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.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - the year of dirty laundry

Whether you think it was terrible or the greatest, 2014 was a watershed year for many things, including: feminism and awareness of violence against women - whether people were supporting women or fighting this dawning awareness of the prevalence of physical and sexual violence (or the threat thereof, which it is - astonishingly - our job to protect against) as the Day to Day normal of most women - the fact is (as Rebecca Solnit has written about so persuasively in the Guardian) women's voices are Being Heard.  There are backlashes and haters and trolls, but that's because the voices are audible.  While on the surface it may seem like things are getting worse because this particular dirt is visible, I suggest it's getting better, because the dirt Is Visible. How we deal with this, whether real change will happen is another matter, but the proverbial cat is out of the bag and that's a crucial first step.

Next up is of course violence against black men and women by white police officers aka a manifestation of institutional racism. This issue is as old as violence against women (well perhaps not quite as old, since the whole concept of police officer post-dates women's subjugation, but you get the basic idea...).  Again, if you were looking from the outside, it might seem like the problem is getting worse, but as any person of color in the US can tell you, no, it's been that way All Along, the only difference is now: it's visible. And, as with the women's voices being heard and - surprisingly - being supported by some men, there is white participation in the protests against excessive police force - many times fatal. This means there is a larger awareness dawning. Again, will change happen? Time will tell.

The good news is: more people are coming to the realization of this endemic issues that Have Been Concealed for So Long, because Abuse = Silence.  The fact that the silence is beginning to erode means the abuse is beginning to lose its stranglehold (literally and figuratively), which is a good thing. But it looks horrible, because there is the inevitable backlash of the People of Privilege who Don't Want Anything to Change, because why would they? It's a sweet deal, plus as Ivan Karamazov says in Brothers Karamazov "No one wants to believe anyone suffers more than him." (See Laurie Penny's brilliant essay about White Male Nerd Entitlement in the Guardian in re this basic truth nailed by Dostoevsky a while back...).

Another issue that has Finally emerged as an Issue is Capitalism, finally drawn out of it's "that's the way it is" fake reality hidey hole and called out for what it is: an ideological construct, which Can Be Changed. While I feel we haven't really wrapped our minds around this yet as a culture and the powers that be get Really Agitated by this and so it is wrapped in mystification not dissimilar to the Medieval Church, the fact there is a best-selling book called Capital is a good sign.  Further, the fact people even discuss the 99% has a lot to do with Occupy Wall Street and those who keep these facts at the forefront.

The Great Reality that I hope may finally push capitalism as an issue onto the global table is of course Climate Change. I mean we're about to drown in our own idiotic system - literally. A slow-moving Noah story happening as we speak. Can this reality, which is finally even - lo these many years later - dawning on the ever slow American population (yes I am American, so don't even) - because it is a Reality we can see and feel. We can feel the ever-increasing temperature, experience the turbulent weather patters, see the beach erosion and understand that in 100 years Manhattan will most likely be under water.  Will capitalism fix this? I don't think so, especially since the rapacious there is never enough to feed the beast nature of capitalism is the very reason we are about to drown in our own greed, taking first of course the poorest who have benefited the least - the oldest story (well along with the women's subjugation thing - which is of course the oldest one - sorry guys, but it's true).

So, if we as a species evolve to the point where we'd like to live and see a planet here for our kids and grandkids, we're gonna have to come up with something better than Unchecked Capitalism as a way to go.

This relates to the gender and race thing because usually the undermining of such holies as gender and white privilege is done with the introduction of a capitalist system and then that culture is beholden to this system as that which has liberated them. This is another little axiom that's a gonna hafta go if we are to find a way Not to Drown (if that's even possible at this point and maybe it isn't, but we have to try).

...which leads me to the premature death of two celebrities of 'privilege' - aka Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams. What? How does this relate??? Because Hoffman died of his addiction, which addictions I believe are not only genetic and acculturated in personal circumstances but are also outgrowths of the culture we have created that celebrates one God, and that God is MORE.  Robin Williams committed suicide, a victim of depression, again a disease, but also I can't help but believe the ungodly pressure in this country to Be Calm, Happy and Productive every goddamn minute has something to do with the pressure someone like Williams felt to Work All the Time to run from the Demon Depression. Depression is not Productive, it feeds not well into the needs of Capital. It must be Defeated by Drugs manufactured at a High Cost of Pharmaceutical Companies...etc...you get the idea.

But back to Hoffman and Williams, their untimely deaths mean that even if you are privileged and white and male and wealthy and talented and loved and loving, you can Still Be Felled by the cluster-fuck we have created with capitalism as the driving force behind everything and standing as the Absolute Value.  In order to keep feeding the machine, one is meant to put personal niggling doubts, feelings, etc. aside in order to Perform at Maximum Efficiency (including being groovy at Google - this doesn't mean Mad Men - it means All the ways we are meant to sell our souls to corporations right down to the utter bunk about having a personal brand - which means you have turned yourself into a production: congratulations - now Go Find Your Soul)...

You may very well disagree with me on this, but if you've been reading me for this long, there's a pretty good chance you're pretty much on side here...

So what the fuck do you suggest, Ms Smarty-Pants (you may be asking now)? It's not a lot but it's what stopped me from killing myself back in 1986 and has kept me alive since. The first way to change a situation is to accept it.  This might sound ridiculously simple, nay simplistic, but it is Really Fucking Hard.  You can become aware of an issue or a deep-seated problem but still not Accept it, because to accept it means to accept all that comes with it, whether that means one's own culpability, one's own pain, one's own inability to change, one's powerlessness...etc. This is hard and inevitably painful, especially if one has been a victim of any of the various forms of oppression: sexism, racism, classism or simply the haunting chasm sense I have a feeling Hoffman and Williams probably experienced of Not Being Enough for whatever reason.  Because as James Baldwin so eloquently wrote about in his books (which are now suddenly all the rage, and hooray for that - FINALLY), the white person in the equation of racism is Also dehuhamized by the process.

It is impossible to dehumanize another person, or live in tacit consent in a culture that does so, without becoming dehumanized oneself.

The reason I am optimistic - if that's the word - about the events of 2014 - is that I feel the psychic lid has come off of a lot of these issues. This means many of us are in A Lot of Pain, but it also means healing is possible. Healing takes work, effort and desire. Healing also begins with acceptance of Reality.

Reality is real, but it's hard to see. I don't think it can even be put into words precisely, but like obscenity, you know it when you see it.  Or perhaps more precisely feel it. Words are necessary of course and I don't mean to be all mystifying about this, but I do think humility in the face of Reality is necessary. Language is an outgrowth of a conceptual framework. Reality - in the sense I mean - is Not merely a conceptual framework. What I call reality some may call God, or others the Universe...whatever it is, it's bigger than me or you but we are Of it...so we, in our little lives, have a responsibility to live the best way we can, because while we are being created by this Reality, we are also creating it, in part. A Mobius strip is perhaps the best way to visualize this.

I know for me the closer I am to reality, the further I am away from acting self-destructively and the further away I am from reality, the more vulnerable I am to my own self-destructive tendencies, which these days are more about ways of thinking and behaving than outwardly destructive stuff that is visible and obvious - like drinking or drugging - which I haven't done since 1987.  I also got out of the spiral of destructive relationships, which took another kind of toll, and to do so had to work through past traumas - very painful, but necessary, work.

I am now attempting to move through this process on another level writing about my grandmothers - giving them voice, accepting their fates and the choices they had, born in 1916 before women could even vote. This involves another type of awareness and acceptance.  Sometimes I find the pain unbearable, sometimes it feels like quicksand.  To write from a place of acceptance of their restricted positions is sometimes almost impossible, especially where their restrictions continued past the changes in law, etc., which of course mirrors my own sense of restriction (the type so eloquently expressed by so many during the #YesAllWomen grass-roots social media truth-off).

Why bring this up in this Macro-Post? Because I believe our individual actions do matter - that how we spend our moments on this earth count. I don't know what they count 'for' and even the word count is suspect - as it seems quite capitalist now that I think of it - but matter, yes.  I doubt my actions a lot. I meditate, attempt to listen for the Great Reality as it were - what next, where to go - call it intuition, call it what you will. I act the best way I know how, then reflect, repeat, etc...as Beckett said: failing better.

I have been opened up by this year in many ways - through love - with my husband and biggest surprise ever:  John. Our second wedding (with ceremony led by the incomparable Shawn Cuddy) in Inwood for family and friends was so special, because we were married then in community in nature (Inwood Hill Park) and surrounded by so much love and beauty. Opened up by writing. Having my eyes opened in a new way to white privilege (mine). Opened up by speaking up during the #YesAllWomen Twitter-a-thon - speaking my truth about all the ways in which I have had to change or adjust my life because of being female - the pain of lack of acceptance of a certain way of being because of restricted gender roles and the constant fear of being raped or killed when walking on a street and walking anyway, etc. Opened up by feeling my mortality on another level, which is scary. By the utter pain and devastation I felt at Philip Seymour Hoffman's death because of identification with his struggles and my love of him as an artist and having such a hard time squaring that circle.

Devastation at loss was the grain of my years from 2007-2012 and these past two years have been better in the sense of adding to my life. John the biggest amazement, true love at 50 and all that implies. This year included the generosity of so many people during the Indiegogo campaign to make writing my book possible, all because I had the guts to ask (which was humbling and quite frankly terrifying) and you who gave had the generosity of heart and soul to give...the generosity of the artists who made Autograce come to life (Ian Hill, Berit Johnson, John Amir, David Arthur Bacharach, Olivia Baseman, Alyssa Simon, Stephanie Willing), the actors who worked with me on readings of '...whatever God is' (Shawn Cuddy, Christian Huygen, Roy Koshy, Maria Silverman and Alyssa Simon) and a special shout-out to my mother who helped with so much with support both financial and spiritual.

Finally, a special moment to acknowledge Kripalu and how important my visits there have been, and especially this mid-December.

We have all - all the people I know - lived such wildly imperfect lives, and yet there is always time and possibility for redemption no matter how crazy the turn.  That redemption does not necessarily mean a traditional happy ending or something that even looks happy at all, but there are gifts when we can stop running and just look. See what is around us, inside us, inside others and Accept it. Only from that place of acceptance can any real change happen, personally, locally or globally. In my experience, only from there, is any real freedom and happiness possible.

The feminists in the 70s were right, the personal is political. I would add the corollary that the political is personal.

So, here's to 2015. May the awarenesses of 2014 lead to acceptance in 2015 and may we begin to see the actions we need to take on all levels to heal ourselves, our planet, and our way of seeing, so that perhaps we can be gifted to see everyone as fully human, and not be held back by embedded senses of resentment and bitterness. By this I do not mean to stifle righteous anger at injustice or the need to make something right, I am talking about the stuffed, undealt with anger that gets stuck and twists us into creatures we do not like and makes us self-destruct and/or harm others (or usually both).

May we find ways to walk not over, under but through and come out stronger and find a way to heal our desperately unhappy country (in this case I mean the U.S. - others can deal with their homes). Sometimes I am so sad to be back here and see up close the damage, but on the other hand, what else should I do, live elsewhere and just let the ship go down? Perhaps that would be wiser, but not sure it's my path. I tried that and here I am. Back for more (and yes sometimes I question this decision).

But this has to end somewhere...so... I will end this post with the ending to my New Year's email to friends:

Here’s to 2015 in which I hope to finish my book  (over 4 years in the making) and that you complete any tasks you have been harboring as it were and or simply move through life with grace and sway…

Peace in and peace out. Love in and love out.

p.s. Lest this seem too worldly wise, be assured: I am terrified about finishing the book. I am convinced it's horrendous and all the dark demons of self-hatred nash at my soul, brain, fingers, back...etc. Please send good thoughts my way for this...and cookies.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Response to Patrice Miller's #Healing work (and Kripalu)

I went to see Patrice Miller's A Little East of Jordan (A Geography of Healing) last Sunday afternoon, fortuitously enough the day before I had booked myself an emergency R&R retreat at Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires. Kripalu is where I run to whenever possible to go to ground, in other words: to heal.

I told Patrice I would write this response after I returned, initially because I didn't want to rush it, but then after seeing the piece, because I wanted to respond to it rather than attempt a review.  Why?  For a number of reasons.  One is that what I found as interesting and provocative as the piece itself, (performed beautifully by Laurel Hartle, Stephanie Willing and Morgan Zipf-Meister) were the conversations the piece inspired afterwards - not only ones I was having with people - some of whom were strangers, some acquaintances and some with the artists themselves -  but also the conversations I overheard.  Everyone was talking about healing, about politics, about the politics of healing, about the healing of politics, about how fucking Hard 2014 was to take from a political perspective (let's review, quickly, via hashtags - some of which were written on construction paper during show - #Ferguson #YesAllWomen #TortureReport #EricGarner #ICan'tBreathe #ClimateChange #Gaza #WTF?! (ok I made that last one up).  There are many more of course, but you get the idea.  Because another thing this piece was about was virtual space, the politics of hashtags, the way in which we (indulge?) (participate?) (use?) (abuse?) (activate?) through clicktivism.

On the other hand, we are aware, on levels never before - thanks to billions of people having phones with cameras and access to the internet - of events on the ground. The irony here is astonishing. While we bury our heads in phones and bump into people on the sidewalk, we can see the devastation in Gaza, in Ferguson, in Staten Island or California or identify with abused women across the globe.  I became deeply involved in #YesAllWomen by tweeting my little heart out about all kinds of discrimination and abuse I've encountered for the radical crime of being female and active on this planet as a creator and thinker.  (Men - if you think this is an exaggeration: try this in drag or read Virginia Woolf's Orlando if you can't bring yourself to that - check out how weird it is - and uncomfortable).

Patrice's piece, which was created over the course of a year and involves dancing, the moving around of maps, words of Bataille, crowd-sourced text, voice overs, personal stories and the discussion of what part of the piece we were watching, also involved us, the audience. We were invited (but not forced) to put salt into a plastic cup of water (which were given upon entering the space) at any time during the show when we felt a sense of healing.

This action, we were told, related to a passage in the bible wherein Elisha heals the water by adding salt.

From Patrice's online documentation/program:

2 Kings 2:21-25: “And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters, there shall not be from thence any more death or barren (land)” So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. 
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.
I did put the salt in at the end, as a gesture, an intention.  Geography is a work in process - the other reason this is a response and not a review - so many ideas and images were touched upon but not brought to a conclusion - intentionally I imagine. The text was dense and said rather quickly, so was more like a bath of words than a meaning machine. Perhaps when Patrice develops the piece, she will want to leave more space for these words to breathe...or perhaps she will want to make it even denser and almost impenetrable on a conscious level. Not sure. That's up to her.  I can see either way working, as long as it's a choice.

What was fascinating to me as an audience member was that even this relatively short piece had the power to Slow Me Down. I was breathing more deeply when I left the building with my plastic cup filled with water and salt. I knew what I needed to do.

I walked from ToyKraft past the Graham Avenue stop to where I used to live on Woodpoint Road, back in 1991-92, when it was cheap and looked like the neighborhood time forgot (Prizzi's Honor - a 1950s period film - had been shot there without changing anything other than the cars).  I went to see the place I had lived with my first husband, where we had been engaged and married.  The marriage ended badly and the old brick carriage house had been demolished - in its place is a black luxury condo thing without a soul but with breathtakingly high rent. I imagine our unpleasant landlady sold the original place for a mint.

I walked there to sprinkle the water with the salt in it, to heal these various wounds - interpersonal, gentrificational, aesthetic, and the inevitable losses that come along with aging - of people and cities.  I am very in touch with my own mortality these days. No, I'm not dying of anything about which I'm aware, but at 51, the reality begins to dawn: mostly likely there are less days ahead of me than behind. This is a limited time offer. The world will be changing without my permission and - in time (and not very much time in terms of even human history never mind cosmic history) - without my presence.  At least not in this form.  Whatever happens after this is a big question about which I know precisely nothing - intimations, perhaps. Knowledge, no.

After doing so, I saw the water had made little marks on the sidewalk. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did and felt like some kind of healing. A ritual. What we need now: rituals that work, that heal. Patrice intended Geography to be a ritual. Anything that sparks this I believe can be called that.

Healing is of course really hard. Patrice knows this. Healing is not a happy-clappy soft thing. The world needs healing as do we all.  I feel - having returned to the US after 8 years outside the Mall of America - that the US is in particular, dire need of healing but not in a let's all hold hands and sing about it way, but in a: soul searching let's change all our priorities before we asphyxiate under the pressure of all our own bullshit kinda way. Patrice feels this, too, I surmise.

The dancer-performers were lovely.  I have images of their faces, moments of gesture, a sense of the fact they were there on purpose. They were not trying to sell Anything or themselves. They were saying the words, making the gestures, engaging in this conversation about healing politics virtuality mortality addiction PTSD sexism racism international scapegoatism...They were vulnerable and strong. Like the whole piece. They owned it.

We were invited to be with them.

My own healing journey continued at Kripalu. I discovered some more hard truths about my own bullshit (high and deep like most everyone's I suppose...), not because anyone yelled at me, but because of the loving nature of the community, which allows for enough self-acceptance to see what needs to be seen. I did lots of yoga, meditated, ate good food, received healing treatments and danced for manifestation (by the time I was sobbing to All You Need is Love I knew I had lost all self-consciousness for good or ill).  If I tried to describe what I did said wrote it would probably seem hopelessly cornball, but I can honestly say: this kind of thing does my soul good.  I needed this to reconnect with my book and my own soul.

Kripalu is grounded in a tradition of diving into life rather than attempting to escape it, which is why I can cope up there.  Everyone is encouraged to see all aspects of themselves, not the conference-approved version as it were...This is healing, scary, searing, loving (in the real sense of that word) and wonderful. I tend to cry a lot, in a good way.  People come there from cities like NYC and Boston and LA and all over the world...and local towns, too.  There is a deep awareness of the world. There is WiFi in the cafe, there are hashtags and the understanding of how broken we are, the world is...

Can healing in a place like this affect the world? I like to think so. I like to think Patrice's piece can affect the world, too. I like to think that all places we go to discuss healing, not in terms of idealism but in terms of what is specifically wrong can help, because - as in medicine - without the proper diagnosis, healing is impossible.

If your hand is frozen and it begins to thaw, that is painful at first, but without that pain, the healing is impossible.

I went too far with the yoga at Kripalu and having protected my shoulder well for the first two days managed to re-injure it near the end in my zeal To Be Healed (another form of vanity it turns out). This is the lesson I have to learn Over and Over and Over again (and someday may learn): that my body is part of this process and has limitations and cannot be ignored. When I was little at one point my hand got slammed into a door and I was put on a bus by myself afterwards; there was no attempt to heal that hand. Just the implicit message that I should ignore it. So, I come by this shit honestly.

I am afraid to speak of these things. I am afraid I will hurt people by speaking of when I was hurt.  I need to get over this fear because these things must be spoken.  This fear is keeping my book in a box (a virtual box, a computer). I am afraid people will be hurt.  I am afraid of this. Very afraid of this.  But I need to write and write and write and then see when it comes to it, what stays and what goes.

Speaking out is part of the healing, because abuse equals silence.

Let me say that again:

Speaking is healing because abuse equals silence.

OK, so I hope Patrice keeps her piece alive and I hope I can finish my book this spring.

Having come back from Kripalu on the bus, I returned to Port Authority in NYC, and life happened, conflicts happened, my cat seems to like John more than me now. So, I'm not perfect. (Shocker, I know.)  But love is in the air throughout all this, healing through love, through life, through conflict, through it All...and of course if my mother hadn't gotten pregnant with me when she did, I wouldn't be here - so all complaints about how that manifest need to be into that perspective, eh? Would I rather everything be perfect or would I rather be alive? That pretty sums up my options. Alive, yes! So, thanks, Robin! I'm here!

Time though to prepare for my last class of the year at Fordham. This weekend will be about grading. Next week about Christmas in Maine and then: writing. That's it. Decks cleared. Writing is it. Until the money runs out. Hopefully before that, a book will exist. Please pray for me, people. I need this book to manifest.

I want to give voice to silenced female voices of the 20th Century. I begin with my grandmothers.  And apparently, all you need is love (can it be true???)...

***

But to close, Patrice handed us these words as we entered the space:

This is a piece about healing
Think about your healing,
think about your body, your home,
your country, and how you would live
in them if you were healed.

www.geographyofhealing.wordpress.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

Indie Theater Hall of Fame (!) & some much-needed R&R

As I stagger to what seems like the finish line of a very full year, I want to give some really nice news: was named (much to my surprise) one of the People of the Year by Indie Theater Now and inducted into the Indie Theater Hall of Fame.  Don't believe me?  I barely do, so here's the link: http://www.indietheaterhalloffame.com/Person/julia-lee-barclay-morton

That is a gorgeous honor to receive and I am in quite stellar company.  If you haven't checked out this site, it's a great place to see what the vital center of theater in NYC is that isn't the more commercial variety.  While there are much more well-funded avant-garde spaces (such as PS 122, The Kitchen, etc.), but what makes Martin Denton's site so interesting is his eclecticism and lack of a 'house style.'  Before 1999 when Martin began reviewing the rest of us, many downtown theater types just came and went without a trace.  Now our work is published, reviewed and acclaimed and many careers have begun thanks to Martin's initial attention.

In other news, I am quite fried, after a month (November) of writing 50K for NaNoWriMo, attending Ian Hill's amazing production of my play Autograce (a cut up of personal and political memories from 1973-74) and teaching.  I am horrified by current national events, everything from Ferguson to Eric Garner to the CIA 'torture' report, which has me in what I can only refer to as an ice-cold rage.  Then there's 'nice guys' who we have revered for years who have - of course - been sexually abusing women the whole time (current face of this age-old story: Cosby). Jaysus.  Not to mention climate change. Oh that little thing.

So, with all that, my poor 51 year old body and spirit has shut down, so I'm taking it back to psychic home base, aka Kripalu (a yoga retreat place in Lenox, Massachusetts).  My other psychic home base is in Scotland, but I can't afford that in time or money.  I realized I had a few days between end of classes and my class's final meeting, so called and booked an R&R retreat for midweek. So incredibly glad I did. I feel like I'm running on less than empty right now and I can hear the gears scraping next to each other as the engine dies.

My first response to exhaustion is to work like a maniac, which I did for a few days, then start autistically flipping from Twitter to Facebook to email to NYTimes to phone to...anyway, you get the idea. By this point I know: OK, I am exhausted.  I have been trying to chill out at home, but find everyday life quite distracting and am too tired to hold any meaningful boundaries.  This is when I know I've hit that moment when I need a retreat.  I'm grateful it's possible.  I'm also grateful to my high school friend Ellen who helped me listen to the gentler voices inside and to my beloved Canadian John for supporting the idea when I brought it up as a possibility. He sees how brittle I am right now and how hard I've been pushing, and it's such a relief and a wonder to be with someone who understands what I need and supports that need. Real love, what an amazing thing. I hope I never take it for granted.

He also makes a mean carrot soup and is doing so right now.  What more can a girl want?

I feel incredibly lame for not running around protesting all that is wrong, especially with police brutality, and I am aware that the fact I have a choice in the matter is proof of privilege, but I've got to make the less heroic, but more life-saving choice right now for health and wholeness.

When I return, I will have my final class with my lovely students this year, mark their final papers and journals and then go to Maine with John for Christmas with my mother and some of her friends.

After Christmas, I'll be back to the book as primary focus until it is finished - having put some gas in the tank. Sustainability is a real thing and a real need. I have spent most of my life working like a maniac so taking these pauses is extraordinarily difficult and guilt-inducing, but given my background, I think perhaps feeling guilty means there's a 99% chance I'm doing the right thing.

Oh - and last but not least - until December 19, you can read my synopsis for The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani at Medium.  If you like what you read, please recommend it, so the synopsis may be considered for the final round of Medium's synopsis contest (for NaNoWriMo winners) and be read by some fabulous agents, editors, writers, etc. If the synopsis wins the final round, the manuscript will be read by these fabulous people as well. That would be great. So, if you want to help me get this baby published, taking a moment to read and recommend the synopsis would be a huge help.

Meanwhile, I wish for all of you for this holiday season: the pauses you need, some delight, some ability to breathe, create, make and receive love, and show your righteous anger at the many events that deserve that anger these days. I am a big believer in non-violence and hope that the protests go in this direction, not because there isn't a reason for force, but because it doesn't work in the end. Most successful revolutions are non-violent, especially domestic ones. Not telling anyone else what to do, just an observation.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Want to help me - for free (!) - with The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani?

Well, here's how...

I just published a synopsis of the book here on Medium: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

The lovely folks at Medium (which is kind of like Tumblr but for longer-form articles) are hosting a contest for people who 'won' National Noveling Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), i.e. wrote over 50K words in November.  They have asked us to submit a 500 word synopsis of our books, and the three synopses with the most 'recommends' on the site (that's where you come in) then gets read by four literary folks, editors and agents. The book from the synopsis they choose can be submitted to an agent at ICM and an editor at Vintage and Anchor books.

This is clearly a fabulous opportunity.  Because the first part of the contest involves having folks recommend the synopsis, I am reaching out to you.  If you would be so kind as to read the synopsis and if you like what you see recommending it, I would be much obliged.

Thanking you in advance for all your support and - as always - for reading this blog.

***

In other news, My First Autograce Homeography (1973-1974) has been published today by Indie Theater Now, hooray!  So, if you didn't get a chance to see the show or you saw it and want to see the next, check it out.

***

In other news, yes everyone I know in New York is horrified that Eric Garner was killed in a chokehold by a member of the NYPD for the crime of selling cigarettes on a street corner and the officer was not indicted even though the whole event was videotaped.  I have been writing about that a lot on Facebook and Twitter, sharing links and outrage.  I am still mulling how best to articulate my thoughts on this beyond the initial and obvious horror.  All I could write last night was the simple - but clear feeling of everyone I know, which also happen - tragically - to have been Mr. Garner's last words:

I can't breathe.

Of course, for Mr. Garner the lack of breath was a real, physical reality and meant his death, while for us who are alive, it's a feeling of frustration, anger and especially for men of color - fear.  I am not equating the two, simply seeing the connection a lot of us are seeing.

On the bright side, the protests are made up of people of many colors and ages. Because I am teaching right now, I don't feel I can go and participate until the semester is over. This is because the police have a nasty habit of kettling and arresting people. Later though, I will be there, too.

Interestingly enough, my grandmother, Jani taught reading at integrated high schools in Milwaukee in the 1970s and had her share of run-ins with racist pinheads. She did things like hurl herself in the middle of racial fights, the shock of which generally diffused the situation.  So, in a sense, the book - tragically - addresses the situation we find ourselves in now - lo these many years later.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Writing a lot, unexpected theatrical healing, much gratitude and unconditional love

So, I did it - wrote about 56K words in the month of November for my book, so now I have a lot more words.   'NaNoWriMo' or National Novel Writing Month - is about getting you to produce 50K words, which in their estimation is a short novel, in a month.  For my grandmothers' book, it's not even close, but I did get refocussed on the project, so that is good.

I am still working on putting in a lot of Jani's own writing into the book, and figuring out how that will intersect with mine, especially her correspondence in the 1970s, which was - well - endless.  I've also unearthed some precious gems from her writing in the 30s and 40s.  This writing mostly intersects with my own ideas about what she was thinking and feeling at the time, so that is good.  Sometimes her words are jarring and remind me how far off I can be, too - which is equally good.  I've also gotten more information from her oldest daughter, which differs from everyone else's experience in some ways - and in some ways not at all.

What I have begun to realize is that now I must consider the research part of the book basically complete and move forward with what I have, because I could research forever and not find out everything.  My lovely cousin, Sharon, has also been in touch with another cousin who remembers Dick as well. This is wonderful, and I will teach out to him, but again, I'm coming face to face with the reality, which is: I can't put in Everything.

At some point, I need to stop adding and begin revising.  However, that time has not yet come.  There are a few periods of times I need to flesh out.  But I will be doing so with my imagination in combination with the information I have now.  Even in my own 51 years, if I talk about memories of a time when I was there, other people will have differing memories of the same event.  There is no way out of this fact - there is no objective truth that endless amounts of research will offer me, and I'm going to have to trust the research I have done thus far and my own vision of this two women I knew so well when they were alive, even if only as a child and young adult.

Wish me luck!

***

In other news, I want to say that watching My First Autograce Homeography over and over turned out to be a profoundly healing experience.  At first watching the play, which included renderings - not precise but pretty damn close - of traumatic episodes from my life, was very hard indeed.  My first response at the first shows was to be almost out of body, a real PTSD kind of thing. In the middle of the run, I cried a lot.  But, by the end of the run, I was in a whole new place.  I could see these events as something from my childhood that lives there in the past and not here in the present.  Having people witness this piece, which seems to have resonated with them for their own reasons, which I really hoped would happen, also helped. This was yet another experience of walking through the flames that has led to another level of groundedness and wholeness, a sense of being OK in my own skin - one less bloody thing to run from in my psyche.

I cannot begin to explain the degree to which my own personal healing was Not my intent in writing Autograce - nor is it ever the reason I create something for other people - so I am pleasantly surprised by this development. One thing I know, if I had directed the piece myself, it's doubtful this would have been the outcome.  There was something deeply important about Not being part of the creation process of this event other than as the writer of the text in order for this healing to be possible.  I needed allies, others in there with that material that were not me, yet also not trying to help.  The actors, Ian, and Berit, were all part of this process for their own reasons, which is as it should be.  Somehow, this freed the whole experience from clutches of personal expectation...

As someone who was first saved by the theater, which was introduced to me by my former stepfather, David, when I was around 6 years old and somehow wangled my way into watching him rehearse You Can't Take It With You with the Portland Community Players (Maine). I loved sitting next to the director and helping him time the scenes. I also had a fabulous childhood aha experience of going back stage and seeing that the stairs that seemed to go upstairs, when behind the flat, went back down. Ohhhh, that was a thrill.

The theater became a sacred space for me for many years after that, a place I could go and feel like I was a human being, when most places I just felt awkward.  I started directing at age 16 - though had some attempts at directing - first when I was 8 or 9 years old and tried to direct an Easter play for grammar school, but then that was tragically cancelled when Judy Tanucci pushed Susan Farrell off the stage - alas an early career thwarted....But the fact is, until I could get some serious help - for issues related to childhood traumas - the theater saved me.  So, why not again?  And, of course,  where else would the healing from probably the most singularly traumatic event of my childhood but the theater?

So, another round of thanks, not only for the artistry involved but also for helping me move from one place to another, to all the artists involved (Ian W. Hill, director and designer with Berit Johnson assisting and running the show, actors John Amir, David Arthur Bachman, Olivia Baseman, Derrick Peterson, Alyssa Simon and Stephanie Willing and the audiences who came to witness this event.  I am so moved by all of it - not to mention the amazing reviews (see last post for those).  A specific audience shout-out to my former stepfather, David (the one who brought me into the theater), who had the guts to come and watch this show, because some of the events involved him (including saving me from what was most likely a near-death experience). He said the show helped him see the events from my perspective, which meant so much to me, and could not have been easy.

Most importantly of all, however, at the end of every night, I could come home to my beloved Canadian, John, who was able to hold my hand through the first show and come to another one later on, but every night when I got home from the theater, held me through whatever my response was at the show. To have someone so close, so loving, so present during this process was unbelievably healing. Hard to believe that in a few days, it'll be only two years since we stumbled upon one another on OKCupid of all place. John has been the saving grace of my life these past two years.  I could have probably stumbled through life without him, but having such a strong ground to stand on makes taking these more dangerous deep sea journeys possible and makes life seem like a glorious and boundless adventure.

So, tonight, I am full of gratitude for so many people in my life and artistic successes and journeys I don't know if I could have undertaken even a few years ago, but mostly - and I don't even care how corny this is going to sound - for love. Real love, unconditional love. The best thing in the entire world ever. And, in this case, in a very specific form, my beloved husband, John.