Yes, the title of this long overdue blog post is from Beckett (Endgame to be precise). I have chosen it because I am considering the obsession we have for curing things. I have been reading an excellent book by Bessel van der Kolk entitled The Body Keeps the Score. It has given me great insight into and compassion for how trauma lodges in the body and can keep us trapped in certain cycles. As I read, I found myself hating myself (and other people) much less and understanding all of us who have been traumatized so much more.
Now, I am in the 'how to fix it' section. Some - many - of the ideas are excellent, and they are also clearly not meant as one-size-fits-all, for which I am grateful. He manages to speak of all of this without pathologizing people, and with great kindness in general. Some of this probably has to do with his awareness of his own traumas and the fact he, too, has worked with some of these therapies. He is a medical doctor, specializing in psychiatry, so the book is rigorous and not too New Age-y lost in the mystical sands of yore or whatever, but he is also somewhat skeptical of the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry and their offers of 'cures' that aren't cures but more like kind of awkward band-aids, that are very useful at times as that: band-aids, but not as cures.
I was cheering along, and happy to see some of the things I do are already patented healing technologies, such as: yoga (for safe embodiment and help with breathing), theater because it's theater and a safe way to work things out, 12-step meetings because people in community helping each other, and body work, etc. He also mentions EMDR (an eye-movement therapy - which he thought sounded hokey until he tried it and did lots of research and discovered it worked - for some - mostly people with adult onset trauma they could remember) and other things I haven't read about yet.
Again, yay, sounds great! (Haven't done EMDR and pretty sure I'd be one of those for whom it would only be of limited use, but may try it some day if/when can afford, etc...fun times in American medical world...blah blah blah...but this is relevant because a lot of these therapies costs a lot of money and are therefore inaccessible to most, whereas All insurance pays for the drugs these days - which makes me rather nauseous, but I digress...)
However, I did pause today, another day of crying over the memory of the miscarriage I had almost 10 years ago, and the way that all grieving makes you feel like a failure and how that probably taps into the April of 1966 when my mother and father split after a violent fight, and on and on and on...and I was thinking as I do every year: maybe This year, it'll be different. Maybe, This year I'll Turn it Around. AKA: maybe This Year I'll be Cured.
And I felt like crap.
Until I stopped thinking that way and stopped worrying about "being better" and just let myself feel how I felt: aka like crap, and teary and irrational and unable to focus and not knowing whether to take my laptop with me or not being enough to push me over the edge of more tears, and then just put the damn laptop in my bag in case I wanted it later and went out to where I was going - a place I can talk about stuff like this - and did.
In this place, you get a period of time to speak without anyone interrupting you. I asked while speaking that no one come up to me with advice afterwards, because I frankly would have lost it. A couple people came afterwards and hugged me and one person started talking to me in a way that seemed suspiciously like she might be about to give advice so I braced myself to flee, but no...that was not it - instead she asked if I could help her with something because she loved listening to me speak and thought I sounded like a healthy person.
In other words: by not trying to pretend to be 'cured' or whatever and in fact living in and expressing my confusion and lack of focus and teariness and rage at God or a Higher Power or WhatHaveYou, I helped someone else.
So, maybe this whole cure thing is oversold, is my point, and Beckett's line is a valuable reminder. Perhaps when we attempt to 'cure' we are instead masking a desire to control and harboring an illusion about immortality? Or some kind of semi-benign (probably semi-comatose) state in which we are 'serene' all the time. I put serene in quotation marks because I don't think that is what serene means. I think serene actually means the ability to be in hell, chaos, turmoil, joy, happiness, peace, craziness, aggravation or equanimity and simply witness it, be there and witness it. That to me is serenity. Or as I heard someone say today instead of "it's happening to me,"saying "it's happening." Not in a denial, pretend it doesn't hurt way - that's just fake Buddhism - but in a fully embodied, present yet holding oneself kind of way...or not. Just fucking freaking out maybe or sobbing or raging or whatever...but not trying to escape the pain.
And maybe - while of course there is some kind of traumatic response that needs to be addressed and I still hold out hope for relief of some of my symptoms and repetition compulsion - maybe...there is a need for a level of acceptance, too, of the messiness of life, of the fact that some losses are just too much to bear in whatever weird little narrow box we have of acceptable in our culture.
Maybe, as Leonard Cohen says, "there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." If everyone and everything was 'cured' where would we be? In the darkness?
This is not in any way to make light of anyone's suffering or the need to seek relief from it. I have no idea what your journey needs to be. Only you do.
However, my gift for the day because of rolling with my reality rather than trying to 'fix' it was to take two short walks in parks - in Central Park where I saw some trees in bloom like a purple azalea and some white maybe cherry? blossoms and saw about 12-15 tourists crowded around a small tree taking photos of an unfazed squirrel. A NYC squirrel. A show off. Behind them rose the bizarre Central Park South skyline that now looks more like a computer simulation than the Deco-inspired New York I pine for when large soulless skyscrapers tower over the few older buildings that remain. But I continued to walk and notice too the flowers and buds and remembered that no matter what - at least for now - spring keeps coming with its relentless life-force regardless of our architectural follies.
Then back uptown and walking in Inwood Hill Park and seeing the pink blossoming tree at the small inlet and watching the graceful white egret catch a fish after standing very, very still for a long time, and out at the point hearing the gentle tide of the Harlem and Hudson rivers lap up on the shore as the sun was setting and the daffodils and crocuses and buds ready to spring out given half a chance and a warm day and looking at the blue blue sky and remembering Cornwall in the UK in April 2007 where I lost my 12-week pregnancy on the first day of a honeymoon the day after the wedding (and also in NYC in September 2001) with the same blue blue sky and crying and crying and then seeing the little kids at the playground and crying some more and thinking thank God/dess, thank you, for the fact I feel sadness rather than anger at the kids or ignoring them or trying not to cry, so I can breathe and smell the soil that is damp and the grass as it is growing and hear and see everyone - and in Inwood I mean Everyone - playing some form of baseball - on a diamond or in a patch of grass or dirt and today - this day - see - for once - kids of every color playing together - and that doesn't always happen - so while I cried I was happy, too.
And the squirrels all running around like little lunatics trying to find the food they had buried in the fall. And all the life everywhere.
So I'm not cured...but I do hear the voices sometimes of the spirits of the two lives that began in me and did not ever make it out alive telling me they are OK, very OK, and that I will be, too, and I cry some more and see the white birds flying in front of the darkening wood, and it's like a painting and they are them and I know that and they are not them and I know that and I am not cured and I'm not sure I want to be.
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