way back before my grandmothers - have genealogies to prove that - written by grandparents and great-grandparents, etc. - tales of alcoholic demise after extraordinary heroism, etc. - relentless cycles of this shit - going back to the 1600s - seriously).
This research has the salutary effect of making me wildly grateful to be sober, alive and in love with (and now married to!) a man who loves me as much as I love him.
I think this is the bit where my life gets better. That's the message I'm receiving anyway when listening to Whatever You Want to Call It That is Larger than Me in prayer and meditation. Will I be struck down by lightening for saying this? Shockingly, for anyone who knows me, I don't think so.
My experience so far is this: I need to do whatever is in my deepest heart to do - that thing that recurs and I've batted away because it seems impractical or doesn't follow the linear path I've laid down for myself - even if that recurring idea/nudge/hunch seems like it's 'not me'. Whenever I don't follow that hunch/idea/nudge, in my experience, I get blowback for not doing so either in health issues or seemingly intransigent life problems. When I do follow this deepest heart (which takes a lot of meditation and prayer to touch/feel/hear and then discuss with a few trusted others to make sure I haven't gone off the rails), I am held and cared for in the most astonishing way/s.
I wish this experience for you, too.
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.