Day 12 & 13- Isolation

It’s midnight. Friday the 13th 2020. Doomsday looming in both my homes. The bombardment and monopoly of the 24hr news cycle focused on a pandemic taking over the planet. Athens is already under lockdown from the spread Coronavirus Covid- 19, and New York City is not that far behind. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be experiencing something like this, my parents isolated far from New York and me wondering what the next few days will bring. Fighting hysterical posts on the one end and dismissive political figures on the other; there needs to be a mind and body triage to keep me going.

Two things that have always comforted me in good times and bad, are books and music. Both have been companions and my shield. I love diving into a good book and music, well music has been my salvation over the years, so a virus outbreak calls for some serious tunes and reads. It seems that very soon I will have to rely heavily on both for solace in what have already been very trying times. As an homage to two of my favourite pass times; I’m invoking the ever amazing BBC radio program Dessert Island Discs to make a virus lockdown mix. Music no matter how bad things get will always soothe the weary mind and heart. So with our further delay my dear readers… Here is :

My Desert Island Disks and Books for the threat of a citywide virus outbreak lockdown.

1. Here Comes The Sun — The Beatles

Why this song : Because it’s one of the first songs I ever remember hearing as a child in our Kifissia ( northern suburb of Athens) apartment when I was probably around 4-5 years old. It played on the Techniques turn table my dad had at the time, and I remember my mum wearing her very 70s glasses at the time and looking stunning. I still remember the look of the apple turning around and around 37-38 years later. It makes me tear up every time I hear it.

2. Wish you were here — Pink Floyd

Why this song: It’s epic. Plain and simple. Pink Floyd were and are some of the most prolific musicians I’ve ever come across. My first ever concert was the Pig Tour concert in 1987 at the Olympic stadium in Arhens and I remember like it was yesterday.

3. Personal Jesus —- Depeche Mode

Why this song: My love for Depeche mode and especially this song was born during my London days in the early 2000s, and it’s so telling of the era and the tone it was recorded in. The false prophets and the lost souls in invokes and the idea of a personal savior that never was.

4. Tiny Dancer — Elton John

Why this song : It reminds me of my first and last College boyfriend and who I was at the time. I was for all intents and purposes a dancer, living, breathing that art form in all its glory and whenever I hear this song, I relive my young self in upstate New York and my long gone college days. My passion for this guy who broke my heart and how he knew how to speak through song what he could never voice in his own words.

5. Dionisis Savopoulos — O Karagiozis

Why this song : The love goes deep here with this artist and this song specifically because it describes a whole generation of Greek entertainment, the idea of the pauper fool who despite his squalor always manages to get by. The long lost art of theater of shadows that kept generations of Greeks ( mostly lower and middle class greek families) entertained. This artist who’s the Greek version of Lucio Dalla, part story teller, part folk artist, he raised me with his music more than any other Greek artist I can recall ( and there are many)

6. Koupes — Marina Sati

why this song: Marina Sati to me exemplifies all that is wonderful about the new Greek music scene. A multicultural, multiethnic strong voice. A woman who exemplifies all that I love about the newer generation of Greek musicians. This song is absolutely gorgeous, beautiful vocals, great musicians. It takes me to a place I love visiting in my mind. A sunlit beach with no care in the world.

7. Vivaldi —- The Four Seasons

There are many exceptional classical pieces of music, but for me Vivaldi although often over played and considered not as sophisticated as other classical composers, is one I go to often. Especially the four seasons. It seems apropos to our understanding of nature and how it makes us feel.

8. Faithless —- Insomnia

This is the ULTIMATE dance till your bones come loose club song of the late 90s early 2000s. I get high only from its rhythm and it’s beat. My body feels so good letting its rhythm take my mind off all that’s troubling me. It takes me back to my years studying in London and my hope at the time. I absolutely love this track.

Ok one last one which is cheating the basic premise of the 8 tracks to take to the desert island but this last track is probably my ultimate piece of music I will listen to on my desert island and brings up the most beautiful memories I have of my time in London.

With a bang

Keith Jarrett — Köln Concert Part I

My list of books for keeping sane in insane times will be up tomorrow night. Till then..

Stay safe everyone.

Day 9.5 & 10 – Self Care

How does the Body Politic go into the private sphere of influence ?

Public Doubt — Leads to Body doubt and self doubt. Uncertainty about public health, leads to uncertainty about our body’s health and ultimately the health of who surrounds us. It starts small and reverberates to all aspects of our experience.

We are given no choice but to doubt ourselves because someone else is making decisions for us. Taking back our bodies and exercising our self love and connection with our true nature, is an act of defiance. Tipping the balance back to self knowledge self agency and to taking back out true self reliance is almost considered a revolutionary act.

Not allowing the public sphere to infiltrate our private space is akin to moving out into a personal wilderness with little influence from the “civilized” world and connecting to nature and ourselves once again.

some personal tips: and I’m not hear to preach to anyone but keeping a level head requires self discipline and self love:

– Spend time with your body in silence. Listening, breathing, meditating.

– Move, sweat, sing, dance, let go of the tension in both body and mind.

– We are ALL in this, together so helping each other, practice loving kindness even though its easy to blame the world for our problems, resist.

Stay sane and safe dear readers. Tonight Day 11. with a twist.

Day 9- The Body Politic

What are we losing by allowing others to decide how we exist?

We push our bodies to the limit because someone said it’s good for us. Eating, drinking, exercising in ways that are determined by others. Experts, scientists, doctors, all there to give their two cents on what and how we should be. We end up blindly following rules, dogma, routines and health fads with no consideration or self exploration.

Are our bodies really our own? And if so, how are we allowing others to dictate, decide and decode them?

The mere act of self reliance, self discovery and self care is becoming a political and revolutionary act. Taking agency over our health, and our wellbeing is a statement of defiance and solidarity.

Especially as a woman in this moment in time, I’m increasingly being dictated to, and told how and in what ways my body and its functions are still a political and social bargaining chip. Instead of moving towards body independence, we are still being told how to be; what to weigh, what to wear, how to heal and how to express and impress our corporal identity.

Human bodies are a commodity, a major political agenda, and a currency that is far beyond just health and wellness. Multi billion dollar industries are built on re-defining, re-arranging and re-telling of the human form, and for women especially it has become essential that we buy into the idea that EVERYTHING we are starts and ends with our face and our body parts. We are not a sum of our parts, we are just parts.

The human body is under constant attack, surveillance, and scrutiny. We belong to someone else from the day we are born to the day we die. Especially the day we die. We have to ask for permission to exist and we can’t decide for ourselves if we wish to cease to exist.

How can we create change in the world if we can’t claim ownership over our own bodies? How can we claim to be free thinkers, doers and beings if we are told to ask for advice and permission from others on how to exist ?

How can we create personal body freedom?

Till the next episode… Rest, reflect and recharge.

Featured image by : Alexandros Koromilas

Day 4 & 5 The American Dream Deferred

How does the American Dream Really Measure Up ?

Work hard, save up, invest, buy a house, send your kids to college, get a boat, buy a nice car, buy a bigger car, get a lake house, donate money to charity and all your dreams will come true. Generations of immigrants, and newly minted Americans were fed this story from first settlers, in the northeast, to the gold rush and reconstruction of the American West, to the migration of freed slaves from the south to the cities of the North, the same idea was repeated over and over; if you invest enough you too will get to taste the sweet nectar of success and prosperity. Here, in the grandest city of all; New York, they add the overused tagline- If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.

Like that old Sinatra song, there is an air of old school musty glory to this idea that if you can survive a city that can rough you up and spit you out, you will then receive the ever coveted shield to forge on toward any dream you could possibly have. With that seedling of a dream, millions, and millions of people with nothing left to lose came to this city’s shores and still do.

For some it works, for others, they work themselves to the bone to achieve something that is quite plainly unseen. I followed this model or parts of this story of glory for the formative years of my life. I went to an American College, took out a loan, finished school, got a degree, went to work at an arts organization, built my credit, kept paying off my loan, moved to London, moved to Athens, kept working, built a business, got in debt, paid my debt, kept paying off my college loan, and now at an age when all this should have been figured out I find myself working from the ground up, again. Something the American dream never took into consideration: Failure.

And it begs the question.

Is the American dream more of an American nightmare?

Is the mere act of trying to squeeze every single morsel of time, energy and effort for a supposed image of success, causing more irreparable harm? Is there something wrong with people who don’t fulfill it.? Over the years I’ve questioned the validity of the construct of this model; not only because it’s parameters seem to exclude more and more groups of people, but also because of the carrot of success it at a great cost to achieving it.

This idea of a self made, successful man, and let’s face it it’s always a man; with everything he could ever want, that will build himself up from scratch and pave the way for future generations, has been a poster image of success for as long as this construct has existed. It has been adopted by other countries ( Including Greece) and cultures with absolutely no background in such a formula, sometimes ( always) with disastrous results; because the formula is fundamentally flawed. The experiment isn’t working if it ever did, and it certainly won’t work any more. The idea no longer holds water, the marketing campaign for the work hard and be rewarded paradigm is sitting on rotting ground, and the boat even though it was meant to withstand choppy water, is ultimately being capsized in the perfect storm. We lost sign of the dream, because it was based on a false narrative.

Where will the “dream” go next? This is not for me to say. What I can say for certain is this: success isn’t in the money we make, or the cars we drive, or the houses we buy. Success isn’t how many followers we have, or how much sex we’ve had or who emulates us. Success is not any of these things. Sure that’s all grand and of course nothing about achieving those goals is bad; but for me success is having a clearer understanding of failure. Success is failure’s companion and one person’s dream could truly be another person’s nightmare. Ultimately I would rather fail at the American dream, and succeed at having a few good people in my life that I can truly be connected with.

For now I leave it to you dear readers to decide.

Till the next episode.

Good night and Good luck.

Day 3. – The deep unhappiness of being a Greek

How to explain a complex culture to those who only want to see its post card version.

One of the things I could never quite grasp is the degree of separation between living, growing up and being an Athenian Greek, and the idea of what Greeks are to the majority of the American public. Most will only get to see Greece in the summer, on a all catered vacation or on a cruise, but for me and for most of my fellow countrymen and women, we are inexplicably burdened with the idea others have of us and the deep everyday sadness of being a Greek. To most we are a tourist destination, broken down into easy to digest pieces, for those not really interested in getting the see the full picture of what it means to live in, love, leave, long to return to, and navigate this crazy wonderful and deeply infuriating land. One thing is for certain, we’re far more than just a destination wedding, all expenses paid vacation spot. We are not just Greek Yogurt and Feta and breaking plates and sunsets off a glitzy resort hotel. We don’t use Windex and we don’t all live next to our families. These are stereotypes I’ve often had to fight against and have had some pretty crazy discussions over. Seeing a caricature version of our culture for entertainment; being the only thing most Americans can think to ask me about when I speak to them about Greece really drives me bonkers. I loath My Big Fat Greek Wedding (there I said it)

Being born and raised in Greece, and having grown up in the United States for most of my teenage years; I have been given a unique perspective, and license to sit on the outside looking in. When I was in my 20’s I returned to Athens, determined to reclaim my “Greekness”, because one thing Greeks have always been touchy about is how Greek you really are. I never wanted to feel like an outsider even thought in retrospect I’ve always been one. Instead of being stigmatized by it, I chose to use this outsider status to my advantage, because being on the outside looking in, gave me a competitive advantage to speak about my country through the eyes of a Greek who loves America and an American who will always and forever be in love with every morsel of Greece.

The burden we carry can never be understood by anyone other than a fellow Greek, or in the case of many expat Americans I grew up with (first and foremost my mother) a philhellene. Moving to Greece as a foreigner takes commitment, and a touch of crazy. Who the hell would want to leave their highly organized public service, guaranteed pensions, proper public transport, and clean roads to come life in Athens? Most of the foreign born Greeks I know would never tolerate such a madhouse, but the Americans, Germans, British, Egyptians, Nigerians, Turks, Albanians, French, Italians, Iranians, Lebanese, Israelis I know gave their whole heart to Greece, and quite simply fell in love forever. We know, they know, we don’t have to explain. This deeply routed pain of separation that we feel and the inexplicable frustration with the politics, the ingrained “backwardness”, the disorganization, the instability; that will never change, and quite frankly is something we can’t do without. We are bipolar. Anarchists and anti establishment, at heart with a longing for everything to work just like it does in Europe or the States, and all those countries where Greeks immigrated to from the beginning of time till now. We are also deeply proud, deeply wounded by our identity because it is the same thing that pushes us away and the exact same feeling, like a magnetic force calls us back, no matter how many years we’ve been away.

We crave discord and passion and messiness because life is messy and disorganized. Nothing can be too perfect, because perfect is simply not real. The mainframe of every Greek comes with a fatal flaw, an Achilles heal if you will. Every Greek is equal parts ashamed and equal parts fanatical about our heritage and our nationality. I for one hate the idea of Greek transplants recreating a life outside of Greece that can in no way be as authentic or real, and at the same time dream of the smell of the sea shore near the Saronic Golf and the view from the Temple of Poseidon on a moonlit night. But those things are not in your every day guidebooks and travel blogs because tourists aren’t interested in them. My secret Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Thessaloniki, Crete, Naxos, Paros, Folegandros, Astypalaia, Chios, Mytilene, Serres, Konitsa, Meteora, Gavdos, Rodos, Chania, Rethymno, Hydra, Spetses, Patmos and the list goes on is in the everyday and uneventful but most importantly in the feeling that when you stop and listen, those places have something to tell you, a unique and heartbreaking story.

To be continued…

How to be resolute in your New Years Resolutions

Resolutions: We know where they go after the first month of the new year. They are promises kept or not kept. They end up being reminders of our commitment or lack there of to ourselves.

My list for 2020 starts with one idea:

Commitment.

Commitment was never my strong suit. I’ve been in relationships where the exit plan was laid out from day one. I’ve started projects I’ve never finished and promised myself better and never followed through.

So if I’m going to boldly enter this new decade. No bullshit, is a necessary ingredient of the recipe for success. Primarily no bull shit towards the things that matter. I’ve often seen how a lack of commitment is the ever dragging on of promises, bold statements and grand ideas that fizzle out all too quickly in the second month of the year because let’s face it, we mean well and then we fail, we forget, we get caught up in our own dramas, we promise and then we default on our own promises to ourselves.

This year, I’m not making any promises or bold statements. Life happens regardless of our intent, so keeping our commitments to ourselves and knowing that if we default on them, it’s our own self we let down. So here is my short list for 2020:

1. Eat well- whatever that means. Including sharing a meal with people you don’t usually eat with.

2. Protect and care for the body and mind. If we are preaching to the world how to live better ( including myself) doing the same for ourselves is basically imperative.

3. Worry less. far less.

4. Love more. Even those that can’t accept, understand or comprehend what that means. ( including ourselves)

5. Give less fucks. Period.

6. Forgive, move on, get over it and let go.

7. See more of the world, because life is way too short and way too precious, to be stuck in one place wondering how amazing the rest of the world is.

8. Be more vulnerable and honest even though it might hurt.

9. Dance. Alone, with others, to music and in silence.

10. Create, something, however small and insignificant it might seem at the time.

Promises are best kept when we accept we might not keep them. Resolutions change, life happens and we try our best to stay committed to ourselves. Happy Fucking New Year.

Gotham Soul- Standing

Lower Manhattan Christmas Eve

She stands tall. Gotham dreams of a place unknown and known. A legacy thrown into turmoil, she breathes.

Her. guts scream.

Her power unseen.

She grapples with the visitors and the takers of her streets.

A queen, taken from her throne and thrown about like a beggar in her own neighborhood.

She stood tall, and she will again. The threading of her story is still in the making. Patterns left unfinished and long forgotten, will rise like a falcon over a clear sky. Triumphant, confronting, scrutinizing our every move.

This lady is still about liberty underneath the layers of depravity. She’s my sanctuary.

Nothing is more iconic and telling of New York life than during the holiday season. Rockefeller center and Macy’s light display, the skating rink in Bryant Park. Landmarks, and points of interest. Many more tourists come during Christmas and New Year’s eve than any other time of year. What I’ve always been drawn to and notice is the other side of the spectrum. Noticing the loneliness, the isolation and the art of the Christmas hustle. What makes this city especially harsh during the holidays; is that they are treated as a commodity, and everyone who does work during them is part of that mechanism.

This year I chose to ( was forced ) spend the holidays in the city. Work kept me here so I used the opportunity to take this unavoidable staycation and treat myself to a little bit of a tourist viewpoint.

New York has two ( at least) worlds; one of opulence and tourist attractions and one of familiar locality. Small local joints, people who know each other and greet you on the street, and an absence of frivolity and pretense.

Real New Yorkers however they might be depicted in movies and television; are a caring, loving people and the heartbeat of this city, and when you get to know them, some of the kindest people you will ever meet. Staying here during the holidays in what seemed an almost empty metropolis, gave me a chance to meet and actually talk to many more people I otherwise would have overlooked. Stay open to possibilities in the year to come, you never know where they will take you.

Happy Fucking New Year.

Angels and Sinners

No one is all good or all bad.

In recent years I’ve come to understand that people who can be beacons of kindness, can also harbor shadows of darkness and unkindness. We are all made of the cloth of “good” and “evil”.

Owing much to the stagnancy in theoretical and religious notions of someone being bad or good; we tend to forget that we are capable of one AND the other. Picking a side is not clear every time. Consciously choosing kindness, nonviolence and goodness is a work in progress and those who once sinned can be redeemed, and those who seem all loving are revealed to be the opposite.

Countless examples of world leaders, spiritual figures and people seen as poster children for all that is good in the world; are often capable of causing immense harm at the same time. Is their good then invalid? I suppose for those living in a world of absolutes; there are no exceptions. Religion wants to make us choose, doctrine states that we can’t possibly be both, yet there is a dark spot in a sea of white and a white spot in a cloud of darkness.

Yin and Yang.

An ever present reminder that there are no absolutes, we are made of both darkness and light. In the same way a pimp can be a loving father, a revered humanitarian can be an abusing, controlling partner, and an addict can have a heart of gold; we are not monolithic, and capable of redemption and destruction.

In my life I have tried many times to see the good in people who rarely see it in themselves and unearth the darkness in seemingly nice people. We all try to construct an image of ourselves and others that is cut and dry, but within the crevices of our existence, lie the myriad of ways in which we are extremely complicated and multifaceted. Oftentimes we see only what we want to see.

Good and Bad are not extremes. They are not just clear cut choices. Because we are not just one or the other. We are both.

How to Gain Perspective

How we see things is not how they really are

Have you ever looked at something through your left eye and then through your right? Playing a proverbial game of hide and seek with our point of view often reveals what images we choose to see over others. Our vision is as reliable as our brain allows it to be. In most cases our minds have already shaped the reality we see ourselves in and being able to see differently, let alone change our perspective is as hard as changing how our brains are wired.

Perspective is an illusion.

Never trust people who say they are open minded. There is no such thing as a mind that is fully open to a new experience or point of view. Most of us are stuck in patterns of behaviour minted in our subconscious mind from our early childhood. As adults we reinforce behavior, point of view and frame of thought in an ever ending cycle of erase and repeat; thinking we’re growing or experiencing our world in a different way, but our minds have to work twice as hard to really, REALLY see the world and our place in it, in a different light.

We see what we want to see.

To see things as they are is different for each and every one of us. I will always gaze at a blue sky with the mind of someone who grew up near the Mediterranean sea. That shade of blue is unique only to that part of the world and no matter what; blue skies everywhere else will be compared to that, even though we’re all under the same sky as some neo-hippies would like to repeat, we aren’t.

Bringing Awareness into Seeing

Having perspective and being aware of your place in this earth is as primal as knowing how to kill our food before we eat it. Our instinct is for survival but our logical brain and our analytical brain is built to see beyond that. When people say “Use your Brain”, it’s literally making us look within, to control, discover and understand your patterns of behavior in order to alter what we see.

One Step at a Time

It’s not easy, no one ever said that perspective changes over night but if we don’t use these muscles, they will atrophy and then make us more stiff, physically and mentally.

Today make a committed effort to take time to observe further, stretch your brain as well as your body.

Instant Gratification is not your friend.

Quick fixes do more harm than good.

Ever present is the idea that, if we take a pill, our problems will be fixed. If we commit in the surface of going to the gym, eating right, practicing meditation or yoga, going to therapy; things will just automatically lift off our shoulders and all the issues we’ve been battling with since childhood; just disappear.

Change, betterment, transformation, improvement, and healing are long term commitments; not the short term “feel good” solutions, they are portrayed to be.

I’ve been practicing yoga and fitness for 20 plus years, and the vice that always got in the way of my practice, my life, and my relationships with others, is the need for instant gratification and instant solutions. Staying with something long enough to see change, or realizing that ephemeral enjoyment doesn’t translate into long term change, is something I learned the hard way. It is all too often that I see these patterns with my students and clients. If I give them “homework” to do most of them don’t follow through or forget to commit to their own self improvement, giving in to excuses, and short term inadequate solutions. We all do it.

Setting a goal and achieving that goal is the difference between an idea and a plan.

If you see instant anywhere in your life, coffee, food, fitness, (sorry Suzanne summers), business plans, sex, affection, repairs (yes those too); step back and think again. Taking stock of what we really want to achieve in our lives, steers us away from doing what’s easy or fast. Committing to doing what is best and maintaining that, demands a very fine balance of personal accountability and self knowledge. Giving in to our cravings, our instant joy, our sweet tooth, or social pressures to “get it done quickly” will only harm and derail us in the process of self improvement, depriving us in the end of setting any goals worthy of follow through.

Next time when things get challenging or busy or too much, take a step back and fight to finish what you started, no shortcuts or excuses. Do the 30 day challenge and actually stick to it for life.

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