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.
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.