Baring All  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

Part of blogging is letting a large audience of strangers into your world -- your life, your mind, your thoughts. It is sharing a part of yourself with people you have never met or heard of, in the hope that your writing will put a smile on someone's face, teach someone an idea he/she had never heard of but finds interesting, inspire a person, or show them that they are not alone in feeling or thinking a certain way.

But opening yourself up to this vast, unidentified audience also has its drawbacks, such as a loss of privacy to a certain degree. In fact, one of the things people have said to me in trying to expose the 'evils' of blogging was, "Why would you want your life to be out there for everyone to see? Why do all these people and strangers have to know this about you?"

Well, first of all, this is not my whole life. I am quite selective about what I put up on my blog, and I have often started or planned blog posts that never materialized only because I decided that the subject was unnecessary for me to share.

Also, I choose to share some thoughts or happenings because I hope others might benefit from it. It might open new channels of thought, provide them with information or inspiration, or help them come to terms with things in their own lives because they see that they are not alone in some of their doubts, frustrations, thoughts, or emotions. And, of course, it might on occasion provide people with some much-needed entertainment after a long, hard, or boring day. I personally love reading blogs when I feel stressed because it helps take my mind off things and sometimes even makes me smile. And if one of my anecdotes about my life does that for someone else, then it's worth it.

One of the interesting things about blogging though is that you are tricked into feeling that you know the author of the blog when, in reality, you are only skimming the surface. When I blog, I am not putting my life out there. My life is not a book or a movie for others to jump into. I will not give you detailed stories about my day (unless there is something highly interesting I can relate or I am in a foreign country and feel as if I already am a character in a story). I will not tell you what I am thinking about now or what I have been struggling with the entire weekend. Unfortunately though, some people assume that because I have a blog I have no more privacy left; that my personal life is on display and I am making a story out of my feelings. I am a writer, and that is how I express myself, but that does not mean that everyone has to see it. Those who care to observe me (or simply cannot help noticing) will see that I am constantly writing in notebooks. I write pages and pages about my life and what I am experiencing, and not even a tenth of that ends up on my blog. I know quite well how to maintain my privacy.

Sometimes, when I read other blogs, I think, "This is getting kind of personal... How is he/she comfortable with sharing so much?" But obviously, for every one thing that a blogger shares, there is another one or two or even twenty that he/she does not allow you to see. It is all a matter of deciding what you want to make public and what needs to be kept to yourself.

Another thing that is important is not only knowing how to maintain your privacy but knowing how to respect that of others. There are many bloggers who are anonymous and can freely write about their families and friends because nobody knows who they are anyway. It seems as if they have a license to write whatever they want because of their anonymity. I, on the other hand, am somewhat limited in what I can write about. My family reads my blog, as do my friends, and I cannot write much about them because I never know what they might object to, and people will read it and know who I am talking about. So for the most part, I am limited to writing about myself and about unrecognizable acquaintances or strangers (and of course ideas).

But even when I write about myself, it is not quite enough to let other people know me as a person. It will give my readers little snippets here and there as well as some general ideas about who I am and what I care about, but that is about it. In order to get to know me, you would have to actually talk to me and develop a personal connection. You would have to get to know me not as inkstainedhands, but as Hannah.

Conversely, I feel that those of my friends who do not read my blog do not know a certain side of me. One of the reasons I keep a blog is that there are messages and thoughts that I would like to discuss and put out there that I would be unable to bring up in casual conversation. There are so many things I want to let other people know and I want to talk about, but it is impossible to do so face to face. What I write about is important to me and it is a part of who I am, but even my closest friends would be completely unaware of it if they do not see my blog or my writing. I feel more comfortable expressing myself through writing, so a lot of who I am is contained in it.

It is all summed up quite nicely by a remark one of my friends recently made: "There is a lot more to you than meets the eye." That applies to each and every one of us. We are complex and human, and it takes a lot of effort to get to know each person. It is not so easy as reading a blog, nor is it as simple as being my friend.

The bottom line is that in order to know me more closely you would have to both get to know me through my writing and as a friend, because each of those paths will lead you to a different side of me, which combined make Hannah Rozenblat.

Sicha Im Ha'Isha and Self-Deprecation  

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I wanted to write about the famous often-quoted (and often misquoted) phrase in Pirkei Avot about excessive conversation with a woman, but my schedule has been very busy, so I had no choice but to wait for a better time. Right now seems like the right time though, especially since Bad4Shidduchim just wrote a post about self-deprecation and the impression it makes on a date. So, how do these two things -- self-deprecation and excessive conversation -- connect? What do they have to do with each other?

There are a few lessons written in Pirkei Avot 1:5 in the name of Yosi ben Yochanan. The one I will be focusing on is the following:

ואל תרבה שיחה עם האשה. באשתו אמרו. קל וחומר באשת חברו. מכאן אמרו חכמים כל זמן שאדם מרבה שיחה עם האשה, גורם רעה לעצמו

Yosi ben Yochanan warned not to engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said about a man's own wife, so even more so about another man's wife. From here, the sages say that one who talks excessively with a woman causes himself harm.

This can be interpreted a few different ways, but for our purposes, we are going to go with the Bartenura -- Rav Obadiah ben Avraham's commentary. He gives different examples of how talking excessively with a woman can cause a man harm, and his reasons are very logical. I am going to focus on his second explanation of the bad effects of sicha im ha'isha.

א"נ מתוך שהוא מספר לה שחבריו גינוהו וביישוהו אף היא מבזה אותו בלבה. וזה גורם רעה לעצמו

When he talks to his wife (and the same thing can apply to a woman he is dating) and he tells her how his friends shamed him, she will also come to scorn him in her heart.

Sicha refers to idle chatter. When it is excessive, the chances are greater that someone will make a self-deprecating comment to make the conversation more interesting or to entertain the other person.

It is important for a wife to be able to respect her husband, but if he is constantly putting himself down and, so to speak, saying lashon hara about himself, it will inevitably affect the way she perceives him and relates toward him. While open communication and honesty is obviously important in a marriage, or in any relationship, there are certain limits to everything. In this case, one must draw limits when it comes to self-deprecating remarks. Nobody is perfect, and as human beings, we are all flawed -- that is the beauty of it. We would not be as interesting if we were all perfect. But at the same time, there is no need for us to draw attention to our failings.

You might think that you are only being honest because you care about someone and want them to know "the real you," but at what price? Are you willing to risk losing respect in the eyes of your wife or the woman you are dating? Are you willing to risk the failure of your relationship if, as Bad4Shidduchim wrote, you discuss your flaws on the first or second date and that is the first impression your date has of you?

It is easy to say that we should not judge a person or respect him less because of his flaws, since all of us have our flaws, but when that person parades his faults and stamps them onto his forehead, it is difficult not to view him in that light. I know that I try not to judge people unfavorably, but when they display themselves in a negative light and tell me how lazy, useless, or unintelligent they are, I cannot help but see them that way. I might say to them, "No, don't say that; you are not as bad or as unlikable as you think or make yourself seem," but at the same time, those words become imprinted on my mind in connection with this person. It has happened more than once to me that people spoke scornfully of themselves, and I formed a negative opinion of them based on that. And I really did not mean to do that.... That is just what happened as a result of what they said. It feels so ironic though that I lost respect for some people because they spoke self-deprecatingly about themselves.

People are serious when they tell you that sometimes you are your own worst enemy.


Posted by inkstainedhands in

Knowing something and having no clue as to how you know it or what the source is just might be one of the most frustrating things when you are trying to convince someone else of something.

I remember finding a little piece of information in a Chumash with English commentary once in seventh grade -- a full five years ago -- but since it was not my Chumash, I could not go back and check afterwards. I could not even remember which commentary it was, so there was no way for me to find the original source -- not that I was even interested in finding an original source in seventh grade. I just stored the little tidbit that I had learned in my mind and mentioned it to some people when the subject came up. The inevitable question was always, "How do you know?" And what could I possibly answer besides for, "Um, I'm not quite sure where that piece of information can be found, but I remember reading it in some Chumash." Without a source, people will not fully believe what you say, for which I don't blame them, because I would do the same thing.

Well, guess what!

I finally found the source after five years of wondering! So I am not crazy after all, and I did not imagine it.

For this, I owe a huge thank you to the Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez, who not only gathers all the information but also lists all his sources! I love The Torah Anthology. :]

Getting Right Back Up  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

As a little four- and five-year-old kid, I used to run around a lot and fall down often, so my knees were generally bruised, bloody, or covered in scabs or old scars. You can still see in some old pictures of me the two bandaids covering my knees where I had hurt myself. And yet, I never thought of slowing down. I wouldn't learn from the pain, and the next time I had a chance to stretch my legs outside, I would do so without hesitation. So I would fall down over and over again, tearing apart the skin on my knees and the palms of my hands, and I would get back up. Yes, I would sometimes cry from the stinging pain, but it would all be forgotten the very next day (or in more painful situations, the very next week).

As kids, we quickly get used to the fact that there are unpleasant surprises and unexpected bumps in the road. We learn that falling flat on our faces does not have to be the end of the world, and we learn to pick ourselves up and move on with life. In fact, that is how we learn how to walk. We stumble forward a few steps and then we fall, but we never stay down. We jump right back up and continue on with determination.

In my opinion, however, it is with greater difficulty that we learn to pick ourselves up as adults after experiencing emotional pain or going through any other trying experience. All of a sudden, it is harder to get back on our feet, and we very often prefer to stay down there on the ground, feeling sorry for ourselves. We forget that it is in our power to pull ourselves together and move on, learning from the experience rather than allowing it to bring -- and keep -- us down.

But just as we learned to overcome the little bumps and bruises (and blood) when we were children, we must learn now to overcome everything else as well. We must learn to get up, no matter how hard it feels, brush ourselves off, and continue walking.

Don't let anyone or anything bring you down and keep you lying there in the mud, because it is not a pleasant thing.

A Different Kind of Hell  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

Hell is when adults paint their own ideas of perfection over a child's natural unique traits and individuality.

Hell is not recognizing yourself in the mirror because the image you see is the same as that of any other person.

Hell is having a lot to say but fearing to voice those thoughts because you will stand out and be condemned.

Hell is having questions that are unwelcome and are greeted with hostility wherever they are asked.

Hell is feeling stifled because you are never good enough.

Hell is never being good enough because you are different.

Heaven is realizing that your individuality will no longer bring you pain and they were wrong.

My Ketuba  

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Now that's a good title for a blog post written by a girl who just turned 18, isn't it? But I'll explain. ;]

A lot of people have been asking me how my writing is going. Well... um... how do I say this? It sometimes goes and it sometimes just does not go. (For some reason, the former was the case more often in the past few months.) I am working on some short stories now as well as school writing assignments, but I don't feel that surge of creativity as often when it comes to words.

But I like to feel as if I've done something creative recently and I want to have what to show for my effort, so for now I am focusing on my artwork. I have a few pieces hanging in my school's hallway that I did for an art class assignment, which I would love to take a picture of and post here once I get them back. For now though, I have a picture of another assignment. We were told to make a colorful ketuba (without the text, just with the first letter), and I decided to have a little fun with mine.

The brown background is just the back of my drawing pad, not part of the ketuba.

Here's a closeup of the gold detail on the yellow arch at the top:

I loved using that gold marker -- it just made everything more interesting and sparkly. The same goes for the silver sharpie, although that was being very moody, often refusing to cooperate. But since nothing ever goes exactly how you think it will, something was bound to happen, since I was having too much of a good time with the gold and silver. What happened? Oh, just a slight mishap which left my skirt, my hands, and a pile of papers on my desk covered in little drops of gold and silver. I actually found it very amusing. Much water, soap, and scrubbing was later involved in trying to get rid of the sparkly stuff on my hands, but traces of it are still there, so I now sparkle! Lesson for the future -- there is a reason why the instructions always say to shake the marker with the cap on! Ah well, it was fun. :]

Bye Bye Birthday  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Waking up at 6:40 am on my birthday (an hour earlier than I usually do for school) in order to continue studying for a psychology test after four and a half hours of sleep must have been the result of temporary insanity on my part. The good news though was that it was absolutely worth it, because I think I knew the test well.

But when you spend half the night, an hour in the morning, your lunch period, and even some class periods immersed in psychology, and then you have are presented with different cases or scenarios on the test and you have to identify it and understand how it works and why it is so, it is a bit difficult to get the material out of your head -- even once you come home and the test is over and done with.

And that is why I spent my birthday explaining certain moments of my day according to a psychological viewpoint. When my mother picked up my psychology textbook and remarked that she thinks it would be very interesting to read, I couldn't help thinking about the overjustification effect. When my father praised my honesty when it comes to money matters, I thought to myself -- Oh! This is positive reinforcement, which is meant to increase the likelihood of me repeating a certain behavior! I then laughed at myself for not being able to get psychology out of my head.

All in all, I had a pleasant birthday, although it has yet to sink in that I am now a legal adult.

Counting Down the Minutes  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

It is 11:17 PM. In less than an hour, the digital clock on my computer screen will read 12:00 AM, the start of December 3rd, and I will be 18.

It's funny; I don't feel as if I am turning 18. This milestone was something I looked forward to since I first became aware of the fact that at this age I would become a legal adult. And yet, now that the hour draws near, I shrink away from it.

Obviously, no tangible change occurs on a birthday -- only your perception of yourself -- but when it is something you have thought about since you were a child, you wonder why you feel nothing now.

If anything, I feel somewhat down because tomorrow will be a day like any other. I will spend half the night tonight studying for a test, I will wake up after very little sleep early tomorrow morning, I will go to school as usual and take the test, and life will go on as usual. And underneath it all, I will be thinking, "But it's my birthday today. Isn't this day supposed to be special and more meaningful than all the other days?" It will give me an opportunity to reflect and write my thoughts, but I am afraid that they might be less cheerful than might be expected from a birthday girl. But thoughts are thoughts -- they're precious whether they are upbeat or dejected.

I had a great year as a 17-year-old. Honestly, I have so many amazing memories from the past twelve months that I can barely believe how wonderful the year has been. I have so much to be thankful for -- and I am thankful -- to G-d, my parents, my family, my friends, my teachers, and all the other amazing people in my life. I can look back on this year with a wide smile, but it is when I think of tomorrow that my smile disappears.

But I won't dwell on that, as it does no good to anyone. Instead, I will focus on studying for tomorrow's test while I resume counting down the minutes until my 18th birthday.