How can we reconcile our desire to explore all our passions, with the philosophy that only mastery leads to success.
One thing I’ve always wanted to be when writing on this platform is honest. There is no point in writing about anything without honesty, so on today’s post I’ll be a little less curated.
I’ve always been a woman of many loves and inspirations. This has been equal parts hindrance and blessing. There is no pretense in thinking I’m the master of anything that I practice, but after 20 years I can safely say, I’m a pretty decent yoga instructor/massage therapist and “working on it” writer. Photography, Cooking and Dance are my long term lovers. We don’t commit to each other fully but we can’t live without each other either.
Anything else in life comes and goes, but the passions seem to stand out. Unfortunately many of the people I’ve met and spoken to about this predicament share the same conundrum. Many of them title themselves under doing or being what they make money at, instead of what they are passionate about. If I were to follow that paradigm, I can’t hold any claim to the above mentioned passions. Yet better monetizing what we are passionate about pursuing, leaves us with a slight handicap. The ever mind numbing idea that when you make money off of what you love, you’re a sell out, and if you don’t make money on what you love, you’re not good enough or dedicated enough or with it enough, to be a success. Catch 22.
In the end for me. The passions win. If money catches up to them, I consider it a bonus. After all my observations about practicing what you love despite the rewards. I’ve come to this conclusion:
Keep the fire going even if you have only 10 people who love what you do, because in the end; what you love and strive to do well, shows. What you do for pure income alone, looses its luster and authenticity.
What are you passionate about and want to share with others?
This is somewhat a departure from previous commentary and posts because it is as much a self reflection as an observation of others.
About a month ago I started a social experiment and a personal challenge.
After realizing how much time I spend on my phone (thanks to that pesky new “oh look you loser you spent a total of 8 hours on your phone today” reminder on my device), I decided to make a point of leaving my phone in my bag while I was on the subway, in public places, while walking on the street, and whenever I had the urge to “check” my social media. Something that would seem rather obvious and self explanatory became a “task” or a personal project. The reason being;
I was constantly on my phone, and apparently I’m not the only one.
Before arriving in New York six years ago from Athens, I would say I had a relatively “healthy” relationship with my now constant companion. As technology changed, so did my relationship with my phone. (yes relationship – and everyone else I’ve seen seems to have the same one too). In sharp contrast to the past, my relationships consisted of close uninterrupted conversations with friends on a regular phone, arranged face to face meetings with people I had not seen in a long time and many many long emails with my loved ones who were far away. Now at the click of a button I’m connected at any moment, I get instant responses to my pictures, writing, comments, and observations. I’m constantly reachable; even when I don’t want to be.
All these characteristics of technology are not a mystery or shockingly new to any of us who use our phones as personal assistants, friends, connecting devices, social media giants etc. What did give me a rude awakening is that nearly ALL of the people I encounter on the street, in the subway, in their cars, with their friends at a dinner table; is that the phone is starting to become an extra appendage. EVERYONE is on their phone, ALL the time, and not when they are alone; but walking, eating, getting their hair done, waiting for the train, waiting for their friend to arrive, sitting at home watching a movie, eating at home while on their phones. ALL THE TIME.
The reason I gave myself this task of unhinging my every moment from my phone is purely to walk the walk as I talk the talk to my students about mindfulness and being present.
The absence of “having something to do” at every single second of the day is becoming something of a necessity as our time becomes more and more overwhelmed with technology, social media (the sewage of the internet as was so aptly put by Lady Gaga in a recent interview) and the idea that idle time with your mind focused on just being quiet and present is seen as laziness. For the next few weeks I challenge you all as I did myself; to get off your phones for the better part of your day and see what you notice. Take pictures, read a book, get off twitter, and enjoy a fine meal without looking at your facebook profile. ENJOY.
Till then here are some pictures I took today while I was walking around noticing the world around me instead of being glued to my phone.
I encourage you all to do the same. Take a moment to look up.
Μνημοσύνη- Mnemosyne the goddess of remembrance and memory.
What is memory and when does it begin?
I had a discussion with my parents last weekend about which memories we clearly remember as our own and which ones are the telling of others. We concluded that recalling our first memory was a much more interesting exploration of self.
After looking back at various random events in our lives, all of us recalled or brought to light our first conscious awareness of our surroundings; what was happening and who we might have been with.
Each one of us almost felt that somehow, in that moment our brain just woke up and started recording our history, like the light was turned on in our consciousness and we began to form memories, personalities and a self. For all of us it also was nothing dramatic or traumatic ( for others maybe) just a moment in time that stuck to our memory bank.
For me the biggest question of our discussion was:
Why is it that we can’t recall anything before our third or forth year of existence?
I’m sure there are plenty of amazing neuroscientists around the world who know the scientific answer to that question.
For those who are curious, pass the question along. And while we’re here;
How food, culture and traditions carry us into un-conventional interpretations.
Traditions are what bring us and keep us together. They shape who we are and how we view the world. We adopt them without question and often times without fully understanding what they might mean to us. Traditions are more often than not bound to history, cultural connections and familial ritual. How do we appropriate traditions to our modern life? Do we mold them to our non traditional lives and reconnect with them in new ways or do we embrace their old world wisdom and try to re discover them for ourselves?
Long ago when trying to discover my own personal identity as a Greek-American, I had a plethora of traditions to draw from. Most were passed down to me from my Greek grandmother Eleni and my great grand mother Angela, and another from my American grandmother Pauline and her English, German family. Mixing Sauerkraut with Dolma and Eggplant Saladwith traditional home made macaroni and cheese was quite the site in my Greek upbringing. Believing in theevil eye and cleansing your energy which is deeply ingrained in Ancient Classical Greek pagan traditions, with the idea of faith in a higher power and spiritual traditions connected to working hard and getting ahead by your own bootstraps was like playing a tug of spiritual/ belief war. I wanted to understand all of these traditions for myself and embrace them on my own terms
How do we transform traditions and make them our own.
For the first time in my dual Greek/American life while living and cooking in both countries for many years, I made a traditional new year’s day cake/pie called Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα). In Greece, cutting the Vasilopita marks a traditional start to the new year. Some households choose to make one, either from an old family recipe, or from the many variations that you can find online. Based on any given region of Greece you might find yourself in; the recipe differs greatly but the general idea is a cake that’s sweet, tender, dunk-able in coffee, and always must have a lucky coin. Each version of this “pie” is carefully embellished, to show the uniqueness and the personal touch of each household. In recent years, and throughout my childhood and adulthood, it’s become more prevalent to order them from one of Athens’ more famous bakeries and avoid the hassle and many hours of preparation. This year I got over my trepidation of making a cake from scratch and consulted my old grandmother’s Tselemedes (cook book) along with some recipes online to make my own home made version.
The result, not only surprised me but gave a much deeper meaning to sharing and creating this tradition for myself. My grandmother never taught me how to make this particular recipe but for all intents and purposes it came out beautifully. A labor of love, mixed in with nostalgia, tradition, personal traditions and a lot of humor. See video link below.
I’m not religious in any way and don’t adhere to or subscribe to the Greek Orthodox church I was baptized in, but for whatever reason – inexplicably so, I rejoiced in cutting each piece and sharing it with my friends and loved ones. In the end, each tradition has its roots in uniting people and rituals; be it bringing in the new year, turning 15, becoming an adult, graduating, creating a household, and sharing a meal with those you love. Personal traditions paired with those passed down to us; make for incredible insight into how much closer and connected we are than we think. From Vasilopita in Greece to King Cake in New Orleans, to Rosca de Reyesin Mexico, to Panettone in Italy, and Galette des Rois in France, our personal traditions find a global connection.
I am lucky to be alive. Many people we know will not get the chance to show their “do I still look hot 10 years later” look; yet this online challenge got me thinking of who I am now, rather than what I look like 10 years on. The narrative we’ve been fed about time passing, lives changing and our aging process is deeply flawed. In most cases I see women and men just displaying an exterior change.
But what about the changes that can’t be seen? I’ve often looked back at my younger self, while connecting the dots of my present image and persona, so before I begin the story of these two moments in time, I have to emphasize how little these two pictures mean in the grand scheme of things. My “youth” may be fading, but the experiences I’ve gained over the past 10 years are following a treacherous, deeply challenging, rewarding and thought provoking journey. This is true of anyone looking back at their 10 year’s younger self.
The two women pictured above are not the same person.
Yes of course they are, but I don’t feel or look or carry myself in the same way as the woman I was back in Nov. 2009. These past 9 & 3/4 years have deeply affected, defined and altered my life’s path more than once and have shaped the person I am daring to become today.
November 2009 — Maroussi, Attika Greece
Freshly separated from a nearly 5 year tumultuous and eye opening relationship with a man 13 years her senior. He was an architect, multilingual, smart, witty accomplished, well traveled, talented and a complete asshole to her. Her father loved him. She did not. She was newly single, after an even more difficult breakup, packed up her apartment and moved to her grandmother’s home; now her home. It was a place of wonder and memories.
She molded her childhood memories of it and would live, love, teach, cook, have gatherings with amazing loving friends, dance, practice yoga and sing there for four amazing years. In those four years she would date drug addicts, ex drug addicts, married or otherwise “occupied” men, liars and cheaters and deeply loving people. She would build a small yoga practice and taught throughout the next decade in Europe and the United States. She would cook meals for and with her friends, and host beautiful gatherings. She would travel. She would also face repeated emotional and verbal abuse from her partners, she would fall into a deep depression that was only curtailed by her yoga practice and the faith of her friends. She would have to constantly fight with her family about property and she would have to finally move her whole life back to the US– again, after the financial crisis ripped her country in a thousand pieces. She would have to start over, utterly alone in a city that was only a cut out memory of her long distant past.
July 2018— DUMBO Brooklyn, NYC
Just shy of 10 years later, I’m standing weathered by shit storms and laughter and joy, desperation and happiness. I came out on the other side quite changed, and despite the many scars all for the better. The picture was taken just at the moment when all the struggles, and mistakes, and lessons were finally being revealed. I had a scar from a deep gash on my forehead to remind me that no matter how bad things got, I could still stand taller because I kept going despite the wrong turns and choices. I loved, I was betrayed, I was physically and emotionally challenged, and that year my life truly began to take shape. The puppet strings were cut off and I stopped caring what people thought of me.
My dear parents, my cousin and my trusted friends are and have always been my angels. I cherish them every day for keeping me sane; they didn’t always understand my journey and quite often probably were scared for my well being, but the last 10 years have been a tsunami of ups and downs. A giant shift into becoming the person I always wanted to become, but didn’t have the courage to approach.
I have more lines on my face and tons more gray hair than I will ever show in public (I’m vain among other things). I have more courage to show my body and my art, I don’t shy away from tearing up misconceptions and false facades. Life sent me some amazing teachers. And thank goodness I’ve finally learned my biggest lesson…
I’m grateful to the past 10 years and I keep a jar of anti wrinkle cream on my side of the medicine cabinet, and have toning masks and tweezers with me at all times. White chin hairs are ridiculous and annoying. My muscles hurt more after exercise or yoga practice, but my body is healthier and stronger than ever before. I would kick my old self in the ass in weight & endurance training and I’m a far more patient and capable yoga teacher and wellness practitioner than I was back then.
Aging is a gift. I will not squander time thinking it’s a curse.
I’m still alive, and grateful every day for the opportunity to keep evolving.
When sex is seen as a favor for good behavior what do you do?
I have often been placed in this predicament (as many women have) when either men I’ve gone on a date with or have been with for a certain amount of time, feel it’s their god given right to get sex just because they did something “nice” for me, or they felt I owed them. In their mind sex is some sort of reward. And by nice I am not talking about saving my life, or buying me a very expensive car, which in this case heck why not right? (just kidding!) But to those who do, more power to you.
I’ve wondered how this expectation came about. Is it their upbringing? Is it society in general? Is the prevalence of transactional and power play sexual encounters just a male mentality? In all the instances of “expected sex”, I wondered (as many women do), If I owed these men something, because that was the approach or the explanation given to me. This implied, or expected reward for good behavior sent me into a moment of self reflection. Did I invite this? Do I owe them some sort of explanation as to why I don’t want to have sex with them? Is this really being asked of me? And what allows for such an expectation?
Looking back at the events that lead to these still unanswered questions, I have yet to understand how the dynamics between men and women are formed, in allowing such expectations to exist, and why we accept living in a society that still creates them.
Case №1 — New York fall 2013
New York fall 2013. Having freshly arrived a few months earlier, I was still bouncing around from home to home and job to job. I was still insecure about my decision to drop my life in Athens, and live in a new city with absolutely zero job prospects. My surviving skills needed sharpening while sustaining myself on the very little money I had saved up. After feeling somewhat settled in and with the help of friends, I found a part time job as a dog walker for a company in Manhattan, but this was hardly enough to keep me afloat. Unlike many Greeks emigrating to the U.S I wanted no part in asking for handouts or favors; I knew full well what working with, and alongside Greek business owners could entail. Just because I was Greek, didn’t mean I cared to or wanted to immediately work in the Greek community, and despite my general rule to stay away from the insulated world of the Greek-American diaspora; I had a need to connect with “my people” and maybe find a better job suited to my education and skills.
After many inquiries and searches, I was introduced to an up and coming Greek American social coordinator, banker, and well known fixture in the Greek American community. Having spoken several times about potential job opportunities, we agreed to meet up in person, after maintaining email communication for several months.
After a pleasant dinner at a Greek restaurant in Astoria, and a somewhat general but also flirtatious conversation, he paid the bill and hailed me a cab to where I was staying. As we continued our conversation and fun banter in the backseat of a cab, he proceeded to corner me and get as close to me as possible. After trying quite a few times to kiss me, and repeating several times that we could end up at his place to fuck. I pleasantly thwarted his advances, and in the end pretty much had to push him off me with a smile. Beyond the dinner I had zero intention of sleeping with this man, and made zero allusions as such.
I got out of the cab, sent him on his merry way and pretty much knew I would never see him again. Upon arriving at my home I got a text message. “Why did you have dinner with me and let me kiss you, if you didn’t intend of having sex with me? You mislead me and that was a waste of my time.” It got me seriously thinking what exactly in my demeanor, our conversation or agreeing to go to dinner with this man gave him the idea that I was open to any kind of further contact? Did he think he was paying for sex with dinner? Or that a dinner was enough to warrant some sort of sexual favor?
This is not the first time or the last time this has occurred, and to be clear not all situations end up like this. Not all men or women for that matter are that manipulative, yet the idea of sex as a commodity never really appealed to me and certainly not as a reward for “good behavior”. I have experienced instances where, seemingly powerful people, and men in particular; like to wield their power in a sexual way and for the most part do so without repercussions. Those same people feel that sexual reward is par for the course, while blatantly stating that: “if I buy you dinner, take you out, get you a cab ride home; or do you a favor, I’m getting what I paid for, and If you don’t comply, I’m wasting precious time If you don’t deliver.” In all these instances, of sexual powerplay, I was never in a position of power. I was either broke, in some need, or seemed lesser or weaker than I actually was. This clarified in my mind what all sex, and power play games have in common.
Despite any unpleasant interactions I’ve experienced over the years with situations like this; I never felt I had to repay any dept or favors. My experiences did however make me think twice before accepting any further dinner invitations.
Share your story or stories of predicaments like this – I’d love to hear from men and women who might have been placed in similar (unwanted) reward sex situations.
We all have gone through our various romantic breakups somewhat unscathed. The guy wasn’t for us, we weren’t for someone else and that’s that. With a dissolution of a marriage; you have more invested. With divorce there is a separation of property, kids, dogs, clothing, artwork and egos.
But What about a break-up with a friend?
We are often prepared for traditional break ups, divorces, separations for good or bad; But what happens when a friendship is dissolved? Do you forget the person? Do you claim to erase this person like you would a romantic break up? The finality of a friendship breaking up and closing up is very confusing, and in some cases far more painful experience. The harsh reality is that: You can’t remain friends with a friend, who is an X.
How does one compute, and start the process of realizing the new reality (more so in my mind) of a friendship gone bad ?
In recent years, I’ve broken up with most of my family with far less scars or regrets than I did with friends. I’ve always regarded friendship as far more important than family, only because most of my family is toxic, vindictive and plain shit. What hurts most, is that you can be friends for years with someone, grow up together, see countless life changes, get over horrible moments together; and inexplicably something happens; the line breaks off, your paths split (sometimes violently) and whatever held you so close till then, disappears so quickly that you’re left wondering; how the hell do I get over this one, and was this really the friendship I thought it was?
Do you throw away their gifts and letters to you? Do you erase their messages? Do you burn their pictures in some sort of break up ritual and say “fuck em” like you would a jilted love affair?
What’s the protocol on ending a friendship?
I’ve had my fair share of friendships fading or souring over a long period of time, which in many cases had to do with outgrowing someone, but most recently I did experience a breakup with a friend I admired and valued immensely. I look back on the signs, the cracks in the foundation and wonder what started the wave that turned into a tsunami. I have often pondered what may have caused the abrupt ending; and trying see if there is any chance of it being repaired, but sometimes just like with lovers you have to say…
I guess you’re not that in to me and I’m not that bothered to change it.
As harsh and nonchalant as that sounds; I find that if a person actively and forcefully removes you from their life, or you them, it is clear that isn’t a friendship worth saving or fighting for. I’ve fought for friendships in the past; through thick and thin, from great distances, and with countless discussions and conversations, because ultimately what they signified in my life, was far more important than a bruised ego and multiple misunderstandings.
As we grow older however, we tend to weigh our options, and really see our friendships for what they really are. We are ultimately forced to place ourselves in the position of valuing ourselves as much (or more) as we value our friendships. To many of us (including myself); friendships are the backbone of our existence. We grow with our friends, these are the people who have seen the worst and the best of us, these are the people who know more about us than our parents, siblings, or our whole entire family. Yet all too often friends don’t want or care to follow us in our ever changing paths and don’t forgive us for our missteps and transgressions along the way, or simply aren’t equipped to go beyond their own limitations and egos.
When we move beyond the confines of our original path, and outgrow our fears we want our friends to be happy for us, not jealous, or worse wanting to derail, devour or belittle our efforts. If a friendship can’t support both the highs and the lows, the successes and failures, the fruitful explorations and regrettable decisions; that is not a friendship worth investing in, wasting your time on or having in your life.
Ok maybe that one year where everything everywhere went to shit (enter year here _______)
I firmly believe that despite the absolute shit show this year has been politically, economically, globally, environmentally and in every other category possible; 2018
I’m further convinced that we all have a small ( very small in some cases) take away list for the year that’s about to close. Not all things turned to shit and in many ways the ones that did were a blessing in disguise.
Small gifts list of 2018
Care of Self
The discovery of taking (better) care of self. Not the “self care” cliché but real, honest quiet moments while taking time to be focused only on one person and one moment in time. me in the present moment.
We all share countless moments with other people on a daily, hourly basis in big cities, never really spending a quiet moment in silence. 2018 was the year I sought this silence more than any other time. Quiet time for self reflection and meditation.
Quality not quantity
Spending time talking to, eating with, drinking with and discussing with people in real time, one on one. The idea of sharing a moment or series of moments with a new or old friend, a loved one, or a complete stranger, without distractions or entertainment. Creating Quality time.
Learning to listen
This year taught me a lot about listening, truly listening to others. I still have a lot of work to do on that front but I’m closer than last year. By no means do I believe this lesson is over, there is far more to learn.
Trusting my instructs
This year brought me situations and people that reinforced my trust in my instincts. Red flags? Saw them. Warnings? Listened to them. Signs? Observed them. Lessons? Learned them.
Lastly, and as I’ve mentioned this in many of my past writings; The people and places I’ve visited connected me with friends who are still in my life one year later, from 1 to 35 years of creating a continuation of friendship and family. This idea of bonding and building true connection with those near and far, is constantly reinforced by the passing of time, not diminished or faded, and absolutely beautiful.
I’ll be honest… If I won the lottery tomorrow I would quit my job, pay my family’s debt, take up art, writing, and yoga studies full-time, go to massage therapy school, learn French and Spanish again, and travel….. a lot. Last month the mega millions lottery in the U.S was one of the biggest ever recorded in lottery history, and it got me thinking about what money buys us. It purchases the opportunity to access, connects us with services not available to people without money. It buys status, and privilege. What it definitely doesn’t get us is happiness, or love or meaningful connection with other people. It’s a cliché for a reason; money can’t buy peace of mind, and we’ve all seen how that ends up time and time again.
What, truly do these pieces of paper that we’ve deemed equivalent to denominations of value actually do for us?
What does money afford us and what does it take away. I’m not talking about exorbitant amounts of money or even the mega millions jackpot, but a large amount of money for any average person.
Money for as much as it provides, allows, or gains access to; it equally separates us in so many ways.
Access to money, especially in a very expensive city like New York, can purchase time, expensive things, convenience; but never any of the things that actually matter to us.
Yet here we are all working three and four jobs, just to pay our bills. We do jobs, instead of following our calling. We work in offices punching keyboards instead of creating wealth of knowledge and understanding for each other. We save up to retire so we can travel or buy that car we always wanted. We break our health and sanity to make copious amounts of money that buys things, monetary comfort when years, decades go by and we still struggle with pain, loneliness, fear, isolation, depression, and sickness.
In the end… What would you do with a 250 million dollars?