Reach Out and Touch Someone – Really

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.


14 responses to “Reach Out and Touch Someone – Really”

  1. This is my very favorite of all your posts so far, Denise! I am happy to hear that you found your way back to being a touchy, huggy type person. Often we do not even think about being able to touch another person, being touched by another person. That gift is sorely missed when we cannot touch the ones we love because of physical or emotional distance between us, or after they have left this world. My daughter and I stood on either side of my mother, each of us holding one of her hands and each other’s, as she took her last breaths. I want to think that she knew we were there. I don’t know what I would do without those blankie hugs from my daughter and grandchildren. I hope the next time I go to California that you and I get to meet in real life, sweetheart. I look forward to giving you a *great big squishy hug.*


  2. When did you become so wise? I should rephrase that, you’ve always been wise but when did you become so insightful?


  3. Great post Denise! I am not a touchy feel-y person in real life, my personal space is about 4 feet :o) but I’ve been learning to shrink that personal space, because you are right, compartmentalizing and living detached is not really as much ‘fun’ as I thought it was. I come from a relatively stoic family, where we expressed our affection via things and deeds, not so much in the ‘I love you’ hugs or words. Turns out – not really a great way to live IMO, so I’m slowly changing that, online world has helped because you all are so kind and easy with a compliment. As a curmudgeon, I am slowly realizing that giving and receiving kindness is so much more fun, yes even if that means hugging people and receive hugs in return. Thanks for sharing Denise! xo


  4. This really touched me (oops, no pun intended, but I’ll keep it). It reminded me we go through stages in so many areas of our lives. We have to be careful of calling ourselves “touchy” or “not touchy”, or any other label we might give. When we do that, we may unintentionally limit ourselves. Or we may berate ourselves for not being something when it’s really just for one season. Not sure I’m making sense. But I wanted you to know I connected with what you said and I’m thankful you wrote it.


  5. Ah, Denise. This is your best post yet. My life has had a similar path in a similar time frame. I am trying to find my way back to who I once was, and this gives me hope. I admire you for finding the strength to take this journey. Once again you prove we knew each other in a previous life. Love this post, love you. Sending you a hug.


  6. Denise, I added your feed to my email page and only recently started reading your blog posts. Great stuff!! I have been following you on twitter for quite a while and I loved your humor there and that’s why I chose to sign up for your feed. Your humor along with the way you view things, is similar to myself. Please keep writing and I’ll keep reading and let us know when that book comes out. Hugs from a stranger, Rosi


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