Moments of doubt can be loyal and frequent companions. They remind us of past setbacks or simply warn us that something can go wrong. The latter is quite useful, so I learned to treat them with respect and they usually serve me well. But not when they try to meddle in interpersonal matters without any justification and cling to me all day. Good night, my loyal doubts! I hope you’ll betray me tomorrow.
A pleasant greeting. An unexpected conversation. A group fitness class or a business meeting.
Each of these can serve as a good distraction when the only thing you want at a certain moment is a response, or, more precisely, the response you wish for. You recollect the last communication that took place and questions start crossing your mind at lightning speed. Why? What if? How? When? Who else?
If getting a response takes a little longer, you try harder to focus on the distractions. Another greeting. The next meeting. A second fitness class. The questions become even more annoying, but after some time their power starts to wane. Suddenly, what felt as a distraction before regains its rightful role and gets the deserved attention. The non-existent response is almost forgotten. And then, a week later or in the following year, when the response comes, it simply doesn’t matter… It has become a distraction.
Layered clothing (“Zwiebelschalenprinzip“) was one of the expressions that caught my attention in my first years in Germany. I knew what it meant and had practiced it myself. What amazed me, though, was how often it was used. I remember wondering why it was so popular… And here I am using it myself 🙂
A statement I made in a pleasant conversation today made me think about layers. Not in the context of clothing, but related to human interactions. Do you know the feeling of saying something about yourself and realizing immediately after that how misleading it can be? That’s exactly what happened to me. Perplexed, I kept on thinking why it was so challenging for me to highlight the right layer in the right context… such a pity since I had a compelling story on my mind that I wasn’t able to tell!
We all possess different layers of values, ideas, and opinions shaped by our upbringing, culture, and experiences. Mixing the layers or presenting them without the necessary framework of reference can confuse the person we talk with, and also ourselves. Now that I think about it, this is a good reason for the popularity of the layered concept… The shell layer protects us, but is rarely what defines us. The inner layer is, by contrast, where we are vulnerable the most. What, when, and how we share is key. Relevant stories told in an engaging way make it easier to bridge layers and help others better relate to what we communicate.
I’ll focus on telling my story next time. And every time.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”