Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Through the Window

A character sketch

She runs her hands through her hair and looks out at the rain, presses her face to the glass and holds it there, her breath misty on the windowpane. Her mascara is smeared, her eyes red, tears marring her face.

She takes a deep breath, lets out another one. She feels frustrated, angry, but there is no target, only herself. So she looks into herself and sees her incapability and all that she is not. This haunts her so she rocks forward and curls up into a little ball, clutching her knees to herself, feeling a kind of terrible ache that causes her chest to seize up. She wants to speak but she doesn’t have the words; she can only look out into the dusk and watch as the rain streaks across her window.

She sees the flashing lights, the brightly-lit signs and looks at them as though she hopes they could invigorate her, help her, somehow allow her insight into a world that is denied her. She feels like she is alone. All that moves her, all that is important to her; all this is for her alone and she knows no one who shares this with her. And she is tired, so tired of being lonely.

She runs a finger across one of the thin white window slats, teasing it open, then letting it be. What’s the use? There’s only the rain outside in the murky night, frustrating her in its cold response. She watches it and it does not answer; she flies, she dances inside her mind.

What if she were someone, anyone else? She flits through possibilities, an accomplished actress or an artist, a girl born into a different time, a dancer in a forgotten world. This entertains her and appeases her, when she descends into her illusions she can forget for a little while, forget the constant appetite and craving that drives her, her desire for attention, the appreciation of others, their admiration and respect. All this she can leave be when she pretends she is another and so she resorts to it often as though pretending gives her entrance to the self.

But she knows it is not true selfhood and it frustrates her that she cannot find those who are similar to her. She runs her fingers through her hair again, but roughly as though she is trying to punish herself, to tear out her hair, to hurt. She is too smart to ever truly hurt herself; she would never cut her body or scar herself in any way but she enjoys a kind of psychological torture where she allows the frightening voices in her head to surface and tell her that she is too weak, too arrogant, too harsh, too judgmental, too sure of herself, not sure of herself at all. She allows the voices to speak to her because it is her way of reigning herself in, of making sure that she doesn’t think more of herself than she deserves.

Because she knows her flaws and though she is flippant and casual and lighthearted about them, though she might try to brush them off and hide them by being very obvious about them, almost putting them out there for others to negate, she knows that they are true. She sees herself and every day she looks at the face in the mirror and thinks about the ugliness it conceals and the insecurity and neediness that hide behind it. All this disgusts her and she is disgusted with herself but there is no way to leave it be; she knows herself for who she is and so she must suffer.

She has a penchant to think too highly of herself, to allow herself flight of fancy where she is a tragical romantic heroine, where she is a damsel in distress, where she rescues those she loves or hides from those who she imagines hate her. But all this is simply her way of giving her life importance; she pretends that she matters by claiming that she is a character out of one of her books, but she is not. She is very small on the grand spectrum of people in the world, and when she dares to look it frightens her. So she tries not to look. She tries to blow herself up and allow herself her joys and passions, allow herself the ability to delight in a life that she knows is no more than ordinary.

This above all things she hates: to be ordinary. To be mediocre or average, to lead a life that anyone could lead, to be the kind of person who will not be remembered. She feels that she has been born for a purpose and tries to find out what that may be, her every doubt and worry she stifles by claiming it is only placed there to dissuade her, to test her. She clings to a God who she does not really know for she has created Him in her own image, and realizing this she understands that it is flawed and her own knowledge worthless.

She knows the art of pretense and uses it to mislead others; they often think well of her without knowing the truth. But she knows. She sees it when she looks in the mirror, sees the girl behind the mask, the girl who does not dare to admit that she might not be all that she wishes to be, that she doesn’t have what she pretends to possess. She looks in the mirror and judges herself and finds herself lacking and it is then, in the darkest hours of the night, that she is silent and quiet, trying to stave off the voices that attack her.

But she is malicious, too, masochistic, because she feels like she deserves what the voices do. She deserves to be torn down and to be hurt; she deserves all this because she has not suffered the way that others have. So she allows it and almost takes pleasure in it, a pleasure in this self-inflicted pain. She knows this is another stupidity that she indulges; she knows that it is wrong. But if others will not do it for her then she must do it to herself, because she is the only one who knows that she is not good the way she seems; she is not good, she is instead, bad.

How bad? Oh, not bad in any terrible sense; she hasn’t killed anyone or hurt anyone; she is only bad in that she will not admit what she is to herself and to others. She doesn’t want to settle for being mediocre. She wants to be important, she wants to be recognized, she hungers for the respect of the people that she herself respects. At the same time she despises herself for being so dependant, and there is a great war between her desire to be seen and her desire to hide herself away.

She is afraid that nobody would like her if she didn’t show off all the time. She tries in every which way to prove to others that she is smart, clever, interesting, but at the same time she worries that she is not, and more importantly, that everyone else is far more interesting than she will ever be. She pulls stunts simply so that she can talk about them later; she uses her experiences as conversation-starters; it is her way of ensuring that people see her and don’t simply pass her by. Because she is afraid of being ignored and of not being seen.

All this surfaces in the night. In the day there is nothing but joy, a kind of joy that overrides and rules her and allows her to dance lightly through her life. But in the night she thinks and when she thinks she is dissatisfied, with herself and her actions and all that she is. She abhors this masquerade; she wants so much to be like people whom she can’t be like, to crave the things they crave. She knows that she is flawed and this bothers her, but what is worse is that she cannot fix the flaws.

So skewed is she that she struggles to be in control, especially in her relationship to God. She does not want to think about an unfair God, so in an effort to make him fair she herself will deliberately sin. If she sins, after all, she deserves to be punished and can therefore accept her punishment with equanimity. She goes to sleep at night, rested, because she knows that there can be no wrong when she herself has ensured that she ought to be reprimanded. Thus she can avoid the question that could potentially frustrate her at the same time that she acknowledges in others. She has the odd ability to be able to see out of others eyes but not to allow it for , but th, ; she cannot work with the notion of a God who is not fair and hence she makes him fair.

She understands this is an act of arrogance, that it makes no sense to sin simply to be in control, but even though she logically understands it, it emotionally helps. She looks at herself and laughs, almost bitter, but then refrains. Oh, she can mock herself in the night, mock the way in which she takes everything so seriously and sees everything for the way in which it must be. At night she is angry with herself and she takes out her anger in her thoughts, because she knows more than anyone else could know that she deserves nothing that has been given her.

If she saw herself from the outside, she would dislike herself. It is her understanding of herself that bothers her because she knows the good and the bad, she sees what is right and what is wrong. She sees that she has some ability to be smart but feels like she needs to perform, almost, because otherwise people will dismiss her or find her boring. At the same time, she is lonely because she hasn’t met many others like herself, people who question and wonder and at the same time are flawed. No, she hasn’t met them, and she would like to.

So she looks out her window into the rain and into the night and a smile curves on her lips but it is not a happy smile, it is an angry smile, because she knows that despite the way she feels she will go on pretending, go on trying to impress, because she has a strange desire to be recognized for who she is, mostly because she fears that if she is not it means that she does not exist. And could there be anything worse than not existing?

She runs her fingers through her hair and bites her lip and touches the glass, cool against her finger, and that is when she closes her eyes and simply feels and what she feels is a kind of disgust for what she is and what she’s done. It isn’t hatred; perhaps it is a more muted feeling of that kind. She’s disgusted by the way that she craves the good opinion of others and more disgusted by the fact that she doesn’t think she’s important unless others see her as such.

She wants to get past all this but she doesn’t know how, and she knows that the others cannot give her the advice she desires. They will either critique her or be kind to her but she doesn’t deserve either of those reactions; all she wants is to know that someone out there sees her and knows what it is like and understands. And if that person is warm and does not judge her, that would be best, because she is already unhappy with the way that she behaves even though she does not change it.

All she wants is for people to respect her. And at the same time, all she wants is to be self-sufficient and not to care whether anyone ever notices her.

She’s conflicted, she’s torn, and it’s only in the night that it all dances through her head and exhausted she leans her head into the window and looks out and feels as though there must be a God who could see her and know that it is not fair even though she’s doing her best to make it fair. And she sees herself as posturing, too, as assuming this tragical mindset which isn’t really hers, and all this as an escape from the ordinary, because she wants to be anything, anything but ordinary.


Irina Tsukerman said...

Oh my gosh, much of it sounds like me to such an extent that I'm feeling pretty undressed.

And yet, it's probably written about no one in particular and many people at once!

Which just goes to show that so many people share hidden insecurities, traits, and desires, and inside are more similar than they ever dare to show...

Unknown said...

Which just goes to show that so many people share hidden insecurities, traits, and desires, and inside are more similar than they ever dare to show...

Amen. ;)

pobody's nerfect. said...

why do you suppose nights are so much more difficult?

(and sidepoint, you've got company feeling that nighttime is when it gets hard... David HaMelech wrote... "L'ahgid baboker Chasdecha, VE'EMUNASCHA BALEILOS"

Chana said...

It's because in the nights I can't pretend.

Anonymous said...

So is this piece about you?

Chana said...

What would you say if it were?

Anonymous said...

What would I say?

I would say that people do notice you and enjoy reading your blog....

Do you have a boyfriend?

Chana said...

No, why?

Stubborn and Strong said...

umm everybody feels that way in some way of it. i like to say that depression is satan, don't EVER let it rule over you. That including lonely. I speak from my experience not from somebody's eles.

Anonymous said...

It's because in the nights I can't pretend.

Why not?

Chana said...

The nights are time for the truth. I'm alone with my thoughts and there's no one to see me. That's why I can't pretend.

Anonymous said...

The nights are time for the truth. I'm alone with my thoughts

I can understand.

and there's no one to see me

Can you explain that?

Chana said...

When there's someone to see me, then I feel like I have to engage in a kind of performance. I have to be smart and witty and bright and clever, because otherwise I won't be worthy. At night, it's just me. There's no audience. I don't need to perform. It's okay to just be me.

Anonymous said...

Okay, but then you're not okay with you? That's when "the voices attack?"

Chana said...

It's more like I let them. The night is my time for self-reflection, which means I'm usually at a low (unless uplifted for some extraneous reason.) Upon self-reflection, I'm pretty disgusted with my own neediness. I feel like I need to learn to stand alone.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.

For what it's worth, I think we're all like that on different levels, and we all have some, even much neediness - we'd be hermits otherwise.

Chana said...

Anonymous, I appreciate what you're saying, so thank you.

Out of curiousity, do I know you? (I feel like I ask this very often. I'm sorry.)

Anonymous said...

You do. But not as much as I know you.

Chana said...

How do you know me so well?

And why do you care about what I feel?

Anonymous said...

We've met a few times.

I care because I care.

Chana said...

Are we friends? Or could we be friends?

Anonymous said...

We are, and we could be.

Chana said...

If we're friends and you seem to understand what I wrote here, then ought I to ask you how you feel during the nights? Do you relate to this at all?

Unknown said...

I would think many people do.

Anonymous said...

Very much so.

Erachet said...

"It's because in the nights I can't pretend."

To some extent, I feel completely the opposite. During the day, it's light out, there are people, there are things going on, I am grounded in the world, to some extent. But when night comes alone, it's quiet, I'm alone, it's dark - there is so much more room for my mind to wander, for my imagination to conjure up images or emotions that are much more frightening than I see or feel or experience during the day. At night is when I feel most afraid, because there are no boundaries to where my mind travels at night. So it isn't that I can't pretend, it's that I pretend too much, I imagine too much. My imagination runs away with me. During the day, I feel safe. At night I don't.

Then again, I also feel what you do, that because boundaries on imagination are dropped at night, so are boundaries I built for myself to protect my own feelings. And so, in a way, I am more truthful with myself at night.

I guess it's more that everything becomes more real, not that there is no pretending. Truth becomes more real, but so do lies. So do fears. It's an odd combination.

the only way i know said...

this subject is close to my heart. I'd like to write more about my feelings towards it.. when i've got a bit more time.
Til then.. I'll just say - 'beautifully, poignantly written'

Anonymous said...

I find your self-reflection rather healthy. We all need some quiet time to see where we are going. It takes courage to admit to one's shortcomings and deal with them in a productive way.
As for neediness....I personally haven't met a soul who isn't needy at one time or another. We humans need our basic needs for love and security met in order to survive .
I say you are doing swell simply because you are AWARE of your inner world. Consider that a blessing!

Scraps said...

I will echo Irina's comment--so much of what you write sounds so much like me that it's uncanny, except that I never led the joyful masquerade during the day as you write about. I know very well the type of mental self-torture that can be inflicted, and how it's sometimes deliberate, a punishment for whatever faults the night tends to magnify. I know, too, the fervent wish that someone would just understand, and not judge me, but take me as I am. Not only that, but I wish that I could not judge and take me as I am...

Chana said...

Anonymous before scraps,

I am going to sound like a broken record, but do I know you?

As for being aware- this is at once a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I envy people who just don't have to think. Not often. But sometimes.


Strange that both you and Irina believe that I've described some of who you are. Intriguing. Maybe we're all the same and just disguised differently? My joyful masquerade, incidentally, is not always a masquerade. Sometimes I really mean it and those are my best moments, when I'm just me. I'm me when I'm dancing in the rain, for instance. Or when I'm with my cousins or with little children.

I hope that you are able to love and take yourself as you are, because I am sure that the faults you see are not the ones that others see. You are most probably a good person, Scraps. ;) Most of us are.

Scraps said...

When I'm thinking clearly and rationally, I know that, even if I'm not an extraordinarily good person, I'm certainly not the worst person to walk the earth. But those nights (or sometimes days), when my mind runs away with itself and the self-criticism runs rampant, I lose sight of what's rational. And then it is very hard to love myself, when I'm convinced that I'm a horrible selfish person that doesn't deserve a bit of good in her life, and that it's right that I suffer because I'm only getting what's coming to me. It's not rational at all, and yet it is these thoughts that choke me and drag me down. My own inner tormentors are far more skilled at torture than I am at defending myself.

Erachet said...

"Maybe we're all the same and just disguised differently?"

That sounds almost Jungian. You know, that there's a human unconscious that everyone shares. But then again, some of that just might be true, if you think about it. Most people really do need the same things, even if they say they don't. They may need them in different ways, but they still need them.

I think most people are insecure, especially the ones who act like they aren't.

Jewish Atheist said...

Wanting people to like you is an innate human desire. There's nothing wrong with having innate human desires. We all show masks to the world, but as we grow into ourselves, many of us can reveal more and more of our true selves and see that the statement "those who matter don't care and those who care don't matter" is true.

(...said the guy with the pseudononymous blog.)

Unknown said...

"those who matter don't care and those who care don't matter"


Mouse said...


I feel as if it's you who knows me...all of us...irina, scraps, many more i'm sure who haven't commented...i read your work and i had trouble breathing because my heart was beating so fast. It was like finding a piece of yourself that you had been searching for forever.
I'm speechless, as much from your stunning writing style as from the fact that there's another person in this world who...understands...and can vocalize the pain i've carried for the past many years.

Oh, how i wish you had written this 3, 4, 5, 7 years ago...

It's so hard for me to comprehend the fact that so many of us are so supremely similar inside and yet we'll never know it because we are scared to share our deepest and darkest with anyone. You have my deepest respect for your self-honesty and your courage to tell us who you are.

Do you feel a bit better now that you know you're not alone?

Chana said...


I'm glad that I have helped a little.

I don't think that I feel better because I know that there are others who feel similarly; it is an interesting realization, however, to know that we are all the same behind our dark little rooms. How do I feel, then? I don't know...perhaps I understand a little more, which is a good thing.

My self-honesty, if it can be called that, does not come from any form of bravery or courage but only from need, so there's no need to respect me.

Mouse said...

i still respect you--firstly for your "self-honesty" (which i realize now i may have made up!) and for all the other things you say about yourself and about life in your wonderful blog. I'm new here and i'm enjoying this very much
kol hakavod lach!

Yonina said...


I just want to say that i think you are a wonderful writer...not that you need to hear that from some faceless blogger.
In a way, though, it's nice to hear these kinds of things from peoole you'll never meet cuz then you know it's not for any other ulterior motives...
So here it is: Chana, you make me think, you make me smile, and you make me feel like i'm not alone.

Scraps said...

I'm always conflicted when I learn that someone else thinks the same way I do--on the one hand, it's a good feeling to know that someone understands because they think the same way I do, but on the other hand, I'd never wish my way of thinking on anyone! And often I'm surprised to learn that someone thinks that way, because they are so good at creating a wholly different image for themselves that their insecurity, so similar to mine, takes me by surprise. Although, truth be told, I've sometimes had the same reaction upon revealing my own inner demons. I guess I've become a better actress over the years.

Anonymous said...


I know what you mean about becoming a better actress, except for me it goes the other way. When i was picked to be the lead role in my seventh grade play after never having acted before, i was in heaven. Acting is such an escape...and it comes in handy every single day of my life.

"but on the other hand, I'd never wish my way of thinking on anyone!"
(how do you italicize that, by the way?)

It's not as if you were changing anything about them for the worse by seeing a similarity between them and yourself...Whatever is, is, and from it we have the opportunity to glean what we can to help ourselves and others cope with whatever we are dealing with.

And yes, isn't it surprising to meet other actresses after never having suspected them of being such? We should form a club or something :-D

Scraps said...

Anonymous--I have a tendency to wear my emotions on my sleeve, so I have to be a very good actress to pull off "happy" when I'm really not.

Italics are made by using the middle option (the I in <>) above, and /i (also in <>) to end it.

I know that I'm not changing anything by seeing the similarities between my thinking and others', I was just saying that in a way I wish that such similarities didn't exist. Am I making any sense?

We really should start a club... :-P

Anonymous said...

I was just saying that in a way I wish that such similarities didn't exist
(yay! thanks for teaching me how to do that!)

I've learned the hard way that wishing never gets you anywhere...I still wish for things very often, but i've learned that it's better to find something to do about the sitch rather than wish it were different. About this particular situation, hard to say what we could do to help...maybe just be there for eachother in our similar issues...?
I just don't know. I don't know a lot at all about anything. I wish i did, though... :-D