So, there's this thing going around on social media, Facebook specifically, wherein we are meant to choose a word for the year. Kind of like a resolution I suppose or a hope.
The word that came to me was Acceptance.
And when I thought of typing this on FB, I could see the flood of people yelling at me that I was 'normalizing' the situation (aka the orange one, etc.) and realized that there was no way I could choose this word without writing about what this word means to me in real terms, instead of what it is misunderstood to imply.
Acceptance to most (American) minds implies something along the lines of weak, passive, submissive, not fighting, wussy, whathaveyou. Whereas for me it means a discipline that can only be cultivated with strength of heart and soul that confers a kind of power and clarity of action that mere willfulness or bloodymindedness does not.
Oh how we love the stubborn, the bloodyminded, the willful, the violent, etc, etc in this country! And as has been proven many times, we have a real soft spot for narcissistic psychopaths.
However, what I am certain is needed now is not more of the same hurled back, but instead the moment, the breath, the time to first accept. Accept what? Well, I dunno, reality for starters.
If I become aware of something I don't like and act against it reactively the chances of my succeeding are very small. Or, I may succeed, but most likely it will be a Pyrrhic victory that will redound badly on me in the end.
If on the other hand, I take a moment or however long I need to accept the reality of whatever that is, including the reality of my situation and what I do and (equally important) don't have the power to change, then I have a chance of choosing an action in response that may be effective.
My default setting - and I don't think this makes me unique - is: awareness, action yesterday! This is tempting. It makes me feel like I'm doing something, but what am I doing? Who knows. It's a reaction. It usually doesn't work.
Let's take the election for example. I have to accept, whether I like it or not, that DT will be president. I can scream and yell all I want, them's the rules. Even if he did steal it somehow. Whatever happened has not been proven yet, so he's gonna be president. There is no such thing as my president or your president, there is only the president, and he will be it. To use the language from the Tea Party, who invented the 'not my president' trope for Obama is...unwise. Also just kind of pointless. The president is not a teddy bear or bff. The president is the president.
That's a start.
Second, the fact that millions of people voted for this dude. This is something a lot of people on the left including most of the cosseted commentariate (Studs Terkel warned against this cosseting - he saw a day like this coming where reporters and papers would stop reporting news that mattered to the 99% and then lose track of reality for anyone not doing well or in certain urban areas rich in information and access) refused to acknowledge. The reality of people that have been forgotten. These people were not forgotten by some like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but they were poo-pooed as - wait for it: 'populists' - the bad word if you are urban liberal educated, populism being just code for classist assumptions about folks usually referred to as 'poor white trash' outside of polite conversation.
So, a guy who could give a flying fuck about these people wins their vote, not because he's going to do jack shit to help them, But Because He Acknowledged They Exist.
That was a start.
Ignoring people you don't like does not make them go away.
Let me repeat that.
Ignoring people you don't like does not make them go away.
You can call them all the names you want. Still. Not. Going. Away.
So, here's the thing: and this is what acceptance means to me, we have to get in the same damn room. My grandmothers, the ones I wrote about, the ones who if alive would have voted for Trump and Clinton respectively, were never in the same room. They would not be in the same room.
There's the rub.
Is it all on 'our' (aka the left's) side to do this?
Absolutely not. It's on everyone.
Are there stone racists and people who are not pleasant involved?
Do you have to put yourself in a dangerous situation?
No. Absolutely not.
Do we have to accept that there are people in this country (on all sides) that believe things so different from ourselves it seems as if we live in different countries, even different time periods?
Do we still need to find a way to get into the same damn room?
Because until we can accept one another as we are, we can't get anywhere. And I don't mean by that acquiesce or submit. No. I mean accept the reality of the situation, which is generally - especially when it comes to people we don't actually know in real life - way more complication and nuanced than we believe when we want to shove people into little stereotype boxes because that's ever so much easier than confronting or attempting to communicate with an actual, living, breathing human being.
Does this mean everyone is reachable?
Are there violent, no good creepazoids who are probably not worth the time of day?
Are they the majority?
So, we need to find a way to accept ourselves, each other and the full reality of this country as it actually is, because no, in fact it was not a different country after DT was elected. It is the same damn country. We are that fucking weird.
(And our voting system is that fucked up, too, granted - but still the rules have been in place all along and Obama managed to get elected twice.)
Are there aspects to our country we might have conveniently forgotten because it was - let's face it - easier than accepting them?
Do we know they are there now?
Is it all pretty?
is it real?
So, we have to address what is real, not just try to put people back in boxes again or think that if we tell people not to say mean things they aren't thinking them. This is probably the greatest fallacy we have been laboring under for like a while, that if we can shame people into appearing to be non-sexist or non-racist or not homophobic or whatever, then they are reformed.
I think we now know that was a wrong assumption.
So, while I clearly do not advocate any such prejudices or hatreds, I do advocate finding a way to listen to each other without shutting each other down (again this would have to be done by all sides), so we can fucking hash this shit out. For real.
Necessary even so?
We also have to FINALLY talk about class for real, and not assume when we are talking about race we are talking about class, because this is not true. There are in fact disenfranchised white people. They are way less likely to get killed by police and such, but poor white people are well and truly fucked nonetheless, especially since most folks don't even acknowledge they exist, including half of the poor people themselves. I get the whole issue of privilege. I do. But there are many different kinds of privilege and class is one of them. One of the ways the GOP keeps poor and lower middle class white people on side is by convincing us we aren't poor. It's ludicrous, and saying that it's all people of color on food stamps and such, which is ludicrous, but when we conflate race and class, we play into the GOP's hands.
So for me acceptance is about all this. Accepting the facts on the ground and that there are all these wildly different perceptions.
This is true on a personal level as well. If I find a part of myself I don't like, I can't just talk myself out of it. I have to accept it first. Only once I accept that this part exists can I begin to ask for help to have it relieved.
And now, here, I believe the same is true. I can't make DT or his minions go away, any more than I can singlehandedly push back late-capitalism or patriarchy in its death-star supernova, but I can accept these things and through accepting how they work, begin to act accordingly.
Accepting myself is key because I have to know what I can and cannot do in response. I have to know my energy levels, endurance, mental and physical abilities, etc. I cannot talk myself into being 23. I am 53 so have to choose my battles. Very carefully.
How does the word 'battles' work with the word 'acceptance'? Well, once I accept the situation, and understand the holistic complexity of it, I may want to work to change it, at least my response to it. But no matter what I do, I need to understand - as the Bhagavad Gita says - I can take an action, but I do not control the result.
All I am in charge of is right action in accordance with my deepest self.
In order to have a prayer of doing that, I have to know who my deepest self is, which means practicing self-awareness without judgment - which sounds easy, but is really fucking hard. I have to let go of all the IDEAS I have about who I am supposed to be or not supposed to be, all my little schemes and designs and listen for the still, small voice and act from there.
And also accept that that won't happen all the time either.
So acceptance is my word for this year, my prayer. I turn my life and my will over to powers greater than myself every day. Powers I do not understand but have had experience of in my life, too profound to deny, that have in fact saved my life. The fact I cannot explain this does not make it any less real. But the key to that power is acceptance.
That is a paradox, but it is true at least for this wildly imperfect human on this earth on this day in this lifetime.
p.s. I should add by way of full disclosure that what I am accepting today is that I am hopping mad about a lot of things personal and political and one of the things is grief for my dead stepfather who I know died in part in response to this fucking election and it just breaks my heart because it was so avoidable, but there it is. So acceptance for me isn't even particularly pretty - what I have to accept inside is sometimes a fucking shitstorm, but so be it. Because like I don't have a fucking choice. It is.
Which reminds me of my favorite prayer I heard once in London in 2003, an African prayer:
It is. Thank you.
It is. Thank you.
It is. Thank you.
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.