Tonight’s post is a double edged sword if you will. It’s about those two very sharp, dangerous turns we encounter in one way or another in our lives. They may not define us or hinder us from trying again; but they do exist. There is something to be said about having expectations of people. Some of the time they lead to disappointment, some of the time they are met with disapproval, and in most cases they are never realized. Expectations are a set up… a trap that inevitably leads to failure.
Failures on the other hand are a path to growth. We fail because we try, we fail again and again, and eventually the formula works and we succeed. We fail in a grandiose way because we gave it our all. Success can’t come without a good dose of failure, and a massively determined spirit. Inevitably no matter how hard we try, there is something we will never be good at. And that is where expectation and failure collide.
I am excellent at failure… It’s the success that alludes me, but tenacity I’ve got a plenty.
I’m late in posting this, but it all started with the thought of warmth. The winter months get more and more taxing on the body as I age, not to say that I don’t feel as healthy as I ever have, but the smell of the sea and the feeling of being weathered in sun and salt is very comforting on this very cold, rainy lonely day.
It’s getting harder and harder to take the harshness of winter. It’s getting more and more immediate; this need for a beautiful beach, clear blue sky, and crystal clear mediterranean water. I’m finding myself longing for that medicine of salt, sweet air, good food and merriment. I’m comforted by my memories and look forward to the moment I can set foot on the beach and just sink in.
Till then… it’s windy and strange out there tonight.
You were quite possibly the most abysmal, disgusting, disappointing, disenchanting, disillusioning, dysfunctional, dystopian year. Oh you know what you’ve done. You started out ever so shy and unassuming, but you rocked the boat so much we were collectively puking in our barf bags. And you know what?? Thank fucking god. It was the best and worst thing that could ever happen to us, them, me.
Only a few days remain in this epic fail of a year. Politically it’s a nightmare around the world, and more so in the United States. People are suffering more than ever before, and there seems to be a collective confusion about everything that is surrounding us. Yet despite all that, I must sit down and be brutally honest, not only with myself but with you my dear, loyal and amazing readers. This was the worst and best year of my life. I began it with a notion that things could be better, and I was greeted with slap after slap after slap and a bunch just in case I had any other positive ideas. At some point I felt like I was in a 10 round fight with Muhammad Ali. (What an amazing boxer huh?). In the end of it all, I must confess I am finishing the last few days of this rotten year with a far different and revived image of myself and the world around me.
Things that happened in 2017
I met a man who thought he could destroy me emotionally and mentally, ( hah! think again ). He made me doubt myself, he publicly humiliated me again and again, he wanted to pull a handbrake on my spirit and push me over the edge, but quite honestly he did me a huge favor, cause when you hit rock bottom and an asshole is pushing you further down; you wake up to the fact that you’re the only strength you have. Then you get up and walk away, walk off the court and NEVER look back. I learned the hard way to put my self first. I have since met many beautiful people through this journey; some of them gorgeous men of incredible honor and stature. One piece of shit man-child allowed me for the first time in years to see my value to honor my body, to enjoy flirtation, truly love again, and to open my heart and be loved, all thanks to my shitbag ex. THANK YOU
I was harassed by my Greek family online and continue to be dragged in the Greek court system by my two uncles and aunts who for whatever reason think I give a fuck about them and their petty little lives. I now cherish my immediate family, a few chosen relatives, and my friends more than any other time in my life. People who stood by me over the years have become closer than my “blood” family ever could. The unbreakable bonds I’ve built with friends in Greece and the U.S are stronger than ever; you know who you are. We continue to love each other, console each other, grow with each other and are show up for each other. You my dear friends ARE my family and always will be. I cherish you to no end.
I saw the inside of a hospital emergency room three times and visited countless doctors. I suffered so much pain I thought I was going to die. I hit my head leaving a noticeable scar on my face; and now I find it to be the coolest thing about it. I underwent an abortion 8 weeks into a pregnancy that tore me apart. It broke my spirit like nothing and no one ever has. I decided to speak about it publicly and on this blog; connecting to amazing people who supported me, and showered me with their love in ways I can’t even describe. I connected with other women who’ve gone through exactly what I went through. Despite my lingering pain, that never could have happened If I had not gone through this path, no matter how devastating and difficult. Undergoing this procedure was a way of connecting with my mother and my trusted friends who were there for me every step of the way. I have received more love than any one person can handle; I am eternally grateful to all who were there for me. My health and my body have now more than ever become a vehicle for my expression and my steadfast commitment to health and wellness. I will continue to grow and develop a new holistic view of women’s bodies and health because of what I went through this past year.
I reconnected with an old love… after 18 years of not speaking. My old College boyfriend and I spoke after many years of silence. I never thought in a million years that I would ever see him again or get to meet his amazing loving and beautiful wife and children. He is a great man with a gorgeous family. His wife and kids are now part of my extended family and I love them all dearly. My old beau, who is now my dear friend; has lifted my spirits though the deepest gutter of my sadness and I’m glad 2017 brought us together again, even through the darkest of times.
I fell in love with New York… again after very determined plans to leave her. She all but pushed me out her doors in 2017 when I came to a stark realization that for now this fucked up city is my home, thanks to two very special people who have showed me their view of this metropolis like no one has ever done before. My Daybreaker family is part and parcel of this insane city, and getting up at 3 am to meet them and be part of their lives and they part of mine has been a gift unforeseen three years ago. Yes, I miss Greece like hell; I will go back one day, but for now; NYC is my home. I share my love of New York in my writing, and will continue to do so in the next year. My new friends here are my family and my life has become all the richer for it. New York as crazy and frustrating and overwhelming as it has been in the past five years, is also be warm and welcoming and loving in ways unimaginable to me a year ago.
I write more and more in my blog each day. 2017 has been the year I’ve truly dedicated more of my time to writing this blog. Writing poetry, writing prose, and sharing my thoughts with a wider audience almost every week. I’ve stood on stage and read my work, I’ve shared my moments with more friends who are far away, who resonated with what I was sharing, and I’ve received lovely feedback from incredible people. My writing experiments have been published on other blogs, and my short stories are slowly becoming a big part of my creative process. I have been continuously writing this blog since November 2012, and I am committed to growing and developing this in the years to come.
THANK YOU all for your support over the years and for reading my ramblings.
For more information on the pictures and artist featured in the piece please check out
(Military Time– Yes that’s how it should be written)
I’m sitting in my beautiful living room in my pajamas and a cup of tea… and I have to take pause and give thanks.
You see, today marks the beginning of my fifth year in New York. It’s technically tomorrow December 1st, the day I actually arrived in the airport and set foot in the city for the first time to live since October 2000 when I left to study in London. For all intensive purposes my mind and my life changed on November 30th, 2012. It was the beginning of a different life. A Life I had no control over, and would not know its future or what direction it would go.
I still don’t know.
One thing is for certain, this fifth year has begun with a realization of how grateful I am for all the changes, the upsets, the doubt, the anger, the tears, the laughter, and the joy that I have felt these past five years. I have learned more about myself in these five years in New York than in any previous stretch of my life. I started to grow up here. I have become more of a woman than ever before, and I have shed and embraced my girlish self.
There are many other anniversaries on this day that are also an integral part of who I am and who I will choose to be in the future.
Today also marks the fifth anniversary of this crazy idea of my amazing friend Karen (an American living in Greece), had; that I write and chronicle my adventures in New York City. I’ve grown as yoga teacher, a traveler, a Greek who has an American mother and Greek father, a Greek who has an American Life and a Greek heart. Five years of a personal diary, turned blog, turned heart and life opening confessional, and a place where love, lust, secret desires hidden in poetry, spoken word and life truths maintain their home.
I am starting this next year with the realization that I’ve made many wrong turns, many mistakes but also have met some amazing people full of heart and soul. I have reconnected with my friends in Greece in ways that are so hard to express, and also wonderful to experience. My dear friends have become my family every time I return to Greece. I have also had the honor to meet some incredible people here, through my community at Daybreaker and also fell in love, had my heart broken, fell in love again, had my life turned upside down and learned life lessons that have shaped how I see the world.
I am truly blessed because I navigate with a compass that is composed of my heart and soul and desire for new and wonderful experiences. Despite the rising tides, storms and harsh winds, this journey was and continues to be one of absolute deep connection to my own true self.
These anniversaries continue and so is my commitment to writing about my adventures and observations about my New York. This city has done its best to chew me up and spit me out, yet I’m still here so I love this saucy minx. (sorry lady liberty)
Recently I was blessed to meet and walk the streets of New York with incredible people who’s heart and soul is connected and interwoven with the dirty, passionate, loving, chaotic and proud streets of the Lower East Side, East Harlem and Williamsburg. These amazing people have opened their hearts and lives to me and I feel so honored to have seen the city through their eyes. I am hardly a native New Yorker, but after my newest project took form (stay tuned! for future blog posts) I feel a little closer to this city and its people. Thank you to Jerry and Jonathan and Nandini who have given me small and large moments of their lives here and who took extra care to show me what their hood, their lives and their family has been all about.
In the past five years, friends and family have visited here, shared my passion for dancing, theater, music and food. I’ve learned that no place is more diverse, electric and over the top like this city. Whatever you want to try, experience, and dive into; it’s here for you.
I look forward to the next chapter. The next level of this ever changing ever loving ever breathing organism that is New York.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and has seen me through the good times and the very bad. You know who you are and what your presence in my life means to me. Thank you to those who kept reading my poems, my prose my confessions, my deep dark secrets, and my stupid observations of Gotham and its harsh beauty.
Thank you to those who encouraged me to keep writing when all I wanted to do was disappear and let go.
Here is my ode to NYC on this fifth anniversary. Baby you’re looking fine…. and I still love you.
Eleana Kouneli– Almost Native New Yorker. Greek with a passion for travel. American with a passion for Greece. Lover of all things food, Yoga and art related. Thanks for your continued love and support!
She would cross the street and just close her eyes and say to herself its ok, no one will miss me, no one will notice I’m gone. On the subway just before the train arrived, she would stare at the tracks for moments thinking… what if I jumped? She would dream of death every day after she got home from the hospital. At night she would dream of bodies, plane crashes, her husband falling off a cliff, she saw the gun in her hand, while looking at her reflection in the mirror just before she pulled the trigger. She wanted to disappear. She didn’t always think this way. This morbid game was very new to her. Like a mental Russian Roulette.
The pain of her stitches pulled at her lower abdomen every time she would put on her underwear. She knew that this would take a long time to heal but it wasn’t the pain of the surgery that hurt her the most. It was the pain of feeling empty inside. She felt as gutted as her uterus. She didn’t want to leave the house for days. Food made her nauseous so she made due with rice crackers with soft cheese or plain rice. Her friends would come by and leave her soup, quiche, bread, rice pudding, fruit, anything that she might be inclined to even look at let alone taste, and she would leave in the fridge for days before taking a bite of each and throwing it out before it spoiled.
She and her husband tried everything, therapy, counseling, talking and more talking but he was unable to see her. He felt paralyzed, useless and eventually drifted into his work, the couch and his football games. She kept going to work like a robot, lifeless, expressionless, she walked the same path to her train station, walked down the steps to the platform and waited. She would grab the same cup of coffee and bagel from the corner cafe but never ate the bagel, it was almost an automatic gesture. She was on autopilot.
On the day her life changed forever, she was on the same platform on the same time as any other day when she heard Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together played a Capella by a distant male voice. She had heard that song a million times, hummed it a million more but still something this morning caught her attention. She felt the warm coffee in her hand as she walked closer towards the source of the sound.
I…I’m so in love with you….Whatever you want to do, is all right with me.
Cos you make me feel, so brand new. And I want to spend my life with you.
She walked toward the man singing the song and sat next to him on a wooden bench near to the end of the platform. A tall, thin framed older gentleman with a little gray on his temples, and a beautiful bright red hat sang with a mic and the tune playing in the background.
Since, since we’ve been to-gether,
Loving you for-ever, is what I need.
She sat, lightly closing her eyes to the melody, letting the cool morning breeze caress her face. The man kept crooning and singing till the end of the last bar and then said “God bless you lovely people, have a beeuuuutiful day”. She clapped and stepped a little closer to his direction. “thank you that was really lovely, I don’t have any money but I do have breakfast if you want it”
“Honey… I don’t need your money, I’ve SEEN you walk up here for weeks lookin like damn ghost. And from the look of it you seem to need that breakfast more than I do” he chuckled.
“No offence but you need to eat!”
He smiled politely and offered his hand. He held hers with such delicacy, his fingers long and thin; a wedding ring on the right hand and a big aquamarine on the left. Her hands felt so small next to his.
-Hi… I’m Lauren. The coffee is pretty cold but I’ll leave you the bagel, its really delicious.
– Pleased to meet you Lauren, and if you insist thank you for the bagel, I’m Lazarus.
She smiled softly, and he stared strongly into her eyes. She felt his energy and his presence permeate the whole subway platform.
“That’s a beautiful name, Lazarus… so powerful and full of meaning.” I love your ring, its aquamarine right? That’s my birthstone. I’m a March baby.
– Well thank you fine lady, your name reminds of me of my late wife, Laura, and this is indeed aquamarine; its my birthstone too… I came into this world March 28th, 1945 two blocks from here.
She felt the wind change suddenly as the conductor announced the train arrival in one minute. She softly let go of Lazarus’s hand and left the bagel near his boom box. He tipped his red hat to her. ” Bonjour madame Lauren, have a beeuuuutiful day”. She smiled, and caught her reflection in the closing doors of the train and felt something shift inside her after what seemed like an eternity.
She hummed the tune again a little louder as she gazed at the vanishing train station from the train doors
I…I’m so in love with you….Whatever you want to do, is all right with me.
I’ve not written about my love affair with the New York skyline in quite some time. I don’t mean the buildings and the familiar land marks; there are plenty of blog posts and travel magazines dedicated to the iconic and grandiose of New York City architecture. My skyline musings come like a drop of the hat inspirations. I love being surprised by the change in colors, hues and textures. Each day starts with one sky and will develop into something entirely different. Just like the city itself, its skies are moody, explosive, theatrical and mesmerizing. I’ve always had my camera ready for whatever new development arises.
Often I’m quick to snap a picture, even when on the road, in a car, on the train as I’m walking to and from work. I look up like a tourist and take moment to absorb the textures of each day.
Sometimes we forget that in these big cities, we co exist with nature in all its forms. I’ve come across birds of prey in Central Park and gorgeous sea gulls near Battery Park; Rabbits in Prospect Park and beautiful flowers in the middle of a cement landscape. A fox sighting or two here and there, reminds us that were not the big city slickers we’ve convinced ourselves to be, but merely stewards of this great animal kingdom that tolerates our existence, even though we’ve done a really good job of alienating and marginalizing it.
This time lapse video I took from the apartment of a client. The day changes into night with such grace that I had to capture the last dregs of summer sun transform into a sweet early autumn evening.
The New York skyline reminds me that nature has a way of showing up in beautiful and profound ways, comforting me and reaffirming that even though it’s a cement and iron metropolis; looking up at the sky connects us all with my need to be near the sea, near the mountains and with nature whenever we get the chance.
I heard an interview of a well known comedian who was asked … What would you tell your 25 year old self? and I wondered what if I could turn back the clock and sit down with the younger Eleana and share with her what I know now.
We all know hindsight is 20/20. We are often haunted by the mistakes we made and the blunders that lead us to paths we weren’t quite ready for. In most cases though whatever life has thrown at us, we dealt with, we came through, we learned something valuable (in most cases), and we became better versions of our selves through the difficulties we faced.
At 39 I find I have become far more confident and self assured. I don’t envy or long for the past, the only thing I regret is carrying other people’s burdens as my own. That I’m still learning to let go of.
So here it goes… 25 year old Eleana.
Believe in your skills and your talents, stop second guessing yourself
Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you should sleep with that dude or any dude that doesn’t actually enjoy being with you.
Stop all connection with your family- They are fucking evil.
Your friends are there for you because they love you, listen to them when they give you advice.
You don’t have to please everybody, some people just won’t like you, and that’s ok.
Go for your dreams, run that marathon! It will be the most amazing time of your life.
Run, away from that guy, he’s toxic, he will hurt you and he will try to break your spirit.
Take charge, don’t let anyone decide your life for you.
Go to India, learn yoga from the source, and travel more to places that excite your senses.
You are enough, just the way you are.
For all the mistakes, missteps and misuse of energy, 25 was fun, carefree and I’m glad its over. On to the next 25.
Each body has a story; it creates a conversation. So much of our communication is non verbal.
Sex, nudity and feminism
Where do we draw the line between the private body and the public body?
We see thousands of nude or semi nude images of women grace media outlets on a daily basis. In western society the female form has been scrutinized, advertised and publicized more than any other. Its inevitable; sex sells everything from toothpaste to cars, and women’s bodies have been turned into a commodity. In stark contrast to this hypersexualized trend, comes the work of artists and photographers who revere the female form without cheapening it to a consumer product. Feminism and freedom of expression aside, this ideal of the female form being on display is much more prevalent with the help of social media. Some see this as progress or freedom of expression, others as an example of a blatant double standard. What I have discovered through my work as a yoga teacher and a dancer is the rare opportunity to collaborate with some amazing photographers over the years, and most recently a very talented and gifted artist living and working in New York.
HomeMade Obsessions/ A voyeur in your living room:
My good friend and very talented photographer George Vordos asked me last year to work with him on his project called Homemade Obsessions. His photography explores the female nude in a uniquely powerful way. His observation of women and his vantage point, is one of my favorites in the field of portrait, and nude photography. In his work I see a reverence and admiration for the female form, sculpted, athletic, inspired; that brings out the strength, vulnerability, and eroticism that is the subtext in all his images. He is observing women in their own space, he allows them to exist, without prompting them to pose or change their nature. She is not there for the photographer, but the photographer is there to capture her allure and magic. Most of his subjects aren’t professional models, yet he has found a way to bring out a striking femininity and grace, that is often achieved after hours of makeup, and airbrushing. I accepted with some trepidation having had little experience in posing nude, but I found myself at a time in my life where I felt confident and secure to give it a try.
My motivation for accepting his invitation to pose was not only inspired by his work, but also a curiosity to explore the vulnerability and freedom, in allowing myself to be photographed, thus creating images that were evocative, and that would bring out a side of me that few get to see. As a former dancer, creating a story and a narrative with the body as an instrument for expression has always been the reasoning behind my life’s work. I have seldom felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and in this particular case, I was at ease in allowing my “nakedness” to be documented. Each body has a story, and creates a conversation, and inevitably so much of our communication is non verbal.
Our session was photographed at my home where I felt most comfortable, with natural lighting and very few modifications. Posing nude was not only gratifying and fun but also gave me confidence to explore my womanhood beyond the restrictions that society so aptly places upon us. I don’t have anything to prove, I didn’t do this for anyone else and I feel incredibly secure and comfortable in who I am. I hope the pictures speak for themselves.
She is not there for the photographer, but the photographer is there to capture her allure and magic.
“the female form, sculpted, athletic, inspired; that brings out the strength, vulnerability, and female eroticism”
Nudity and Nakedness
In sharp contrast to how I’ve grown up in Europe, a lot of the women I meet and talk to in the U.S are not comfortable with their body and its nudity, especially in public. There is a worrisome underlying sensitivity that their bodies are being analyzed or critiqued in public spaces, and because of this hyper-sexualization of women’s body parts in America, there is a pervasive fear that their nudity sends the wrong message. One only need to go to a public beach to see this first hand. I constantly encounter this idea that the female form is there primarily for the pleasure of men. I had heated discussions with a former partner who unconsciously browsed through countless images on Instagram, porn sites and Facebook, just because its available, with absolutely no understanding how demeaning and sexist most of these images are. A catalog of women galore, available at one’s fingertips. Countless industries use women and sex to sell their products, and because its available countless women buy those same products.
I find it ironic that in a western country that prides itself on the freedoms of women, the objectification of women is most blatant. In recent years this debate about showing breasts on social media, and in public and what that conveys, puts women at a constant disadvantage when everywhere you turn, naked and semi naked women, are used to sell a product. Inevitably we are seen as commodities, objects of desire or just baby makers.
Revealing vs. Exhibitionism
The general perception is that exposing your nudity or celebrating it is some form of desperate cry for attention. That may be for some, or for those who feel that nudity is a fetish or something to gawk at. In an overly sexualized society where women are often seen as vehicles for selling a product and by default themselves, nude photography by artists like my friend George, is a prime example of the opposite. But make no mistake this is not a new trend. Surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray made portraits and images of women in the early 1920’s that were erotic, and artistic in the same light, without being demeaning and offensive. There are those who theorize that Man Ray was a misogynist, yet a large part of his photographic work is dedicated to the female form. Female nude images in art are not a new concept but conveying it in a manner that places it above the dreaded nude selfie, has become a revolutionary act.
You pose naked so you must be a slut- Body shaming double standards and sexism
Owning your body, displaying it and respecting its form doesn’t make you a slut, or an attention seeker. Using and transforming the body through art, is not an excuse to seek approval or recognition, but rather a way of expressing what can’t be said in words. Women are treated like objects all the time, and many are reclaiming their bodies in public and in private spaces more than ever before. Slut shaming, body shaming, and overt sexism and objectification is ironically coming more and more from other women rather than men. Its rubbing off in the wrong way, becoming a breeding ground for bullying and harassment in unprecedented ways.
I and many other female yoga teachers I know, have often been a target of cyber bullying. From anonymous emails to overt comments on webpages and social media, cyber harassment is becoming more and more prevalent. Most of these comments are from people we will never meet and have no idea who we are, others from people in our past who may know some details about our lives, and think they are hurting us or harming our reputation in some way with their personal, yet irrelevant attacks. If we choose a public life we will risk exposure and reactions from complete strangers and internet trolls. I choose to ignore them as many of my colleagues have done, because they don’t reflect who we are, our work as professionals and our lives in any way. Those who hide behind the internet and harass women for their choices, are the new kind of pond scum that has no relevance or importance in our lives.
And to that end
I am grateful to George and other photographers of his caliber who have elevated this incredible art form to new heights. I am honored to call him my friend.
Please check out his work and support new and rising stars like him.