I’m a sponge.
An absorbent, holey, squishy square.
That sounds cute, doesn’t it? Except that we all know what a sponge does. It cleans up dirty stuff, sucks it into its little pores. And even when you wring it out, some of the crap stays in there.
How do I know I’m a sponge? I get upset when friends from back home seem to have forgotten about me — even though I could have bet these particular individuals probably would.
I still let phone calls home that somehow turn negative despite starting upbeat sit with me.
I actually let myself feel slightly guilty when someone says, “I miss you, things would be so much better if you were still here.”
I worry about things I can’t control, things other people do.
If you’re anything like this, you know how much it sucks. When you can’t just let other people be miserable, because you love them and want them to be happy. When you know even time and distance aren’t going to change them. Just you.
Despite these things that still bother me, I can’t begin to tell you how much better I’ve gotten at dealing with my sponginess since moving abroad. Physically removing yourself and getting into a routine that focuses less on drama and more on what you want to accomplish and do to make yourself happy are enormously helpful. I used to let thoughts about the welfare of people — toxic people — around me take over my brain.
This is not an understatement. I’d lose sleep, I’d spend hours on phone calls, I’d rack my brain for solutions when I should’ve been doing other things (and when said people were leaving me alone with this task).
This post was churning before I read WhereIsJenny’s write-up from a while ago on parental negativity. I read through all the responses, some from very well-known bloggers who admitted that they, too, struggled with toxic relationships, many with close relatives. I left a comment, saying something to the effect that you wonder why so many people travel or move so far away from their hometowns and countries. It’s not that I think everyone has trouble letting go of toxic people, but I think a good many of us do, and getting far, far away from it all is often the only way to make it better.
It’s not a cop out. It’s a better coping mechanism for those of us prone to spongy behavior than winding up as stress cases and putting our well-being and dreams aside to help others who can’t help themselves.
If you’re a sponge, you have to wring yourself out on the regular, somehow, someway. That’s how you keep it together, whether you’re at home or away.
Because no one deserves to have that gross stuff in them for that long.
Image by enngul on Flickr.