Though ageing is a blessing (I’d hate to be 30 or even 40 again!) getting old isn’t. I mourn the vitality my body once narrated; but am consoled by its impassioned spirit. In her much neglected, La Vieillesse (The Coming of Age), Simone de Beauvoir has said: “I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.” In youth it is a neglected landscape that often gives way to a quite literal desire to conquer death. Older, it is living-towards-death that finds the wreckage of my corporeal transformation like an old pair of slippers sitting at my bedside, comfortable, worn, but also quite beautiful. No longer smooth or taut, wrinkles and sagging all quite visible, these are trophies (Banal? Quaint? Perhaps) of a life fully lived.
So yes, we’re on strict lockdown in Greece. This, it would seem, was incited by the irresponsible activities citizens continued to adopt (leaving for the summer homes, congregating in parks, beaches, and so on) and the success of countries adopting similar policies of imposed social distancing, together with the tragic death rate in neighbouring countries. The justification for this was premised on the fundamental responsibility of the government to protect the interests of her citizens and to curtail individual freedom whenever the general welfare is put at risk.
Literally moments after our Prime Minister delivered the news social media feeds filled with disgruntled citizens who were quick to point out that these measures would do little to “keep people home,” since they’d be able to manipulate the guidelines to accommodate their indulgences. There seems to be no esteemed intelligence in coming to this realization; indeed, the 1000s of the feeds bear witness to the contrary. There also seems to be no esteemed spirit of solidarity, as when a people come together surpassing differences (idealogical, religious, moral), factions, self-interest, personal desires and indulgences, and party-politics, as Greeks, as a people who march in unison, clutches hands, against the common enemy (insert coronavirus), with an unfettered will, a strength of character, that when formed of all is like the wall of China that stands STRONG.
Political measures can be no more successful at keeping people home than parental restrictions can be with spirited (not the same thing as doing something with spirit) children, who know not of the calling of personal responsibility. Sure, be critical. Criticism, especially in days of crisis, is not synonymous with ridicule. It is constructive and is voiced IFF (if and only if) it can reinforce a spirit of solidarity, for without it we are doomed. The irresponsibility of one, is the downfall of all! So yes, you can certainly walk your dog 100s of times a day to get out, or to camouflage your true intentions, but that is to miss the scope and the intent of the law. It is to deter, to reinforce the “STAYTHEFUCKHOME,” motto so many of you, many who jumped to ridicule, have adopted as your profile pic. It is a reminder of the seriousness of the crisis, it is a tactical measure to make the presence of a controlled and secure political presence felt, it is to implore us all to practice self-control and spot not the holes in these measures (which is inescapable) but the sense in these measures. Alas, where policies are inept, become adept and creative in seeking the means to use the framework to work for our joint welfare, instead of simply knocking it down! This is not the time for defiance. Unless it is to defy the inner-child who must learn temperance to discover and negotiate her freedom and sense of self-worth. Now it is the time to stand together as one heart, one mind.
It takes real courage to face our fears; and it requires some zeal for life and common sense to find that drive to make it happen. For some of us it will be conquering a mountain, running further/harder/faster, for some it will be forgiving ourselves, for others it will be asking for forgiveness, apologizing, reaching out to someone you might have slighted and apologize, for yet others it may be surrendering to love, or putting our ego into a little box, just for a short while, long enough to see the world with better vision to fall in love with life again, for others it will be to settle into life and just enjoy, and yet for many others it will be practising self-awareness in creating the space to be present to ourselves and others. So get out there and run, climb, apologize, reach out, forgive yourself, relax, be there…be here …for you….for others.
Problematizing the predicament of lockdown and the onslaught of altered structures of organized social life, students have so eloquently and with profound maturity voiced what they experience as an alarmingly disenfranchising, alienating communal environment in which and for which no one ever seems present. The culprit often identified is technology given the immediacy of task-completion apps and their inevitable distractions. My take? Being present is a cultivated modality just like being absent is. Multitasking which speaks to distributive foci of attention is not exactly the problem. If you think about it all human activities are complex, involving a multiplicity of inter-related tasks. It is more the distraction from comprehensive multifarious tasks that is the problem. These are more like a series of mono-tasked foci rather than multitasked activities which is why we are never present; we are never where we are.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
― Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
There are many, men and women who balk at this celebration. Reasons vary from those who don’t belief in putting a day aside for this rather inconsequential issue, to those who think the patriarchy is dead and buried, to those who believe we’ve lost our moral compass along the way and that somehow the feminist movement(s) has taken this journey way too far.
Myself, I think it is a good reminder of how very recent women were granted the right to vote (Canada (1917), Britain and Germany (1918), Austria and the Netherlands (1919) and the United States (1920), and considerably later in France (1944), Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971)), and lift her head from the gaze of her oppressive counterpart. It was the 1st wave of feminism that is accredited with victories such as this. You may know of the groundbreaking influence of Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” which was hugely influential at this time. It was followed by the 2nd, 3rd and now 4th waves. Whereas the 1st wave was focused on fighting for the right to vote and coverture, the 2nd wave was more socio-political in focus, addressing equality and discrimination. Most know of the tumultuous influence of Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” as well as Betty Friedman’s “The Feminine Mystique.” The 3rd and 4th waves are in many ways more complex as it seems more a struggle to properly determine “what feminism is” and how women can seek to define themselves within the complexities of the patriarchy, and hence the intersectional forms oppression actually takes.
Sitting at my mom’s bedside table were Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” Betty Friedman’s “The Feminine Mystique,” and Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” as well as, “The Art of Sex (!!!)” She was very proud to have taken a course in Feminist Studies (I think that’s what it was called then) at Concordia University, for as a young immigrant from Greece she arrived without an education. Indeed, her only “weapon” would be her incredible beauty (she was often confused with Elizabeth Taylor!!!). So she married a successful Greek (dad 💜) and had two (AMAZING! 😉 ) kids. But she never felt beautiful, for she experienced herself as invisible; she often remarked that her life was not her own, made in her own image. Acquiring an education later in life – she was so indebted to Canada for making that possible – she became a very different person. Some might say unaccommodating, difficult, argumentative, complicated and spirited. And yet, she became a musician (a very talented guitarist) and later a music therapist. Years later in Greece she would volunteer her time at 401, using music as the medium through which she would care for those others were unwilling to. I doubt they experienced her as anything but beautiful!
So today, though mom has passed, I feel especially proud to celebrate this day, in the spirit of my mother, reminiscent of the risqué travels she’d have to take to find her voice!
In loving memory of mom – Kalliopy Leontsini Pirocacos
If just for a moment, I wish my son could see himself as I see him. Now 20 and a young man quite firmly independent and committed to making his own way through this world, often time seems lost on him. This myopic perspective, however, is an illusory trap, and though he knows this, he is also, like most, feeling quite cornered to own up to what is expected of him. Sigh!
Parenting is no walk in the park, but it has been the most gratifying and enriching experience life has yet to offer. Their childhood is reaped with cherished memories. But as adults there is a binding connection that comes to the fore with such visceral force when engaged in meaningful conversation. My son has often commented that I’m too trusting of people. I suppose in part because he has seen me financially and emotionally broken as a consequent. Still, I’m no stranger to this, and it is not naivety that is to be faulted for it. Rather, it is in struggling between the inevitable hurt I welcome into my life and living a life of suspicion and untrustngness. Alas, the pain of living without trust, being vulnerable and authentically raw to others, is too great a price to pay. After I spoke, he looked at me quite deliberately and said: I know, mom…I know. Impressed am I that my son can know this and struggle himself with hanging onto his truth…even when it costs him.
So this is for my son. I love you son! ❤ Happy birthday!
December 13th, 2002, my daughter Kalianna came into my life with a BANG!!!! It hasn’t been quiet since!!!!
Tumultuous is she in all she does. Few know the calm of her residing love. Those that do, know the uniqueness of her synergy. Being her mother has not been a waltz, not always synchronistic, but not out of tune either or lacking musicality. But she came into this world ready for a fight.
Now 17, she wrestles with negotiating her sense of self worth amidst the demands of everyday life. And though strutting to the instrumentalist drummer still, it is in her awareness of this that she is brought to despair. Cries of anguish, frustration, and desperation which fill her heart and inevitably break my own eventually turn to cries of joy, release, and pride.
Of late she’s become aware of reciprocity. Breaking free from the ego-centrism that most characterizes youth, the narratives are not spun from the threads of Narcissus. Her own fragility has made her sensitive to the power she has to affect the lives of others in a manner that few adults possess. Impressed by the complexities of the human psyche, she’s drawn to the disenfranchised, the wounded; those with poetic entry into the human condition who with verse at their heels find flight in her voice.
My Kalianna is not yet “The Empowered Woman;” too young is she. Soon…
The Empowered Woman, by Sonny Carroll
The Empowered Woman, she moves through the world
with a sense of confidence and grace.
Her once reckless spirit now tempered by wisdom.
Quietly, yet firmly, she speaks her truth without doubt or hesitation
and the life she leads is of her own creation.
She now understands what it means to live and let live.
How much to ask for herself and how much to give.
She has a strong, yet generous heart
and the inner beauty she emanates truly sets her apart.
Like the mythical Phoenix,
she has risen from the ashes and soared to a new plane of existence,
unfettered by the things that once that posed such resistance.
Her senses now heightened, she sees everything so clearly.
She hears the wind rustling through the trees;
beckoning her to live the dreams she holds so dearly.
She feels the softness of her hands
and muses at the strength that they possess.
Her needs and desires she has learned to express.
She has tasted the bitter and savored the sweet fruits of life,
overcome adversity and pushed past heartache and strife.
And the one thing she never understood,
she now knows to be true,
it all begins and ends with you.
Please Lord make it so she never grows quiet…please Lord make it so her Lion’s voice becomes lyrical…
I love you more than you can possibly know, my daughter! ❤ Happy 17th, baby girl!
Always do I appreciate Jane Fonda, and can’t help but concur that only with age can you truly love and give of yourself, for it is then that we learn to continue to grow with glaring acceptance of how we’re evolving. Without all that, the confidence is not quite there, nor indeed, the ability to love another with unconditionality.
We are complex with simple(r) lives, when in youth we were simple with complicated lives. We cared about too much – what people thought of us, professional success, “love status,” possessions, wealth. Older none of that matters…much. A simpler life with few possessions, fewer still artificial people who don’t truly care about us; a life where career goals are replaced with meraki, and “love status” with the act of engaged loving. We seek to appear just as we are.
STAY INTERESTED…NOT INTERESTING!!!
We’re not always ready for truth. Deaf to her knocking, silence is golden. It is not to Foucault’s analysis of flattery complementary to anger, where the first stands opposed to parrhesia and the latter to clemency. No. It is to the parrhesiastic risk in esteeming you worthy of breaking the silence.
I’d be a millionaire umpteen times over if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked my age! It’s partly in exasperation, and partly to avenge myself of the implicit ageism (perhaps intermingled with a bit of sexism) that I’ve bothered to publicly address the issue.
People say, age is only a number. But that’s far from true. I am every bit my age. I’m 54. That’s 54 years of grappling with the complexities of living life. Transformative years from girlhood to womanhood. Years of seeking a proper footing, only to discover there are no footholds strong enough to endure any inquiry into truth, beauty, and justice. Years toiling with that inescapable abyss which has made me every bit the person I am. Years of compromise, and later years finding out that I need not subsequently compromise myself.
Mostly, now 54, my ego sits not full-faced across from you; but gently in my lap. There’s no voice that speaks to me that does not lead me away from my own obscurity; the cacophony of sounds are but rumbling noises of no measure. I hear you not; I permit you not. But I’m also not an island; we are lead out from the darkness of obscurity only through the eyes of the other. This most acutely realised when I am the cynosure in your eyes! I could not have fully been there to be seen thusly, were I not 54!
I’m every bit my age!!!! ❤