All you Rear Window fans will understand why I love looking at windows. James Stewart's character watched his neighbors' lives through their windows while he sat in front of his, nursing a broken leg. But, most of the time, when I look out my own window or walk around in New York City, I can't see inside the windows. They're too high up or too far away or the shades are drawn. But they fascinate me for different reasons. I wonder, when I see a lighted window, who lives there and what their life is like.
Usually it's just a mild curiosity but spending this past year in relative isolation has increased my interest. When there are no open restaurants, theaters, museums, etc. walking the city was one of the few things I could do to clear my head and calm my nerves. I'd take my dog and stroll around. And I'd look at the windows and wonder about the people who live behind them. Are they alone or do they live with someone? Are they happy? Are they well?
Social media is a sort of window into people's lives but it is almost always the highlight reel. The actual truth lies behind these windows. For most of this year I have been alone except for my dog. I am well but I am not always happy. I don't like to be alone.
When we have too much time to think, it can be easy to imagine that everyone is better off than we are. That the lives behind those lighted windows are better than mine. But I know it's often not true. I know the people who live there have bills piled up, medical problems, family arguments, pain and loss. Not always. Sometimes they are happy just as I have sometimes been happy this year.
In the "before times" I was in and out of my apartment all day. I work from home but I was walking my dog and getting into conversations with other dog owners, running errands, picking up packages, meeting friends. My neighbors often knocked on my door or I had texted them to come eat leftovers from a photo shoot. I enjoyed all the interaction. Now it is minimal, out of safety, and I am often alone.
But I wander through the city and I look at the windows and I want to know about the people inside. What are they doing tonight? Are they watching the same Netflix shows I am? Are they happy? Are they well? Are they lonely like I am, waiting for life to open up again?
Sometimes I think we see only those things that we desire and that's often families and friends gathering, celebrating holidays, toasting the incoming new year. We do not see what's hidden behind the windows. How many will be alone on New Year's Eve? I will be although I'm resolved to treat myself well. I will make a festive charcuterie board for one and pour myself a great cocktail. I will make plans and be optimistic. I hope the people behind the windows will be too.