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, April 18, 2014

And now I'm asking for your help to tell my grandmothers' stories

Hi intrepid blog readers...as you may notice, the link to my Indiegogo campaign to support my grandmothers' book (The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani) that began today is now on the right hand margin of this blog.  I'm pretty happy with the campaign site.

Here, too, is the link to the Indiegogo site (that includes video and longer description of the project): The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani  If you can donate (for which you can receive perks like the book itself, help shaping a story of your own about your grandmothers, etc.) and/or spread the word, I'd be wildly grateful.  As anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I have indeed been working on this project for three years.  If I reach my goal, that would give me the time I need this summer to finish the final phases of research and write the first major draft.  However, even if you can't donate, I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it would be if you could spread the word.

Here's the video (because one friend loved it so much, I've decided to post it here, too):



And here's the brief project summary:

I have been researching and writing The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani, for the past three years.  This book traces the lives of my grandmothers, both born in 1916 (before women had the right to vote), but who cut two very different paths through their lives.  Dick was on the surface a one-dimensional, frustrated housewife (who was anything but), whereas Jani rebelled loudly against the conventions of marriage and motherhood, yet never stopped trying to find love, even after she crashed out of her third marriage on her way to becoming a feminist teacher in the 1970s. 
Dick and Jani's voices and experience offer a fresh perspective on the 20th Century.  Their lives as women who were neither famous nor infamous were restricted, but their witness is no less valuable for that.  Their choices - as women born into modest circumstances but who had outsized dreams - could not have been more different.  Their story is a study in contrasts, between the soul-crushing cost of conformity paid by Dick and the price of Jani's very flamboyant rebellion against the role she was told she should play. 


In other words, their perspectives offer a micro-history* of the time in which they lived and their experience is valuable as a mirror into our own time.   I have come to realize that without hearing and understanding our grandmothers' stories, we are impoverished for lack of deep knowledge of our own history.  This book is a humble attempt to begin to redress that balance.


*[note for geeks like me who like this kind of thing:] I first heard the term micro-history thanks to the historian Jill Lepore, who wrote about it in an article Historians Who Love Too Much, in which this term is used as distinct from biography in that it signifies writing about people who are usually not so famous or exceptional, but whose lives therefore are more indicative of the social and political landscape of the time in which they lived.  Jill Lepore herself wrote an astonishing micro-history recently about Jane Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's less well-known, but nevertheless extraordinary sister.  From Jane's perspective, as Lepore writes it, we see and experience the American Revolution in a way more interesting and ground-level than any history book I've ever read.  My book is an attempt to pull this off for the 20th Century from the point of view of my grandmothers.

***

I'm rarely self-promotional on this blog, but this kind of funding thing forces such awkward behavior on me.  This is frankly some seriously scary shit asking for money and support, but I am committed to seeing it through.  I am surprised by how good I ended up feeling about the project by the time I'd gotten the campaign pitch done, and because donations are already coming in, I know this much: this project will get done.  Because I promised.  That's really all it takes for me.

Thanks go now to my mother's friend Fran who gave me money spontaneously to help with the writing of this book, before this campaign, and whose generosity made me think it was a good idea to try.  Fran wanted to feel a part of the project and of course she is now.  I hope any of you who donate and/or support it any way feel that way, too.

No writer writes alone.

Thanking you all in advance for helping me make this book happen.  I so dearly want to finish it and get it out into the world.  Our grandmothers' voices do deserve to be heard.

***
And a most exciting update: my beloved Canadian has Finally gotten his date at the Embassy at the end of May, so his visa should be finalized then, and we can finally live together - 11 months - count them: 11 months - after we were married.  Amazing.  He's Canadian!  We're in our 50s!  Oy.  But still and all grateful beyond words that it's finally moving forward and to our fabulous immigration attorney, David Katona.  Seriously, he's great.  If you're in NYC and need an immigration attorney, hire him.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Homage to Friendship

I'm sorry not to have written anything for a while.  Life has been full on.  John and I are still waiting out the visa process, which is driving me slowly insane.  A process that should have taken 7-8 months (which is already crazy-long for two middle-aged married people from Canada and the US), has now dragged into its 10th month.  This is not because we are unique in any way, but because of a bottleneck in the system, which is hurting many people, keeping families apart and causing a kind of financial and emotional anxiety that is hard to describe.  There is no there there.  No way to begin a life, just limbo and extended visits, in short: purgatory without known end.  There was a moment where it seemed everything was moving ahead swiftly, but then: stalled again.  It's like being stuck on a freeway for 7 months, then suddenly: oh the traffic is moving, then: oh no, never mind, stuck again. I'm not one who is good with unknowns (known or otherwise thank you Donald Rumsfeld).  So, there's that...

BUT, on the positive side of the ledger, there are friends.  I have been reconnecting with college and high school friends this past month, which has been an extraordinary pleasure.  These were people to whom I was very close at various times and for whatever reason lost touch with or haven't seen for ages.

I am happy to say that in all instances, reconnecting was a joy felt mutually by all concerned.  I was also able to introduce John to this my scattered family of friends, which was great, too.

There is something about realizing you haven't lost people who witnessed you when you were a teenager or even a college student, even if - as I was - you were kind of dorky in many ways, scared shitless most of the time (even at college where you learned a little front - but it was so ridiculous that anyone with half a brain could have seen through it).  Fortunately, the good side of dorkiness is that if someone was your friend then, they will probably still be your friend now, when we are all older and frankly too old to care who is dorky and who isn't anymore.  When all you care about is: do I relate to this person, s/he friendly, can we connect over the long chasm of years and still find whatever we shared lo those many years ago?  Can we still have interesting conversations and then make each other laugh uncontrollably? If so, hooray!  You've made it!  You've won the Life Lottery!

Seriously, people, this is what I believe now.  These friendships that have lasted all this time are testament to a kind of thread of humanity that sometimes I forget about...and a thread of my life that runs through it, even when I feel lost, confused or full of anxiety...which I have done recently for many reasons, mostly having to do with career and finances.

There is the sweeter experience still of having John meet all these friends and find a commonality with them, it gives me the sense we've had since meeting each other that our lives, while not shared until now, were somehow parallel.

Below is a picture John took recently of my friend Bennett and me.  We were close friends at Wesleyan, having met - gasp - over 30 years ago.  He was visiting from LA for his 50th birthday.  We both spent time up in Maine over the summers as children, on the same small island, but being shy children we never met, because I was on the back of the island and he was on the front.  Unlike the tanned, athletic kids who jetted around on their bikes and dove into the freezing water, Bennett and I sat in our respective cottages reading, writing, painting and the like.  When we met at university, it was like finding an old friend who you haven't met yet.  (That's how it felt when I met John, too, though in a more romantic context.)

Bennett & me in NYC - both now 50, friends since 1983 (!) - John took the photo

We shared lots of adventures, including going to Europe for the first time - landing in Paris jet lagged, excited and terrified to be seem American (it was 1984 and not a good look - dollar was high, Reagan was president, the French were not amused, nor the Italians - we were headed in the end of art school in Florence).  We stared at Notre Dame realizing that one building was older and more impressive than any we had ever seen.  We couldn't figure out where to eat or how the money worked.  We were 21.  Bennett is gay, and like most of my gay male friends at the time, I had a terrible crush on him.  For someone as totally incapable of having a romantic relationship as I was then, this was the best possible situation and is why we are still friends to this day.

We have been in and out of each other's lives since college, but I think the photo kinda says it all.  There is something so entirely comforting about having people in your life that were there when you were a total idiot and still love you.  That would be Bennett.

Then there is my friend, Julie (who I met in 2000 at a writer's meeting and became fast friends with after she laughed at the fact that when I was drunk in college I puked on the Artaud section of my thesis).  She has seen me through two divorces, two pregnancies that did not go to term, a bi-continental life for 8 years, a PhD and two weddings, including my third at age 50.  She is the kind of person who when I called her back in 2000, raw from the end of my first marriage and seeing no way out of the pain, would listen to my sadness, my craziness, my raw anger and really, really bad ideas about how to handle all of the above, with equanimity, lack of judgment and - at the same time - clarity.  At that time, quite frankly, she was more valuable to me than I could possibly have been to her.  She held a space for me no one else in my life at the time could have done - because of her age, the work she had done on herself and her exquisite ability to love and listen.

Because we stayed close and I started doing some of the work she had done, I was able to be there for her at times when her life went kind of wonky.  I was and am so grateful to redress the balance.  Now, we are there for each other at the extreme end of anything that happens in either of our lives.  Neither has to worry the other thinks she is 'too much' and or about being judged.  What we do for each other: hold space, listen, offer clarity based on our own experience and show humility when we can't help.  But the being there, the witness, the simplicity of presence.  That is the gift.  That gift is priceless.

John also listens and holds space for me, more than any man I've ever been with, and he offers love unconditional, which is priceless.  What Julie offers after 14 years of friendship is 'time served' - a mutuality of witness and an experience of life with 'no windshield' (aka no drugs or alcohol) for many years on this earth.  This is in no way diminishes what John means to me or who he is.  However, without my friendship with Julie, the whole relationship with John would be impossible.  I had to learn intimacy in a friendship before I could allow myself to love and be loved the way John and I do.

So, aside from the vagaries of the Immigration system, I feel exquisitely lucky.  Remind of how lucky I am when I complain next time, which of course I will...

There are many other people I could write about at length on this blog about friendship, but for today, we will stick with these folks, though seeing my friends Ellen and Carol from high school this past month was another joy.  High school is a whole other territory - tundra-like in my emotional memory, so it is with a certain trepidation I ever meet with people from that period of time.  However Ellen and Carol were bright spots in that ice storm and their warmth shown through.  Whenever I see people like them, I remember how I got through that difficult time in my life.  Friends.  It's that simple.

Oh, and directing theater.  There was that, too.  But without the friends, I doubt I would have stumbled into the theater in the first place.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Not sure.  But I do know that without my friends near and far, I would be dead by now and that's no joke.  So thank you, all of you, you all know who you are...