Afraid Of Liking Loneliness Too Much

 Last week Author in Chief, Jenni Taylor, wrote a post about not being afraid to be alone. Today, our guest post from Nermine Mohamed focuses on fear of liking loneliness too much. Nermine is a Muslim from what she calls “the huge, crowded and contradictory city of Cairo”, although today she is living in Germany. In her post, Nermine shares her wisdom on loving herself while having fears she might be alone too much.

Loneliness is one of the greatest fears of our era. People commit suicide, settle for less, and throw themselves in unhappy relationships just to give themselves the illusion of conquering loneliness. On the other hand, some people are not afraid of loneliness and it is quite hard for them to picture their life with others in it. So, there are actually two sides of this coin: the fear of loneliness and the fear of too much solitude.

I was once a people person. I loved to be around people all the time. It made me feel safe. It made me feel protected. People gave me a sense of identity, a sense of worthiness. I’m no longer that person.

Now, I know who I am and I won’t be afraid to say that I love and enjoy my own company. I never get bored when I’m alone. I think clearly in solitude. I like the sound of my own breathing; I find it soothing; it unlocks my mind; it unwinds my soul. I stopped giving justifications for my thoughts, beliefs or worldviews.

I’m happy with what I’ve become, yet I cannot help but feeling afraid. Yes, I’m afraid of this drastic and ultimate independence and lonesomeness and where it will lead me. Although lots of people fear loneliness, for me it is easy to be alone. It is safe and trouble-free. But is this the way things should be? Are not we made into this world to help one another grow and thrive?

I keep pondering the reasons why I turned into this lonesome soul… There are probably many reasons and fears still buried in my unconscious mind that took part in reshaping who I am. But I know the fear of being rejected, or being caste-out just because I think differently caused me to change. Maybe it is also the intense mental pain I feel when I try so hard to make myself understood and miserably fail at it. Maybe it is my need to justify myself to the expectations of others, no matter how unfair or unreasonable they might be.

Yes, it is healthy to learn to love our own company. Loneliness can make us appreciate good company more; it can unleash our creative nature and make us learn about ourselves in an unusual way. It can help us explore our capabilities, potentials, new talents, and new sides of our personality. It can enrich our soul and make us better people.

Yet, loneliness can also lead to a dingy path and that’s what I dread. I’m afraid too much loneliness might taint my soul and obscure my vision. I’m afraid I’ve been deluding myself thinking that I do not need anyone, because I do need other people. My life can’t be full without others who actually give it meaning and sense.

We cannot go it alone all the time, the road can be long, tiresome and full of stumbles and that’s why we need company; we need people to help us back up when we fall, to slow us down when we go too far, to put us back on the right path when we are lost and confused.

I’m not afraid of loneliness, but I am afraid of liking loneliness just a little bit too much.

I think it is good not to fear our own company, but now I also know that as much as I like my own solo song, every now and then I have to let in some other tunes and just listen to the sound of it all together. Only then I will surprise myself, only when I find harmony in the most unexpected of places, only when I am not afraid to listen to more than my own voice…

Advertisements

Teaching and Beginnings: The Jägermeister and his Sidekick

Today we are honored to share another guest post from Laura Beth Eschbacher, a freelance English teacher and translator living in Kleinbottwar, Germany.  While recounting the beginning of her work as an English teacher, she gives us wisdom about friendship, life, and the ways we can celebrate beginnings and endings.

Just over a year ago, I began my first corporate teaching assignment at an automotive garage supply company near Stuttgart. I remember I dressed very professionally that morning and nervously made my first 1.5 hour commute by bus, train, and then by foot through the snow and gray sludge to their office building. There were two students in the group: a round-bellied, jolly German sales director with kind eyes and grown children; and a handsome, thirty-something jokester sales manager from Macedonia with a 5-year-old son and a wife who likes to shop.

Over time, I would discover that they were coworkers and best friends – the Black Forest Jägermeister and his comedic, fast-talking sidekick, both very professional and both very bad at English.

As we wrestled with grammar over the next year, my own teaching skills improved and I got to know them better. We fought the never ending battle of simple past versus present perfect: “Did you go hunting in Sweden, or have you gone?” In the Marketing chapter, I walked them downstairs to the storefront and we discussed the underlying messages of cardboard cut-out pinup girls holding radiator fluid and showcasing the latest windshield wipers. In the Sales chapter, they taught me about gross and net profits while I corrected their if-clauses: “If we hadn’t met this year’s target turnover, we wouldn’t have had such a big Christmas party.”

I learned that both are devoted family men. I learned that they look out for each other; if the sidekick forgets a name at a company event, the hunter comes to his rescue. If they go out to dinner with a customer, the hunter tries the food first to make sure it is pork-free for his Muslim buddy. If a coworker is chatting aimlessly away to one of them, the other walks past and says, “Don’t forget our important meeting in five minutes,” offering a perfectly rational excuse to interrupt the conversation.

Last Friday, on our one year anniversary as teacher and students, the sidekick broke the news to me that he was promoted within the company and is moving up to Düsseldorf in two weeks. “We have one more class, and you can say to me goodbye.” I asked them who will finish each other’s sentences in the future. The hunter replied gracefully that the promotion was a good opportunity and that he was happy for his sidekick, but he would now need a new colleague… and a new friend.

After a year of this group refusing to see any teacher other than me, we are now unsure whether they will continue the course.

I’ve heard from other teachers that you never forget your first students. These two fun-loving salesmen were my first corporate class. They were the providers of many a humorous Tweet quoting non-native speaker mistakes. They were an inseparable pair of best friends who thought I was a great teacher before I even thought I was a teacher. If they are starting new chapters now, perhaps it’s time I began one, too.

Loose Thread: Touching Moments

Today’s Loose thread is about moments that touched your soul this week.  

So tell us….What moment touched you this week?

Jenni: I recently moved to Shanghai to work as an intern before starting the school year as a teacher in the fall. Being an intern means all the non-fun parts of teaching- grading, power point making, grammar worksheets, etc. My only interaction with students occurs for one hour of tutoring with different students every day after school. Earlier this week during lunch break, I ran into a 5th grader I tutor. “Miss Taylor!” she shouted, and waved me over to watch her and her friend do tricks on the monkey bars. I cheered them on and clapped when they were done. As I walked away, I heard her friend ask, “who’s that?” “That’s my tutor, Miss Taylor!” my student said, in the excited, proud sort of way that warms your heart. It was a simple interaction, but it was enough to remind me why I teach and that boring office work won’t last forever.

Autumn: This week I went to a German beer festival with several friends. It was an amazing intergenerational experience of people from 16-80 singing songs and dancing together. The night ended with a series of group hugs. During one hug I was literally stuck in the center of a group of about 8 people. I couldn’t move and wasn’t even properly standing, I was being simultaneously supported and overwhelmed by my friends. I occurred to me after I freed myself and regain my breath, that that is what deep love is like, it is both totally overwhelming and totally supportive. 

How were you touched this week?

My Exploding Jesus

Today’s guest post is our second from Laura Beth Eschbacher, a freelance English teacher and translator living in Kleinbottwar, Germany. Today she shares with us a bit about meditation, Jesus and the multitude of ways we can see the Divine. 

Since my first yoga class in grade school, I’ve fostered a reverence for the idea of meditation. Truly peaceful and wise people always seemed to do it. Meditation meant self-knowledge, health, and fulfillment!

Too bad I never got the hang of it. I tried breathing consciously and reciting motivational catchphrases. I bought a giant yellow tapestry with an image of the Buddha and hung it over my bed, hoping it would remind me to be mindful. But I never set aside time to give mediation an honest try. It’s just an idea on my bucket list. Something I should do… someday…

But it worked one time. During the last few weeks of Lent last year, I joined an interfaith, but catholic-flavored prayer circle to swing myself back into belief after a few months of skipping church. One of the homework assignments was to choose a meditation from the list and try to spend time with Jesus.

I chose a scenario where you were supposed to imagine yourself a statue, a handmade creation of God. You couldn’t speak or move, but had to stand in Jesus’ workshop, and simply exist while he came in, inspected you, and looked at you lovingly. The point was to bare it all in front of Jesus and feel his acceptance.

But I felt violated. During the first few minutes, I kept thinking “why is this bearded guy with a robe walking in circles around me, staring at my body? I feel extremely uncomfortable and I don’t appreciate his inappropriate behavior. And why am I not allowed to speak?”

I felt restricted, being made of stone. A carpenter was eyeing me, and I couldn’t run away like you can when construction workers whistle at you on the street. Even worse, if I had imperfections, it was probably this craftsman’s fault. He and his father designed me, after all.

I felt agitated and frustrated. My mind screamed, “I want out! This isn’t helping me spiritually!”

In that exact moment, imagination-Jesus exploded. His body burst into music and a billion multicolored lights, swirling and forming beautiful patterns with the rhythm. I felt the lights whoosh past me in warm and cool breezes. My heart beat to the music, and I felt absolute freedom, absolute peace.

When the song ended I slowly came back to consciousness, sad to leave the cosmic particles and drumbeat behind. The feelings were still lingering in my heart as I returned to reality, and I thought, “Okay, what the hell just happened?”

When I look back, I think Sophia was reminding me that I don’t have to shove the Soul of the Universe into the Jesus cookie cutter. Perhaps God is the stars, the music and the forever-swirling of the cosmos. Perhaps God is Jesus and Buddha, heartbeats and light. Perhaps God particles are in all of us, little bits of the universe realizing itself and creating meaning. God could be so many things! Why imagine Her in just one way?

And if God can speak to me through a psychedelic acid-trip of a meditation attempt, then She can certainly speak to others in ways that I do not understand.

God and Squirrels

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Beth Eschbacher, a freelance English teacher and translator living in Kleinbottwar, Germany.  She was raised Roman Catholic (plaid skirts and all), but has grown to love the messy mysteries and complicated similarities between the world’s different doctrines.  Her specialties include humor and honesty, both of which run wild in this post.  So here is Laura Beth’s nutty post about finding God in funny places….

One particularly terrible day at the university, I was marching to class in the rain, brooding, eyes on the ground. I was feeling sorry for myself and cursing my latest failed romance when I suddenly felt the urge to stop walking and look up. No particular reason.

My eyes immediately landed on a deranged-looking brown squirrel, hanging upside down on a tree trunk, legs sprawled. His eyes were fixed on me in suspicion, as if my presence had offended him.

Immediately, I yelled up at him, “What? What do you want?”

Then I burst out laughing. That squirrel and I had frozen at exactly the same moment. Why did I just have a mental show-down with a squirrel? And why did I suddenly think I could speak to it and be understood?

Oh, you know. It was just the Soul of the Universe, poking fun at my drama with quick injection of sillyness. She had exposed the absurdity of my dark thoughts and brought me to judgment before an overgrown chipmunk. Naturally.

I laughed the whole day.

Sophia Sighting: Nuremberg

100_6378

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Location: Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany

During a long meandering walk I discovered this street art. So often we can overlook our common humanity, and here, as the sun set, was Sophia reminding me that we are all equal. No matter who we love, no matter our gender, no matter our sex, no matter our religion, we are all human are we all deserve to be treated with love. Holy Wisdom on a wall, Holy Wisdom in us all.