“When the Roots are Deep, There is no reason to fear the wind”
It starts with the small things.
It starts with the comments about your habits, your way of doing things, how you talk, and how you move. In the beginning you feel comfortable because your partner, friend, lover cares about you to discuss these habits and ways of doing things with you. You feel noticed, appreciated, seen.
Time passes and you get used to it, and after a while these little comments, become criticisms, and as time progresses even further they become outright mean, hurtful and deliberate verbal punches.
And you justify them. You feel as if it’s love, care, understanding, attention. (above all attention). Cause if he/she didn’t care he/she wouldn’t ignore you. And as Anne Lamott says in her TED talk about her 12 truths about life and writing,
Caring is the other side of control.
But you get used to it, you think this is love, this is caring this is what relationships, friendships, partnerships are supposed to be. Until one day you wake up and you have completely lost yourself in them. They hold the key to every move you make, they have brick by brick stolen your self esteem, your confidence and your ability to believe that you can live with out them. Slowly they have convinced you that you are with out them, useless, weak and afraid, and you believe them. Only they can understand you, and their friendship, love and care is the ultimate and best thing you will ever have.
If you decide to reject their abusive words and actions, you are ungrateful, crazy, you lost your shit, you are imbalanced and certifiably nuts. You are not worthy, you can’t deal, you don’t understand, you’re feelings are irrational, biased and untrue. You will never find anyone like them, only they can deal with your crazy ass, if they left you would be like a lost puppy, you are a selfish, stupid little person.
And that seed of doubt planted right from the beginning; has taken over your whole being. This toxic weed of self doubt, self loathing, self deprecation, is slowly poisoning you. Your kingdom has a new leader and it’s not you. Slowly your foundation has been chipped away and you can’t even stand on your own two feet. But luckily for you, your abuser is there to pick you up, tell you they and only they love you because that’s what real friends, lovers, partners are for.
When the light bulb goes off.
You wake up, one day after having heard it all, and even though you feel wobbly on your feet, you take a step and then another and you rebuild, you begin to listen to your own true voice again, you begin to realize that you’re not a piece of shit, you’re not crazy, you’re not useless without them, you deserve love, affection, care, communication, attention and companionship. And just when they aren’t looking, you jump off the speeding train to no where. You will stumble, you will fall many times, you will feel unsure of the direction you’re taking, but every time you fall, that voice telling you you’re useless without them won’t be there. So you get up and you keep going.
You start to trust your voice again.
From a whisper, it becomes a steady vibrant, beautiful voice. Like any living being, when the abuse stops scars remain, but with love, care, trust and acceptance, your scars are only a reminder of how far you have come.
One invaluable lesson the financial crisis in Greece taught me, is that one can’t take anything for granted.
There are few incredibly wealthy Greeks who remain untouched by the financial crisis. I am not going to talk about them in this blog post.
Countless young Greek professionals like myself, have had to leave their lives, their homes and their families behind for a another and very uncertain life elsewhere. I uprooted my life, (again) and migrated to another country, not only for a better life but essentially to survive. If all goes well and I’m able to build a life here in the U.S, or anywhere else; I hope to move beyond surviving, and to ultimately thrive and succeed.
Going back to Greece to live and work; is not a viable option for us who left.
At least not yet.
I am far luckier than most.
With all the strides, that I have made living in New York the past five years; it has not been without its challenges. I attribute the general malaise of my fellow country men and women, not only to nostalgia or missing our homeland, but to the crude realization of having to prove ourselves somewhere else AGAIN, after having fought very hard to establish a life in a far less conducive and accepting environment.
I built a successful career in my field, and was afforded a relatively stable family and personal life, but most importantly Greece was my home. I LOVED living there. I had in general terms a good life. Despite all its craziness and complete chaos; I love Greece. Yet….most young people, (myself included when I first moved back after my studies), are endlessly discouraged by Greece’s pure lack of any provable organization, shitty public services, corrupt governance, disorganized and badly outdated infrastructure, nepotism, greed … rampant sexism, and most recently a newly emboldened racism and nationalism; the list is endless.
We all have complained, and continue to do so about how badly everything runs, how our corrupt politicians are stifling growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Many of the people who left, wanted to make it work in Greece. We wanted to bring our knowledge back to our homeland. I like many of my contemporaries, have had the privilege of being educated in good schools, have had contact with some amazing minds in all the fields I have worked at; (the Arts, Dance, Wellness and beyond), and have had the good fortune to be able to choose where I would like to live, but above all…. I had the ultimate “golden ticket”; an American Passport.
My privilege is not lost on me.
It has afforded much needed headway when coming to the United States to work and live after living in Greece for most of my adult life. Yet…. I am still seen as a bloody foreigner. Despite my many difficulties proving myself again as a yoga teacher, arts administrator and overall capable professional; this little title “American Citizen” protects me from far worse treatment and marginalization that many of my compatriots feel having never lived in the U.S, or any other foreign country for that matter.
When observing the difficulty my friends face when coming to the U.S for the first time, I feel immensely grateful to be able to navigate through “the system” as well as having a better understanding of the intricacies of living, operating and decoding how “the little things” work in the U.S. This is an obscure list of unwritten rules; it’s handed to us upon arrival and, we all have to follow them.
A rude awakening, to a new life.
Whatever life I left behind in Greece; losing the comfort and ease I was used to, was quite daunting at first glance. What I learned upon arrival to the U.S is that nothing of what I knew or was used to is applicable here. If I am going to survive, I must play the local game and all but forget how things worked for me “back home”. I had to go through the same “schooling” when I moved back to Greece at 22, after my studies in the U.S. The American way of life does not apply to Greek chaos… so I was called to re-calibrate how I worked “the system”, in order to survive and ultimately thrive.
This I find is the biggest gift, no matter how hard of a transition it has been. I am now fortified with the tools to be able to negotiate a productive way of life both here and in Greece. The local rules and “how things are done” are no longer a mystery, because doing things by the book in New York is only the first step to a long education about making it here, or anywhere else.
And the story continues….
What role do our memories play in how we hold on to people?
I romanticize my exes.
Even when years have passed, they cross my mind. I do this just enough so I can trick my self into thinking how I regret losing them.
I’m surrounded by phantoms; ghosts of lovers past who I tap into every time I want to feel wounded about my crap choices in partners, lovers and men who are far from perfect in reality; yet I paint them in very different and much more favorable colors.
I’m the painter, it’s my canvas I’ll cry on it if I want to.
I’m content with how my life is right now, and after some time has passed, I’m fine with my choice to not seek any further romantic involvement, with all my failed romantic escapades. Yet… my skin feels the touch points he touched, I romanticize this imperfect and quite ridiculous person into some prince charming when he was far from it…
I clung for years to my memories of these imperfect men like little nuggets of a fairy tale gone horribly bad.
Of course they were imperfect, not what I truly wanted or needed in my life then or now. My loneliness played tricks on me, and we all do this; I projected characteristics, reactions and romantic comedy bull shit scenarios to these toads, who adorned me with fancy words, and over the top flattery.
Rhinestone Cowboys I like to call them. You know the type of men who will pretty much say anything just to get recognition, a smile, vulnerability, and ultimately power over you. And you let them; despite all the cautionary tales, and your friends telling you he’s full of shit, and your own brain trying to avoid another collision course, because it’s inevitable you will fall for the ones who tell you what you want to hear.
When we sit down and take stock of our past failures in relationships with people who on the surface may have seemed “perfect for us”; ultimately what we lament is not the loss of these seemingly perfect people, but the loss of ourselves, in them.
We must not lose ourselves for the whims and wants of others.
We must not lose who we are, we must not lose who we want to become, or hold back to please other peoples idea of us. As hard as that is, as challenging as it may seem, holding out for those who meet us half way or all the way for that matter are far more gratifying, appealing and beautiful.
There is no time for false narratives, bad stories and fake vulnerability. Holding on to ghosts as backward as it may seem to many, has at least helped me know what I definitely don’t want. And for many, recognizing even that; is a start to letting go of the ghosts and the phantoms of the past.