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.
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.
I am now directing again, my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which you can find on the sidebar. Someday, I will have a website, but for now, you can find a lot about me on here. Thanks for stopping by...