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.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reading book draft, Yoga & Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Since my last post, I have continued taking the wonderful Sunday night Kripalu yoga class for which I remain extraordinarily grateful.

Today, during a restorative fish pose (blocks holding up chest and head), I felt the weight of the world fall off of me and a sense of instead being buoyed up by the earth. Hard to describe what created that sensation, but it involved - oddly enough - the fleeting thought that at 51 years old, there are now many more people younger than me than are older than me on this earth. I felt an accompanying lightness, realizing that I've done my bit to try to change things, etc. and now there are all these younger people who have their chance to make their mark. I'm free now to write and do what I want to do. That might sound selfish, I don't know, but to me - who's spent so much time trying to hold up the world (not that anyone asked me to do so, mind you, but nonetheless I heeded some kind of sense of call...), this is a huge relief.

At another point during relaxation, I felt another weight being taken off of me - that of shame and the fear that shame engenders - the fear of being seen, of being violated, or violence being done to me - physical mostly. There are more prosaic fears of being embarrassed and such, but the haunting quote from Margaret Atwood comes to mind whenever I am writing about certain subjects. "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

If you happen to have the fun role of being a female writer and are writing about certain issues that are close to home, these fears can gain purchase on your soul. But underneath those fears, far more corrosive, is the shame - especially if you grow up in the largest special interest group in the world: women. Does it start with Genesis if you grow up Judeo-Christian? The rap of being the one who started the fall? Patriarchal laws/culture, etc.? I don't know. I know there's a lot of personal crap that plays into this for me, too - along with an intergenerational shame wave - for lack of a better way of putting it.

Nonetheless, while reading the draft of the book (which task I have now completed), waves of this shame and fear were palpable and close to silencing. Fears of retaliation, of people being hurt, of anger at what I am revealing, etc. can be so intense I just want to throw in the proverbial towel. But instead, I kept reading, and talking about this issue with a few trusted friends, who have assured me it's normal and to keep going.

So, when in yoga there was this sensation of that shame and fear being lifted off of me, I felt like I could breathe free for the first time maybe like ever...I feel it again now writing about it (the shame/fear nexus) but I have made a decision - that has been supported by yoga and meditation - to allow for this discomfort and not act on it.

Today, the shame trigger was reposting something on Facebook about a woman who realized she had been in an abusive relationship. Just reposting That put me in a shame-fear spiral. (Facebook is deeply weird when it comes to attempting to share anything real, but that's another post - and should show you how deeply out of kilter I am with the world of having A Brand - as in I'd rather kill myself than do that - or should I say, if I did that, I'd already be dead even if there was a body walking around - is this why there is an obsession with zombies these days? but I digress.)

Which leads me - believe it or don't - to Tina Fey's new television series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. What? you say, why would a comedy about a woman who is saved from having been kept captive underground by a cult leader who convinced his captives the world had ended be something that would matter to me? Bwahahahaha.

Well, anyone who saw or knows the subject matter for My First Autograce Homeography (1973-74) may be able to answer that trick question. Even though I was not - thank goodness - held hostage for any huge amount of time, I was for somewhere between 24-48 hrs (I was 10 and the whole last couple crazy days were - crazy - and included a psycho caretaker - I've written about this before so won't repeat - but that also involved a 4 month run-up of brainwashing etc.).

When I was living with my psycho babysitter, she convinced people I was evil and that I had done things I knew I had not done. I also challenged her when she convinced people to play boardgames wrong, etc. As in this comedy, I was not looked upon kindly and was chided or punished. But when I was saved in the end, I was - while battered - not broken. A therapist I worked with found this incredible. I find it incredible.

The reason I love the TV show is that the main character is portrayed as having resisted the cult leader and her main emotion - upon being rescued is: hooray the world is still here! And she makes the very sensible decision of not going back to Indiana after they have been interviewed in NYC and instead goes AWOL to live in New York.

How could I Not Love This Show?!!

Even though it's a sit-com and obviously not an in-depth look at the whole situation, watching this woman navigate life afterwards, including what amounts to PTSD, etc. is extraordinarily funny (because Tina Fey is a genius and the casting is brilliant) and ALSO healing.

Happily, for me, I was watching this show on Netflix while reading the draft of the book about my grandmothers. This buoyed my spirits and made it possible to move through.

Well, that and the yoga, meditation and some great friends and John, my beloved Canadian.

So, that's been my last coupla weeks...Tomorrow: Rewrites. (Besides emotional stuff, reading draft also showed massive redundancy, some gaping holes and lots of stuff that needs to be written - you know - better. However, on the positive side of the ledger - some pages were good here and there - and there is a there there. A book exists. However imperfect and in need of help. It's there. Hooray.)

Oh, should mention, when I finished reading the book draft, I bowed to my Ganesha statuettes, a Buddha tapestry, my ancestors (grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers', mother) and then to me when I was young. At which pointed I cried and cried and cried, because I had survived. These were good, healing tears.

No matter what else happens with this book, it's brought me to this place. And for that I am profoundly grateful.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Yoga of Writing

So, this post will veer in a number of directions but the title will make sense in the end. Bear with me.

Yesterday, which was the day I was supposed to begin reading The Draft of The Book saw me weak and with a fragile tummy because of either something I ate or a stomach bug the night before. Whatever may have precipitated that, I was aware that I had an anxiety level exacerbated by the fact I had decided yesterday was the day to begin reading the draft.

True fact: the night before then-Artistic Director of The Present Company, John Clancy, was scheduled to see a rehearsal of the first play I had both written and directed  (Word To Your Mama), I had 'food poisoning' and puked through the night, and was so wiped out I couldn't make it to the rehearsal. However, John did make it to the run through and left a glowing review on my answering machine (this was a while ago kids - early 2000 - we still had answering machines and Luddite that I was - did not yet have a cell phone), hearing his opinion miraculously cured me...So...

Back to yesterday. Even though I'm the only one reading the draft, I think that sometimes my stomach gets queasy at the idea of visibility or the emergence of something new. Even if in this case, it's just me judging (right now anyway).

So, what I did instead of reading was get to a yoga class, something I haven't done since - well - since the retreat back in December. I found, while barely able to get out of bed, that there was - miracle of miracles - a Kripalu teacher at a local yoga studio teaching a gentle restorative class. I managed to throw on my yoga togs and get there.

Besides moving my aching body in healing ways, there were two other profound moments of healing that relate ultimately to my writing and how I will approach the reading of the draft.

First, when we were breathing in and out in a three-part breath, the teacher mentioned that we should pay attention to whether we were inhaling or exhaling longer. I realized that my exhale was up to twice as long as my inhale. She said "breathing in is bringing energy into our bodies and exhaling is releasing" or something along those lines. What I felt in my body (not just thought - big difference) - was how I breathe in like I don't deserve the air. I have a fairly good idea where this idea came from, but that's not the point. The point is, I felt it manifesting physically in my body and that linked with that ancient message. It almost made me cry to attempt to breathe in as deeply as I exhaled. I realized even then that this related to my work as well - how I have historically and still do sometimes give everything away too quickly and in my life, too - my affections, attention, trust - only to - many times - get hurt.

This relates to the second even more profound realization during the class. So profound that I can't even remember the precise moment it was connected to because it felt almost like lucid dreaming. The sensation was: you're only good enough to be hurt. Seriously. Felt in the deepest core of my being was the belief, before now unconscious it was buried so deeply, that I was here to be hurt and that is all. Again, I have some good ideas about where this could have from, but never ever have I experienced this as a felt sense - nor have I even theorized it in those words - so in truth in no way. It was a direct bit of body memory from the deep dark abyss.

As depressing as that may sound, to me this was a profound moment of healing, because now that I have felt it, not just thought about the damage of this and that from thus and such time in my life, but understood how imprinted it is in my body, now that horrendous believe that has been driving me all along, can be healed.

(By the way: this is why I love Kripalu yoga, only doing yoga guided by Kripalu teachers do I get these profound insights, because it's built into the system. The yoga isn't about poses, it's about deep healing and creating meditation in motion. I am sure for others who do yoga there are many different schools that work; it's deeply personal, but for me, it's Kripalu all the way.)

But this sensation was also scary to feel because it made me realize a lot about certain choices I have made in my life, none of which I am not going to go into here. But - now that this is a conscious and bodily-felt-informed realization - and only now - do I think I have a prayer of NOT acting on it anymore.

So, WTF does this have to do with the draft of my book you may ask? Well, a bit of a lot actually.

Today, feeling better, I felt I should begin reading the draft, but the Terror came over me again. I breathed. I meditated. I reached out to a few trusted friends. I did manage to set up my space and divide up some of the text so I could begin reading it, but still I fiddled. I even - I shit you not - organized the spice cabinet. You know things are bad at that point. Little plastic containers for the soy sauce packages from old take-out and the free ranging garlic cloves, that kind of thing...

Then finally I brought in the big guns. I called my friend Julie. She suggested (also being a writer - but even more than that someone who has known me intimately for close to 15 years) that I read the draft as a reader (which had been my instinct and also an idea another friend - and excellent writer - from college suggested). We talked about different ways to approach it and between that and some other suggestions, I'm on my way to a strategy for this.

I was walking in Inwood Hill Park during this conversation and breathing in air with a spring tinge, seeing patches of grass emerging from under the snow and seeing the swans again in the muddy patches of the field.

Near the end of our conversation, I told her these realizations from the yoga class, while I was sitting on a bench looking out at where the Harlem and Hudson meet. Somewhere after that, she said: think about reading your rough draft as a privilege, as if someone else were giving you their rough draft - you would think of that as a privilege. And I realized she was right. I said "yes, but I'm getting the privilege this time - I'm not giving it away." (Just like the breathing - not just exhaling, also inhaling.) Right, she said. Yes, exactly. I get the privilege of reading my own rough draft. I'm not sharing. For once.

Later, walking back home, I realized, this also relates to the hurt thing. Because if you show a rough draft to the wrong person or to anyone really before you're ready for criticism or even know what you're doing, you can set yourself up for a world of hurt. I'm not doing that either.

This made me think that perhaps - however stutteringly - I'm working from a different place now. A place where I protect myself from hurt, where I am allowed to inhale. I know how to exhale, thank you very much. I know how to be hurt. I'm the fucking world expert at that shit.

It's time to allow some protection, to enjoy some privilege, some space, some love - and to let go of the unconscious expectation that the world stop being a hurting place where approval can be offered or taken away that can affect me way too much. That somehow Someone Will Appear who can protect me from all that...the never-ending dream of the abused child that must be given up in order to become an adult, no matter how painful...

I need to be my own champion. Yes, that's right, it's taken me close to 52 years to figure that one out. Sometimes slowly...

So the yoga of writing is in all this. Learning to breathe and listening to my body's wisdom, the body I abandoned many years ago out of necessity, is also the key to my writing process. It in some deeper way is my writing process.

Jai bhagwan.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparing to read draft and revise...

OK, so having printed out the rough draft of The Book, I now need to read it. Then revise it. Because I'm more accustomed to writing stage texts, this part of the process is stumping me.

Why?

Because, if you're as lucky as I've been, when you write text for the stage, you get to hear actors read the words rather than simply read it over by yourself. Then you get to talk to those actors and maybe a couple other folks who are in your living room about said draft. Then you revise.

This is a book. There are 754 pages. No one could read it aloud in one evening.

So, I have to read it.

Duh.

Some people have suggested I have others read it at this stage, but I don't want to do that, because I know it's not done yet. I know there needs to be at the very least one revision for the book to be constituted as a book I would be interested in getting feedback on...It's too raw and I don't want to be overly influenced right now by outsider readers' ideas of what 'works' and what doesn't, etc. Praise can be as destructed as criticism at this stage. There are parts that 'don't work' but that doesn't mean I want to lose them yet, and I don't want to be lulled by praise into not making something that might 'work' better...

So, I have to figure out how I'm going to do this. My instinct is to read it once over as much as possible like a reader. Take some notes but not get into minutiae. Then re-read it and at that stage begin revisions and add the things in I know need to be added, cut what needs to be cut, rewrite whatever is staying, etc...

I have done so many revisions on academic type things, shorter prose pieces, etc., but this is a different animal.  I'll have to feel it out, I suppose. I kind of want something like angels with trumpets or something to start me off and then tell me when it's done...not that I'm grandiose or anything...

***

Meanwhile it feels like the world is going kind of crazy now that I've had a few moments to concentrate on it - Ferguson, weird ass weather, Republicans going crazy(er) and writing Iran, I mean WTF people?

So, I am grateful for this little pause in my life wherein I can focus on a writing project and that is all.

I apologize to all of my friends to whom I am not available and to everything/anything else anyone wants or needs from me. I simply don't have it. I have discovered a truth I am sure all writers of books already know: writing is a selfish business. It's like you have to eat the air or something just to survive the process.

I'm used to sharing the wealth of this selfishness with other people (aka rehearsing a play), so we can pretend we're not selfish, we're just Making a Performance Together. But when you write - alone - you're left with yourself, thinking about this thing you are making, by yourself, which takes fucking YEARS. And convince yourself the whole time that it's WORTH it. It's so weird.

But I also feel some kind of addiction to this process happening...in the very middle of putting together the draft I would have sworn to you up and down that I would Never do this again - but as I am now at this place, where it's about revision and Something Exists, I already have ideas for New Books.

Oh dear. Sorry, world.

OK, back to my few days in real life. The plan is to start reading by Sunday - having taken time off to do taxes, see friends, do some self care and just - well - rest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A draft of book printed out - on paper!

Here's the first printed out rough draft of The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani! Yes, it's rough, but yee-ha it's a draft! Printed out! On Paper!

OK, I'm just a little excited about this.  Gonna take a few days off to enjoy this...

But wanted to share this with you first to explain the radio silence on the blog...

There's a long way to go yet, but this is a huge first step - 754 pages - 4 years in the making...

Woot!


photo take on my meditation chair - nicely frayed at edges by beloved cat, Ugo.

p.s. Manuscript was carried home by steadfast, supportive and generally wonderful husband, John, in truly hellacious downfall of icy slush. We plodded home in puddles, came back soaked but happy. This has been a long time coming, and even if it's just a step, it's a biggie.

Time to celebrate!

And again a shout out to all of you who have made this possible - all the Indiegogo supporters and others with moral support, writing conversations, coffees - all valuable, all the time.