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.
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.