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Vouliagmeni – My little spot in the world

My little spot in the world! Home. Finally. I’d long thought that I would not plant roots anywhere. I felt more like branches in constant reach. Often thinking I might just severe all ties to the ground and fly off.

There are some that say that home is where the heart is. But my heart permanently resides with my children. And they will find flight soon enough. They are not mine to detain.

Home is a little spot in the world wherein you feel whole, and always just a little breathless. It is that space not occupied, but of extracted being. It is not so much a place as it is time.

Home is familiarity, just not familiar.

The route; my route; our route. It is my, our daily (now) chit chat with the dog walkers, our resident disc jokey, Marina and her youngin Oresti, Manoli, Giorgo and Mihali at the taxi park, Dimitri at the kioski and Matina at the pharmacy until we make our way to the mountain terrain! OMG!

Passerby’s salut, share intimate stories, or …are making intimate stories. But it is all behind the closed doors of the parameters of this very public space.

Home is found when you wake each morning and are happy …for no reason.

Cause

Music can be alot like people. It doesn’t happen often, but suddenly you’re enrapture and you know not why. And just like that, you’re spun.

Overlooking the Mediterranean blue, Rodriguez interrupts my philosophical musings like a spoiled puppy pulling at my pant leg. I sit shaking my leg to free myself from his grip, inwardly knowing that if he should let go I might feel abandoned.

The bluesy throwback feel wants you sitting on a porch swing overlooking fields and water in the far off distance. And there, amidst barren richness cheery-eyed tears wash your face from the muck of unflattering toils. A shout out to Jesus finds the Pope extolling the proverbial rhetoric of humanoids occupying pathways built of sweat and blood. And you, at the bottom of a bottle of Vodka, grin the sleeper’s smile cause…cause you know the way of the world.

Loss

Our loss was years before her actual demise: August 13, 2018. I missed her then, as I miss her now. A reminder that often we miss what is truly meaningful focused on people and matters that are utterly insignificant. Mom had this uncanny penetrating eye which at the time provoked and maimed our relations, but which today I alert myself to in the hopes that she might hold my hand as I gather the courage to walk my path.

She was complex; she was taxing. She was caring; she was generous. She was somber; she was angst. She was passionate; she was ecstatic. She was love. She was mom.

(S)Age

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.

It’s not…

It’s not what you do for a living; it’s the values you bestow on your profession. It’s not how much money you make; it’s your expenditure that counts. It’s not your popularity that makes you; it’s your character that does. It’s not your transparency that keeps you honest; it’s parrhesia. It’s not your strength that makes you formidable; it’s your courage. It’s not your appearance that draws me in; it’s your beauty. It’s not your title that gives you knowledge; it’s the problematization of its landscape that does. It’s not your ego that gives you strength, but your shadows. It’s not self-containment that makes you free, but vulnerability that does. It’s not hedonism that brings happiness, but angst-ized meaning that does. It’s not silence that keeps you safe, it’s resilience that does. It’s not children that immortalise you, it’s a life well-lived that does.

LOCKDOWN

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.

Do It!

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.

Be Present

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.

An Epidemic?

The coronavirus is real, and it has already taken 1000s of lives, complicated the lives of everyone around the globe, called upon medical practitioners to make devastating moral decisions, working around the clock in conditions slowly becoming deplete. The economy is taking and will continue to take a toll. It’s not important whether other diseases infect and take the lives of comparably more lives, it is not relevant that the common flu also takes lives every year, it is not relevant that the source of this coronavirus is Wuhan and what is perceived to be their questionable eating habits. This is an opportunity for HUMANITY to come together in acknowledging that we, ALL of us, have a role to play in how this will all play out.

Personally, I find it insensitive and untimely to be making jokes that have gone viral (pun absolutely intended!!!) when so many people are dying, when so many more will die. When so many others are ill. When the natural, dare I say, humane, response is concern. Would anyone make jokes to the terminally ill, to the loved ones who have lost their mothers, fathers, grandparents, children? It makes no real (pun also intended!!) difference that your commentary is online and spoken OUT LOUD from behind a screen at a safe distance! Everyone is affected, or should I say, infected with a stain of cruelty in times of anguish. Are people’s concerns unreasonable? Perhaps. Let’s not castigate each other for being worried. Yes, let’s not panic. Let us speak to due diligence. Let us all take a breath and appeal to reason to deliberate about the events transpiring. Let us listen to medical professionals who have the expertise to properly address these legitimate concerns (FYI I implore medical practitioners to post! You are the ones who have the expertise to track public opinion. We need you now). Let us help those in need – people quarantined or self-isolating (vulnerable groups): they may need a meal, someone to pay their bills, and comfort. Is suffering any less tragic for lacking rational judgment? Let us appeal to sentiment in acknowledging the suffering of others. Let us seek to understand them. Let us practice empathy. Let us make humanity an epidemic! 💜🙏

International Woman’s Day 2020

“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

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