Making The Most of The Time We Have

Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.

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No One Crosses the Wolf with Lisa Nikolidakis

No One Crosses the Wolf with Lisa Nikolidakis

In her recent memoir, NO ONE CROSSES THE WOLF, Lisa Nikolidakis chronicles the inheritance of a crime scene, and what happened both before and after the murder-suicide that cracked her world wide open. In this episode, Annmarie and Lisa discuss trauma writing, open-heartedness, talking to horses, and how all of us are imperfect survivors of our own messy lives.



Episode Sponsors:

Mac’s Backs–a proud Cleveland indie bookstore with three floors for browsing, great online service, and chocolate milkshakes right next door. Find your next great read and shop online at macsbacks.com.

Ashland University Low-Res MFA–Our accomplished faculty help you find your voice and complete your degree at your own pace. Expand your writing practice and refine your craft within the supportive community of Ashland University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Learn more and enroll today at ashland.edu.



Books and Other Titles Discussed in This Episode:

Thrust, by Lidia Yuknavitch

Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez

Gathering Moss, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Video for Frank Stallone’s “Far From Over”

Move On Up, by Curtis Mayfield

To learn more about writing residencies at Hedgebrook, click here.



Follow Lisa Nikolidakis:

Twitter: @lisanikol

Instagram: @lisanik

www.lisanikolidakis.com

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Mac's Backs, a proud Cleveland indie bookstore with three floors for browsing, great online service, and chocolate milkshakes right next door. Find your next great read and shop online at macsbacks.com. And we're brought to you by the Ashland University low-res MFA, where our accomplished faculty help you find your voice and complete your degree at your own pace. Expand your writing practice and refine your craft within the supportive community of Ashland University's master of fine arts and creative writing. Learn more and enroll today at Ashland.edu.

Annmarie Kelly:
What's the worst story you could tell about yourself? When I was 20 I cheated on a boyfriend and then lied about it. At age 13 I didn't let my sister sit at my junior high lunch table. She was nervous and alone on the first day of school and I turned her away. I've often wished for a do over on that one. More recently I told my oldest daughter she couldn't get her ears pierced until she turned 16, but then I let her younger sister get her first earrings when she was 11. I once swore like a sailor in front of my best friend's grandma at church. And my husband frequently tells a story in which I forget ever having met him. I've maligned, let down, and wronged plenty of people.

Annmarie Kelly:
Chances are most of us have lists like this, but I'm not sure any of us can even come close to the stories today's guest, Lisa Nikolidakis tells in her debut memoir, No One Crosses the Wolf. Lisa details a journey of intergenerational trauma that reminds us that the things we don't deal with now will deal with us later. This book made me hold my breath, and I wanted to meet the writer who lived through so many difficult days and survived to write about them so well.

Annmarie Kelly:
Lisa Nikolidakis holds a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University, their work has been featured in The Best American Essays and has won a long list of accolades, including most recently the Annie Dillard prize. Lisa writes both non-fiction and fiction, returning off into themes of trauma, mental health, chronic illness, music, and nature. They also write humor, mostly for survival. Lisa's aim is to help demystify the shame of trauma by continuing to write and speak publicly about it. Their debut memoir, No One Crosses the Wolf, is out now. Lisa Nikolidakis, welcome to Wild Precious Life.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Thank you so much for having me.

Annmarie Kelly:
So your recent book, No One Crosses the Wolf, has been described as, "A powerful memoir about the traumas of a perilous childhood, a shattering murder-suicide and a healing journey from escape to survival to recovery." Oh my God, this book. I mean, I was fortunate enough to hear you read from it, and since reading it cover to cover myself I am flabbergasted, like shaking in my boots by the notion that you carried this around inside of you for as long as you did. I'm breathless about it. The book obviously is beautifully written, it's vulnerable, it's gorgeous, but I'm also just in shock. I know many of the listeners won't yet be familiar with your work. They won't have had the honor of bearing witness to your truth. So I wonder if we could just back up and have you tell us a little bit of the story of you?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah. I grew up in southern New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia, where I was born. And my father was, he was from Greece, he'd made his way here to live the American dream, and in our house, it was my mother, my brother, my younger brother, and my father, and my father was a totalitarian dictator of abuse, and I caught the brunt of it, as the oldest child often does, I was really good at provoking him to try to protect other folks. But I grew up with, name an abuse, it's probably there, some of it certainly not even making it to the page in the book. And then when I was 27 he murdered his live-in girlfriend, her daughter, and committed suicide, and I basically inherited a crime scene.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
So I'd been hobbling through life up until then, I just though, well, someone broke me, I am broken, but I can bury that under a river of booze, I'll get by somehow, just keep numbing out. And when he did what he did, when he committed those crimes, it was as though every wound I'd ever incurred, the scabs just disappeared and I was just open wound from head to toe all over again. It sent me into a pretty questionable spiral of behavior, although it's always weirdly anchored by my attempting to do what was right for me, which was like, well I guess I'll go to school, even if I'm not functioning. And so you have this personality split in two, part of me doing, I don't know, trying to make good of my life, and the other part of me not even really believing it's worth living. So yeah, it's a hardcore reckoning, and the first two sections of the book, the book is in three sections, the first two are pretty dark, but there's hope, I think, in the third section of it.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh absolutely. You take us to Greece, which I'm not going to lie, there were some times when I thought, I'm going to need to put this down for a minute, I need to process.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
And I don't understand, truthfully, as I was reading this story of your childhood and your father's death, I came back to trauma writing, and how in the world you could write about these personal traumas without being retraumatized yourself.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Well, I wrote a draft that did that. And so, let's see, I finished my PhD in creative writing and English in fall of 2011, and this book, a draft of this book was my dissertation. And so I spent the next two years trying to get it ready to send out into the world, to finish it in a way that took in the advice that I'd gotten at school, et cetera. And in fall of 2013, so two years later, I finished what I thought was a final draft of it, and I was married at the time, and I still drank at the time, and I brought two high balls of scotch in to my ex and I was like, "I finished it," and we cheersed, have a sip of scotch, and I said, "I should feel better." I finished this, why don't I feel okay?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And what I didn't realize was that I had written a version of it that traumatized me every step of the way, it was just retraumatizing. And I hadn't really done intensive trauma work in therapy yet, I had a lot of intellectual knowledge about trauma but it hadn't yet slid from my brain down to my heart where I believed the things that I was supposedly learning through trauma therapy, and yeah, I had a full on breakdown, and it was ugly. And then I put this book down for three years and worked intensely on learning self-care, which was a word I did not possess when I was working on earlier drafts of this. And so yeah, I was working on this book like 13 hours a day, and just in it, I mean in it, and I paid a cost.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
So yeah, if you want to know how not to write a trauma memoir for 17 years, I think I've got a think piece on that brewing. Yeah, it was pretty brutal. And the plus side, I put the book down for three years and wrote another book that reminded me that I enjoyed writing, which will be one of the next books that I put out, and it gave me time away from it to actually feel like I had a decision, do I want to return to this book? Or do I just leave it? No one is telling me I have to write this, and yeah, it was a time of real reckoning and real healing, honestly.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah, I'm in awe of almost every page here. As a child you wrote about when the abuse was happening, this feeling of the need to dissociate, to leave your body, to protect yourself from what was happening. That makes total sense to me, and I found myself wondering, when you were writing these chapters and these scenes, revisiting those horrific days, did you also find yourself wanting to dissociate to safely write those memories down?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, that's interesting. No, no, I think I'd done enough work at that point. I mean, okay, here's the thing, I genuinely believe that whatever we don't deal with will deal with us.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
It's coming for us, and often more than once, which is, I think, one of the more difficult lessons of being a survivor of childhood trauma, which often lends complex PTSD to its survivors. And so you can think that you've stared down your ghost, and then a small breeze comes in and it shifts you just a couple of degrees to the left and you're like, oh, whole new ghost to stare down. And it's just, trauma is circular and cyclical in that way. And so I think healing isn't a destination as much as it is a constant reorientation, a constant restabilization. There are places, like the places where I dissociate in the book, they're honest, I come by them honestly. I have nothing, there is no memory there, and I think the bigger fear for me was, am I inviting those memories back by working on this material?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I got into a place where I felt, where my curiosity about the book as artifact and my story as a creation, my curiosity outweighed my fear, and that was, for me, the balance that I really... My fear for so long had outweighed my curiosity. I wasn't curious about the life I'd survived, I was terrified of the life I'd survived, and now for most things that's my guiding light, is just, can we amp up the curiosity around it?

Annmarie Kelly:
Wow. Now I'm thinking back to specific scenes, and pacing and wailing would have to be the only way through those, absolutely.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I mean, it's worth mentioning at this juncture, this book took me 17 years to write, and I wrote many drafts of it. I wrote one as fiction, that was my master's thesis, I was like fiction, that's the key.

Annmarie Kelly:
I wondered about that.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
What happens if I can just make things up and not actually go erect a tent in the swamp land of the soul for two years? Let me write it as... And oh, the fictional one is so bad. Chess played a major part in it, I don't know what was happening in that draft. But what really wound up happening was I needed to tear it down, and that happened while I was in residence at Hedgebrook, an amazing writer's residency.

Annmarie Kelly:
I feel like everybody awesome I know has been through there. Were you there with awesome people like you? I always wonder.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yes. I mean, I was there with Mira Jacob, whose work is-

Annmarie Kelly:
Amazing.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Amazing, and who is just an utterly fabulous human being. I mean, yeah, we're still on the same text thread from 2018, the seven of us who were in residence together. I think we might be a coven, it's happened, it's my writing coven.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love it.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
But when I got to Hedgebrook, I'd gone out with this material on proposal, I'd written a proposal and I had sample chapters, and so we were trying to, my agent and I were like, let's see if we can sell it before the book is finished. And I had so much interest so fast. It was like every day 40 editors were reading, "Book scouts are talking about you, these people want to rep you for film, let's send it off, here's the list of famous people now reading your proposal," it was intense, and everyone I knew was like, "You're getting an offer, it's happening, you're getting it," editorial meetings, right? And then I didn't get it.

Annmarie Kelly:
Wow.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah, it was crushing at the time, but it was also really pivotal for me. So two things happened, one, it made me consider the question of how I define success, and I realized that the lesson I'd internalized over the years was big five or bust. If you haven't landed with a big five publisher, what are you even doing? That is utter horseshit, that one is horseshit.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
But it was just an unexamined bit of doctrine that I'd gotten over the years. And I remember going to my shelves and looking at the books I most love, none of them were from big fives. I've never been a mainstream kid, my whole life I've lived in indie, I was a punk rock goth kid, what am I doing trying to be on the same press as... I was in one of those meetings and I pulled up the other authors and it was like, here's Kevin Hart, and I was like, I don't think this book belongs next to Kevin Hart, no shade to Kevin Hart, Philly, woo. And so yeah, I had this moment of retooling what success means, and the damage of any monolithic narrative. Success as monolithic narrative, hell no, there's so many avenues, and that changed my teaching as well.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love to read about stories that I find myself in, but I also love to read about stories that I don't think I'll find myself in, and yet I do. Why do we love to read about, why did I love, and love is the wrong word, but why was I so-

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Seek it out.

Annmarie Kelly:
So drawn to this story? Why do we read memoirs so much?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I think that that is, I'll answer that in two ways. The first, we are all imperfect survivors of our own lives, and I think that it is a community making way to make sense of the world that we live in. I think we make, we all do this as human beings, we make sense of the world through story, and seeing other people fight can inspire, but it can also make us feel us alone. It is a powerful thing to see somebody face the page unashamed of their experiences, and I think we carry around so much shame so frequently. So there's something I think in the bravery. I hate the word brave, hate it.

Annmarie Kelly:
Really?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I bulk at it, anytime somebody calls me brave I'm like, nope, we're going to have to change that, so I can't believe I just said it.

Annmarie Kelly:
I think you're kind of brave, I understand you don't like it, but I think you might be kind of brave.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I'll take courageous. Brave implies choice for me.

Annmarie Kelly:
Okay.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Which is why. Brave you ran into that burning building for the puppies, brave, great. I didn't have a choice. The second reason, though, and I talk about this in my classes pretty frequently, it's a question I like to ask students is do we read for a door or a mirror? And so if you've seen your experiences represented on the page over and over again, you get to read for the door, you get to open the door and go on adventure, that's awesome. I think the less you've seen yourself on the page, as a result of whatever marginalized space you might occupy, as well as some of the darker, traumatic stuff that isn't typically on the page, then you might need the mirror, it makes you feel less alone, you get to recognize yourself on the page.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And I do think ultimately it's both, I'm going to check the mirror before I go through the door, that to me feels like a reader who's done some work on the self, like yeah, there I am. This isn't me, but I still connect. And I do think that it is a weird thing, I just finished writing an essay about why we are obsessed with true crime, and it's not all that different, it raises some questions. It's like, why am I reading about the pain of others? But we don't read it for the pain, we read it, I think, because how people survive is mind blowing sometimes. It really is, the resilience and strength that we have is a species, it's remarkable, and it is something to bear witness to. And I think reading those sorts of books, books where people really do put themselves on the page, you said this at the top, it's a way to bear witness. That's important, witness is really important.

Annmarie Kelly:
Absolutely. I loved what you said there about we are all imperfect survivors of our own lives.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
I think a lot of us go to the books for the doors, we want to just escape, but you better look in the mirror and figure out what it is you're escaping from.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
And I think escape is easier, I'll just ignore it. And it's possible, perhaps in those early drafts of yours, you were running from the very thing you needed to write, obviously I haven't seen them, but doing more doors than windows.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I'll tell you what was missing from those earlier drafts, a number of things, where none of the sexual abuse was in the book. So I can tell you what I was running from, there's that, yeah, and I had done enough work on my own with therapists in all sorts of ways until I really understood that the shame wasn't mine. It wasn't, still isn't, and that was an incredibly important lesson to not only internalized, but add to my core beliefs. Once that was really settled it was like, okay, let's go, I know what this book is about, it's about the one thing I haven't been writing about for a very long time, cool.

Annmarie Kelly:
Wow, that was not in there. I can understand the desire and the temptation to keep it out, absolutely, but it's part of the story.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
It's fundamental to this version of it, for sure.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah. I think one of the simplest things that we do as readers when we learn about a dangerous man in a home is we ask a very simple blame-y question, we ask, why did the women stay? Why did the women stay? Your father sexually abused you when you were a child, he pointed a gun at you when you were a teenager, he beat the shit out of your mom on multiple occasions, so it's an absolute oversimplification and the wrong question, I think, to ask, why did she stay? And you write very well in the book, on a number of occasions you say things like, "I know why women stay, I'd watched one do it the bulk of my childhood, self-esteem slowly scraped away, financial dependence, and an unseeing belief that maybe just maybe he'll change, or worse, that they deserve it."

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh my God, the idea that your mother, and that you, felt like you could change him, or felt like you deserved it, I can't believe, first off, that that wasn't in the first draft, because that's the basis for everything, but I also can believe it was not there because it's so hard to read about, and it's so hard to focus on. But when your dad finally leaves, your parents split up, I want to say you're nearly 16.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
And you also write about that, you say, 'There's danger in believing you have one central problem, an obstacle that if removed will allow happiness to bloom. People think, I'll be happy when I'm thinner, when I'm richer, when I have a better job or partner, but they don't realize it's so much more complex." Even with your dad out of the house your struggles, in some ways, just begin anew.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Absolutely.

Annmarie Kelly:
Circling back to that idea that whatever we don't deal with will deal with us.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah, it's worth noting too, he leaves and Nirvana's Nevermind comes out. This is some time ago. I'd stolen the copy of the DSM-IV from a Walden Books and highlighted it, I was like, I'm going to get to the bottom of this mystery, points at self. And like any first year psych student I diagnosed myself with everything except PTSD, which is precisely what I had. And here's the thing, those memories were locked. Our brains are incredible at defending us from things that we're not yet prepared to handle, and in order to survive in that atmosphere I minimized constantly, and was gaslit from everyone around me who seemed to act as though things weren't that bad, and that's how they survived.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And so that opening in the prologue that I have, the last paragraph about how abuse works in families, and some families it unites them, they become a team fighting an abuser. And I think in so many others, isolation is the key. Our experiences were isolated from one another even though we were living in a very, not a large house, but we were living incredibly different lives in there, and I think each of us was just doing what we could to survive. That's really it. It is difficult to see, and to understand clearly what is happening when you're being isolated, played off against one another, lied to, manipulated by somebody who's really good at manipulation, threatened, coerced, and your brain is still cooking. My poor little tiny brain was still cooking, so my neural pathways were...

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I mean, I've been saying, I've taken to recently calling myself an electrician of my own brain, because my work is rewiring this, and how lovely that the brain is just made of plasticity. But some of those old neural pathways, they are entrenched, and that's the work of working on trauma. Let me examine these false links that have occurred, if this then that. I'll say that in a more concrete way, I'll give you an example. Imagine you are driving over a bridge and have a panic attack. Your brain will say, bridges give us panic attacks, and forever link those, boom, neural pathway created, and then you start doing things like avoiding bridges, or as you approach a bridge your heart rate starts to speed up, you might sweat a little and you're like, oh no, we're in danger, but it's a false link. The anxiety attack had nothing to do with the bridge, it just happened to be on the bridge.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And so a life lived with a chronic abuser is a bit like that in that you're just constantly making false links. Well, I wore the pink pants today and he yelled at me about this, and it's like, well, we can't wear pink pants anymore. Well obviously pink pants aren't the problem, but I'm a grown ass woman who knows that now. Did eight year old Lisa know that? No, she's just trying to do what she can to minimize damage across the board.

Annmarie Kelly:
Do people ask you if this is a book about forgiveness?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I do get asked quite a bit about forgiveness.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love what you said about it, that no one automatically deserves forgiveness, not because of their blood or some allegiance to duty or propriety, the notion of forgiveness is something you give away as insidious.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
I was glad that you answered that though, because I was going to be angry at everyone asking, "And so?" Wanting to tie it up in a bow.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
I've read some of your other things besides this, and one of my favorites is actually very recent, which I'll ask you about, about the Whales, and the desire to diagnose, label something as this is what it is and then therefore we can tie it up in a bow, and so much of health and illness and wellness can't be tied up.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
No, no, it's murky.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I get asked about forgiveness a lot, and this line is somewhere, I don't know if it's in that book or another essay, but, "I spent my 20s twirling that word like a flaming baton." I was obsessed with forgiveness, I read everything I could on the subject. I mean, I was still doing that into my 30s. I've stopped wrestling with it because it doesn't matter. Have I arrived at forgiveness? I don't know, here's what I know. I've released a lot of the energy that used to go to understanding this story, or understanding what it all means, needing to diagnose, needing to have these beautiful little boxes that I could use a label maker and just be like, and this is trauma exhibit Q. I know it doesn't work that way.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And so I think instead of considering forgiveness what I think about more often is energy and intention. Where do I intentionally focus my energy? Do I sit here and stew about things that happened 30 years ago? Sure, it catches up with me occasionally, but I try to reroute that energy back into, honestly, self-love, and it's re-parenting the child, it's that work, because my needs weren't met when I was a kid, basic needs, safety.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
So yeah, I just think more about where am I going to put my energy, and I've become much more conscious of where it goes. It definitely does not go much to my father. It did, I wrote this book, I will now talk about him for a very long time, but it's not about him, it's just not. Somebody much smarter than me, not sure who, wrote that memoir isn't the story of what happened to you, it's the story of how you survived it. When you're living with a chronic abuser you are not the main character in your own story, you've become secondary or tertiary because they are a spotlight hog. I mean, that's who my father was. And so yeah, I get to be the main character now, and check in with myself, see how I'm feeling, what I might need, which often is just more coffee and a snack.

Annmarie Kelly:
Or a trip to Greece. I think that's why, I'm not giving anything away here by saying that the third part, the book is divided into these three parts, that third part with Greece is so beautifully jubilant. Yes, you are still piecing through trauma, but that part of the book was such a gorgeous gift to us as readers, and to you, and to your whole family, because your relationship with your Greek father was horrific and you spent most of your adult life avoiding and eschewing anything Greek.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
But these chapters about finally visiting that country were so magical, from the image of you weeping, and you make fun of yourself but it's also very true, weeping at the base of the Parthenon, and being welcomed by a village full of Nikolidakis family. I could, as a reader, I could practically taste the lemon, the olive oil, and the oregano dripping off of your fingers, and I was so grateful for that beautiful homecoming to a place you'd never known, that word thávma, or thávma.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Thávma.

Annmarie Kelly:
A miracle.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
So will you gush a little for me about Greece?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh sure. I think it's still amazing that I ever came back. I genuinely thought about, I mean, I remember being in Greece and thinking, I have my laptop, I don't need anything in my apartment, it's just stuff. I get very, it's just stuff, that is where I live where I'm like, do I have my passport and my laptop? I'm fine. The only reason I came back to the States was because I was in the midst of doing my PhD and I was like, you're going to regret not finishing that, do that. But yeah, I was ready to go.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Everything I knew from Greece was either taught at Greek school, which I went to for six interminable years, and was essentially propaganda, and then the rest of it came from my father. Because I rejected him at such a young age, I'd really, I'd had no interest in going to Greece, and I think fundamentally I thought that was part of what was wrong with him. That line always gets a laugh when I read, I'm like, it wasn't funny to kid me, I was like, this is what's wrong, because what we do as children is survey our surroundings to see the ways that we are different, and then we assume that that's why, because kids are master assimilationist.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
That moment before I go to Greece, when I am just drowning my sorrows in a bottle of Jameson, too scared to press purchase now on the ticket, I think that was really the first time, it's one of the first times at least, but it might be the first time where, and I couldn't have articulated this then, I realized that fear and curiosity are opposites, which I'm writing an essay about now, I genuinely believe this. My curiosity about something out there outweighed my fear of anything that could go wrong in a country I'd never been to, that I had really no plan for whatsoever, and I had unchecked, my anxiety wasn't under control then, I had panic attacks all the time. I mean, I was living in fear, which is what happens when your fight or flight never shuts off.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
But getting to Greece, it is a space of magic for me. But yeah, I wasn't expecting what happened in Greece, honestly I think that was the first time, when my curiosity outweighed my fear what also happened was parts of me that had been closed off for a really long time opened. I went into Greece more openhearted, and I think traveling abroad does that to many of us, we find ourselves striking up conversations with strangers in ways that we might not at home at our local cafe. I went in more openhearted than I had been in some time, and I left there with heart on my sleeve, it was magical, and Lord, the food is good. Ugh, the food, so good.

Annmarie Kelly:
I also love that every man you met in Greece was a philosopher, "You are here because you are asking questions of the universe."

Lisa Nikolidakis:
They all are, I stand by it, I stand by it. I think it's not just the men, everyone in Greece is a philosopher. I realized the danger of a broad blanket statement, my experience, empirical and at limited sample size as my data is, bears that out. Yes, every person was just like, "Visualize your future," and I'm like, "Okay, Stavros, I'll get right on that. You've missed six buttons on your shirt, but cool, I'll get on that.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh my goodness. Hey, beyond this book, who are some of your writer crushes, whose work do you just love?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, Lidia Yuknavitch.

Annmarie Kelly:
Right.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
My laptop, from which we are doing this right now, is being propped up by Thrust, her newest novel. And I just met a bunch of new writer crushes because I was in residence at Ashland.

Annmarie Kelly:
Woo woo.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And I got everybody's books at that Ashland MFA program, and so I'd already known Terese Mailhot's book Heart Berries, is one of my favorite memoirs of all time, but I've got Nayomi Munaweera's novel as well, so I think I'm going in a fiction reading jag. I'm also reading Barry Lopez's Arctic, I'm reading Gathering Moss. I do a lot of science and nature reading, and some writing in that area, and I think that that is closer to where I'm headed, and so Lisa Feldman Barrett's How Emotions Are Made is a book I forever revisit. So yeah, I split my time, I think, between a lot of science and nature writing, and then everything, really, I mean poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, I read across genres.

Annmarie Kelly:
Excellent, I'll make sure to link to some of the books you recommended at the show notes, and of course to your own writing.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, thank you.

Annmarie Kelly:
I always wrap with a few, I don't know, I'd call them icebreakers, but you do them at the end. Just a few multiple choice and just get to know you beyond the writing that we were talking about.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Sure.

Annmarie Kelly:
So just pick one, so coffee or tea?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Coffee.

Annmarie Kelly:
Mountains or beach?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Beach.

Annmarie Kelly:
Horses or whales?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Horses. Wait, I didn't even hear what came next.

Annmarie Kelly:
I know, horses or whales.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, horse whales, obviously.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yes, you could say both. Early bird or night owl?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Night owl.

Annmarie Kelly:
And this is a fill in the blank, if I wasn't working as a writer, I would be a?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I think the thing that I don't do professionally that I would've been very happy to do is entomology. I'm such a natural scientist. I'm a naturalist in the world, but God, I love insects.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah, I was picturing you barefoot in mud or trees, yeah, I was going with naturalist, that makes sense to me.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
And also for mountains or beach, I really prefer both, beach mountains where it's at. But yeah, the ocean is where I go, I'm not meant to be in the middle, I'm a coastal bird, and I go to the beach when my head is stuffy.

Annmarie Kelly:
Gotcha. This is another multiple choice, are you a risk taker or the person who always knows where the Band-Aids are?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Neither. I think I'm just, I might be the loose toddler, which might make me the risk taker, but I'm not aware of it, I'm just like, what's that giant bird? And then I follow it, and then it's like, oh. Do I have Band-Aids in the car? I mean, I have turtle gloves in my car, so that when I see turtles I can move them off the road. There might be a first aid kid in there.

Annmarie Kelly:
"I have turtle gloves in my car," is my new favorite sentence.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Doesn't everyone? I mean, I don't want to touch them with my hands. It seems reasonable to me, but yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
I like this. My next question was going to be, what's something quirky that folks don't know about you? You can answer that, but I think it's that you have turtle gloves in your car.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I'll tell you another quirky thing, which is I am following and taking notes, I'm stalking, essentially, these birds, they're roseate spoonbills. I had never seen a roseate spoonbill, their pink, their mouth is basically, their bill, is basically a spark. It's just a pink dinosaur, I don't know why they're still in existence, basic Darwinism says don't be pink, I think, and yeah, I just keep stalking them and taking field notes. No one's asked me to, but if anyone has questions about the migration and mating habits of the roseate spoonbills, in whatever part of Southwest Texas, I got you.

Annmarie Kelly:
Most people pitch the story first and then they stalk the bird, but you're doing it in reverse order.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
I don't actually, I mean, I don't ever have to write about that, that's a Tuesday for me. Like, what are you doing? I got to go check on these birds that no one's asked me to check on and see what's happening.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love it, I love it. What's one of your go-to songs, a song that brings you joy, or you can cry to, is it go-to song.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Really depends on, yeah, it depends on what I'm trying to elicit. It changes for me all the time. What kind of song are you looking for?

Annmarie Kelly:
Some people will be like, "This is the song that revs me up," and other people are like, "This is the song that always makes me cry."

Lisa Nikolidakis:
All right, I'm going to tell you an embarrassing hype song, because it is genuinely related to this book. Oh man, do I want to say this? I'm saying it, there's no embarrassment here. Frank Stallone's Far From Over is my pump up jam, because it's far from... If I'm tired and I'm trying to push through to finish a chapter, that song three times in a row, uh-uh. Now because I've just listed such a terrible song I would like to follow it with a good one so that people understand that I am a woman of discerning musical taste. Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up is another hype song. They're on the same playlist, though, so it's really gotten out of hand.

Annmarie Kelly:
I'm not sure those are usually on the same playlist.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
No.

Annmarie Kelly:
But we're going to allow it today.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Thank you, thank you. I think I'm writing about the Frank Stallone song soon, so that might be happening.

Annmarie Kelly:
Nice. All right, last one, if we were to take a picture of you really happy and doing something you love, what would we see?

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, I would 100% be barefoot in nature, probably bent over a series of plants and or animals studying them. There's a picture somebody snapped of me, it's way back on my Instagram, but I'm literally just talking to three horses. I didn't know anyone was watching me, and I can tell you in that moment I was lecturing Maverick, the horse, about the patriarchy. That's what I was doing that day, and it is to this day one of the most on-brand photos of me I've ever seen where I was like, yeah, that's me, just out in nature, collecting stones and leaves and feathers, and whatever, I'm just a weird gatherer. My apartment is like a natural history museum, essentially. There's a lot of specimens.

Annmarie Kelly:
I love this, I'm going to picture you lecturing horses about the patriarchy.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Look on my Insta, you can find that photo, I'm mid-sentence, mouth open, arms, I look enraged. I'm talking to horses where I'm like, "How do you guys not see this, this patriarchal hierarchy that's working here. Math, why are you always at the top?" That's me talking to horses.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh my gosh, Lisa Nikolidakis, thank you for sharing these quirks and delights, and also thank you for trusting us with your truth in this book.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, of course, thank you for inviting me. This is really good work that you're doing.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah, it's really good work that you're doing. You've written, I think in one of your biographies it talks about you, one of the aims of your writing is to help demystify the shame of trauma by continuing to write and speak publicly about it.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
I know i, for one, am grateful for this work, and I know that most of us with that in our past come to you with vulnerability, we're afraid to share, and we open the book and we feel, I'm going to use your word, courageous, and also maybe brave, because you helped us with that, so thank you.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Well thank you, truly.

Annmarie Kelly:
And I hope you find some peace and sanctuary now that the story has moved through you and outside of you, and I think the birds and the horses surely will help.

Lisa Nikolidakis:
Oh, they always do.

Annmarie Kelly:
Definitely. Hey, for folks who are listening, you can pick up Lisa's memoir No One Crosses the Wolf at an indie store near you, and to everyone listening, we're wishing you love and light wherever the day takes you. Be good to yourself, be good to one another, and we'll see you again soon on this wild and precious journey.

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers Gerardo Orlando and Michael Deloya, producer Sarah Wilgro, and audio engineer Ian Douglas. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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