Honestly, these days since January 20, which was the memorial for my stepfather and the beginning of our Brave New World in the US simultaneously, has rendered me for the most part speechless. I have responded to issues piecemeal on Facebook and such, but here, I cannot find anything to say.
I have had a lot of thoughts and feelings about everything, but because I am afraid that everyone is being so reactive and that is not helping, I don't want to just add to the cacophony.
However, yesterday I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my sobriety and feel I should mark this kind of astonishing milestone somehow. When I last had a drink or drug, Reagan was President, there was a Soviet Union and a Wall in Berlin, most people including me still wrote on typewriters and even if some did have personal computers, there was no public internet; we had no cell phones and used landlines with receivers that were connected to the phone by a cord, and I had a cheap rent in the Haight in San Francisco. I was 23 years old.
The journey from there to here has been a bumpy one - I don't think anyone can live thirty years without bumps. The thing is if you are sober for a long time the best description I've ever heard of that experience is: no windshield. Alcoholics are born without shock-absorbers. There is biochemistry to support this, but that is the effect. Add to that traumatic experiences in childhood on, and you kind of have an addict and/or alcoholic-in-waiting. Some people avoid this fate, but many don't.
However, my drinking story is not that interesting, nor is anyone else's drinking story that interesting - at least not to me anymore. What interests me is finding ways to live sober, without the windshield and without taking it out on everyone else.
This is what preoccupies me, and what I have succeeded at in the technical sense for 30 years (aka no alcohol or drugs) but in terms of living a serene life or whatever, not so much. I mean I have to some degree, and I have meditated for over 20 years, practiced yoga for 16 years, done years of therapy, etc., not to mention going to meetings with people who are struggling to do the same kind of thing. All of this helps. And without all of this I doubt I would still be sober or possess whatever shred of sanity that I do.
However, loss still tears me apart. Another reason I haven't written is the grief over losing David, and then compounded by losing my step-grandmother recently, plus the country arguably, or at least whatever I thought democracy was meant to be. I feel exposed in the rawest way. Sometimes I can cope and sometimes - usually when in yoga class - I can feel deep vital parts of me shifting. I am being shorn of any pretense of pride or whatever, of any sense of "knowing" things. Does this make you wise or just insecure? We will see.
I do feel underneath all of this something is emerging, and I am being forced to surrender to forces larger than me on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis to move through. Sometimes this can even feel good. A lot of times I feel edgy, sometimes raw, sometimes like everything kind of just itches - not literally - but just - it's uncomfortable.
Sometimes I write about it, but recently I haven't been writing that much either. That field seems to need to lay fallow. It feels almost abusive to try to write now. I have been writing at an almost machine-like pace for years now, and I've hit the end of that line. The good news is I seem to want to be out in the world a bit more.
My fractured foot also has played a large part in my awkwardness this past year. I was unable to move for months without pain and now can move but still can't walk the endless way I used to walk, which was and is my favorite exercise. I feel I became almost agoraphobic, and am now peeking outside of that.
Meanwhile, through all of this, I am sober, and that is a miracle, because all of what I am describing would have been reason enough to drink - a lot. Though to be honest, breathing was enough of a reason to drink a lot most days I drank, so there's that. But the fact I can move through all this massive discomfort that feels like it's probably growth and who really wants that at 53 I ask you? Not me, I assure you, but I seem to have no choice. In fact this endless 'growing' bit appears to be the wages of sobriety. Apparently, if your tendency to mute the effect of all that wind hitting you in the face because of having no windshield is to drink and you stop drinking, or doing whatever else you used to get you through the night, then you are doomed to constant 'growth.'
Sounds so lovely, so healthy, so fabulous, right?
Think about it. Look at toddlers falling over when they try to walk. It's cool, because they are little and people are encouraging them all the time. But imagine doing this - on an emotional level - at 53. You kind of feel - well - stupid. My experience of long-term sobriety is like being a toddler over and over and over and over again - or like a snake shedding its skin, except when the old one goes there isn't a new one underneath right away. That kinda thing.
I'm not complaining - though goddess knows this sounds like complaining - just kind of trying to give you the felt sense of it. Because if you know any clean and sober people, you probably think they are batshit crazy, and you are probably right. Just remember, if we were drinking, game over. We may even on the surface have seemed a little more normal when we were drinking - until a certain point, but then...disaster, not only for ourselves but anyone around us.
For the vast majority of you lucky enough to not be alcoholics or addicts, just remember when dealing with your sober friends that we are wandering around with literally thin skins and everything is hitting us at 11. In my case that includes sounds, smells, visuals, emotions, tastes. It's like living in a hyper-reality.
There are some benefits to this of course, especially if you happen to write, make theater or art or music of any kind. You can be available on levels that are amplified. On the other hand, it can be hard - if not impossible - to turn down this level of sensitivity. I imagine therefore most of us seem hopelessly self-absorbed, and sometimes, yeah, we are. but sometimes, we just Can't Turn Down the Volume on life while it's hitting us like a motherfucker.
At those moments, I tend to retreat. But then can feel isolated and want to come out, but then feel agoraphobic because have retreated, etc. Weird cycles like that.
But I am also exquisitely attuned to the people to whom I am listening, whether in meetings or classes or with friends. I have learned tools over the years that I think makes me a good friend, especially not giving out advice unsolicited and even being cautious when it's solicited. I find most people - including me - don't want to be fixed, but rather want a sympathetic ear.
I do my best to help others who are trying to live without drugs or alcohol. I also do my best to put voices and work out into the world that might not be heard or seen otherwise.
I am not mentioning politics, because honestly, what's the point? Everyone is talking about it all the time, and I have nothing great to add. I only hope we keep trying to listen to one another and don't block off avenues of communication. The rest is too scary for me to even attempt to write about right now. All I know to do is what I have done with the seemingly impossible foe of addiction: surrender to what I am powerless to change and to work my ass off to change the things I can. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but the surrender has to come first, because if I'm putting energy into trying to change what I can't, I have zero energy to change what I can.
Right now, I am glad I live a life based on the concept of living one day at a time, because I could not cope with any of this otherwise without recourse to better living through chemistry.
I miss David so much it hurts. I miss in some ways my youth and ability to believe my own bullshit or was that confidence? In any case, right now I am tired. It is 4:12am. I don't know what else to say, and not sure anything I have said is worth a damn, but here it is. March 4, 2017. 30 years sober and with a car alarm whining outside my window as cars drive by. The car alarm has finally stopped, and so shall I.
Oops, no, forgot the most important part of all: gratitude. Grateful for all the folks who have helped me along the way. Those in and outside of meetings, who have listened when I was freaking and when I was celebrating, when I was angry and sad, when I was triumphant and when I fell on my face, who attended my weddings - yes that's plural - and helped me through divorces (also plural) - who have been there for me no matter what. Whether for a brief time or a long time. Without all of you and all your love, I would be sunk. Also to my higher power that I choose to call whatever - it changes all the time - and sounds so ridiculous in words and yet is there for me whenever I ask and no I can't explain it and yes it sounds absurd, but there it is and part of it is all of you. So, thank you. You all know who you are.
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.