I've said it so many times I've lost count. I am an emotional magnet. But today's reading in More Language of Letting Go makes me think I am more like an emotional sponge.
Part of telling your story in recovery means sharing what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. I'm not and have never been an addict to substances like alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex. I tend more toward the co-dependent type, a care-taker and martyr. We're no less sick than those who find themselves driven by the compulsion toward their addiction.
Like a recovering addict, I have to constantly and consistently "work my program". One of the most vital character traits I must be aware of and intentional about is my emotional health. It was both shocking and liberating to discover at one point that I was rarely, if ever, cognizant of my own feelings, my emotional condition. Don't get me wrong, I was plenty emotional - all.the.time... Many bad decisions were made in the heat of those emotions. Some habits were borne out of the constant stream of emotional turbulence I lived in. But they were rarely my own emotions. I fed off the emotions of every nearby human being, completely unaware of my own but weaving them right in to an unrecognizable tangled mess that ruled my behavior. Then I found help.
Feelings are not facts. What are the facts? There is a whole collection of tools to employ to help maintain my emotional sobriety, and I use them all, and I use them often.
Considering the reading this morning, it occurs to me that there are some differences between a magnet and a sponge. I realize I am more of a magnet in some situations and with some people and with others I am definitely more of a sponge. A magnet simply attracts and attaches to certain objects (emotions); a magnet also repels certain objects. I've learned to do that, simply avoid or turn around and walk (or run) away. This can be helpful when simply separating my magnetic self from other people's stuff isn't working very well. Either way, the goal is to separate emotions without damaging either party.
But then there are the sponge situations. A sponge soaks up every possible drop until it can absorb no more, and then it simply drips dry or must be rung out (or lingers in the stuff and becomes a stinky, gross mess, and nobody wants that! Come to think of it, that's exactly what a lot of people do!! Lightbulb moment). I think I lean more toward the emotional sponge when it comes to my kids. Seems completely understandable to me. I have at least one kid with whom I am convinced I share an inseparable emotional umbilical cord. This is not a healthy thing. It just is what it is. When she is sick, I feel it. When she is sad, depressed, scared, worried, angry, I feel it. When she is happy, excited, joyful, enthusiastic - I feel it. Right now, she is about eleven weeks pregnant - fortunately, I don't feel that! :-) But I do feel the lack of energy, the weight of depression and worry she is experiencing about a myriad of things. We are connected in a unique way that really defies full explanation. Let me tell you, that when I talk to this girl on the phone, in person or even via texts, I know what's she's feeling even if the words aren't expressing it. Lately, when I am feeling something that doesn't make sense with my own situation, I know there is something going on with her. I've been known to call her and ask, what's going on because I feel __________(fill in the blank). And I've been right, it's bizarre.
I am a sponge with all my kids though, even though four out of the five are adults. I suppose you could say that it's because I love them and care for them, of course. I want good things for them, and pray that no harm ever comes to them. But I have to be aware of the line between their feelings, their situations, their choices and mine. Some days and some situations take more ringing-out than others. Most just require some drying time. And if this analogy is really going to make sense, a damp sponge is probably more desirable than a dried up, crusty old sponge or a dripping, messy, soppy overly-soaked sponge. Balance. Most things always come back to balance.
Are you a magnet or a sponge?