June 18, 2021

“Every man is his own chief enemy”

Yet another night comes, only to find me burning the midnight oil in a tight rope between obsessions and overreactions. My mind has turned disturbing. I give in, transforming into a pawn among them. I give in and surrender with no hesitation, no second thoughts, no restraints. An incriminating finger fluttering before my face, as I position my body before the mirror, reminding me that whenever things go right every now and then, whenever I put in effort, whenever I observe my progress, whenever I look at myself admirably in the eye, that’s when I look at myself and see someone else… My dear self, if only you knew how much I worshipped you, and how much wonder you provoke today. I want you back, my old self… Actually, I don’t want you back, I demand you come back! Here and now!

And you know what I demand (even) more? The mirror reflection of that cherished figure, full of calmness, happiness, maturity (to the extent possible) and tranquillity. I’m lost beneath the sight of the figure’s reflected empty gaze, anticipating that power gaze, that instils confidence, safety. That gaze, in any case, I was used to noticing in my reflection, whose absence enrages me!

I’m mad, and scared, and frustrated, and I feel the need once again to creep up into the golden cage of my loneliness, to find myself again. Loneliness, so hard but safe. That’s where I’m protected. There’s no room for judgement there, no room for emotional dependencies. Everything is familiar, intimate, controlled, in this golden cage. But, how lonely, how cold does it feel! A silence so familiar yet grim.

I’m tangled between the uncertain thoughts that dominate my mind, and that’s when the performance of the day starts, with myself being the audience, everything tidy, organized and under control. I’m laughing. I’m laughing for an instant, and then I realize that I’m tired of being lonely, but I’m terrified of the idea of exposing myself. I’m caught undecided between a rock and a dead end, constantly. After a while, I start fantasizing about my wrong relationships, and everything is the matter. Depending on the day, the hour, my guilt, I convene a different scenario in my head. It’s never stable, instead every day it gets more arbitrary, and as the period of loneliness thrives, it’s flooding with guilt.

You know what else I realized? That even though I’m scared of people, I need them more than anything. I do need them! I need a show of affection, a hug, a cuddle, some sort of consolidation anyway. There are times when I need them as much as finding something essential to do in my 20s, so that they don’t slip away, or at least that I pass them in an acceptable way. Acceptable by me? By others? By society itself? Who knows?

Of course, a thought like this leads to the next one, and I’m led to being dependent on others, topped by the obscene feeling of fear, of unacceptance, and abandonment at the same time. And this fear of abandonment clouds my thoughts. The other side of me emerges, the one that doesn’t follow my lead, and I don’t like it. She acts like a spoilt child.

I’m becoming the child I took shame in seeing, I’m disgusted by myself and I don’t like it. Is it possible for me to be this figure I encounter in the mirror? No, it can’t be! I don’t want it to be possible! I was used to being otherwise! But there’s this version of myself, and I don’t like it, and time after time I enter my golden cage once again. I enter the place where I’m transformed back to my old self, to the one I like. A vicious circle of thoughts surrounds me. A jumble of them if you might. I don’t recognize my wants, sometimes I think I know myself so well and other times I think I’m staring at a stranger. I haven’t found it, and I won’t, if I don’t truly want to look deep inside of me. That’s my conclusion. And that will always be my conclusion.

*Quote by Anacharsis, Scythian ruler and philosopher

Author: Maria Kanaki

Translated by Kyriaki Arnaouti Reviewed by Nefeli Eklektou

Photography by Simeon Maniatis & Grigoris Lazaridis


Kiriaki Arnaouti (she/they)

Born a Drama queen, both literally and figuratively. Her mind is constantly switching back and forth between Greek, English and Spanish but her heart is set on two things only; iced coffee and books. Her Sagittarius nature convinces her that she’s the funniest person alive, but that’s for you to discover!

Nefeli Eklektou (she/her)

An indecisive perfectionist and translation enthusiast, with a passion for good literature and lindy hop dancing. You will catch her either journaling or songwriting on her piano, which she’s convinced understands her more than people. She’s also certain that it’s not her philosophical contemplations or underlying sarcasm that alienates her from said people.

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