Category Archives: Uncategorized

New year, new path?

Image by Brayden Law from Pexels

Writing a blog hasn’t come easy to me. Despite the ads on social media telling you it’s the perfect business to get into from the comfort of your own home – it isn’t.

In reality, it has been something of a journey and I’m not even four months in.

Despite my best hopes and my most positive thoughts, I have left a catalogue of attempted and aborted posts in my wake, my train of thought is constantly challenged by new ideas and WordPress seems intent on deleting my posts for reasons I have not yet fathomed. However, all of this pales into insignificance compared to the hammer blow I took to my confidence recently when a Facebook notification informed me that someone had reviewed my blog as ‘not recommended’.

Deflated, I resolved to end it all; blogging was clearly not for me and it was time to press the delete button and get a ‘real job’.

I immediately unpublished the blog that had caused such offence in case this was just one of many criticisms to come. My blogging efforts might have been meager, but they had come from a genuine place and I was hurt by this reaction to them. But then I recalled Brenee Brown’s recent documentary on Netflix (yes, I know, Netflix again, but it’s all I watch on TV, what can I say?) In the documentary, Brenee described the onslaught of spiteful comments and hate mail she had received after her Ted x talk went viral some years ago. Interestingly, the talk was on shame and vulnerability. Comments included vulgar expletives about her weight, face and dress sense. Some even went so far as to suggest she kill herself.

Truly, what kind of world are we living in? What did Brenee do that was so wrong? Nothing. And so she had a good cry and got on with being the brilliant researcher, advocate, writer and speaker she is, inspiring us all along the way. All power to her.

Then I remembered a book I had recently read, ‘Born Under a Million Shadows’ by Andrea Busfield, a respected journalist and author. She wrote this novel after living in Afghanistan for three years. It was a brilliant book that reflected not only the atrocities she witnessed, but also the deep and beautiful friendships she formed with Afghans, something we rarely get to glimpse as we soldier on through novel after novel with much the same start, middle and end. Yawn.

Because I like to encourage others, when I have something good to say I usually post a review. I did that for this author only to become distracted by another review that was not only negative and critical, but rude! Donning my battle armour, I went to war and told this reviewer in as nice a way as I could, how wrong she was. I am sure she is grateful for my response and will thank me for correcting her faulty perspective, not. I don’t know any book that has given me such a respect and love for a country that has been so trashed by the world’s media and scaremongering politicians, and yet Andrea weaved in culture, tradition, beauty, heartache and conflict in a way that resonated with me having been born and raised in a country torn apart by war.

And that’s when it hit me.

My “not recommended” review was merely an irritation compared to these other reviews, and as harmless as an annoying house fly when looked at next to Brenee’s mauling. And yet it unsettled me enough to take me back to that dark place where I constantly question myself, raising the doubts, insecurities and fears that have always plagued me.

After a strong cup of PG tips, accompanied by something super sugary from the fridge and followed by a large glass of Malbec, I took time to pause and reflect. My ego and I had a heart to heart. Well, more of a fist fight really. Being Greek, a heart to heart is a bit of a non-entity in my culture, but having learned to practice stillness I was better at it than before, although I’d argue that the Malbec helped considerably.

There was no great epiphany, but I did realise one thing; I am still, at times, functioning out of a place of hurt, shame, FEAR, insecurity or frustration and definitely from a place of trauma survival. I struggle with criticism because I learned to be a people pleaser and unlearning that is tough. I don’t trust my own judgement or intuition and so I look to others for approval about what I’m doing. This in itself has led me into many problematic situations in the past.

When I initially started writing this blog, I wanted to fit in with other bloggers – to write short posts on popular subjects such as travel. I also hoped it might become something I could monetise in the future. So yes, popular topics, a softly-softly approach, regular posts about nothing of substance just likable, shallow.

Photo by Anny Patterson from Pexels

Because I was serious, I had researched the art of blogging and even did a course, but when it came to delivery, it didn’t work. So, I reflected on that and I thought again about that first act of WordPress ‘sabotage’. Perhaps losing one of my posts was actually a way to cause me to stumble; to stem the flow of wrong creativity and make me look at everything afresh, frustrated but afresh.

Then, when the second post was deleted and WordPress insisted that they could not find any proof of its existence (even though it had been published, emailed and people had read it), I became stuck. But stuck is not always bad; stuck makes you think after you’ve thrown your dummy out. It makes you consider, reflect, evaluate and then decide a way forward. Do I sulk and delete the lot, as I have done so many times before, or do I persevere? And if I persevere, how do I move forward? What is the lesson I need to learn from this experience? What is it telling me? And then voila! Bingo! Bull’s eye! Hole in one! (OK, I’ll stop.)

I hadn’t been myself. I hadn’t been genuine, congruent. I had been trying to write like other bloggers who make lots of money from their blogs. My motive was all wrong. My compass was out of place. I was trying to be someone I am not. And even though my posts were written with genuine care, I picked topics that were easy, not triggering, not stressful and not too revealing so they wouldn’t leave me vulnerable.

That’s when I wrote about my writing journey and the teacher that inspired me. After that, I wrote about my mother. Both were deep, genuine, authentic ‘me’ pieces. And yet, that’s what had attracted the negative review that left me cowering. When I was fake no one batted an eyelid, but when I became me, it caused a wave, a tremor of a backlash. Why? Did I trigger something in others that they had long buried away? Was I too deep, dull, boring or wordy?

Whatever it is, I know I have to be myself. I can’t pretend to be anyone else.

After years of being who and what others needed me to be, I am daring to be bold and courageous, to put myself out there and overcome the fear of vulnerability, shame and exposure.

I realise that I am not ready to monetise or make a business out of blogging. The purpose of the blog is to help me process, gain clarity, sharpen my perspective and discover who I am and where I am going. It might be a lonely journey or one with few companions, but I know those that do choose to hold my hand, encourage or support me, are genuine individuals who have walked their own stony paths and identify someway with mine.

At 45 years of age, I am learning about and healing from complex trauma. I also have dreams, visions, goals, ambitions. I want to make a difference, leave a legacy. I want to parent consciously, live purposefully. There are new horizons for me out there, but walking comes before running.

Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences—good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’” Brenee Brown.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann from Pexels

The Kindness Diaries – Inspiring kindness, giving hope, sharing love, oceans apart.

Courtesy of http://www.leonlogothetis.com

” The world is filled with travelers. Some travel by force, some by choice. But for some of us, it is a calling. At the heart of this brotherhood is the desire to connect, find community and a place to belong. And every single connection made, makes the world a little better because as Mark Twain put it “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindness. Charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in on a little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime” “

Leon Logothetis – the Kindness Diaries
https://leonlogothetis.com/

Television is really not my thing. Give me books, books, books and yes please, even more books! Every now and then however, when I need to take a break from reading, writing or studying, I flick through channels and Netflix categories looking for something worthy of my time.

I don’t mean this in a proud, derogatory way, please do not misunderstand. What I am trying to say is that I channel my focus and time into whatever feels productive, not wanting to miss a moment, not wanting to waste an opportunity. So if I am going to watch something, it needs to be good, impactful, powerful. It needs to leave me with something to ponder, reflect on and from which I can grow.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

The Kindness Diaries is such a program. I watched series 1 a few months ago. I was so impressed by it that I set everything aside to watch almost the entire series back to back. As Leon set off on his trusted canary yellow motorbike (with side car) from Hollywood, L.A, I journeyed with him. Together, we crossed through the United States of America, Europe, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Canada and back to Hollywood.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

Relying entirely on the kindness of strangers to feed him, put petrol in Kindness One, and give him a bed or sofa for the night, Leon was gifted an inside view to the lives of the strangers who offered kindness. Each one with their story to tell. Their own journey of hope and reason for offering kindness to a stranger. I laughed. I cried. I paused episodes and contemplated in silence. Each episode – each story left a mark on my heart and filled it with fresh motivation, inspiration and hope.

But there is something more. Leon does not only receive kindness. He also gives it. Every now and then, when he meets someone who has profoundly touched his heart, who has given out of their lack, Leon gives them a gift. It may be a home to get them off the streets, funding a charity, a dream holiday, and much more.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

In series 2, Leon embarks on another journey, this time with a canary yellow VW beetle with no modifications, heating or power steering. Kindness 2 takes him through Canada, Alaska, America, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, eventually ending in Argentina.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

Listening to their stories, Leon connects. Sometimes, like in the case of Rena who rescues stray dogs in Colombia, the story is a bit too close to home. Moved to tears, Leon shares with Rena that his own dog Winston was the one who taught him about love. Winnie loved him unconditionally and marked Leon’s life profoundly.

Winnie with Leon. https://leonlogothetis.com/

Rena shares the story of her and her siblings’ abandonment by their mother and how they were treated like dogs by their father. It caused her to commit her life to rescuing and re homing stray dogs. Rena and Leon shared a common thread, a deep connection, visible in their interaction, Rena, an elderly lady who hugs him like a wise, loving grandmother and prays a blessing in his life. Leon in turn, shares with her the real reason for his travels. To find kind, selfless strangers who are in need of his help. And help he does, by funding the rescue and rehabilitation of 100 stray dogs for Rena. Her joy is magnetic.

Rena who rescues the stray dogs of her region in Colombia. https://leonlogothetis.com/

“We are all travelers in one sense or another but what matters between life and death is our journey. But while we are here, there is an opportunity for us to connect in ways great and small, to experience the richness of cultures not our own, and thereby, enriching our own journeys as we travel this road on this ultimate adventure we call life”

Leon Logothetis.
https://leonlogothetis.com/

Each episode in series 2 is connected to a particular theme, each is a gift. We see the gift of faith, community, purpose, home, food, shelter, hope, Winnie love, connection, knowledge, travel, friendship and of course kindness.

” As humans we don’t control the circumstances of our birth, but our lives can be changed by the decisions we make. Some people spend their lives taking while others spend their lives giving. And while each can leave their mark on history, ask yourself for your own life and for the legacy you will leave behind what story are you trying to tell?”

Leon Logothetis

We also learn of atrocities and meet people who are battling insane red tape regulations to reunite with families across oceans. This series is not a travel documentary. It is so much more.

When Leon asks two paramedics why they are travelling around the world, their reply is simple yet heartrending. “So that we don’t have any regrets’. They explain that because of their job they experienced conversations with the dying. On many occasions they were told their regret was not seeing more of the world and not having a family.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

A deported Mexican father, is staying on the border in a shack, planning his third swimming attempt to cross to the USA and be reunited with his wife and child. Each time, he is caught by the coast guard and sent back. Many drown, he has survived twice and is not stopping until he arrives or dies. Sobering.

When Leon travels through postcard perfect images, breathtaking views and surreal adventures, we are faced with stark reminders of the darkness within us when kindness or love is absent. He visits a plantation outside Lima, a stunning property fit for a holiday brochure. Yet underneath, in the basement, its dark narrow terrifying maze of catacombs tells of a slave trade 400 years ago and the shocking truth of how they lived here. Above ground, beauty, joy, fresh air. Below, desperation, stench, death.

But then he enters Urumbamba and surprises an old friend named Duska. Duska, a missionary who has devoted her life to caring for the orphans of her community, met Leon when he volunteered at the orphanage in his late teens. Duska was one of the first people in Leon’s life who showed him what kindness is. Before leaving, he pays for the orphanage and school to be extended.

” The construction of a person is similar to the construction of a building. Each begins with a clean slate on a foundation built by others and sometimes the external facade can hide an ugly truth or fail to show true worth. Eventually, people and buildings are left on their own to brace the elements of the world, but how well each holds up to those forces is always determined by the care taken when the foundation was laid. “

Leon Logothetis

In Costa Rica he meets Father Sergio who runs Espirito de Santo, a mission to feed his community’s poor and destitute of all ages. Leon gives him a gift to help feed even more children before he remarks. “My gift made one day easier for the children in need, but I guess every day we are given is a gift and a chance for rebirth, redemption or reinvention”.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

There is much more to this series than I can do it justice in this blog. I would recommend you watch it for yourself, with your friends, with your children. Inspire the younger generation to look for opportunities to make a difference. If they dream of travelling, they can travel in a way that is not only kind to our planet, but kind to its inhabitants too. They can live out their adventures by making a difference to the world around them, by giving their own gift of hope.

” So, as my story comes to an end, another story, your story may be just beginning. And on this journey, I’ve been inspired by other people’s kindness, day in, day out. It’s changed me. Because truly the greatest gift that we have to give another human being, is ourselves. You are the final gift. Because how you show up in the world, it matters. It matters profoundly. We all have the power to change the world. Because to change the world, all you need to do, is change one life. And the most beautiful, the most profound way to change one life simply, is to be kind. So my challenge is simple. the final gift of the kindness diaries is for you to go out into the world and give of yourself, be kind, share love and have as much fun along the way as you can”

Leon Logothetis

Planting hope

Me at Yeri primary school maybe around 1983-84

I haven’t always celebrated my birthday. While there have been occasional candlelit meals with my husband or outings with my children, many birthdays have come and gone with only a passing acknowledgment thanks to matters more pressing to deal with – such as loss, pain, debt, survival.

Today is an exception.

As I begin the 45th year of my life, I feel ready to celebrate. It’s a special date after all – 19.9.19. So, this year marks a new chapter for me. This is the year I step into my writing career, which I hope will be the catalyst for so much more.

Already I am working on a children’s book and a memoir, but it seems fitting to celebrate all that is to come with the ‘formal’ launch of my blog.

When I began the blog, not so long ago, I thought it would be a travel blog, detailing all the places I love in Cyprus and Wales – the countries of my birth and my second home. But as the weeks passed and the words flowed from my keyboard, I noticed a trend in my writing. I wasn’t writing about my travels, but rather my journey. I was travelling through my life stories, remembering the places that had left their mark, breathing new life into past moments that had inspired, motivated and left me with a desire to make a difference.

Having decided to embrace this new path, I am now finding ‘my voice’ as a writer. This remains a work in progress involving a daily battle with the shouts of doubt and disbelief. But at least I am on my way. I celebrate that. This the end of contemplating, desiring, wishing, dreaming and 35 years of procrastination.

For many years I have written, on and off, caught in a cycle of starting and giving up, daring to submit a piece and dealing with rejection, but this year I shall not be deterred because this journey is not only about the writing, but about me and my calling.

The destination of this blog is self-discovery through stories that capture my attention and captivate my heart. Through this journey, I am fulfilling a calling to write stories that make a difference, bring transformation, awareness and change. I am walking towards a bigger vision.

Many years ago, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I was lucky enough to come across someone who planted hope in my heart – the hope that I could be more than the village gossip allowed me to be, that I had a gift, an ability and that I could dare to dream. Over the years, that hope has nourished me through many periods of doubt, rejection, criticism and ridicule. And the person who gifted me that hope was Mrs Nitsa.

Mrs Nitsa was my primary school language teacher when I lived in the village of Yeri, on the outskirts of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus.

Mrs Nitsa ( Nitsa Anastasiou) with our class at Yeri Primary School, Cyprus.

At the time, Nicosia was still finding its way following the disastrous Greek coup that triggered the Turkish invasion of the north of the island leaving the capital divided. In 1984, half of the city was wrecked, naked and groaning from the pain of death while the other half was fast developing into a modern, cosmopolitan city. Half an hour away, my village had expanded overnight with the influx of refugees from the north and our little primary school perched on a hill was subsequently a mish mash of kids trying to understand the world, claiming our bits of territory and establishing hierarchies like every other school in the world, but with the added aftermath of war bringing a deeper layer of confusion to events.

Mrs Nitsa came from the city. Slim, tall, eloquent, even in 30C+ her make up remained intact and her blonde hair backcombed into a perfect bouffant style that was fashionable in the 80s. With a long thin stick, she would tap words written on the blackboard for us to repeat and I would marvel at her ability to walk on such high heels. I can remember the scent of her skin moisturiser when she walked by, blended with foundation and perfume. It took me to memories I could not see, but recognised. It was the scent of my mother. By then six years had passed since her death and I grasped every opportunity to feel her presence.

Back in that school in 1984, I didn’t know then that I was dyslexic or that I had AD or PTSD or hypervigilance or any of those labels we like to attach in order to understand. I knew I could read and that I loved stories, but everything else was a blur and day in, day out I would gaze absentmindedly out of the window oblivious to the lessons. Except for language class.

Mrs Nitsa knew. She saw what others missed – a child hurting from the loss of her parents, lost in a world of structure, judgement, conformity, ridicule, religious rituals and gossip. A child whose coping mechanism was to write stories. So, write I did. Mrs Nitsa would give me a word or a subject and leave me to it, letting me lose myself in my imagination and the pages I created. Today, I am still writing like that, but I’m learning to edit, to cut and crop instead of letting the rant flow because I want to share this journey.

When the final term came and it was time for us students to move on to high school, Mrs Nitsa knelt in front of me, coming to my level, casting off the towering presence that had so intimidated much of the class. She took hold of my hands and looked me in the eyes. Hers – sparkly blue, fierce and soft at the same time – were that day wet and red. She trembled as she spoke.

“Michelle, I have no idea where you will go. You have been through much, God only knows. I don’t know if I will see you again, but I want to tell you something and ask you a favour. I want you to know that you have a gift for writing. I want you to write, keep journals and no matter what is happening through your life, write it all. Then one day you will write your memoir, your story and I want to read it. OK?”

I nodded, not understanding, embarrassed by the attention, yet not wanting to let go of her hands and watching heartbroken as she walked back to her desk.

And that was it.

The years passed with all their seasons, and I didn’t keep my promise to write a journal, not until seven or eight years ago. Each time I visited Cyprus, I asked about Mrs Nitsa. I heard she had lost her husband and was living in Nicosia. Then three years ago, I met her again. I found her number and when I called she recognised my voice. I could see her tears in the quickness of her breath over the telephone line. “Are you writing?” were the first words she said to me.

After the call, we met for a coffee, she gave me copies of her own published books and she made me renew my promise to write. She also asked to be the one to edit the Greek language version of my memoir.

Mrs Nitsa and I at our meeting in 2016

So, here I am; another three years have passed and I am working on that memoir, hoping one day to hand over the gift I promised 35 years ago.

And that’s why today, as I ‘officially’ launch my blog, I celebrate this woman who planted hope in my heart and soul, who saw a way to connect with me, who recognised something good in me when no one else did and who spoke words of life into the broken 10-year-old child that stood before her.

Perhaps I can use this blog to plant hope in the hearts of my own readers one day and, in turn, maybe those readers will go on to plant hope in the hearts of others. Every life needs a purpose and what greater purpose can we live for than to walk with the hurt, inspire the desolate, believe in the forgotten, bring joy to the sad and plant hope in the hopeless.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Not just any lighthouse. Faros. Pervolia, Larnaca.

Faros lighthouse, near Pervolia, Larnaca.

1998 or thereabouts. I’m sitting on the bench in front of the lighthouse, my legs dangling just above the cliff. My trusted German shepherd dog Leo is sitting by my side. Gazing at the vast ocean in front of me, I wonder at many things. The silent tears betray my broken heart, my searching gaze echoes the questions on my mind, the comfort I feel in this place mirrors the state of my soul.

The view of the ocean from the wooden bench, in front of Faros lighthouse

This time, I am here following a row with my boyfriend. It is one that will lead us to question if it is all over, as he puts it “if the glass is cracked beyond repair”. I ask myself this as I gaze.

I come here every time my heart breaks. It is the place I escape to where I know I can be alone, my solitude allowing for reflection, focus, thoughts to process, emotions to flow through tears.

2019…still gazing…

My relationship with the ocean is one of love, hate, fear and reverence. I fear it because of its might, the power within it, the vastness of undiscovered wonders beneath the untamed fierceness. I hate it because it claimed the life of my father all those years ago when I was just 4. Because of it, I lost my mother as well and then my life took such a sudden turn towards years of inexpressible pain, torment, emptiness, aloneness. Before that, the three of us sojourned the seas in search of adventure.

And yet, I can’t live far from it. Whenever I am hurting I run to it. I crave after Its salty smell and the sting of its wind on my face, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, seagulls cawing, children laughing as they play.

I don’t know it now, here in my sorrow and confusion, in my bitterness and anger but one day, years from now, I will be back here. 21 years later, I will be back, the boyfriend has become my husband and our three children are the ones playing and laughing on this beach. My trusted dog has long gone and instead, a small rescue poodle – cross, (ironically rescued from a Greek beach some years back), waits for us patiently in England.

Me with my husband and our two younger children while our oldest takes the photo.

And in between? Sigh. I smile. In between…

While this once derelict secluded spot has been undergoing major development, stunning villas with swimming pools being built where I once walked through the wild daisies, a hip cafe perched on the corner waiting for thirsty customers, the land of Pervolia behind me growing into a holiday village complete with a beautiful hotel, I have been undergoing my own development and growing my own little tribe. In between, there has been the aching of land being dug up and formed into holiday lets, while I ached through my own challenges, and rejoiced at my incredible moments.

Fully accessible walkway along the top of Faros beach
villas lining the walkway at the top of Faros beach

Each time I am in Cyprus, I visit Faros, the lighthouse. We age side by side, together. In silence, we gaze at the expanding azure watching as it blends fluid with the lighter blue sky and marvel in awe at the magnificence of it all.

The famous Faros (Lighthouse) Beach of the Larnaka village of Pervolia is a 500-metre strip of fine sands of varying shades of beige, calm, shallow seawaters and ample trees and greenery. It is located just south of Pervolia at Cape Kiti. Facilities on the beach include toilets, showers, changing rooms, sun beds, umbrellas, dustbins, recycling bins and a children’s playground. Lifeguards with lifesaving equipment and first aid services are stationed at the beach from June 15 – September 30, 10:00-18:00. The beach offers disabled access. Various forms of marine life are visible in the deeper waters, including sea bass, sea bream, parrotfish, grey mullet, crabs and octopus. The beach also incorporates a protected seaweed area. There are also various water sports available along the coast and a small volleyball court, as well as food and drink options, making it a good choice for both families and younger crowds. The lighthouse itself is picturesque, and a famous monument of the area. Access is easy by foot, bike, bus or car, with car parking facilities, cycling trails and walking trails. The beach also offers disabled access.   http://larnakaregion.com/page/beaches

Photographs by Mihalis Constantinou.

New beginnings

Every new beginning must start with an action.

This may seem obvious but truly how often have we come up with an idea, made a decision to start something new only to sit on it for months or even years.

Procrastination and false starts have been part of my story.

Today, however, I turn the page and take a step towards another start. This blog. What’s different this time? This time I am being myself. This time, I am taking an even bolder step to write as I do from the heart through stories.

I love stories. And I love to travel. In the last 22 years, I have moved 18 times.

Life is a journey, that is true and my journey has taken place mostly between two places. The Wirral Peninsula in England and Southern Cyprus. Two oceans separate my two homes, a piece of my heart in each, so here, I begin a new way of navigating this journey by inviting you into my world to meet the people and experience the places that hold such a special place in my soul.