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 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC 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. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.

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 now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. 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

In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.

In May, I directed my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which now includes an award-winning chapbook of my short-story White shoe lady, which you can find on the sidebar. I also have become a certified yoga instructor in the Kripalu lineage. What a year!

And FINALLY, I have created a website, which I hope you will visit, The Unadapted Ones. I will keep this blog site up, since it is a record of over 8 years of my life, but will eventually be blogging more at the website, so if you want to know what I am up to with my writing, teaching, retreats and so on, the site is the place to check (and to subscribe for updates). After eight years I realized, no, I'm never turning into One Thing. So The Unadapted Ones embraces the multiplicity that comprises whomever I am, which seems to always be shifting. That may in fact be reality for everyone, but will speak for myself here. So, do visit there and thanks for coming here, too. Glad to meet you on the journey...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Call the Midwife, memorial, grief, old photos, and the unadapted

I have not blogged since my cousin died, except to say she had died. Her memorial was on November 11, and I was in St. Paul until November 14. Much has occurred in these past two months, but I was in a limbo that accords with the silence, though I was working, too, on various writing projects - editing a book and starting up a new one, sending out shorter pieces and such, also teaching my writing workshop.

But mostly in a haze of grief. The memorial was wonderful, and helped to say goodbye, and in some sense feel released because of it, that and going through all her photos, helping to sort through them, and finding in the midst - photos of me and my family as well as hers. Felt like some kind of deep ritual going through all those photos.

Also in the midst of this was texting for the midterms, something I did for myself and also in honor of Darcy who was political, engaged and would have cared deeply about the outcome of the elections, and been thrilled to see the gains, especially in her childhood home of Milwaukee.

I have also discovered the show Call the Midwife, which of course started a number of years ago, but I did not watch it until now, but can thanks to Netflix. This show is a quietly subversive piece of genius, and also gives an insight into the world in which I was born. Has not yet reached 1963 but am close in Season 5, and while also not born on East End of London, instead in Providence, RI, the world and the pressures, especially on women, were very similar. And affected my mother and therefore me a great deal. If you want a good view into what it looks like when abortion is illegal and single women can't keep their children, this is a good way to see the human cost, even with way more social support than women had here in the US in the same time period.

Something else brought up in the show is the use of thalidomide, which made me think about how I think about being born when I was, what makes people born in a fairly narrow fulcrum time (neither Boomers nor X-ers) unique, and I realized in part we are also the thalidomide generation - the babies born on the cusp of what was considered the victory of modern medicine, that turned out to be not as all-encompassing as thought, and in fact began the realization that what could be considered a wonder drug can then turn out to cause great harm, in this case to the babies born of mothers who took the drug under instructions from their doctor. While this ended before I was born, because the effects became known by 1961, this feels like part of the world in which we arrived. One that began to question itself again after the post war "boom" of supposed optimism, etc.

In any case these are the things I am thinking about and seeing lots of photos from the 1960s and 70s increases this awareness of how different the world was that I was born into and grew up in, which is of course what everyone says as they get older, but the shifts are jarring nonetheless.

As is incredibly obvious right now, our lives - those born in the early 1960s - have not been a victory march. Yes, there are have been jolts here and there of progress, sometimes great leaps, but right now here we are in a precarious place, with hopefully a tide turning but we still have to see if that is real. Which again feels very familiar.

I am thinking about all this because of having been to Darcy's memorial and seeing all these photos, including of her father and mother, and my grandmother, Jani, and the history of political activism and social engagement in my family all the way back as far as the eye can see. So when I speak of these things it's not "just politics" but also engages with the deepest strains in my family. Not all of it pure of course, and some of it downright awful, but this engagement and desire always to create a better, more just world the beating heart of the family legacy...with an equal and opposite shadow side, which is pretty much par for any course I've seen so far in my 55 years on this earth, such as it is, such as I have had the privilege to see. Not everything—some have seen and done far more than me—but I have seen and done quite a bit, and so far: no utopias in sight.

No pure dystopias either, I should add. Every place having its own weird mix of shadows and light, and underneath it all the contingencies of individual lives always falling off the charts, never going according to plan, messing up the works and all the perfect theories, stratagems and predictions.

This is what I cling to most in fact, this understanding, that beneath whatever obvious surface there is a lot more going on—in social bodies, individual bodies, cultural bodies, national bodies, ecological bodies....things happening that are not visible, perhaps not even to the person or people involved, the key to unlock the prison gate, always being created at the same time as the prison is being built.

So, where are we now? Damned if I know.

But I am here now, writing this, glad of that, sad beyond measure I cannot talk of these things with my beloved cousin Darcy, closest to a sister I will ever have, but so grateful I was able to have seen her before she died and be there for her memorial, to know that I showed up for all of it, and not only that, I wanted to show up for all of it. This was not some virtue thing, but a deep desire to honor her. I have to believe this impulse is what the best of human is about. When we can grieve our beloveds, and tell them how much they are beloved before they pass from our grasp.

I have so many other things I am thinking about these days, but this feels like what is important to say now.

Tides are..tidal, so anything I say is inherently impermanent, contingent, just for now. I'd love to come up with something timeless, but not sure that is a real thing.

As William James so brilliantly pointed out in The Varieties of Religious Experience:

"...There are in reality infinitely more things "unadapted" to each other in this world than there are things "adapted"; infinitely more things with irregular relations than with regular relations between them. But we look for the regular kind of thing exclusively, and ingeniously discover and preserve it in our memory. It accumulates with other regular kinds, until the collection of them fills our encyclopaedias. Yet all the while between and around them lies an infinite anonymous chaos of objects that no one ever thought of together, of relations that never yet attracted our attention."

Guess what I'm interested in?

Yes, of course. You already know. The unadapted. Those relations which have "never yet attracted our attention."

I think maybe if I had to guess, this is why I've been plunked here on this planet. To learn to pay close attention, and attempt to play, write, draw, paint, create what I notice...and help others to do the same.

Monday, September 10, 2018

my beloved cousin has died

My beloved cousin Darcy died today. I am devastated, but was able to see her last week. At some point when I have the strength I will write about all this visit, because it was precious time that I would not trade anything in the world for having had. This is not that time.

She died on a new moon and on Rosh Hashanah. I am not Jewish and neither is she but the New Year is a profound time in the Jewish tradition, and a good friend walked me through that, and how her dying on this day is meaningful.

I am too tired and sad to unpack all this now but I am glad I spoke with my friend. John had to go up to Canada tonight, so I am by myself for a week. In some ways this is hard, but in some ways maybe gives me space to grieve.

All I know about grief from my decade of people dying is: there is no one way this shit works.

My cousin was the closest to a sibling I had in the world and with her goes the only witness to deeper veins of my experience, including sharing Jani as our grandmother. I note she also died on 'grandparents day.' Darcy saw Jane when she was dying of cancer and now she too has died of cancer.

She leaves behind two lovely teenage boys and a wonderful, loving husband. She herself was one of the best people in the world. I can't believe she died at 51. This loss for so many of us is unspeakable.

I do hope she is now renewed, as Rosh Hashanah is about renewal and new beginnings. She and I spoke of intimations of things not seen. I do not know, but I do know she was the only person in my generation I felt related to, and now the world is lonelier. But also she was suffering and now she is released. I prayed the past two days at night to let her go. The little girl inside of me sobbed and said 'no' and I cried a lot. I did not want to let her go, but knew I had to.

My Jewish friend said she felt Darcy would be with me. I know Jani was. There is this deep current, that is impossible to explain. Maybe those people who worship ancestors know a thing or two about a thing or two. There is something.

I don't know anything. But I do know Darcy was love and I loved her unconditionally. I will miss her forever and hold her in my heart forever. To infinity and back.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


My cousin is dying in St. Paul. I was lucky enough to see her last week and spend some beautiful and precious hours with her as she began her in-home hospice. She will most likely not live for more than a few more days now, and my heart is breaking as are many who love her. When I returned to NYC, for some reason I decided to send in a piece I had written a number of years ago about being with my estranged father when he died in 2010. The journal editor got back to me the next day and said she wanted to publish it. These two people and experiences could not be farther apart but since this whole decade has been about close relatives dying, it resonates nonetheless...

So I here is the link to Memoriam in Burning House Press.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

or not...

Alas. have to heal my super frozen shoulder that includes calcification - anywhere from 3-7 months to heal.

So...no yoga teacher training after all. Which is heartbreaking. I can of course do it again sometime. I hope. Depends on many things, including resources and time.

But there is a profound lesson here about letting go of plans and slowing the fuck down. Which I have not done in a really, really long time. So, there can be a healing journey - just not the poetic October in Kripalu one. Instead something less big but perhaps more durable? We shall see.

There is also anticipatory grief right now for someone who is dying, and one fear I had was that the teacher training would be too much with that happening as well. So, there will be space.

I can't type much without possibly aggravating everything so am going to keep this brief.

But here's to the kind of healing that is perhaps less visible but perhaps no less profound for that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Another healing journey...

A lot has happened since my last blog post, all the events listed were performed, and had a wonderful retreat to Westray in Orkney Islands. In fact, so good, that I have booked three more - for April, July and September. So, if you want to spend some time in a beautiful place, getting a lot of writing done, surrounded by serious writers who are super supportive, then get in touch.

But what I want to write about now is my near-future plan for October of this year...which involves spending the month at Kripalu - a yoga center in the Berkshires that I love - for intensive yoga teacher training. I will be there for a month.

Aside from the fact that the training itself will be transformational, and I will be certified to teach after over 17 years of practicing Kripalu yoga, this is also happening precisely 17 years after I was meant to spend a month at Kripalu doing a seva program. I had just begun practicing yoga and wanted to immerse myself in it. I was excited and nervous about the prospect of spending a month someplace I had never been, but I had been assured it was a great place. I was ready for an adventure after what had been a challenging year getting over a difficult breakup of a 13 year relationship, which had the effect of making me question Everything. I was ready for this new life, this new world.

Then less than a month before I was meant to go up to Lenox, September 11, 2001 happened, in my city. I have written about this many times, and if you want my best description, you can read it here.

But what happened after is, I could not leave the city. I was afraid it would disappear. Many were fleeing, but I was holding on for dear life. NYC was my home, the only place on earth that I had ever felt at home, and now all I could smell was burning plastic, metal and bodies - even up in Yorkville where I lived at the time. The smell made it up the East River. The smoke was visible, even though I was miles north of the attack. I had many friends who had been closer, some who lost people, and all of us saw the missing signs everywhere. People had tacked up photocopies of smiling pictures of friends and relatives, every fire house had at least eight photos up it seemed. There were candles under some of the photos in little planters, near trees, on steps up to brownstones. None of them were missing. They were all dead, incinerated.

I could not move. Would not move. Was not afraid, as far as I could tell, but of course I was. In yoga class, I felt the terror, but mostly was in a dissociated fugue state, that I arguably lived in for years, and to some degree even exist in to this day.

I cancelled the trip to Kripalu. I ended up doing a lot of other things, including moving to the UK in 2003 for what I thought was temporary stay that ended up lasting 8 years. I left in August 2003, right after the blackout, which ended the morning I flew out, I remember seeing a guy - probably drunk - stagger in front of our Super Shuttle Van at 4 am in Times Square. The driver swerved to avoid him, but it was eerie. My cats had looked at me bereft when I walked out the door. Everything was deeply weird.

I won't go into those eight years, because that's a novel in its own right, but the fact is I missed all the 9/11 anniversaries after the first one in 2002. And because of the way it was being used politically, I refused to participate even then in any event that showed my grief publicly. I was enraged that our grief was being used as an excuse to ramp up a war. So, I shoved it down. Then I was in the UK where no one wanted to know and most were cynical about 9/11. Individually some people wanted to know my actual human scale story but most decided to launch into diatribes about how it was an inside job and/or how Americans now know how it feels, etc. So, I learned to shut the fuck about it.

Then I shut it down into a tiny, hidden part of myself. Hidden even to me.

This part would emerge when I visited NYC and sometimes was near downtown and would see building going on and feel nauseous or start shaking, and I would have to leave.

I shut. it. down.

So, when I was back here in September 2011, realizing I was going to move back to NYC, and the 10th anniversary rolled around, I was kind of shocked by how moving it was to me, how emotional I got. I was wary now of saying this to my New York friends, because they had now been through Years of this grieving or ignoring it, depending on their mood or capability. So, once again, I kept it to myself.

I have begun to realize over the years of being back in NYC that some part of me is still damaged from that day, some part of me I have not allowed out somehow, a wound I have protected.

One of the original ways of shielding that wound was to Not go to Kripalu in October 2001.

So, when I realized I could go up in October 2018 for teacher training if I received a scholarship (which happily I did), I decided it was time to finally do this thing. While this won't heal everything, it's a start. I will finally allow myself the immersion I so craved then, but then somehow feared.

I don't know if the buried emotions will come up or not. There has been a lot of trauma in my life since then, including difficult losses, and there is one right now on the horizon. I have no idea what will happen.

But I am dedicating the training and any yoga teaching I do to people who were like me when I started yoga in my late 30s: scared and kind of suspicious and sure I could not do it. I want to work with people who suffer from PTSD or just plain old bad body image or a sense of being "bad" at physical things. And maybe people like me, too, who just can't shake certain wounds.

I want to embrace vulnerability, my own and others'. I don't know if I can actually do this or am just talking trash. In reality I hate vulnerability. My own that is. Total loss of control. It sucks. But it's also the only place life can become, well, life. So there's that.

We shall see what happens.

But this is a baby step towards healing. I was torn asunder on 9/11/01. More than I knew. I don't think I will necessarily get put back together, because not sure that's possible, but maybe, if I'm lucky, I can at least find the bits and pieces that were lost, even if they are in shards and make into some kind of whack collage.

There are worse fates.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

If you know where you're going, it isn't anywhere new...

The above photo was taken in a bathroom stall in the Tate Modern in London in 2011 by my friend Alison Blunt. I have kept it on my computer for years. All the publications, readings (of plays and prose) and coaching offers (for those of you who want to brave your own souls and would like some company along the way) are not for the faint of heart. You wouldn't be on my mailing list if you were faint of heart. So, let us agree...

Faint heart never won yet. 

Nothing worth doing is easy, but when in the midst of one's creative process there is great joy. I experience that joy, too, when seeing, hearing, experiencing work created from the 
depth of another's soul, heart, and gifts. Below are offerings, of work by me and others - and invitations for you to do the same - not by offering you a generic formula but guiding you to hold space for your own voice to emerge, which will not look or sound like anyone else's. Because it's yours.

If you know where you are going, it isn't anywhere new. 

We are being told and sold ways to conform and consume, not how to create or live outside a commercial sphere. I think it's pretty obvious this hasn't brought us anywhere particularly good. So, let's get lost. The weather's fine...

Sunday, June 3 at 5pm is a staged reading of SHIT, which was chosen for IATI's 2018 Cimientos play development series. SHIT is a meditation and a rage-cry about powerlessness and violence, both public and private. IATI is at 64 East 4th Street, right next to LaMama. Directed by Nina Fry, with amazing cast: John Amir, Mia Y. Anderson, Roy Koshy, Alyssa Simon and Eva van Dok. Don't miss this. It's gonna be special.
Tuesday, June 5 at 8pm the fabulous women of my Inwood Writers' Workshop (IWW) will be reading at the delicious Tannat Wine & Cheese (natural wine and rustic cuisine). On 4736 Broadway across from Fort Tryon Park near Thayer Street (A or 1 to Dyckman)...hope you can join us to hear some kick-ass women read brand new stuff while munching on some goodies and having a glass of wine if you like.
Sunday, June 17 at 7pm is a reading of my newest play inspired by #metoo On the edge of/a cure at Inwood Art Work's Culture Hub, 440 W. 202 Street. Amazing month of work curated here by Aaron Simms, proud to be a part of it. If in area, visit any time in June!
In May, two of my stage texts, CUT UP (1997) and Future Worlds: Tricorn Init! (2004) were published on a fabulous online journal TL;DR as poetry. I am happy they are finding new audiences in the virtual world, and that the new editor, Bri Esposito, was so enthusiastic about these texts, especially since she is younger than me. Gives me hope!

Meanwhile...after a successful year of leading workshops (three 10-week sessions) and having readings such as the one on June 5, INWOOD WRITING WORKSHOP  will restart in September 2018. Because I believe in highly personalized workshops, I am keeping the groups small. Because I believe in accessibility, the tuition is affordable. If you are interested, email me, and I will send you the details. I may also teach a weekend intensive in August for summer "start-me-up camp"...speaking of which I have some new... 

Coaching and Editing Packages
(best deals for my bespoke services - though custom packages available)

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER...If you need a push to get your manuscript finished - you know the one - you've started it and filed it away or you have it in the back of your mind, and it's that thing you are going to write some day. Well, that day is NOW. As Doris Lessing said, "Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible." Doris Lessing left school at the age of 14 to go work as a legal secretary and then went on to win the Nobel Prize, so I think we can trust her... And sometimes the way to make yourself complete that manuscript is have someone hold you accountable. In this package, we agree on a time by which your draft manuscript will be complete. It can be anywhere from 3 months to a year from when we begin working together. For $2,000 I will work with you to completion and do a manuscript review at the end. Depending on length of time, we will decide on times to do live coaching (in person or Skype or phone) and when to email. You will promise to finish your manuscript. I will be on you to do that. No excuses. GET. IT. DONE. Come hell or high water.

STAND BY ME... You already are knee-deep into a manuscript and you really want someone to look at what you have and give you guidance in how to shape this crazy thing. You might even have a complete draft. You have a vision, but you want company and an outside eye for your revisions. You don't need a coach as much as you need an editor, but sometimes a little coaching could be nice. For $1,500 I'll help you get from A to B to refine your project. We will define what "B" is for you before we start and come up with a plan to get there. 

START ME UP... OK, so that all sounds scary but you really want to get that writing project started, the one that haunts you, that vision you know is inside you but you just aren't sure where or how to start to let it out. You want someone to give you permission to start finding your own  voice and read some of your words to give you feedback. For $500, I can offer this coaching. We agree on the time-frame and get you started with a project, make sure your writing habits are grooved in, and you have an action plan to finish. (You can then graduate to Come Hell or High Water or Stand By Me if you want...but this is a way to step gradually into the pool...)

Sure that sounds great, Julia, but why should I trust you? 

Glad you asked! Here is a small sample of lovely words from writers I've taught, coached, and edited:

"You know that book project you've seen me typing about recently? I'd been stuck on it for five-plus years until I realized Julia Lee Barclay-Morton could help me — and I expect to have a proposal to my agent by later winter or early spring. Working with her in November changed everything. My book went from something I just wanted to finish and get off my plate to something I can imagine being proud of, something I actually want to write and bring into the world. Writing a book *seems* like a thing you do alone. And maybe that works for some folks. For me, having Julia in my corner is my secret weapon, and I never want to have to power through without her again. If your writing project needs a secret weapon, too, I'm willing to share." - Orna Izakson

"I hired Julia Barclay-Morton as a manuscript reviewer for my long, sprawling novel. It was a complicated story with many characters. In addition to answering the many questions that I posed about continuity and character development, she gave me a thorough rundown of problems in tone, language usage, and plot. Not only that, Julia showed me what was right about the novel and how to bring out the best aspectsShe was a pleasure to work with. Being an editor/writer/teacher herself, Julia has a keen eye and excellent ear. I cannot recommend her services enough." Elisa DeCarlo

"I had been struggling with my project for over a year and made more progress in the ten weeks than in all the preceding months. I started with a story to tell but without the skills to make it real. I finished with a sense of direction and having for the first time experienced satisfaction with what I had written. I will be back for the next session and look forward to the continued support of a group that provides loving and constructive feedback." - Rosette Evans

"Julia Lee Barclay-Morton is a gifted editor, writer, reviewer. I hired her for her manuscript review services and am so pleased with her work, relentless in exposing the problems--and pointing toward solutions--in a problem-laden and complex manuscript. I highly recommend her. Your project would be in good hands and you would learn much to apply in future new work." - Vicky Gundrun

"Julia is a masterful writer and teacher. Her workshop was the perfect environment to finish my book." - Heather Greer


The Orkney Islands (Scotland) writing retreat (July 7-22) is full but I will be leading more in 2019! 
 if you want to come to this magic place in 2019, get in touch. You can also put yourself on an informal waitlist for this year. If you want to give your writer self a gift, it doesn't get much better than this. Compared to most writing retreats, this is far less expensive, and I guarantee you with the wind, the clouds, the endless summer evenings wherein the sun doesn't set until 11:30pm, and the soft green hills where the Atlantic meeting the North Sea meet on which you can watch the shadows of the clouds glide across, you will be inspired to finish or begin projects you thought impossible. In this house in 2009, I wrote a PhD dissertation in four weeks, and last summer, I finished the rewrite of a novel in three weeks. This place is magic. If you want to secure a spot for 2019, get in touch. I may do two retreats if I can, so also if there is a time of year you would prefer, tell me that, too.

For more information on coaching and editing services, you can check out Barclay-Morton Editorial+Design, you follow me on my blog Somewhere in Transition, Twitter @wilheminapitfa or Facebook Julia Lee Barclay-Morton

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The war is over...and I don't know how to live outside a war zone

I have not written here in a while. But as I was walking along in Inwood Hill Park tonight where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet, and watching the reflection of the setting sun (the sun itself was behind the cliffs that rise up here on the top tip of Manhattan between the park and the Hudson where the old growth forest still grows), I could hear someone play an electric guitar...not particularly well, but enough to evoke the 1970s and evenings as a child, sometimes riding in people's vans or old cars, and the odd comfort of that, teenagers or young adults playing Led Zepplin and me in the back somewhere doing whatever, but not in charge and knowing somehow for that moment everything was OK.

I then remembered this realization I had the other day when I was meditating that yes indeed the war is over, but I have no idea how to live outside a war zone. I don't mean that literally in the sense of being in the middle of an actual shooting war (aside from the time we lived on 106th and Amsterdam back in the early 1990s when in fact there were many gun fights outside our window - some with automatic weapons - so bad the police would not show up because - and I quote - "we are outgunned")...but as a child, not guns, but other war zones - some violent physically, some mentally, some verbally, some emotionally, but it was always a crisis and starting as a very young child I had to have my shit together. For instance, my mother has told me, when I was a baby and she and my father would fight violently, so I would hold my breath until I turned blue, which would finally make them stop.

That kind of thing. Rinse. Repeat.

Shift characters, locations, details but the out of joint song in which I had to keep my shit together, be vigilant at all times, and therefore could rarely be a child remained the same.

So, yeah, no, I'm not what you would call laid back. All the yoga and meditation in the world can't undo that shit. It can Help. A lot. It can keep me from inflicting it on others, and at times if I'm lucky myself, but it's not precisely a good run up to peacetime living.

I'm not going to recite my childhood. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog or my plays can catch the gist, but the point remains: no tools to live in peacetime.

Which means all the time living on overdrive. Shocking that I became an alcoholic, I know (ha!). But what is a miracle is that I got sober at 23. And still am. At 54. That shit is weird. But even so, still, no windshield and not really, you know, laid back.

BUT the difference is - when I had this realization while meditating, this time I didn't think OH NO, I HAVE TO DOOOO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. I HAVE TO HAVE A 10-POINT ACTION PLAN TO DEFEAT MY CRAZINESS. No. I did not go through that. Instead, I just breathed and heard a gentle internal voice say: and that's all you need to know right now.

You don't have to DO anything about it.

Just let it settle in. And I am. And just this. The NOT doing, the letting it settle in, is changing my life. It's kind of a miracle. Not by trying to change my life. Instead by Not trying to change my life. The miracle of acceptance. You accept a thing, hold space for it, and voila, it changes. With no effort. If I resist it, it just gets bigger and more intractable.

And so now, somehow, when feelings I usually find excruciating come up - certain types of sadness or boredom or anxiety or whatever - instead of trying to run away, I just breathe them in. I hold space. I witness. I allow the feelings. I look and see what's there for me to see, feel, experience. And then, yes, it all changes. By not trying to change it.

It's bizarre.

Which is all by way of saying when I heard that guy playing the guitar, I let the pleasant kind of nostalgic memory of those peaceful moments in my childhood wash over me. I felt the nostalgia, the desire to be young again, to have life ahead of me instead of at least more than half in the rearview mirror, and also the knowledge that there were these moments of respite - for all the crazy and the crisis. And that while I might not know how to live outside a war zone, I can allow myself these moments and don't have to judge or overanalyze.

Of course it doesn't help these days how much actual crazy there is in the world and violence and rampant injustice and plain old meanness and cruelty. But the fact is in one form or other that's always been there. I can allow the feelings of powerlessness in and rage and all of it. I can act as I can act, which I do, politically. I can write sometimes, create theater, do my little part. I can spin out, I can step up, I can step aside, freak out, be calm, get angry, cry, wonder what the actual fuck, have a moment of calm, take a walk, stay under the covers, call someone, meditate, stay alone, go be with people, dance, do yoga, write, take a nap, watch stupid things on Netflix, write in this blog, submit work, get rejected, get accepted, feel accomplished, feel like a failure, feel loved, feel lonely, wonder again what the actual fuck, and then breathe and let it all in - when I remember to do so.

This is the gift of getting older, staying sober for a long time, meditating every day, doing yoga when I remember (not as much as I should in other words) and trying to be a decent person - I begin to be able to accept the whole package.

I was also thinking walking home: I want to live long, because I need to figure it out, and then I laughed when I heard an internal voice say: that'll only happen when you stop trying to figure it out. Which, like, of course. But what a seduction it is. For someone such as me anyway.

At night when lying down going to sleep with crystals on me (yes I've turned into That person - try not to hate me), and I sense, my God/dess, so much energy in my head, my mind churning and churning Trying to Figure It Out. And so little energy in the rest of my body. So then breathing into that mysterious rest of me - the part - pretty much all of it - that I routinely ignore. Letting the crystals bring me to those parts of my body. Wondering will I ever allow my body to be fully animated? I don't know. Part of the war zone thing, levels of dissociation I'm not sure will ever go away. It's waaaay better than it used to be. At least I know my body is here. I can even feel it sometimes. A number of years ago, I woke up more fully to my actual emotions (as opposed to the word facsimile cover story that masqueraded as such). But I have a feeling my physical body is the most resistant to my awareness and acceptance. I am only aware of Problems - either physical aches and pains or with How I Look (always wrong) etc. Not sure I will ever be able to embrace my corporeal self, but that's got to be Ok. I don't want to doom myself to this dissociation either. We'll see.

I can breathe now. I can at times be touched. Sometimes easier than others. But I have always been "touchy" - kind of prickly in a somewhat sneaky way. On the surface, I am warm, but it's a patina, something to a certain degree I taught myself how to do. But underneath there is the shrinking away scared little kid, never sure anyone or anything can be trusted and always ready to pick a fight. It's complex. I certainly don't think I'm alone in this.

I'm afraid to even write any of this and publish it in public. What will people THINK?! GASP! As if...but still.

So, here I am. This is me today. Tomorrow or the next day I will post a bunch of things with schedules of events, a staged reading and two readings, all in June. But this is a different post. So be it.

As the African prayer goes: It is. Thank you.

Even if that means I never do know how to live in peacetime. I am here. And there is beauty - and even moments of peace - in the midst of the ever whirring chaos in my brain and sometimes heart.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Waiting on my room...

I may have written a very similar blog post about a year and a half ago.

I am back at Kripalu, a yoga retreat where I have come since 2003. 2003 was a potent year. It's also the year I found the Orkney Islands (well many people for millennia have "found" the Orkney Islands but you get the idea...).

Now - as in December 2016 - I am waiting for my room. Over the years, the place has grown and become more hotel-like and hence rooms need to become available. On the other hand, the view to mountains and lake is the same, and an undercurrent of deeply healing energy.

I came today on purpose, because it's the 11th anniversary of my miscarriage, the one after my wedding on our honeymoon. In Cornwall. It was a beautiful day, and a very sad and painful day for me and my then husband. I never got pregnant after that. Should not by rights have been pregnant then. I was 43, no IVF, had had an operation on my uterus to make it possible, but that somehow seemed to make me feel worse for a long time. So it was all a surprise, a happy one, and then it wasn't. I was 12 weeks pregnant, so it was painful, too, physically.

So for the first time since that happened, I have taken myself away from all that is familiar (well Kripalu is familiar, but not home and I'm not here with anyone I know) to walk through or screech through the feelings as the case may be.

Coming up by bus I felt the closer we got an almost exquisite sense of loneliness. I say exquisite not as in beautiful but as in so rarefied I almost didn't know what it was. Like distilled water, not mixed with any other emotion, either worse or better.

I then doubted whether this was a good idea, but then I realized, oh, of course, this part of grieving is that. It is lonely business. People can wave at you from their own shore and tell you about their own experience of such grief, and be holding you with love, but still you are alone in this ice floe.

It is grey and cold up here today, too, as if to kind of make the point. Underline it. On other hand, the weather in Cornwall was beautiful, the whole damn week that followed, too. We stayed there. What else to do? Go back to London and see everyone from the wedding and have them be pitying towards us. That somehow seemed worse. Would it have been? I don't know.

I think I was - I definitely was - in shock. So through all the blood and pain I hiked and hiked. Pad after pad soaking, trying to find places to throw them out. Why? Afraid of the pain? probably. Afraid of being alone and crushed by grief and loneliness. Definitely.

So, here I am. Alone. Waiting for my room.

Last time I was here, I posted a photo of this same view, and my stepfather David responded to it. He loved Kripalu, too. He died a couple days later, the day I returned - so that turned out to be our last communication. I found out the next day, as we all did. He was alone. He must have called 911 because an ambulance had come and brought him to the hospital, where his friend finally found his body. He was probably dead when he arrived. Massive heart attack. Out of nowhere. Boom. Alone.

So, coming up here felt way harder than usual. Was afraid even.

But as the volume goes down on the outside the world, the pain has a chance to surface. I do know from experience not just fortune cookies that experiencing pain mitigates suffering, but in the middle of it of course it can be hard to remember.

I haven't written a blog post in a while but this felt like the right time, if for no other reason than I am in the cafe drinking coffee and waiting for my room.

My temporary home for 3 days.

This is the view. I never tire of the way the mountains layer in color and form in the distance. One of the best things about getting out of the city is the ability to see distances. Even if misty and obscured.  There are literally shades of grey here today. And dark greens and blues...but mostly grey tinted by blue...

There is a lot of wind today - intimations of Orkney. Where I will be again this summer. These refuges I have been so lucky to find later in life. Where things change a lot, but there is something underneath deeper than these changes that remains.

It is precisely that to which I can attune more easily in these places and to which I attune more and more each year.

That is where that which can hold me through the healing resides. It doesn't make it less painful, but it makes it possible.

Friday, March 23, 2018


Hi all,

Just writing to say I am writing. I am writing now - after many years of writing for public consumption here, stage texts, many FB posts, and two books - for myself. A very private project. I don't know if it will ever see the light of day.

However, that is the mode I am in, so not sure how many blog posts there will be for a little while.

The outline of what I am doing is a deeply personal excavation project. I need to kind of protect the space around it in order to do it.

I will periodically announce things here, and who knows, maybe write some posts, too, but there is a shift, it feels right, and wanted to give you who have read this page a heads up.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

31 years of not killing myself one day at a time....

I have not been blogging much because I've been working on some new writing, something that may in fact never see the light of day but seems to be important for my psychic survival.

Somehow this relates to being 31 years sober as of yesterday. Because while I do talk about this process periodically, it's mostly something I do in private.

I can say this about that however: it requires a continual excavation of the self and a commitment to helping others do the same, to find a way to walk through each day without a drink or a drug to dull the pain. Or whatever else one might want dulled.

I am exhausted and not sure why I am writing this now, but today was a gift, was able to share some of what I have learned with a dear friend, go to yoga and feel my heart and how tight it is right now, how my shoulders are protecting it, how they probably always have been, how painful that is and how compassionate I need to be with myself even so. There is good reason for that protection. It is tempting to be disappointed in myself that I still hide out, still fear people, still fear a lot of things. But that is as ridiculous as being disappointed in anyone else for being afraid, which I rarely am, not if they are aware of the fear anyway.

Sobriety is a paradox of both having to become aware of my darkest and most vulnerable parts, but also somehow give them space, not reject them, because that causes denial or dissociation. It seems to be for me these days about holding space for infinite complexity including massive contradictions and conflicts within myself. I am committed to not exiling parts of myself because they are not convenient or are embarrassing or whatever. This can be challenging and sometimes a pain in the ass to be honest.

However, as I walk through this journey day by day, both internally and in some cases within my writing, I feel I land more firmly on the earth, touch down even to the ocean floor of my own psyche, that vast silence filled with strange creatures and detritus thrown from the surface that just kind of landed there.

I have some deep frustrations with some external situations over which I have limited control, some shame over certain career achievements not having been reached. So much shame I don't really want to say that out loud, fearing judgment. But since this is all about being transparent with myself, it seems absurd not to say it.

But the larger fact is for all this, I don't want to drink or take any substances today, and I'm not acting out in other ways to ease the pain or confusion. Sometimes that seems like a ridiculous thing to say out loud after 31 years, but since I am aware of people who have gone out drinking after 10-20-30 years sober, and some who have died as a consequence, it's not a small thing.

Long term sobriety is not glamorous, it's life experienced - everything all the time - with the volume turned to 11. As I have said before - life without shock absorbers...and no windshield.

However, there are moments like today when I can talk to a dear friend such that my experience of this walking can give relief, maybe shed light, or other times I can talk to someone who is new to this life and help them stay sober another day. Then all the muddling through and the seemingly at times absurd lengths I go to be honest with myself and others that frankly at times seems to verge on self-destructive, has meaning.

I wish I could say which way to go forward with my life was crystal clear. It's not. I have lived one day at a time for so long now I don't think I know any other way. Each day is about being more or less in tune with a sort of internal divining rod that I let guide me.

I do meditate every day. I try to do some yoga and walk. I write most every day. I try to be a decent human being. This year I'm also doing a fair bit of political work for obvious reasons, like - you know - survival, but am grateful for having found a way to do that that is both relatively simple and incredibly effective.

I hold space for others who are going through tricky changes and who are discovering their voices - in life and art. I spend a lot of time - that I love - working with other writers - as a teacher, coach, editor and friend.

I wonder what has happened to my theater work as a director, I seem to only be writing now for the most part. I kind of miss the rehearsal room but my internal divining rod has led me away from that for the lasy while. Will it lead me back? I don't know.

So much I don't know.

But I am sober. I have walked through a lot of life this way, more years than I was alive when I hit my bottom at 23 - a horrifying sense of not even existing in some way - not to mention not being able to even get drunk anymore. I wish I could tell you it's all been a glittering triumph or that I was a paragon of mental health, but that would be a lie. It's been a journey, one that still continues. A bumpy ride at times, other times exhilarating and seemingly effortless, some years full of grief and low level depression, and some moments even now, 31 years later, when it feels like there is a trap door that has opened up beneath me that I tumble down wondering when I will hit a bottom, seemingly lost and thinking: wait, what? I'm 54, shouldn't I be you know More Together Than This?

I try not to take these moments of confusion, which at times are painful, out on anyone, but sometimes I do, mostly the people closest to me of course. One of the things I am examining so closely now is how I navigate such things and why. Imprints from a chaotic childhood as an only child amongst multiple caretakers most of whom had wildly different value systems from one another and most of whom were not really meant to have kids but there I was - the proverbial inconvenient truth. Sometimes consequently, I feel safest when alone, because only then do I have to account to no one. That is an illusion of course, because it's not like all those people and experiences just vanish when I'm by myself.

Alcoholism amongst other things is a disease of isolation, it wants you alone in a room and dead. So, this is one of my primary conflicts, both desiring being alone and knowing at times I need to resist that urge. To allow others to see me in more vulnerable states, which I find so shameful, especially fear.

I was told when I began recovery: you need never be alone again. I did not understand it then. But I do now. I might feel lonely. I meet be alone, but I am not alone. I am connected to so many people and to whatever powers this internal divining rod and a sense - astonishingly enough and more and more - of a place amidst the cosmos. Hard to explain that and won't even try at close to 4am, but it's a great piece of knowledge - not as in facts but as in something far deeper.

Finally, also, a sense of happiness seeing people younger than me agitating for a new and better world. I remember so vividly being that age and agitating my heart out, but it was the Reagan era and no one listened. What a joy it is to see these young people be heard. It gives me great joy. My friend Spencer once said he felt that those of us who don't have our own children have a certain love to offer the world and young people specifically that those with children have to reserve for their own kids, and I feel that now more than ever. I feel an optimism for the future that I have never felt before. I don't know if I'll be alive to see it in full flower, because when I mean future - I mean Future as in 30-50 years from now, but there is hope.

I mean to do my best to help keep the world alive for this new generation to take over. I used to joke with my theater work I felt like those medieval monks who hand copied the Greek and Latin texts in monasteries to keep them alive until those ideas finally fueled the Renaissance. And I see now it's not just the theater, it's my whole life that is this, living and creating, in hope for this new world that now seems possible - a tiny glimmer on a horizon - one that I will make whatever is left of my life's work to not see extinguished.

What does this have to do with sobriety? A lot actually, because in staying sober and helping others do the same, it's the same kind of thing. Passing on what I have been given, keeping alive something that is only kept alive by free action of people who are never paid, except in the gift of our own sobriety, our own lives.

But now I have rambled enough for the time being. Thank you for reading, for bearing witness, for holding space.

Monday, February 19, 2018

I'm still alive!

Sorry to have been so absent for so long. It's been a lot this beginning of the year. The good news is everyone I know and love is still alive so far - a plus. Also my freelance life writing, teaching workshops, editing and coaching is moving apace. I am still seeking out an agent and sending parts of my two books to various places, and to some small publishers. However, my play Shit! was chosen for a play development program at IATI downtown, and will have a staged reading in June

My hope for the world at the moment centers on the kids from Parkland High School in Florida who are taking a tragedy and turning it into a movement. Those young people remind me a lot of the freshmen I taught at Fordham when I was adjunct teaching. This is a new and powerful generation, and I am proud of them and will do all in my power to support their work.

In terms of writing and my own life, I am waiting on a number of things, and may have some news soon, but since not sure when that will happen, I wanted to at least post the invite here for the reading of my amazing writing workshop coming up this Tuesday at Indian Road Cafe uptown in Inwood (NYC). Come along if you can. All the women in the workshop have impressed me with their excavating of deeper territories, accompanied by a sense of humor, born from experience...I too will be reading.

John made this lovely poster! Need a designer? Give him a shout!
We are beginning a new session of the workshop in mid-March, so if you want to join us, give me a shout (using email on flyer below), everyone is continuing on, but we can bring in two more members. Meanwhile, if you would like one-on-one help with your writing, I am working with people all over the world now as a coach and editor. I'd be happy to help you move along your own projects at whatever stage from very beginning to needing a final edit!

And, there is ONE spot left for the writing retreat I am leading to Westray (one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland) in July. If interested, get in touch. This island is magic, and you can get stuff done there that would seem impossible in real life. I don't know why, but it's true. Here is link to my post when up there this past summer: https://julialeebarclay.blogspot.com/2017/06/in-orkney-in-heaven.html