My best friend called this morning while I sat at my desk listening to music. As he poured over his latest “headline news stories” (the events occurring between the last time we spoke) I thought about how people (well-meaning or otherwise) tend to absorb us. He doesn’t absorb me. We actually kind of dust each other off and spend much time validating why people (sometimes us, too) suck. I’m thankful that I am able to talk to him without being too absorbed into myself. But people like themselves… a whole lot.
People have the ability to immerse their ambitions, lives, and intricacies within us. If you’ve ever seen what happens to a sponge that has absorbed a greasy spot or dingy dishwater, you’ll notice two things. Firstly, the sponge will carry the lingering odor from the cleansed or soaked area. And secondly, the sponge might also absorb some remnant from the caked on material you were cleaning or soaking.
Depending on the sponge’s make and model, grains of food, mud, and dirt usually require a thorough rinsing to be reused. And that’s supposing that the sponge is not so badly ruined after the user has scrubbed whatever mess from that surface. That’s how an absorbed mess does. It eeks into the crevices of your space and usually needs thorough removal. Often, people have scrubbed us so much that when time calls for us to take in new experiences, we are struggling to get anything new into our bristles.
That is the thing about life and its details. Either someone is the sponge trying to remove the dirt, or perhaps he or she is the icky, putrid, dirty surface.
If we are clamoring to become unstuck from the taffy pull that is other people’s gunk, it usually means we care very much and need reassurance that it’s okay to un-stick ourselves from everyone else’s web of programming.
As I age, I realize that I need that reminder quite often. I need to tell myself that I don’t have to be as much of a basket case. I need to step back and take a break from these absorbing “group activities” that masquerade as bonding time, these judgy gatherings marketed as “family time”, these contests we put ourselves through to remember things that have little value in the end. What am I to do when only two people care enough about my film-festival saluting the acting greatness of Diane Keaton. Those people will ask me who Rufus Wainwright is only to claim he’s too eccentric for them to understand why I own any of his songs.
These “absorbed” people will ask me a few questions, but in the end they won’t need to know anything about what it might mean to me. That’s the absorbed motive: Ask a question, leave zero room for an inclusive dialogue about said answer. When you’re recovering from being absorbed in the gunk of aggressive, arrogant people…it’s easy to think you haven’t done enough to be conversed with. Absorbed people tend to want us to compete for the spotlight like they do…only to take it from us because they need a victim to criticize.
I now realize that being a basket case is why some people offer their gunk to me. I’m supposed to be “absorbed” with them so I fail at executing my own goals as coherently as I otherwise would.
The gunk is not always bad gunk. Maybe someone’s mother’s godson is about to be a father. Perhaps someone is happy to tell me about a new promotion at work. Or maybe my brother’s wife is on baby number five… and that’s her version of “serious news”.
After all, a new addition is always complete with other gunk like baby shower invitations, the shower itself, the list of other people to call, or the thought of what to name the baby.
The fact is: None of this absorbing “gunk” is necessarily bad for you. This is the stuff of life. It happens to everyone.
But the gunk if you should let it pile up can overtake you. That’s all I’m saying.
People will with all their “gunk” draw us away from a mission we’ve carved out for ourselves if we aren’t intentionally just a bit ego-driven. We might need to be more self-willed and un-absorbed.
In the midst of working to develop better writing practices and continuing my reading regimen, I’ve to toss aside some gunk if I’m ever going to not be a nervous idiot in graduate school. Even a writing assignment can get too muddied up with gunk if anxiety tells you that every sentence is to begin perfectly.
When you’re working laboriously to connect the dots of whatever project you’ve got, whether it’s reading, writing, or your new look for Festivus, you can’t be so absorbed with not making a mistake that you drive yourself mad.
Your mind can absentmindedly become as corroded with details as the task itself. A detailed task that you’re “absorbed” with easily gets impossible because you’re too absorbed with the idea that you’ll fail to actually enjoy the reason you started the project.
Un-stick yourself. People will judge you for doing so. But a person who cannot bring his or her ego down to try and understand is a person that you may need to un-gunk yourself from.
This summer, I have new habits. I plan to write everyday and read as much or more as I read while I was in school. I’ve got to un-gunk from the congestion of social sponging to meet these goals.
We all get a bit too chatty. We all have moments when we get a bit too giddy about some new thing we’re doing. It happens to us all. But watch out for the jerk that cannot leave his or her encyclopedia of life-accomplishments alone long enough to notice your entrance. That person whether they sense it or not could be far too “absorbed” and absorb your wonderful personhood in the process.