#LONELINESS. THE VIRUS OF THE MODERN AGE – TONY JETON SELIMI.

Research shows that many people become inspired, healthier, and more productive as they feel loved, nurtured, and connected with their true selves, their spirits, and their hearts.

This is your opportunity to switch on your inner light and remain in a state of great health, balance, and calm. To see a completely new world through a new pair of lenses.

A balm for the restless soul, yearning for connection, freedom, and love in the desert of emptiness. Dr. John Demartini.

Having known Tony personally, having seen him liberate his most empowered self during his attendance at my signature seminar program, the Breakthrough Experience, and having read his first best-selling book, A Path to Wisdom, I knew his new book would be something even more exceptional. He once again hit a home run for the human potential movement.

In #Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age, Tony takes us behind the apparent pain, rejection, and discord into a luminous reality of connectivity at every level of existence where we witness the core of evolutionary loneliness that’s necessary in the process of recovering paths to deep empathy, social harmony, and wholeness.

His book is a compelling compilation of fascinating and enthralling discoveries that awaken us to the interconnectivity of all life. He weaves this together in a way that inspires each of us to eagerly take up the task. Tony’s many years of deep, personal study, his depth of spiritual perception, and his academic background as a technologist have made him able to knit together the sciences, spirituality, and psychology with real-life experiences. He has taken what makes us human and turned it into a manual that helps us unpack and make sense of our apparent inner loneliness.

It’s only in the illusive facades of our personae that we separate the inseparable, divide the indivisible, polarize the unpolarizable, label the unlabelable, and name the ineffable.

Tony provides a prescription for creating and strengthening the essential relationships that give our lives meaning. He’s captured the deceptive nature of our false ego selves and introduced it in such a succinct and sophisticated manner as to leave readers empowered to take the reins and control where their lives are taking them.

In our hurried world, it’s often difficult to create and maintain the kinds of connections necessary for healthy lives. This book is the balm for the restless soul yearning for connection, freedom, and love in the desert of emptiness.

Tony presents research that underlines both the importance of personal and social connections and the difficulties caused by their perceived absence; he helps us recognize and understand these effects not only on our health, at work, and in our families but also intellectually and in our hearts.

This timely, important book is much more than a description of the problem; it is a practical guide as well. Tony includes inventories for self-evaluation, outlines the path to enduring oneness, offers meaningful measures to improve our webs of support and social connection, and shows how we can become more confident, more connected, and more capable of achieving our intrinsic worth and more fulfilled in our day-to-day existences.

Filled with personal and other people’s real-life stories and anecdotes and drawing upon spiritual traditions and teachings, science, technology, and modern psychology, #Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age is a timely guide to creating lasting, meaningful, and synchronized body, mind, heart, and soul relationships.

If, like me, you have spent a lifetime of learning, studying, traveling, and teaching and have a deep yearning to increase your understanding of life’s greatest riches, you’ll find reading Tony’s book a most enriching and rewarding experience.

If you’re experiencing rejection or loneliness or are going through any difficult situation, don’t worry; Tony’s gentle approach and subtle style weaves the most complex topics and the most cutting-edge science into easy-to-understand, bite-sized chunks that all will easily understand, be they personal development novices or seasoned veterans of introspection and self-reflection.

Read this book with a childlike curiosity, and your life will be deeply enriched as mine already has been. Be prepared to go deep within and get to the causes of your apparent challenges, loneliness, abandonment, and rejection. Get ready to unveil your facades and tackle the source of the issues that arise from your inner discord; you will feel uplifted, inspired, and empowered when you finish.

You are left with a set of practical tools and solutions to help you get started on connecting to the essence of your being. Give yourself the best gift you could possibly wish for; read this book cover to cover to help you create a connection and order out of the chaos in your inner world. The journey this book will take you on is one of unlocking your inner wisdom and accessing the latent knowledge in your body, mind, and heart and the potentially infinite nature of your spirit.

Tony, once again you have cared, dared, loved, and shared a timely, transcendent message for the sake of all who are mysteriously bonded across the world.

Dr. John Demartini, human behavioral specialist, educator, international best-selling author, and founder of the Demartini Institute

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for choosing this book to be your companion on a journey through which you will be able to demystify what #Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age is. It is my intention to help you uncover safe pathways for you to search deep and discover why you feel lonely, isolated, abandoned. Throughout this book my focus is to assist you in clearing away the resistance that makes you desire solitude.

Together, we will explore why we plant seeds of solitude that grow into concrete forests that isolate us from our essence and that of others. Learn what it takes to tap into the infinite being you are, the one who has infinite ability to grow, expand, change, manifest, connect, communicate, and love.

This is an opportunity for you to discover what scientific research has to say about the impact loneliness has on your physical health, emotional well-being, and your personal, professional, and social lives. It will bring to your awareness the universal, toxic effects loneliness has in your community, your family, your work environment, your finances, and in businesses across the world.

You will learn how to recover pathways to deep empathy, social harmony, and wholeness through finding your inner switch that turns on your inner light. That light can shine brightly and illuminate your way and can shine for all those around you in their journeys out of the isolation and into the oasis of connected living in peace and gratitude.

At the beginning of this book, I share with you transparently the traumatic life events that shook me to the core, stifled my sense of belonging, and led me to riding the never-ending emotional roller coaster of loneliness.

You will discover what it took for me to go from being rejected, fearful, abused, bullied, uncertain, abandoned, and unloved to living in gratitude and embracing wholeness. I’d love to share with you how I went from being a homeless teenage refugee of war to being a director, entrepreneur, and a best-selling author.

Along the journey, you’ll come to realize the healing power of gratitude through the tools that acquire the knowledge and wisdom of the ancient sages as much as that of philosophical scientists. Once you apply this in your personal circumstance, you will shift your current reality to one more favorable, inspiring, and aligned with your soul’s vision and mission.

Think about this book as a collection of stories, facts, and applied knowledge that are all true. These stories shine light on the personal impact that loneliness had on me and has on each one of you as well as the grief impact it has on the collective consciousness. Each story or metaphor I share illuminates the reasons why addressing loneliness now in some cases will change your life and could even save your life.

From every story shared, you will draw practical knowledge, tools, and the wisdom required for you to overcome your loneliness and be better equipped to deal with life’s adversities. It offers you a solution to change your life, awakens your hope and inner genius to help you through troubled times, and instills the beliefs required to assist you in your soul’s evolution.

Something on every page of this book will make you realize how thirsty your soul has been for your attention and love and for finding another, more favorable way of looking at the world.

Come to your own conclusions on how, despite all the advancements we’ve achieved so far, we continue to forget the simple but very important power of contact.

Without contact, there is no connection, no flow, no light, and no life. The lies we have been fed, the skewed perceptions of who we think we are, and the lack of contact described throughout this book give birth to loneliness.

See how the absence of contact with the higher mind creates the many discrepancies the lower mind creates between the ideal and perceived self and how this discrepancy gives birth to seeds of separation and loneliness.

To be lonely often reflects the hunger of your soul for a different way of being with others and for a different way of life that currently might not seem possible to you. It’s the distressed feeling that occurs when your personal, social, professional, financial, and spiritual relationships are less satisfying than you desire.

This book describes how loneliness is perceived, conceived, and measured; how loneliness is mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially represented; how it influences your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and how its consequences occur in all spheres of your life.

An increasing number of people around the world feel isolated in their little cocoons. They feel lonely, unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and disconnected because of their painful reality.

We have become so busy, so distracted, and so disconnected from our true essence that we no longer even know who we truly are.

In her observations during her visit to the United States, Mother Teresa gave an American reporter a very bold statement that describes #Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age.

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty, it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

This bold statement is a great mirror that reflects how far we’ve evolved in material wealth, technology, and our outer understanding of life and how ignorant we are in our understanding of our inner worlds, our infinite natures, and our souls, the main pilots of our lives.

Each chapter, each bold statement, each word in this book is an invitation from your soul to you to stop, rethink, and reassess who you truly are so you can connect to your essence, your truth, and your spirit and embody a new way of living and being.

Though we have created the most advanced technologies known to humanity with the potential to connect us to every human being on our planet, this book alongside Mother Teresa’s statement is a great reality check and reminder to us all that life is far from the truth we have created for ourselves.

You don’t need to read it in a book, be told by a friend, or experience an adversity to know that feelings of loneliness, rejection, and separation are painful and unwelcome. Your body’s innate intelligence will trigger the alarm that will warn you when it’s in a state of imbalance or discomfort or in a threatening situation. Your body doesn’t feel good about being subjected to pain, shame, or any emotions triggered by loneliness. The problem and the truth of the matter is that despite this knowing, very few people are listening and doing something about it before it’s too late.

You too may have left home, walked into an elderly-care home, children’s refuge, or a place for homeless people and seen, felt, and experienced how lonely the lonely can be. No matter what you have or don’t have in life, feelings of loneliness, rejection, and abandonment, as well as feeling not listened to, uncared for, and unloved is common to us all.

This separation, isolation, loneliness, and disconnection follow you in every sphere of your life. On your daily commute to work as well as in airports and restaurants, you’ll see people glued to their mobile phones, iPads, tablets, computers, and laptops in desperate attempts to connect, communicate, and be heard. Yet if you look around, you’ll see many people ignoring the presence of others right next to them, failing to create a personal connection with them, and shying away from simple conversation.

Technology and social media have become frantic attempts to numb the loneliness that some of us feel and suppress the pain that comes from feeling rejected, not listened to, unacknowledged, or unloved for who we truly are.

Those of us who have become so distracted with life’s daily demands fail to see that if we continue living that way, we are bound to become even more isolated, selfish, and self-centered.

If you don’t do something about it, you may become an emotionless robot that’s programmed by a central control unit and told what to do. The possibility of someone creating advanced technologies as seen in movies such as iRobot, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and many others is real.

Imagine what our world would look and be like without harnessing the power of nature that provides us with air, water, electricity, fire, and gas. It would be impossible to invent any of the modern technologies we now have and have become accustomed to. We take for granted radios, mobile phones, TVs, satellite communications, computers, laptops, tablets, robots, planes, and the Web that have helped us create rich content and share trillions of bits of information with people around the globe.

Similarly, without the contact, connectivity, and communication that occurs between the cells in your body, you wouldn’t have been born and been able to function. Your internal organs wouldn’t work. Your mind wouldn’t be able to make decisions; you wouldn’t be able to follow your feelings, know right from wrong, or hear your intuition. We as a species and the world as we know it would cease to exist.

This is why I felt deeply inspired to share the message of this book with you all. This message carries the healing power of love, which can support you in your journey from feeling lonely, abandoned, or rejected to being connected to your essence, your empathy, freedom, and your compassion.

By facing life’s adversities head-on, honoring your truth, and experiencing quantum awakening, you can harmonize your body, mind, heart, and soul. In doing so, you will connect to the love that descends from the higher realms of existence. When you make contact with love, your curiosity will awaken, your heart will open, and your soul will be free to be.

A profound feeling of internal discord and your desire to seek a greater significance and connection in your life is what brought you to pick up this book. Rest assured you have come to the right place to learn, grow, and be the creator of your life.

It’s a lifetime endeavor to awaken to the truth of who you truly are, embrace all you are, reestablish the harmonious flow of love, and restore the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual balance you need to live life aligned with your highest values and potential.

Choose now to achieve connectedness, balance, and flow in the shortest possible time through everything I share in this book. The more you enjoy this journey, the more you’ll be able to extract the lessons, learning, and wisdom I share in these pages.

Decide now to walk away from this book having learned as many lessons as you can. Facing each experience and using the TJS Evolutionary Method: the ALARM helped me access a place in myself that is quiet, peaceful, and in harmony with all that is. Having achieved this state of balance, I saw how changes in my inner state of being rippled into the world around me as I started to be of service to many people around the world.

As I reached this beautiful, blissful, internal state, I realized the human potential I had and that I had created many facades over a lifetime that were hidden from my conscious awareness and buried deep in my subconscious.

The more curious I became, the deeper I dug and the more I discovered hidden lies I had perceived as truths. The more I dug, the more I found unused parts of myself that I started to remove. Doing so enabled me to unite my inner state of being to the outer experience of life, hence forging a oneness with self.

I broadened my understanding of life through the process of curious enquiry, surrendering to adversities, and investing a significant amount of time, money, and energy in my personal, professional, and spiritual development. The more I learned how to navigate the ocean of feelings of being abandoned, rejected, uncared for, and lonely, the closer I got to the island of balance and paradise.

If you don’t awaken to the truth of who you truly are and honor your role of being custodians of your body, mind, heart, and the planet we all share, you’ll continue to live your life on snooze and in the shadow of your own magnificent light.

Each chapter is a call from your soul, a call for love that will awaken you so you connect, unite, and love in one voice and with one heart. Should you ignore this call, you’ll continue to unconsciously contribute to global wars, epidemics, terrorist threats, addictions, increased divorce rates, social isolation, depression, suicide, obesity, and loneliness. You will ultimately suffer in silence.

This call for love from your inner being is awakening many of you to the importance that connection, truth, and love play in our lives. It’s a call to bring your unique gifts to the world so you too can inspire and give hope to the hopeless, the lonely, the rejected, and anyone who has ever felt the pain of being uncared for, unloved, and unaccepted.

I wrote this book from that call for love; I want it to become the lightbulb in your head that shines brightly and illuminates your path to help you navigate the dark parts of your mind and the busyness of your noisy thoughts so you can find your own path to wholeness, fulfillment, and an inspired life.

Every page of this book is your personal assistant that can bring clarity to your confusion, help you feel more connected, show you how to reach inner peace and harmony, and enter a state of flow. These are required for us all to unite and accept our uniqueness.

The experience gained from the many paths I have walked gave birth to this book and my apparent loneliness. Each path I took offered its own challenges and lessons; each situation presented to me on these paths created some form of isolation, loneliness, and rejection. Each person I met on these paths, each situation, and each adversity was my teacher; they showed me something different about myself. I thank and love the people who caused me tremendous pain and the people who brought pleasure to my life and showered me with their love.

Removing the facades you carry daily will allow you to unveil your narcissistic and altruistic parts that have been with you for many years. For some of you, this process in itself can be uncomfortable as it creates new loneliness that comes from missing and letting go of the things you’re familiar with.

Take time to go in yourself to seek, find, and reflect upon the answers to the questions laid out for you in this book. See which part of your life is craving your attention, what fears you haven’t dealt with, and what you’re yearning for and not giving yourself permission to have, do, or be.

The ability to learn from all the separation you may have experienced in life may be a highly selected trait, but it can no doubt be greatly improved by guidance, as this book will show.

The adversities I faced were the catalysts that changed my perception of the meaning of life and death. Through hardship, we tend to lose touch with who we truly are and create the illusion of being separated from the ocean of oneness. These are illusions that come from the pain of being rejected, not listened to, unloved, and uncared for that sometimes come from simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For some of you, the loneliness, pain, and separation you face may also come from being born into this physical reality with a genetic disease beyond your control.

Each of your life challenges will have its own pains, struggles, lessons, and opportunities for growth and will allow you to yield your wisdom. All these are dimensions of your experiences of disconnection and connection and will be represented in one form or another in this book.

My aim through this book is to help you transmute your loneliness and all the challenges you face throughout your life into blessings that will give birth to situations that make you rethink, reassess, and reconnect to what matters in life.

You’ll discover in our journey together how this is an essential part of healing your loneliness, how to overcome the difficulties that may seem a mission impossible, and what you can do to change your life. This was certainly the case for me and for the many clients I have helped.

Research shows that many people become inspired, healthier, and more productive as they feel loved, nurtured, and connected with their true selves, their spirits, and their hearts. This is your opportunity to switch on your inner light and remain in a state of great health, balance, and calm.

Scientists and quantum physicists tell us how on a subatomic level, everything is interconnected in our universe and how we too are cocreators of this universe. If, like me, you love science, you may know through studying quantum physics that a particle at the subatomic level can coexist simultaneously in two places at once. With that knowledge, we can easily assume that we too coexist simultaneously across multiple dimensions.

Your job is to learn how to harness the knowledge and wisdom that governs the universe and our existence so you can reconnect outside the realm of time and space to parts of yourself that coexist across the many dimensions and learn and grow from the infinite wisdom of your soul.

Over the coming chapters, you will see how my calling has always been to bring peace where there is war, to bring hope where there is none, to bring freedom where there is fear, and to be the light to those living in the dark and feeling disconnected, rejected, and alone.

This book gives you the tools to overcome your apparent loneliness and any other life adversities you may be facing. it will help you plant new seeds that will grow into the essential ingredients you need to live a connected, meaningful, and inspired life in which you will embody the infinite wisdom of love in your relationship with yourself and your significant other, in your parenting of your children, at work, and in everyday life as a leader in the world.

The busy lifestyles and daily pressures you face force you to spend more and more time searching for tools that can help you to cope better and do more with less time while feeling content, calm, and reconnected to your true nature.

As you go through this journey, you will start to understand how essential it is to own the disowned parts of yourself to live in oneness. When you do so, you will start to envision a fuller life and closer relationships, you will become a more loving parent, you will work in a spiritually conscious and alive workplace, and you will embody authentic, heart-based leadership. This is what I have achieved in my life and help my clients realize, and I believe it’s possible for you to do the same!

Raising the awareness of who you truly are will increase your vibrational frequency. The higher you vibrate, the more flow there is in your body, the more your heart opens, and the more your loneliness will be transformed into a beautiful state of love, contentment, and inner calm.

This is your opportunity to be immunized against loneliness by coming to a place in yourself where the possibility of making the choice to change exists and to learn how to access the control switch that turns on these choices.

Although some of the stories in this book come from my own experiences, in many instances, I am only the narrator who relates events that occurred in the lives of some of the extraordinary people I have encountered: clients, family members, friends, colleagues, and people from all walks of life I’ve had the good fortune to meet. With the permission of my clients, I used their real-life stories to illustrate points. l have changed some names to protect the privacy and identity of some of them. I have always loved stories and gained a lot from them. We’re all wired to learn from stories. That’s how experiences have been recorded and communicated since the beginning of time.

Some of the sections in this book will speak to your heart and mind. They can move you, and when you’re moved, you’re likely to learn lessons from them. I spent many late nights channeling this book by connecting to the infinite ocean of wisdom that many of this world’s inventors, philosophers, scientists, healers, teachers, and prophets have connected to before me.

This knowledge will take you on a deep, personal journey. If you give yourself permission, you’ll yield the greatest rewards that come from expanding your self-perception. If you’ve once loved with your entire being and at some point felt the pain of being abandoned, rejected, abused, and alone in that love, you will know how painful that can be.

The way you feel ripples into the environment; it affects the people around you and has a toxic effect on the global consciousness as well. Through self-reflection, you will come to your own conclusions about why immunizing yourself against loneliness is that important and how in doing so you can stop this separation within from rippling into your environment and other people.

Along the way, you will encounter powerful questions and exercises to help you break through your fears and your body’s current conditioning and overcome obstacles that prevent you from being connected and from living a balanced, healthy, meaningful, and inspired life.

Doing all the exercises in this book will help you get clear, show you how you can zoom out of your current way of seeing life, and allow you to observe it from your higher mind’s, your soul’s, perspective.

You picked up this book because you are eager to break through your loneliness and expand your mind and awareness so you can get to that place in yourself where you acknowledge how amazing you already are. Go beyond your imagination and what you may currently perceive the interconnectedness of all life to be. I invite you to come on a journey with me and explore the true nature of your loneliness this book describes.

This is your opportunity to see a completely new world through a new pair of lenses. You will gain a fresh, different, enriching, and accepting point of view that will honor the infinite nature and the wisdom of your spirit.

It’s up to you to commit to and maximize your investment in this book and in yourself. Granting yourself the gift of time to complete all the exercises herein will yield the maximum benefit for you.

Congratulations on following your intuition, reasoning, and your heart’s true voice by picking up this book and choosing to illuminate your mind, open your heart, and elevate your existence.

*

Tony J. Selimi

Author, human behavioural and cognition specialist

CHAPTER 1

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS

Many of my life’s adversities you’ll read about all happened to me at a young age and resulted from plain bad luck and things outside my control. Some misfortunes, as you’ll come to understand, came from my being in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time. Other difficulties came through the choices I made from a place of pain, shame, and guilt and from not speaking or honoring my truth. I didn’t know what my true values were, the importance the values played in making those choices, and the decisions I made for the things that I sought in life.

You may be at a place in your life where you are aware that through times of pain, adversity, and struggle, you have the capacity to yield the gifts and riches worth harvesting. Or you may be at a time in your life when you’re finding it hard to let go of the pain, shame, fear, and loneliness that accompany those experiences.

Unbeknownst to you, they may have become your constant companions and the best friends you don’t really like but can’t do without.

What I am about to share here are the life events, situations, pain, shame, and loneliness that silently and craftily entered my life. They became my best friends, deep down disliked; they were my constant shadows I couldn’t get rid of. You know exactly what I’m talking about here, the disowned parts of you that have the power to keep you in the shadow of your light.

But they are the parts of you that, if understood, not judged, and accepted for the roles they have played in your evolution can help you unlock the treasure chest buried deep inside. Once opened, the treasure chest unleashes the leader, the doctor, the scientist, the problem solver, and the creator you were born to be. The creator who knows how to nourish the body, unlock mental faculties, navigate the ocean of emotions, and get you to the island of star-like living.

As you are about to find out, reaching the place whence I am bringing this gift to you wasn’t easy. Many hungry sharks craved pieces of my flesh. I spent many sleepless nights praying to an invisible man, called God for love, acceptance, and freedom from the pain, shame, and feelings of being different. These were the feelings I grew up with that accompanied me into adulthood.

Yes, I shed many tears, I faced many fears, and I went through many violent storms that destabilized my being. All that happened to me was under the blanket of a normal, hardworking, loving family that was unaware of the hidden pain, shame, inner discord, and guilt that had started in me at a very young age. it was a time when I just wasn’t aware of what was truly happening and the impact it would have on my emotional well-being and physical health and the way it would shape my future.

By going through each of the twelve major life adversities you’ll read about, I came to understand the darkness and appreciate the light in me. I became the person I am today in possession of the knowledge, wisdom, and tools to help many others from all walks of life liberate their imprisoned souls, pursue their hearts’ desires, and live meaningful and inspired lives.

I now know that the journey I went through was essential; it freed me from the resistance that had been built up in me from early on. I was able to reconnect with and honor the disowned parts of me and reunite with the soul that was always there but had never been given the power to just be the free soul it was.

For you to have read this far, your soul must be yearning to find out more about how it too can liberate itself and help you be free with your love. I thank you for coming on this luminous journey through the compelling, personal, and traumatic life adversities that damaged my sense of belonging. I’ll share with you the many life situations that led me to feeling I was riding in every carriage of the longest roller coaster of life called loneliness. No matter which carriage of that roller coaster I was in, I was always greeted by the many spin-offs of loneliness, I felt abandoned, rejected, separated, unworthy, unheard, bullied, fearful, invisible, unappreciated, and most of all unloved.

From a very young age, my constant companions were adversity, a curiosity to know why, and the feeling I was different from my family, my friends, the religion I grew up in, and my classmates.

As you read about my emotional roller coaster ride, I’ll share with you the pivotal moments in my life that challenged me to my core and allowed me to arrive at the place I am now, where I’m connected, loved, and liberated from the shackles of loneliness and embraced by the love that lives in every cell of my body.

THE BABY WITH CROOKED LEGS

Throughout my life, I’ve had many physical health challenges. The first one presented itself the day l was born. I was born with crooked legs. From what I can remember, for almost three years after I took my first breath, I couldn’t stand or walk. My deformed legs caused my hardworking parents distress and presented them a challenge; they had to work long hours to provide for six of us, and I know they did all they could to help.

In today’s world, parents have all the support they need to correct what’s now considered a normal birth defect. Back then, my hardworking mom did what any mother would do; she followed the advice of her elders and used what means she had to straighten my legs.

I remember crying in pain when my mother would daily tie my legs up tight in an attempt to straighten them. Sometimes, my sisters or my grandmother would find time to take care of me, but often, due to her having to work long hours at a restaurant, I was left alone in a cot unattended for hours.

Despite the daily pain I endured. I remember curiously observing the world and wondering how everything functioned. Although I wasn’t able to walk as every other child could, I faced the pain with courage and the deep knowledge that my mom would fix my legs and make me free to walk, run, and play like every other child.

I spent a lot of time in pain and alone, tied in a cot. As the time passed by, somehow, despite the odds, my mom succeeded in her mission to correct my legs using her nurturing, motherly instinct.

I was finally able to walk freely and unaided. I started enjoying what most children did in the early 70s. I played outside and learned to ride a bike; I appreciated my newfound freedom. I never realized until later in life the impact that stage of my life had on me.

The next few years passed by very quickly; the pain I had experienced turned into pleasure. During that time, I learned many practical skills that came from living on a farm in Macedonia with my sisters and grandparents and from working with my parents in our restaurant in Zenica, Bosnia. I learned how to cook, clean, and feed the animals. I learned the alphabet, three languages, and math. I learned to value money and appreciate my parents’ hard work. I give my thanks and love to my mom, grandparents, sisters, brother, uncles, and everyone else who was present during that part of my early-life journey.

THE ABUSED CHILD

If having crooked legs wasn’t enough, the next adversity that impacted me the most happened at age six, when I was sexually abused by a young employee who worked for my dad.

He was hardworking, smart, and good looking, and he was always smiling. I enjoyed his company. He’d take care of me daily; he treated me to ice cream, he took me on walks, and he taught me how to cook and use the equipment in the restaurant. One day, he took me into the storeroom where we kept all the vegetables. When I came out, my life was never the same.

Back then, I knew little of what was right and wrong. I didn’t know what had just happened or that it would change my life. I ran out of the storeroom crying and feeling ashamed and afraid. I went straight to my parents to tell them about the inappropriate behavior. I felt helpless, shamed, abandoned, guilty, and in pain. He had told me not to tell a single soul; he said that if I did, my parents would disown me for the shameful act, that God would punish me, and that I would go to hell.

I stood there in front of my parents, tears streaming down my cheeks, trying to tell them what had just happened, but I wasn’t given a chance to speak a word; my parents were busy with the customers. As was often the case, I was sternly disciplined and reminded that the customers and the business were extremely important and always came first. They told me that it wasn’t the right time to cry, that instead, I should dry my tears, grow up, be a responsible member of the family, and help them out.

Although I was desperate for their ears, their love, and their protection, I did as I was told. I stopped crying, pulled myself together, and went around the restaurant to clean the tables.

From then on, I learned to live in shame. I learned to put on a facade, pull myself together, and appear strong while deep down I feared for my life and felt lonely, abandoned, rejected, disgraced, and scared it would happen again.

From what I can recall, when my family wasn’t around, he’d find me, take me by the hand, and find ways to trick me into going into the same room. Each time I left it, I was filled with more fear, shame, and guilt. I blamed myself for what was happening and felt dirty, afraid, and used.

Most nights, I would cry myself to sleep. I confided in God, the only one I could talk to, the one who didn’t judge me, the one I prayed to and asked to help me and take that man away. I believed my turn would come and my wish would be granted once God had helped all the other people who needed him more than I did.

Despite all the pain caused by what was happening, I comforted myself by telling myself that l was lucky, that l was better off than many children around me. l was well dressed and cared for, and i came from a hardworking family that gave me a lot of love. l was well fed and had a great home, and I knew God would ultimately respond to my prayer and send his army of angels to take that man away.

My mother instilled in me a belief that God always answered our prayers, and he did. He didn’t send his army of angels. Instead, a miracle happened. One afternoon, the man took me to the room where we had a machine for making dough. That time, he told me to be silent and not go anywhere because he had to prepare dough before my parents returned.

He told me not to move until he had finished loading the machine. He slammed me hard against the wall, and I felt a sharp pain in my back. I had hit an electrical switch as I was thrown against the wall. I remember screaming as I’d never screamed before. I was in the most physical pain I had ever felt. As my back hit the switch, the machine turned on, breaking that man’s arm into many pieces. He shrieked loudly in pain before the safety switch was activated.

Everyone came into the room. Seeing his broken arm, they turned their attention to him. They looked at me as if I were to blame. That made concrete the shame I was already feeling, and I ended up feeling guilty and responsible for what had happened even though I was just six. I was scared about what would happen next.

I was listening to everyone arguing about whose fault it was and why I’d been allowed into the room in the first place. I was in shock, crying, and very afraid my parents would find out about the things that had happened in the storeroom. I felt ashamed, afraid, fearful, hurt, and confused. I tried to make sense of why this had happened to me with this man, what I had done to deserve it, and why I couldn’t tell a soul.

That man didn’t take me to the storeroom again. I knew God had heard my prayers and had granted my wish. The man was dismissed.

From then on, I never entered the storeroom again or any other closed, dark spaces. From that moment on, I was claustrophobic and fearful. I was afraid that he would come out of the dark and punish me even more than before.

After that, I could never fall asleep in the dark, and I didn’t like being alone. My family made sure there was a light on in the room so I could sleep. Sometimes during the winter, we wouldn’t have electricity, but my mom or sisters would make sure a gas lamp or a candle was by my bed to keep me company until I’d fall asleep.

The trauma of this experience left me deeply wounded, scarred, and segregated. It triggered long-term amnesia that for many years I was completely unaware of.

Later that summer, my parents took me to Gostivar, my hometown, so I could start school in September. I was approaching seven, and I started spending most of my time at our farmhouse with my youngest sister Drita and my grandparents Akik and Satka. I’d go to Zenica, Bosnia, the place where the abuse had happened, only during school holidays. I loved going in Zenica, as it was where my parents were working, spent most of their time, and where I kept learning so many wonderful skills that I now know prepared me to handle all the life adversities that followed.

On the other hand, living on the farm with nature and with my younger sister was amazing. I was very happy to do my chores, work the land, look after the animals, and sell our produce in the market and in the gypsy community that lived near our farm.

I learned how to milk cows, harvest wheat and corn, pick cherries, apples, and pears, and keep bees. I also did extremely well at school.

Since I remember, I was always self-aware; neither my parents nor my four sisters had to tell me to do my chores or finish my homework. I was surrounded by many friends who spent most weekends with me at my home. Upon reflection, I think that was due to my fear of being alone.

To my parents and the outside world, I was a happy, loving, and supportive child. But deep inside, I knew I had a buried secret. I knew there was something troubling me that like a virus kept spreading through my body.

In the next journey, I’ll share with you what happened next.

STRUGGLING TO STAY ALIVE

When I was nine, I was hospitalized due to severe pneumonia, a heart murmur, bacterial infections, and many other immune-related illnesses. In total, I spent just over two years in hospitals feeling alone. I was isolated from my family, friends, school, and everything I loved and enjoyed. The freedom I had felt after my mom had managed to straighten my legs so I could walk was very short lived.

As my health deteriorated, I started to have near-death experiences. I would observe my body from above my hospital bed. I was floating in midair. I saw everything that was happening, and I heard all the conversations taking place around me and everything my family said when they visited me. I saw what my mother was doing and the way the nurses were treating me. At some point, I learned I could go through walls and see everything happening in the hospital. That was the first time I truly came to understand there is life after death.

When I was in less pain, I seemed to easily get back into my body. Being bedridden, I learned much about pain, being alone, and suffering in silence with no one to help. Despite being very ill, I considered myself fortunate; my mother was at my side. She spent most of her time by my bedside, as did my eldest sister, Feleknaz, who was at university and had just started to date her then-boyfriend and now husband, Xhavit. I was blessed to have a visit from a family member every day. However, I observed how so many people in hospital had no one who would visit, nurture, and care about them.

*

from

#LONELINESS. THE VIRUS OF THE MODERN AGE

by TONY JETON SELIMI

get it at Amazon.com

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