Posts by mariakostaki

On Solitude

August 21st, 2020 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

The island’s roads don’t simply wind, they curve like a slinky that’s been gently pulled apart, as I drive up and down the mountainous terrain. Everywhere I look, there is the sea. I stop the car on the side of the road and take photo after photo, trying to capture the vastness of the blue, the glimmer of gold and silver that the sun dusts it with, the contrast of the arid, rocky land so characteristic of the Cyclades. It doesn’t work. Some things are meant to be lived not simply seen. Like touch. Or a kiss. The only reason we sometimes experience electricity run through our body when we see a photo of either, is because we’ve experienced them. Yet I long to share what I see with those I love.

But then I remember, this is self-imposed solitude. And I’m only on day two of five.

The first few hours are hard. My host picks me up at a spot that already feels like it’s the middle of nowhere. Half an hour later, we get to the middle of nowhere. “You look so peaceful,” she says as she shows me to my room. You’re a bad liar, I think to myself. I came to find peace. But I can’t get my friend out of my head. The one that was worried that I’m going on vacation alone because I can’t find anyone to come with me. What is it about solitude that scares us so? Why is it seen as a punishment rather than a reward? In fact, only two out of everyone that I told I’m doing this, and trust me, I told many, did not secretly think that something was wrong with me.

I lay on my bed looking out the window at the sea and feel the need to do something. To be somewhere. I consider watching something on Netflix.

Instead, I get in the car to drive to the supermarket, it takes me over an hour, the roads are narrow for one car, let alone two, I’m terrified that some speeding local is going to pop up from around the bend and throw me off the cliff. Of which there are many. I get back, determined to fight the feeling that being out of one’s comfort zone gives us. I walk onto the beach outside my room and discover that it’s not really a beach, but a bed of rocks. Annoyed, I go back to my room, but not before the three large ducks—two white, one black—make get there faster. I seem to have invaded their territory. I grab my laptop to write in the garden, but it’s so windy that my screen keeps getting whiplash. I start making plans to go home earlier. To cement and heat. I miss my son. I miss my bed. I miss my TV. And oh my god, I forgot my toothbrush. Soon, thoughts start to border on the ridiculous.

Back outside, I stick my head out of the property gate. The ducks are nowhere in sight. I begin to slowly walk on the rocks, past the nearby fence that was formerly blocking my view to the beach that’s two minutes away. I don’t swim, but make a plan to do so the next day. The comfort of its proximity makes my earlier ignorance feel juvenile.

I boil two eggs for dinner, and it’s ok, I light two large candles on the floor by my bed, and open a book. I sleep for nine uninterrupted hours for the first time in a decade, with the window open, to the music of the waves hitting rocks and ducks quaking.

The next morning, I shoo off the black duck that’s trying to get into my car and go back to that supermarket and buy a toothbrush. The roads already seem wider, the turns familiar, the locals non-threatening. I borrow a rusty, torn beach chair from my host, pack a bag with essentials and claim a spot under a tree. A lady just walking into the water starts loudly murmuring to herself about my choice of spot (too close to her towel), my reflex is to yell some obscenities, but I simply move my chair to the opposite branch. A few minutes later, a mom and her teenage son appear, I move to make space for them in the shade, she smiles. The sea is rough and raw, the pebbles range in sizes from peas to watermelons, the waves make it impossible to make a graceful entrance. I’m wearing the ugly beach shoes I dug up in the depths of my storage closet, the ones I wouldn’t have been caught dead with in my not-so-past lifetime. I’m alone. The random hair on my thigh, the fold(s) of my stomach, the un-matching bathing suit (last-minute packing should not be a thing), the whiteness of my skin, suddenly mean nothing. “What are you plans, what’s on the agenda?” says a text. Where will I eat, what beaches will I go to, will I have time to visit all the villages, have a cocktail a the must bar, try the local delicacies, and so on. I don’t have any plans. I want to see one village. I don’t need to eat local delicacies at the recommended restaurants or be surrounded by over-exposed bodies of teenagers and bad music at crowded beaches. And I don’t like cocktails. I want to swim free and naked, I want to listen to music that has been on the SD card of my car for years, unheard, I want to be awed by the blue, I want solitude to be a thing we strive for, I want people to see that if we never embrace solitude, we miss half of what’s around us.

If I wasn’t alone, here, in my divine middle of nowhere, I would have never told you any of this. Now maybe you’ll consider solitude. And I’m still going to post those photographs. I know someone will recognize the magic.

On The Meltdown

April 2nd, 2020 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

Congratulations. You’ve spent X number of days, weeks, keeping your act together during this unprecedented disaster.

You’ve cooked three meals a day, burnt the one of the three, watched your kids push their plates aside in disgust, blown $40 on a subscription to NYT Cooking, baked bread, cookies, cakes, eaten them all. You’ve dusted, vacuumed and mopped, you’ve ironed, decluttered every room, and hand-washed the car.

You’ve sat with the kids making puzzles and mosaics until you wanted to knock yourself out by banging your head against the nearest hard surface, but instead secretly stealing the remaining pieces and stuffing them in your pocket. You’ve taken walks around your neighborhood staring at the same trees and shrubs every day until they too are no longer beautiful. They were just trees. And shrubs. You’ve answered “when is this virus going to diiiieee, I’m so bored what should I do” so many times in so many different ways that you no longer remember what the truth is. But you may have found a cure for boredom.

You hold on to your job, as if it’s the greatest job anyone can ever have, even if it interrupts all the fun activities described above, just because it gives you a break from the above. Or at least, gives you something to do while performing the activities above. You’ve realized you don’t even like your job, and immediately smacked yourself with a ton of guilt because others have been left desolate. You keep smiling into the screen dotted with your colleagues’ blank faces and start stuffing small pieces of the cake you baked into your mouth and think about the online yoga class you’ve signed up for later. There and then you realized that no amount of exercise will keep your waistline from exploding over your jeans if you ever wear them again.

Obviously, you’ve overdosed on the news, had visions of assassinating Donal Trump at point blank, ironed sheets, had nightmares, listened to neighbors quarrel, thought of breaking up with your partner, fell in love with your partner, cursed the day you had children when they’ve walked in on you loving your partner. But you’ve also held on to them so tight it made them hurt because for a moment you’re convinced that they are all there is.

You’ve maybe gotten rid of your beard, shaved your head, given your split ends a cut, shaved your legs daily as if waiting for your lover to pop by, fixed your hair for a video chat with your friends, considered dressing up for a supermarket run, dressed up for a supermarket run, let your hair go wild, forgotten to look in the mirror for a few days, suddenly seen yourself on your laptop in that conference call, pushed back the urge to cry.

But you’ve really socialized. You’ve been in touch with your friends more than ever before. In fact, you’ve texted friends that you haven’t spoken to in decades. You’ve been proud of the multitude of new apps on your devices that provide you with endless options of communication, even if they mostly do the exact same thing. You’ve had so many video chats, text exchanges, phone calls, and House Parties that you are on the verge of never wanting to see your friends and family again.

You just want to touch their faces.

Live. /laɪv/

The last call for the night comes to an end, it’s midnight and happy hour has possibly gone on too long. Everyone is asleep, the TV is off, Netflix is done, you even consider hopping on the Tiger King wagon to keep yourself from going mad. But you don’t do it. You’re surrounded by Legos and crumbs which you start to pick up manically.
And suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re done. With the cooking, cleaning, working, socializing, keeping it together. The walls aren’t holding. The silence or lack of it is maddening.

You sit there in the middle of the night when nobody can see you, hugging yourself, rocking back and forth.
I have to stay sane
I have to stay sane
I have to stay sane
But people keep dying
How can I stay sane
They’re elderly, they were already sick, you whisper inside your head, face burning with shame.
What if they were my family
dying in a white sterile plastic tent
alone in a football field

You go to the kitchen for a sugar fix, decide against it, grab a sponge, fall on your knees and begin to scrub the floor.

Staying sane is relative. Keeping it together is not a must. Giving yourself a break, is. You’re not responsible for this. You cannot control it. Keep yourself healthy, feed your kids frozen chicken nuggets, touch your loved ones, look into their eyes, talk to your friends. For theirs are the hands, dirty and scarred, that you’ll hold as you together walk out of this dark and murky wave, it may be in pieces, but in pieces that will have to mend into a new whole. In daylight.

On a Bunch of Parsley

March 26th, 2020 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

For as long as I have lived in Athens, which is most of my life, I’ve wished that I lived elsewhere. The rowdiness of people as they speak, the black clouds spurting out of the exhausts of cabs and school buses, the lack of respect for personal space as we line up at the supermarket cash registers, the loud whispers of neighbors as they gossip about the people next door on their balconies in the summer, the traffic on warm summer weekends as everyone heads to the crowded beach.

Today, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. The concept of ‘home’ takes on a new meaning, when you can’t be anywhere else but there. So many things that until now we took for granted, suddenly become priceless, warm, even magical.

During this imposed isolation, or social distancing, however each person wants to label what we are all living today, our main goal, besides to not get Covid-19, is to not go mad. Social media floodgates have burst open with a deluge of “how to keep busy at home” and “22 great ways to keep your kids entertained”, supermoms post photos of happy kids that have produced works of art and perfectly shaped cupcakes, the health nuts post videos of their hot bods pumping iron in their clean living rooms, all of which to a real person are completely useless. And there I am, on my couch with nothing left to watch on Netflix except Dynasty (and that’s not happening), the fourth weekly bag of Doritos resting on my stomach. I feel like pushing the windows open and somehow breathing that forsaken coronavirus into my system just to make it all stop. Thankfully, I’m responsible for a minor and have to keep my shit together. So I find ways to stay sane that work for me.

“What’s everyone’s problem?” my mother scolds on the phone in reaction to those that are hoarding and breaking lockdown rules. “During communism in Russia we didn’t have toilet paper for weeks. And we didn’t need to go anywhere all the time.” Well, there was nowhere to go, i think to myself. As there isn’t now.

On the first day of the lockdown, I type “2 Maria Kostaki” and my address and send it to a designated five digit number, asking someone or something obscure for permission to go food shopping. instantaneously, that permission is granted and I’m free to drive to the laiki (farmers market). As I drive (windows open, music blasting, singing some 80s song like there’s no tomorrow), a friend calls while walking her dog. She’s nearby and remembers that she needs a bunch of parsley. “I’ll come by,” she says. We already feel like we’re breaking the law. We see eachother from three meters away, stop and stare, the stall full of fruits and vegetables acting as our visible shield of protection. It’s the most bizarre feeling to want to take in the face of a person, that under normal circumstances, you see at least once a week. To see and remember it, not on your computer screen, but in real life. What eyes express in the naked air cannot be communicated through the internet. I feel like we freeze in a time where even sadness is sweet, for it’s a feeling other than fear, the fear that we’re engulfed in.  I give her a bunch of parsley that I pick up for her with whatever I needed from that stall, we take step back, we don’t discuss it, we exchange smalltalk and head our separate ways. I smile, for even that minute itself, was enough.  

The next day, I walk to the local shop to get a yogurt that I don’t really need, just to exchange words with the owner. As I leave, it starts to drizzle. I stand there like a love-struck or broken-hearted teenager (you choose) in a bad romcom. Only I’m too self conscious to raise my arms to the sky, which is all I want to do. No matter how much any movie tells you, you never know how good rain can feel falling on your cheeks until you’re really need to feel it.

So every day, I type choice 2 into my phone, wait for approval and head to a supermarket, hoping to catch sight of a familiar face. I speak to friends and suggest we find a store that’s in the middle of where our homes are so we can cross paths, if only for a moment. And realize how sad this is, even if it is for the greater good. I’m sure withholding human touch must be a form of torture somewhere. 

What’s going to happen when we are finally allowed to be in a room together, to touch each other, to pat a knee, to embrace, to hold a hand? I can’t imagine, but I dream of it. My friends’ voices, my kid’s laughter as he gets to run in the park with his friends, my mother stepping off a plane healthy and sound, how loud we are all going to scream trying to get a word in over one another as we share food and not care which glass of wine belongs to whom, and the absence of hand sanitzer from the table.  As I dream of Athens and its noisy people, traffic, neighborhood gossip, and endless road trips to a crowded beach.

P.S. Thank you Θ and Σ for giving my thoughts an image before they were complete.

In times of crisis, write, they say

March 13th, 2020 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

To make sense of the chaos, or if sense is impossible, to at least order the maelstrom of thoughts and images in your head. Covid-19. The senseless jumble of letters and numbers that has shut down everything that we know as normal and real. It cancelled my son’s seventh birthday party. It made me a stay-at-home-work-from-home-home-schooling-cooking-two-meals-a-day mom. It forced me to see how alone we all really are, for everyone, mortified by unnecessary human contact finds polite excuses to stay behind their closed doors. Strangers at the supermarket pull their overloaded carts full of canned sardines and beans a meter a way from me, the safe distance, they’ve been told, tightening their masks, nervously playing with their gloved hands. The woman at the tax office jokingly asks if my ID card has been touched by someone outside the country, as I hand it to her. I smile, though I know she’s not really joking. She gives it back and outside, I secretly wipe it down with an antiseptic.

I lived through what I thought until recently would be the biggest disaster of my lifetime. I watched the second plane hit and the towers crumble into a massive cloud of dust from my balcony. What ensued was terror and grief, but, in stark contrast to this, it was a terror and grief that we shared. With friends, with neighbours, with strangers. We sat in a circle on a stoop and talked, got drunk, laughed and cried at a bar, held hands, hugged, kissed, had sex, made friends, and became family. Today, we wash hands, turn corners and close doors. Our phones and laptops constantly run out of battery as we manically reload newsfeeds and stay in touch with our loved ones in blue and and white boxes. Our kids feel our panic no matter how much we smile and tell them that it’ll all be ok, everything will be normal. That school will start. That soon they can play with their friends again. That we’ll let them hold the railing of the escalator again, touch the toys in the store, grab on to the handles of the swing in the playground.

Being barred from touching things, from door handles to your friend’s hands, can be overwhelmingly terrifying for a human. Touch creates a sense of safety, whether it’s to keep yourself from literally or metaphorically falling. Take that away, add a virus, and you have something so much grander than September 11. The enemy is intangible. Invisible. It can live inside you.

In times of crisis, write, they say.

On the Intolerance of Male-Bashing

January 26th, 2018 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Last Sunday, my hometown, Athens, Greece, joined the world in marching for equality.

When I introduced our third speaker, I said this:

“Our next speaker is proof of why men belong at Women’s Marches.”

A woman booed. Before I even introduced him.

I went on to explain who he is, what he does, though that shouldn’t really matter because he was there, by the mic, speaking to a crowd at a Women’s March, giving a diverse voice to an otherwise all-female line up. He hasn’t harassed or violated anyone in any way, quite the contrary, he fights for those that are discriminated and hurt and abused and violated. Men and women.

Equality is the one word that unified every single march around the globe last weekend. From Kampala, Uganda, to New York City, to Wellington, New Zealand. Inclusion. Unity. Two words that are essential to equality; concept crucial to what we all claim to be fighting for.

Earlier that day, when the event’s program was released, a woman first praised it, and then seeing the man on the list, suggested that we don’t need any “mansplaining” done for us. Mansplaining? Confused, I had to look that one up to be sure. And felt very uneasy being put under the umbrella of “us” in the specific context.

Later, someone else mouthed the lyrics of a feminist song and pointed at my husband, who spent the afternoon hauling speakers, setting up sound equipment, and who, to top it all off, was playing the music for the event. The lyrics were not words of appreciation.

This is in little Athens, Greece, where Women’s Marches are small, where the local population does not identify with the causes, and doesn’t speak the language of the chants that sound off the bullhorns as we walk down the city’s streets. I can’t help but jump to the conclusion that the phenomenon of male-bashing, to its varying degrees, exists everywhere.

Three people, you may say. Yes, three people. One voice can start a revolution, three voices can stir it off its path.

So, whatever our personal issues with men may be, and I’m talking about everyday men, not the Harvey Weinsteins or the Dr. Nassars of the world, what’s needed here is some perspective. We’re going to go marching straight back where we came from if we choose to shut half of the world’s population out of our cause. We can’t do it without them. I don’t want to do it without them. I want to fight this fight together.

On why Feminism is not a bad Word

January 13th, 2018 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

I’ve been getting a lot of feminism is αμερικανιά lately. A lot of μιά χάρα είμαστε εμείς οι γυναίκες,  άλλα προβλήματα έχουμε. Some of δεν θέλω να έχω σχέση με το Women’s March, δεν με αναφορά η Χίλαρι, ούτε η αμερική. Ελλάδα είμαστε εδώ.

Hillary Clinton, I agree, is nobody’s concern anymore. What happened to her, on a level, is. Feminism is not an American construct. Feminism is not an extremist movement. If you are born a female, you are by default a feminist, unless you grow up to consider yourself an inferior being to men. It simply means that you believe that you have equal rights. It doesn’t mean that you are running naked through forests with unshaved legs burning your bras. And believing that you as a woman should have equal opportunity, equal wages, the right to safety, is simple human logic. It’s innate. Have you ever seen a two-year-old girl believe that she can’t do or can’t want anything her twin brother does?
The Women’s March next Sunday, is not about America. It’s not about Hillary. It’s not even about American midterm elections, because no Greek knows or cares about them. What it is about, people of Greece, is about your lives. Changing.
I’m no expert. I’m no sociologist. I did not do research to throw numbers and percentages at you in this post. But I am a woman who has lived in this country for 35 years. I have a Greek passport. I pay taxes. I walk the streets. I work. I’m as Greek as any one of you, save the blood running through my veins, which is Russian, if you consider blood a decisive factor of identity.

Until recently, I didn’t know that walking down a street didn’t have to be a festival of whistles, crude comments, or fear, if it’s dark. When I was younger, I didn’t know that it was illegal for men to masturbate behind trees, or in their cars, in public spaces. But I knew that if a husband was beating his wife, she couldn’t prove it in court unless a non-related third person witnessed it and testified. I knew that girls in their 20s would jump at the opportunity of sleeping with a low grade politician to secure themselves a spot in the δημόσιο. I knew that the word γυναίκα could be used in a sentence and carry a negative connotation. I know 15-year-olds who are flattered when someone to refers to them as καλό μουνάκι. I know that a stadium full of people can watch a man slap his wife in the middle of a concert, and think nothing of it. So whoever thinks that women have equal rights, well, we’re not even close. We, let alone our kids, have little idea what our lives should be like. Because we are used to what is obviously the norm.
Greece is a country of demonstrations, of unions, of demanding and fighting for what we believe is rightfully ours. Especially over the past ten years. I’ve been to dozens of these demonstrations. I know I’ve seen many of you there. I’ve hid in cafeteria basements around Syntagma, to avoid the teargas and molotov cocktails. We protested again and again. Achieved little. For most of these issues were beyond our control, even beyond our governments’ control. The decisions had been made behind closed doors that we didn’t have keys to.
This is different. This is about us. Us as humans, not only here in Athens, but throughout the country, throughout the world. From Zambia, to New Zealand, to yes, the United States, that quiet unfortunately at this point, digs and paves the road that most of the world drives down. Lets not get stuck in that traffic. Lets pave our own roads, roads that lead to open doors, doors, the keys to which we leave in our children’s pockets.
Join us here:

On When History Looks you in the Eyes

December 13th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 4 comments

So I met this woman yesterday. She is pretty cool. Some of you might know her. Her presence is daunting, but not because she is, only because of the history she carries inside. Her presence is calm, quiet, yet electrifying, because of that history, because of the endless knowledge her eyes hold the minute they look into yours, they lure you in.

A woman who fought for civil rights, women’s rights, prison reform. A woman who led the United States Communist Party. A woman who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. A woman who was wrongly imprisoned. Now a retired professor, she spoke at the Women’s March on Washington last year. And activist, and educator, an author, a wife, a lesbian, a woman whose facets are so multiple, achievements so staggering, that most of us would only hope to do one of the things she’s done. Live the life she’s lived. And I know I’m missing half her resume here.

And there I was, little me, sitting in this room, with history. As she spoke, I find myself light-headed, unable to decide what to start asking, longing for time to move slower, her words to become a slow slur of syllables, so one by one I can steal all I can manage to absorb.

And then, her eyes are watching mine.

After the international Women’s March last January, having organized our tiny one in Athens, Greece, had me tripping for a solid week. I think most of the organizers all over the globe were riding on a natural high. We had done it. We had mobilized small and large cities, communities, villages, all over the world. We had started a revolution.

Time went by. Trump went nowhere. Tweets kept rolling. Black lives continued not to matter. Women didn’t get equal pay. Muslim bans came into affect. Only when #meetoo went viral, did we begin to think again, that we must do it again.

But for what, I thought to myself. So I asked those eyes, that were watching mine, not because they’re something special, but because it was my turn to ask a question. What can we do, I said, what can we do to make this year’s marches matter more, what would you do to make them more powerful, to keep them from becoming simple annual gatherings that give us a false sense of power, a power that doesn’t reach beyond togetherness, solidarity, and roars after the day has gone?

While I’m sure my question was nowhere near as glibly voiced as above, Angela Davis got the point. She looked at me, warmly smirking, as if wanting to say, my dear child, you have so much to learn, but let me try and teach you in the minute that we have.

A demonstration is not a movement, she said. It’s not a revolution. It’s a call to a movement, a call to revolution. It takes time. Change may never happen in our lifetimes. It may not happen in our children’s lifetimes. But if we keep doing the work, the quiet, seemingly insignificant work, it will. Take Black Lives Matter. Do you think it just sprung out of the blue? We’ve been working on that for decades. Sometimes you may think that what you’re doing is nothing, but there is no such thing as an immediate result. You cannot change the world overnight.

So lets blow things up. Softly, slowly, steadily. Lets be half as brave, patient, and persistent as Angela Davis.

On Our Turn

October 12th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

There is no such thing as a powerless man. His sex, by default, gives him more power over a woman, a power, which even though is imaginary and ingrained in his righteous psyche by history and society. So I’m not quite sure why the recent allegations about “powerful men” come at such surprise to many.  And why anyone bothers to term them “allegations” to begin with. It’s obvious that even if one or two of them fail to be true, there are many more, that sit silently in the corner, constantly scarring and defining the lives of those that keep them.

I’ve been sexually harassed since I was a kid. Only then, I did not know it. I thought it was the norm. When I was 14, walking home from school in broad daylight, a middle aged man in a red beaten up car, pulled up next to me, opened his door and began to masturbate while following me for a few blocks. His car kept stalling, he kept letting go of his penis to restart, until I finally screamed and ran off in the other direction. What troubles me now, is why I didn’t scream from the second I was first exposed to the sight. Did I think that it was my fault, that I somehow encouraged him to do this? I ran to my friend’s house a few blocks away but did not tell her what had happened.  I did not call my parents to pick me up, I sat in her bedroom and drew with all the green Crayola crayons that she had, and eventually walked back home.

That walk home, and later, the same route that past school led towards the central square where teenagers met up at night, became a nightmare, one that I’d learn to live with. I began to take turns onto better lit streets, studied cars and their drivers to know what types to run from, but then the “Albanians” came. I put them in quotes because maybe half of them weren’t even from Albania, and because quite obviously not all Albanian men are sexual predators. But at that time, Greece went into a frenzy because these men were stealing their jobs, raping their women, robbing their houses, setting up gangs. I’d see these “Albanians” roaming our neighborhood’s dark streets and break out in cold sweat. Right after that, communism fell, borders of the Soviet block flew open, and thousands of women came south looking for work. Many ended up as sex workers of all levels. By then, I’d opted for taking cabs home at night, but the drivers, recognizing that something was off in my accent from the minute I told them where I was going, asked where I was from. I made the mistake of telling them Moscow more than a couple of times. One asked me which brothel I work at, another how much I cost.

It didn’t end there. There was plenty more on a much closer scale; friends of the family, boys at school, bosses, customers at a bar I later worked at. And believe me, I was not “asking for it.” My mom, my grandma, they never told me that was not how it was supposed to be. Because they did not know. Once on the subway, my grandma told me to sit straight, but not too straight, with my knees touching at all times. What did they know besides what life had taught them?

In my late 20s, I was walking to work by the National Gardens in Athens. A guy stood in between two trees, doing his thing, loudly, in the middle of rush hour in a European capital. Everyone pretended not to see. By then, I’d strapped on a pair or two, so I yelled at him. He zipped up and ran away.

Have you ever seen a woman masturbate in public? Pull her pants down behind a tree and moan? Both sexes are human, both have the same drive, it’s not about biology. It’s about that ingrained belief that they have the power. Fuck your power, and your history, and your money, that have stripped us of basic human rights, that have made us grow up believing that they are not ours to begin with, that have made us accept this as the norm, this existence which makes us something less than human. Sexual harassment may not be as bad as actual assault. But it’s an assault on the mind, because those two seconds that our boss or our cousin or our teacher had his hand on our ass or eyes on our breasts, they are assaulting, they stay with us forever, they shape the future of our every relationship. But enough.  We’re demanding what is ours. Our daughters are taking what is ours. It’s our turn.



On the Fire of Eclectic Human Superstars

September 25th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

I just spent a few days on a farm, unlike no other. To recall what it looks like, I need to swipe through the hundreds of photographs on my phone, because it wasn’t the Tuscan countryside, the greenery, the oxygen, that made it magical, it was the people I shared a roof and sky with, the people whose stories made my mind speed, shattering the everyday routine of a mother’s secluded existence that has marked much of my recent life. People from all over the world. Most of them were strangers, a few I hadn’t seen in 13 years, my friend, the bride, with whom we share epic stories of a lifetime, even though we met half-way through, and my new friend, the groom.

Getting married at 40-something, is very different to getting married at 20. You know what love is. You know what you’re fighting for. What you’re sacrificing, and why. You know the faces you want to see, the smiles, the laughs, the silence, and you know that they will be there. The friends and family that you’ve held on till then, are bound to possess the fire you’ve burnt to get this far, to be this brave. I want to tell you about a few of them.

I’m going to start with those I know, dad, mom, stepmom and cousin of the bride, after knowing me for 24 hours over a decade ago, made me feel like I was coming home. It was hardly a bad home to come to, warm bear hugs, and a freedom of jokes and laughter that you can only have with those that are not your family.

It was a partly Swedish wedding, thanks to the groom, (the other part a medley of New York, Boston, Italian-America), and the tradition there is to have two people run the show. They ran it as if it was they who were getting married.

The groom’s mother, the absolute powerhouse, bustling with energy, humor, and surprising warmth that suddenly appeared out of nowhere and kept me asking for more.

A perfect couple, with a perfect family, beautiful beyond the initial flash of perfection, brought together by a story that makes me want to put the wife on my shoulders and parade her cheering, around a town square.

And Lauren, the only person whose name I feel free to mention, for I finally found the person who can integrate the word “fuck” more than I can into a single sentence at inappropriate moments. We laughed so long, so hard, that I swear I could see the abs peeking out of my post-pregnancy 40-year-old pooch.

(The rest I will save for a future novel.)

We gave speeches at the dinner table, sharing personal stories, toasting the newlyweds, and at no point was there nobody crying into the freshly made pizza on their plate, even though the speech-giving lasted close to two hours. At the ring of the bell (yes, there was a bell), silence fell, gazes searched for the next amazing tale. Half-way through mine, I blacked out, as if I’d fallen onto a huge white pillow, listening to my almost incoherent babble, but it didn’t matter, I was there, I was part of it, I remembered who I am. I remembered what is real, what is true, what I live for. In an old farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere, in the darkness, surrounded by nothing by bright, burning, human balls of light.






On the Reality of Freedom

September 14th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

I took a long break, I haven’t been here in a while, I know. But see, it’s because I’m finally free. I let myself be because I’m finally free.

Not that that’s necessarily liberating. It’s terrifying.

I’ve spent the past four and a half years trying to survive, while trying not to fail a young child. My life has been about failing at breastfeeding, formula feeding schedules, hauling organic produce from the market on three hours of sleep, mashing that organic produce better than the best baby food expert on the internet, potty training, chasing, feeding, chasing, feeding, crying, encouraging, teaching, all while demonstrating the patience of a superhuman. But that’s what moms of young kids do. For the first few years, most of us, as we knew ourselves, cease to exist. We temporarily lose our partners, we have no child-free friends. We long to go out to dinner, when we get there, we curse the moment we chose to do it instead of going to bed. We long to sit on a beach, sit, without moving until the sun heats us enough to go in the water. We long to slip on a pair of expensive heels, only to realize our feet no longer fit in them, let alone have the agility or energy to walk in them. We long to work, to create, to be surrounded by adults, because we think that what we’re doing, here at home, is not real life, it’s simply raising a child.

Well let me tell you something, it’s as real as life is going to get. And it won’t last that long, in the grand scheme of things. But we can’t see that while we’re there, no. And then, suddenly, it’s over. They hang their schoolbags on their shoulders, grab hold of their friend’s hand, and run off in the schoolyard with a simple wave. If that. And there, we realize, we’re free.

Or I did.

The first week, I stared out the window. The second week, out of guilt, I began to cook two to three meals a day. When most of the food found itself in the garbage, I embraced Netflix, read a book. And then it came, the bomb, the one that explodes little shards of “this is your life now” quotes all over the kitchen. Suddenly, at 44, I can do whatever I want. Till 4.30pm, that is. But compared to a year ago, that is a lot of time. And I start to think, what can I do, and I begin to panic, because there isn’t that much I can do, and the last thing I want to do is sit and cook three meals a day for the rest of my life, even if someone eats them.

Cliche, I say. Every mom has this crisis when they’re finally reintroduced to the concept of breathing. So maybe I’m just going to breathe for as long as I need to. Let this freedom engulf me, stress me, push me, scare me. See where it takes me.

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.