Sunday, 29 November 2020

anniversary...

Twenty years ago today, I arrived in the Netherlands... I was practically a kid, alone, all my belongings fitted in just two duffel bags but my hopes were larger than life! I wanted to be independent! I wanted to be accomplished and successful too but mostly, I wanted to be independent! To have a steady salary, to have a life in order, a life where the expression “we’ll see” would not have a place anymore, because, I would know whether something was possible or not right away. Growing up, this “we’ll see” and the insecurity that it entailed, had haunted my childhood... every time I wanted something, every time I asked for something, anything, the answer was usually that. Not “yes”, not “no”... just this limbo... which usually ended up in a “no” but the worst was the time it took to get me to the “no”. And I wanted, finally (and for good), to have a life without this painful anticipation.

I achieved that. In the twenty years that followed, I achieved much more. My belongings now cannot fit in two duffel bags... I mean the shoes alone can’t fit in my car...!! And I have a car. A mini car, but a car nonetheless. And I have travelled the world just like I wanted since I was a child, reading “The children of Captain Grant” again and again! I have seen incredible beauty, I have tasted deliciousness. I have made friends who are my family now. I have done work I can be proud of and I have passed my knowledge down to younger colleagues. I have fought for my rights. I have lost battles but I am still standing. I have loved. I have laughed. I have experienced great losses and I have not given up. And I have a cat! My darling Lucifer, the light of my life, who gives me so much love I never thought it would be possible! (he’s curled up next to me as I write this, purring in absolute contentment!)

Not too shabby, right? I mean, surely, other people have achieved much more and there is always Malala who is making each and everyone of us look like underachievers no matter what but, blimey, it surely isn’t bad for the 26-year-old girl, who came here alone with almost nothing and managed to build a life from scratch, all by herself! Has it always been “better than shoes”? The answer to that is a resounding “no”. There were times tough as nails. But what has been “better than shoes”, beyond any doubt, was my decision to come here. A decision I have not regretted not for a moment in these two decades! I have taken a chance and it has paid off. No matter what, I can say I made it on my own. It did not come cheaply. But the reward was worth the price! 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

choosing where to look at...

Yesterday I had the good fortune of having drinks (at my place, staying safe... plus, I have an amazing recipe for G&T!) with a lady I have know for many many years but we had not been really in touch for a long time. Yet, some time ago, right after my mother died, I made a weird post on Fb and she immediately texted me to ask if everything was alright. None other did... I mean from the outer circle of Fb friends, my close friends knew. So, this gesture of hers really moved me and I invited her with great pleasure for drinks and a chat.

And as I had thought it would be, it was a very pleasant evening! We talked for hours, drinking G&Ts and nibbling (I’m Greek... drinking without eating something is frowned upon... at least for my generation, I don’t know what the youngsters do these day... god, I sound so old!) and we had so much to tell to one another! The hours passed without noticing, really! Like myself, she has been through a lot these past couple of years but she’s strong and calm and she’s learning to take care of herself and... well, I feel she’s going to be just fine! So, as I was telling her some of my “adventures” of the last year, she said to me “goodness... you went through that and you tell me about it with a smile!”... and then it hit me: of course!! Of course I’m telling the story of the sh*t I’ve been through with a smile! Because I’m still here to tell the story!! 

You see, we can choose where to look at but some times we are so tired from... well... life itself, that we forget we can. We can choose to look at the sh*t that has happened to us and let the memory of it put us down once again or we can choose to look at the fact we are still standing, we are still here and we have friendly ears that are willing to listen to our stories. And if we choose the latter, we do have every reason to smile! “Yes, friend, my life has been pretty much a wreck for quite some time but I’m still here and able to tell the story and you are here listening to my story so, yes, I’m smiling from ear to ear!” It is a choice. Make the choice to look at the (one?..) thing that puts a smile on your face, not the thing(s) that break your heart even remembering them. Now, isn’t that “better than shoes”?...

Saturday, 26 September 2020

knowing the size of your shadow

So, I have been watching this series on Netflix, “bloodline”, which is not half bad by the way, and it got me thinking...

It’s about this big, seemingly perfect, rich-ish family, which is deeply dysfunctional in a (literally) criminal way. And there’s this brother, the second oldest one, who’s supposedly the good boy, the reliable husband and father, the considerate and obedient son, the embodiment of trustworthiness and decency and honour and whatnot. And he takes upon him all the troubles his siblings face or create, all the worries and guilt of his mom, all the bad deeds of his dad, the responsibilities of his own family and job (and he works for the sheriff’s office) and basically the guy carries the weight of the world on his shoulders! Until...  nah, I’m not gonna give you any spoilers!

I kinda identify with that behaviour... I used to carry the weight of the world... I used to be the one grabbing every responsibility would come my way, no matter whose it really was, and make it my own... I used to think that all the problems of my dysfunctional family were mine to solve... and I suffered for years from this behaviour! Because, evidently, I could neither control nor solve everything! And as I was watching the hero in the series doing the same thing, I realised why he does it (and I guess why I did it too...): he does it because he thinks he casts a shadow much bigger than he actually does! And that all the mishaps of his family are within this huge shadow that he casts and therefore his to bear! He thinks that everyone else is in his shadow! And therefore he must help/protect/untangle them even though they are all fully grown adults! And they act pretty stupidly, might I add!

Well... I don’t do this anymore. I stopped some years back. I guess therapy has helped. Maybe the hero of the series would benefit from it too... Now I know exactly how big a shadow I cast and I can tell you that it is as small as if I’m standing right underneath the sun at midday! No one else exists within my shadow! Yes! Realising my insignificance has freed me from the burdens I was carrying most of my life! I’m not that important! I’m not a giant! I’m tiny! I’m an ant! I’m not responsible for everyone... in fact I’m only responsible for me (and Lucifer, as of late). So, I guess knowing the size of our shadow is important, “better than shoes” even, since it is perhaps the only way we can stop thinking others are within our shadow and stop carrying everyone else’s problems... me thinks...