You know that old expression “A hug is worth a thousand words”? Well, I’m not going to deny it. I can think of many times when I’d been up to my eyeballs listening to words, words, words but never feeling any comfort. Never feeling that real connection that a hug provides. Maybe it was the words that were falling flat, or maybe it was the speaker coming across as being insincere or cold. Either way, a hug always used to work.
After sitting alone in a hospital room and holding a dear friend’s hand as she passed in 2005, I went through a dark phase. It was an ugly time. Watching someone die is painful, especially when they’ve been taken off life support. Their body doesn’t want to let go. So you hold that hand a little tighter, and cry that much harder. I vaguely recall giving her eulogy at the packed church. It’s one of the few times in my life I can say I was proud of myself – I got through my speech without crying. After the service was over, people came up and hugged me, it was then I realized I’m huggable on my terms. Shortly thereafter I became very choosy about doling out hugs. I guess because it all came rushing back. People hugged to comfort me that day, but also because they needed comforting, and I was suddenly all out of that particular commodity. I was very tired.
My children’s hugs were different, and those of my best friends. My dear ones. My “blankies”. Their hugs gave me strength and helped me move on and out of that phase where I tried to box myself up and push away any pain. I’ve gotten really good at “compartmentalizing” over the last few years, something I’d always struggled with. But while I’ve been compartmentalizing and distancing myself from pain, I also realized I was distancing myself from life. I was becoming detached. Whereas that’s all right for a traumatic event like 2005, a sort of coping mechanism to help me continue on with daily chores like moving, getting up, getting the kids off to school, feeding the family, etc., it’s not a permanent way to live life.
Now that I’ve spent so many years detached, it’s the reattaching that seems more difficult. There’s always another, “Oh no!” moment coming along. But life has a way of throwing “Oh no!” moments at us and we just have to be prepared and stand on our own two feet and cope. I began writing the manuscript that’s currently in the hands of my literary agent, Laura Strachan, shortly after the loss of my friend. It helped me cope. It kept my mind occupied. And it has, for years. First it was for defense, then it became my baby. I’ve nursed it for four years now. It’s one of the reasons I’m particularly proud of it and why I couldn’t just let it go when I received rejections. Persistence pays off.
Nowadays I’m back to the touchy, huggy type. I tend to touch people on the arm when I talk to them, and I usually give a quick hug goodbye. I still have my special “blankie” ones, whose hugs are loved and missed the most when I don’t have them. That pain of missing someone though is part of life. Losing loved ones is part of life. But if you’ve merely lost contact or had a disagreement, why not reconnect? Reach out and touch someone – even if it’s only by text. You never know what you’ll find.