Apparently, the first official Thanksgiving was declared by President Lincoln during the Civil War.
Here we are. Thanksgiving in 2016 with the country probably more divided than it has been since then. I know there were other times when it was divided, and maybe those were worse. But it's pretty bad now. And I have never had the dubious privilege of living in stomach knot twisting fear of a President-Elect, as I am now.
Things that have come out these past few days include: a professor watch list where students can accuse their professors of having too much of a liberal bias. When I saw that at first, I laughed. Ever since then, though, I have had a stomach so full of knots it is literally eating itself. I am not joking. I am still writing, was able to do yoga finally, and am meditating, including breathing exercises. Some nights I can sleep and some nights I cannot.
This is Trump's America for me so far, even in one of the - if not the - most liberal borough of the most liberal city in America that voted against him by over 90% (that would be NYC - where he is from...let that sink in).
OK, so there's that, and many others have it far worse than me.
So what am I thankful for? The list is almost endless, but I'll do one anyway (and the order does not signify the importance):
1. The ability to write - even through this.
2. The fact that so far I have not self-destructed in ways I could easily do, but have not.
3. The love in my life, including my beloved Canadian, my mother, my friends - some of whom I will spend tomorrow with in the most diverse neighborhood in the US (Jackson Heights, Queens). One friend, Christian, I have known for over 30 years. We have seen each other through many phases of our lives and I will be delighted to spend Thanksgiving with him and his beloved, Ricardo, and a few of their other friends.
6. NYC and the people herein - overall the people with whom I relate the best and have been acting in heartbreakingly kind and generous ways with one another recently - and I trust will continue doing so. Sometimes there are assholes, but they are not the majority.
7. Kindness - when I see it and feel it.
8. Autumn leaves and the blue blue sky
9. The People's Republic of Inwood (my neighborhood)
10. Artists, writers, theater people, dancers, musicians...everyone who creates things in response to dark times, either as witness or to soothe or to imagine a different future...or simply to dream, or create delightful respite.
11. Paragraph writing studio and all those with whom I share my writing either in silence or at readings
12. Various FB groups in which I do same and the people in real life I have connected with who have given me faith in my writing and humanity in general.
13. National Novel Writing Month (now) that helps motivate me to write every day, and the fact I have done that this month: written every day.
14. New and old friends who have graced my year in so many lovely ways: Suzanne, Adam, Shawn, Christian, Suki, Wendy, Francelle, Julie, David, Marietta, James, Ilana, Aurvi, Carle, Peter, Susan, Sarah, Sharon, Russell, Jane, Pam, Maryan, Allan, Sauna, Kat, Alice, Nina, Andrew, Kate, Nathan, Spencer, Andrea, Veronica, Fran, Gina, Jenny, Ellen, Olivia, Leah, and others I'm sure I've forgotten...and those who have stayed close on FB even from afar, like Fi, Kirsten, Therese, Catherine, Sean, Bennett, Renee, Alison..
15. Scholarships to two very important writing conferences, which made it possible for me to attend what would have otherwise been impossible and the help people at those conferences gave me and friends I met there, too many to mention all...
16. The many people with whom I meet in various rooms to keep ourselves sane.
17. My students who remind me why I'm here...for real. These are some amazing young people, and maybe because I'm not a parent myself, I find in them such joy and love even. Hard to describe that alchemy, but while the pay is far too low, the rewards in this way are rich indeed. While our present may not seem too promising, I guarantee you, the kids are alright. Assuming we don't blow up the planet, they will be there to create something great once we fade away. Of this, I am certain. This is the source of my hope. If I wasn't teaching, I don't know how I would feel. So, I am grateful that I am. I am grateful I can use my skills as a writer and teacher to help them learn how to express themselves in the clearest, most elegant way possible. I do this, so you will listen to them, because their voices and ideas should be taken seriously.
And on that note, I will end. On a note of hope for the future, because God/dess knows we have at least four years of needing to try to withstand a storm that I can only hope we will withstand. My hope here is that many are awake to the need to keep our Constitution intact and I can only hope we won't be duped by a false crisis or goodness knows what. When I do not feel hopeful, I fall into fear and despair, and I cannot live there. Americans have a genius for hope. We are probably stupid with it in many ways, and the rest of the world - rightfully - looks at us most of the time like we are kind of nuts, but for all that, I do hope we can withstand the ultimate stress test that is upcoming of our country and how it was founded. Well, not ultimate, there was the Civil War, which I really hope we aren't going to end up in another one. But I mean stress test as in: can we get through this Without a Civil War. I pray and hope so. I also hope we can make it through without becoming a totalitarian capitalist state like China. These are my hopes.
I also hope that I will have the courage when needed to stand by not only my own beliefs, but also all of my friends - and strangers - who are in groups that are or may be targeted in ways large and small.
But for today, I give thanks to all of you out there who are willing to listen to all sides, who are tolerant and loving of everybody, including those with whom your disagree. I wish for our whole country (and I come from both sides of this political divide so I mean the Whole Country) a way to hear and listen and respect and love one another. I hope that all those who feel unseen, feel seen, those who feel silenced, find a voice (that is not filled with hate or that silences another), that we can reach across the borders and find a way forward.
This is my dream. This is my stupid-ass American hope.
I love you all. I really do. I am that weird.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.