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Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Lonely Sponge

The last two weeks have been crazy and also good. I have graded papers for my students, answered their frantic e-mails, and actually cleaned my office (both offices in fact--a miracle in itself). I also spent last week with my daughter, Gina, while my son, Stuart, was at camp. We had a great time being girls together, and I treasure the time we had with just the two of us. More about that later...

I've also been buying books like there's no tomorrow.

I do this. I go for months without buying a single book, and then---BAM! I practically live in the book store, and I go on a feeding frenzy. It's not that I lack reading material so much as it's I discover new titles that interest me. So, I was in feeding frenzy mode last week, and ended up buying two new books and the new O Magazine. I've bought five in a row now, so I guess I should consider either reading it online, or purchasing a subscription. As many of you know by now, this magazine is one of my guilty pleasures (dark chocolate and margaritas being the others).

This latest issue did not disappoint. I'm still perusing the magazine, and there is so much packed in this issue. Two things jump out at me that would be interesting to talk about here.

There is an article concerning lonliness called, "One is the Loneliest Number." It's supposed to be a "how you can help your lonely friend"sort of thing, but then there's a quiz attached to it. I took the loneliness quiz from the article (why would you need one if the article is about helping a friend?)and here's my score:


Your score is 27. The average loneliness score is 20; 25 or more reflects a high level of loneliness.

This can't be right. Still, there it is. I have a marginally high level of loneliness. I'm not so sure I really want to believe this. It makes me sound like a hermit. Can't I be somewhat sure that people around me don't often really understand what makes me tick, can't I feel like I don't get enough attention? I wonder how this quiz works on different days. There are some days I feel exceptionally lonely and other days where I feel exceptionally connected to everything.

After giving a score, the rest of the article contains some helpful hints on how to help your lonely friend. It's very thoughtful, and as I read through the hints, I find that, yeah, there are times that I need a shove in the social direction, or I need a friend to just drop an e-mail or a call. I also find that there are just as many times when I really enjoy being alone. It's a bit of a schizoid thing.

I think that my score is just reflective of the singularity I've been feeling for the last few weeks. Finals do that to you. Perhaps, the quiz should have a warning--"Don't take this if you are exhausted or just finishing the end of the quarter."


The second article of note, besides the drooly Hugh Jackman interview (you can actually listen to this) Oprah conducted (notice that she didn't let anyone else do this interview), is one I can really relate to. "The Sponge People" discusses how some of us are "spongy." Yes, my friends, it's true. Many of us are "spongy" (let's all join in a chorus of "Under the Sea"). According to author, Martha Beck, "
some people put out a lot of emotional energy—and others pick up a lot of it."

This is something I've known for a while. I know I'm a sponge, and I know that emotional states can be contagious. I have to be extremely careful, especially in the work place. If several of my work friends are feeling panicky or are upset, I will pick up the emotions and carry them around with me. Strong feelings are the worst, and sometimes if I have a similar emotion going already, my sponge works at taking in more of that feeling. So, I have to watch who I hang out with.

I think that's where "you are whom you associate with" really makes sense. I have that quote on my computer. Let me give you the whole quote:

Walk briskly away from destructive people. Find generous people to hang out with. You are whom you associate with.

This one quote has helped me time and again. When I find that a person continually feeds out negative emotions, and I can feel my attitude swerving due to my sponginess, I step back and examine what's happening. At first, that was very hard, especially when I had to examine a very long relationship with a terribly destructive person, but the reward was excellent. Now, it's not so hard. By knowing my spongy tendencies, I have learned the value of listening. Listening to the people around me, listening to my own words, and listening to my heart, which tends to tell me the truth. If I'm spewing negativity, I make myself stop (most of the time). If negativity is brewing around me, I try to get away from the center of it.

So, are you lonely or spongy today?


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