On my mother's 83rd birthday; I was on a zoom call with her, her boyfriend, my sister and my sister's husband. I angled the screen so no one in the family would see my nose piercing. When I wore a fake nose piercing 30 years ago my mother dropped, sobbing to the floor in hysterics. I wore long sleeves to hide my tattoos. Whenever she sees another one on me, she freaks out for days.
BUT I forgot to change my pronouns, which were visible on the screen as she/they. That, was a mistake I will be paying for, mentally and emotionally, for a very long time.
My mother has some good qualities and I love her. I hope this doesn't end up as a rant because it's simply the truth. As much as I try not to talk about my family or point fingers on my podcast and blog, after what happened yesterday, I realized that other people may have similar issues and perhaps it would benefit you to hear you're not alone.
Everyone in my family, as far back as I know, has been or is actively an alcoholic. Most partake in other drugs too but when you're actively using, no matter what the substance, the dysfunction is all the same. Both my parents are abusers, addicts, rageaholics and completely unconscious about their behavior. As I've mentioned before, I'm in recovery for drugs and alcohol. I've been clean and sober for 12 years. I've worked with a therapist regularly for 20 years. I will never not be in therapy and that's because I'm an abuse survivor, but the abuse continues and as long as my mother lives or I keep her in my life, it will never stop.
I finally cut my father out of my life over 5 years ago. He was violent and physically abused me, as well as mentally and emotionally. But my mother, I manage. Or try to. Some of the time, I can but as I've learned, you can't control other people so more often than not, she rages.
When I'm alone with her or on the phone with her she is often nicer to me. When her boyfriend is around, he is her punching bag. But for some reason when it's me and my sister, she slips back into our childhood remembrance (thanks lizard brain) and I become the punching bag.
If you've lived with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde first of all, I'm so sorry. It's horrible, there are no two ways around that. Secondly, I can totally relate!
I currently keep most of my life under wraps from my mother, about 80% of it, maybe even 90%. She only knows a couple of things about me and even those couple of things were difficult for her to handle and accept.
I won't go into her extensive pathology but I will say that she still tries to control me and she doesn't accept me or truly know me.
So when she saw my pronouns yesterday on zoom she freaked out. Instead of politely asking about them, as a healthy person would do, she called me horrible, nasty names and ridiculed me–in front of the other 3 people on the call. She shamed me, made fun of me, laughed at me, snorted at me and rolled her eyes. When my sister tried to explain pronouns to her, she screamed "oh so this is the new thing for lesbians? that'll last five minutes and then it'll be something else."
When both my sister and I tried to explain gender fluidity and what being non-binary means and that it has nothing to do with lesbians (which is a dirty word to my mother), she waved her hand and dismissed us saying "I don't really care."
And that basically sums it up. She doesn't care. She doesn't care about other people's lives or their feelings. At least she's honest about that!
I survive the brunt of her abuse and I won't lie, it hurts like hell and it leaves scars. Deep, red, angry scars that burn and tear at my soul. Can I forgive her? Eventually. Do I forget? Never.
Does it reinforce my vigilance for self preservation? You betcha.
So what do we do when our family disrespects and shames us for who we truly are? I am 55 years old and decided to hide myself from them. Does it work all the time? Hell no but if I didn't, I'd have to cut them all out of my life and I'm not willing to do that right now though I may have to in the future.
Even before yesterday's family call, I had a really challenging week. I have been depressed and unmotivated. I run a writer's accountability zoom call. I've been hosting it, and paying for it, 7 days a week for over a year. There are several regulars and I considered them friends. They often talk about using drugs and alcohol. I usually don't say anything. I don't want to be a policeman or tell people what to do but the other day I jumped on and read some drug use talk. Because I was having a really rough week (and they were talking about my drug of choice that I quit 15 years ago), I got triggered. But instead of making an excuse or lying and leaving, I said something. I realized later I have become the "buzzkill" that I used to hate when I was using.
I know I can't control people but I also don't want to. I checked in with one person after I left and she said the others were surprised that I was upset and it came out the blue. I explained that I've talked to them about it at least a dozen times before but in retrospect I realize I should have just made an excuse and left instead of stating my truth.
And now I'm hurt because no one reached out and asked me if I was okay. When I hear that someone gets triggered from something I've said, I always follow up with them. But again, I can't control other people and I can't expect people who use (drugs/alcohol) to understand what it means for someone in recovery. I'm bringing this up because from where I stand, it's alienating and it's lonely. I'm not a person who gets lonely but it's the best way I can explain this feeling. I shared my truth, I removed myself from the situation, I called these people my friends, I shared all week that I was in pain and no one checked in which has been the story of my friendships this year. Not all, but most. A year ago I would have told you that I have at least five very close friends, people I called "best friends" who I thought were there for me no matter what and visa versa. Today I have two. But you know what? Two are more than enough and I'd rather have one or two genuine friends who offer unconditional love than a hundred friends who don't.
I feel it's important to talk about this. I didn't feel safe in my own zoom group anymore but not because they talk about using, because no one cared enough to follow up and ask me if I was okay.
I wasn't expecting an apology and I didn't even know I was expecting anyone to reach out until they didn't. What's funny/not funny is that it's been two weeks since I wrote this and I did cancel the zoom group, not just because of this incident though. I canceled mainly because I need my zoom room to be available for my own endeavors (ie: I used it today to record a snippet for an upcoming class I'm producing). But I checked in with one of the people in the group the other day about it, the one person I have considered my closest friend in the group and I mentioned I was having a really tough time. But instead of asking me about that or offering even one word of sympathy, they went on and on about their tough time. I offered them sympathy and then disengaged. Not everyone is capable of empathy and not everyone will offer what I'm looking for in friendship. What's important about that is that I recognize it and move on quickly, not a year later!
So I hope that by being honest about my feelings here it will encourage one of you to consider what another person may be going through and offer them love and support.
I am saying any of this to blame or tell others how to act or what to do. I can only take care of myself and if the way I need to that is by disengaging, then that's what I have to do for now. I know that in time I will find my tribe. I haven't yet and that's OK.
So if you can, reach out to someone in your life right now who may be suffering. Even a heart emoji or a quick text saying "I'm thinking about you", "I care" or "I love you" will touch their hearts and ease their pain in a deeper way than you can ever imagine!
Thanks for listening, it's greatly appreciated.
I'd love to hear what you're doing for self care, what you look for in friendships and how you show up as a good friend to others!
<I’m keeping this in first person, it’s mostly a transcript of Christina’s interview>
Christina Papavlasopoulos runs two travel related businesses geared toward women. The first is Shefari and the second is Myths and Muses. I recently spoke to Christina about her businesses, her challenges as an entrepreneur, the years she spent as a US expat in Greece and more travel fun! Here’s what she had to say!
Christina: Shefari is essentially the first marketplace for small group travel for women bringing together the best of the best in women’s travel.
The women's travel market is fragmented and we're trying to bring it together and put, all these great trips in one place so that women can find them and they can sort through them on our website. We have different categories and styles. So there's, she restores as more wellness.
There's she praises, which is spiritual. She discovers it's kinda more adventure. She indulges, lots of different things for different ladies.
Whoever you're working with figures out the daily itinerary and that, that kind of thing, like a tour. Some are more retreats, so there's a more transformational aspect to them. They can speak to women going through specific things. Some are focused on business. It depends, but the gist of it is that every single trip is a group tour, built around the essence of connecting women through that trip.
Unfortunately, by being a woman, anywhere you go in the world, even in your own city, there are certain safety precautions you should always take. But the good thing about the trips that we lead is we do try to have these journeys in places that women might not feel comfortable going to alone.
For example, in Egypt, although we tell everything through a very female lens and we try to incorporate as many female vendors as possible. We do have a male tour guide escorting us just for the safety for the translation, in certain countries it's more advantageous to go about it that way.
We partnered with solo female travelers club, it's a Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/solofemaletravelers
It's a community of over 75,000 women run by two fabulous ladies, Mar and Meg, and essentially, we created the first ever global survey for solo female travelers.
We had a little over 5,000 respondents from all over the world. And we asked everything, their preferences, what would they want the tour industry and the travel industry to know about what fears and motivations do they have, where do they want to go?
How do they want to do it? What really bothers them? So it was an awesome opportunity for us as a tour company and as a, focused marketplace to understand all of that behind it. And 72% said that safety was their main concern. Even housekeeping knocking on the door, they just want to know beforehand.
What surprised me is that's what held women back from traveling. I understand it's a concern, but it was noted as a reason why many don't travel and it's their biggest concern out of anything no matter where they go, even to countries that are maybe perhaps more friendly for solo female travelers.
Link to the survey: https://www.solofemaletravelers.club/2020-solo-female-travel-trends-statistics/
Everyone who worked on survey and everyone in the industry wants to take something this report and improve our offerings to solo female travelers, improve the tourism business at large.
But I think what the gals are gonna do at solo female travelers is they want to create some safety standards and some training. Whether that be hotels or destinations at large can develop some understanding of what the psychology of the solo female traveler is and help alleviate some of those safety concerns just by having the staff properly trained as an example. So they're building an initiative toward that, which I think is fantastic.
KA: I asked Christina what brought her to Greece, where she lived for years.
Christina: I really enjoyed traveling at a young age.I studied abroad in Italy. I did a study tour in London and Paris. I studied fashion and I had an opportunity to work for a wholesale company in Athens, Greece, and immediately jumped on it. I got my Rosetta stone. I tried to learn from my friends. So I very quickly as, as much as, a blonde American in Greece, not stick out, but I tried to acclimate as much as I could.
I learned, the ropes and the culture of living there. And I met my best friend and now business partner, Nektaria at that fashion company. And we realized very quickly, we had complimentary kind of skills and interests as both as a friendship and as a partnership. And we were passionate about the Greek culture and about traveling and about bringing women together which is how we contrived Shefari.
I think I've been to 11 Greek islands. When I talked to some of my Greek friends, they're like, you've been to more islands and I have, and it's just a little bit of that ex-pat mentality, right?
Like sometimes when you're visiting a place, you want to see as much as you can. Cause, it's a fleeting moment in your life. Whereas, the Greeks are like, Oh, I'll see it next year or next year. And a lot of Greeks vacation to their village or their hometown.
Whereas , we would pick a new destination each time. So it really got me to see all the Greek islands and It was just so beautiful. It made me all that more confident in the fact that I wanted to get into travel. And I wanted to share this with people. Everything from cultural things, I was learning to, the off the beaten path places I was going into.
KA: And do you have a favorite?
Christina: Oh, boy, that's a tough question. I have different favorites for different things depending on where I've gone and where it's for. I love islands like Naxos and Paros, which are lesser known Cycladic islands. I love the Island of Crete because there's literally something for everybody. It has amazing, city life and beautiful outdoor bars. They make great cocktails. It’s a really cool place, but then they have these villages where they have such unique cuisine and make their own cheeses and farms. And so there's so many things to see.
And I would say my favorite beaches in Greece are in Kefalonia. My good friend, Maria studied there and had a good, kind of social circle there. So we went there and the West side, I think has the most incredible water in pretty much all of the world, which is hard now because I live in Florida and everyone's "Oh, the beaches" and I'm like, you haven't seen anything.
KA: if you could give your 10 year old child self one piece of advice now, what would it be?
Christina: it's interesting that we go through this full circle experience. So I would say that if I were to tell my younger self some advice, it would be to really hold onto that unbridled imagination, because as we get older, we're told about limits, the way things are done, the way things need to be done.
We're given pretty restrictive ways of thinking. And I feel like entrepreneurship, which just, sparks and lights me up in so many different ways, is just someone trying to change the world in some way. And we're trying to undo that box that we've trapped our creativity in as an adult.
So it's returning to that childlike sense of, dream limitlessly and think of all the possibilities because if you're really going to succeed in something. I love Renee Mauborgne. The theory that is called blue ocean, where you think of everything that a business should be and strip away all the things that you're told it has to be. Instead of thinking about what the customer wants, you're creating a blue ocean, meaning you don't even have competitors because you're offering something so different and that's really hard to do in tourism.
An entrepreneur said something along the lines of, “if your dreams don't scare you, then you're not, they're not big enough”. (KA looked it up and it was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). And I've also heard people say, “if people aren't laughing at your dreams, they're not big enough”. Why do we get to such a limiting point that we laugh at someone's, big dreams?
I have a lot of friends, not just in travel, but across the board who have lost jobs <during the pandemic>. And I'm like, what if you started a podcast? Or what if you did this? Or that? <And they say> Yeah, no, that doesn't make money.
We immediately start with that limiting belief. Nope. Because it's never been done. That's not the way my industry does it. That's not the way I was taught to be successful. I think that if people can really just let their imagination run and see what's possible in the world, then there's still a whole lot of new, innovative companies to come about.
KA: THANK YOU CHRISTINA!
For links to more of what Christina talked about here please see the show notes page here.
If you haven't listened to the entire podcast episode and you want to, you can listen here or on your favorite podcast platform!
Thank you so much for reading and listening and following :)
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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