Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hugging - Part I (My Ice Walls Melted)

This post on Hugging is broken up into 4 parts. They are printed in different colors so you can easily distinguish them and so if you don't have time to read all at once, you can easily come back another time and pick up where you left off. I do encourage you to view the YouTube in part IV. Oh heck look at that's really cool. :)

While growing up, my family wasn't especially demonstrative. It was implied that you were loved..but no one ever said it that I can recall. I knew I was loved. I didn't know I was missing affection because you don't miss what you never had.

But when I think back to when I was a very young girl..maybe 6 or 7...I used to hug my uncles very hard around the neck when they came down to visit. I was always so happy to see them and my cousins. I can still see where we were by the front door with the outside light shining in when my uncle Jim walked in the door. I don't remember my aunt and my cousins coming in ...just him. I ran over to him, he bent down and I hugged him so tightly. He said "Geez Patty, your breaking my neck!"

I don't remember ever hugging anyone in my family again after that until I was forced into it as a teenager by my aunt who was a smoocher on the lips type.  That was sheer torture for me. And I certainly didn't hug other people. My Italian next door neighbors and their relatives would get me sometimes but I froze inside. As I got older I just tolerated it but did not like being hugged or hugging.

The only hugs I welcomed were from boyfriends. I loved being held in their arms. That felt natural, but for me to hug anyone else..well it just wasn't me. That free hugging little girl was long gone.

My aunt said to me one day... "Patricia... I'm not going to hug you anymore and I am not going to smooch you on the lips. (I felt instant relief!) I can see you don't like it and you tense up."

She was right. I hated it and froze on the spot. And a woman kissing me on the lips was just gross and it didn't matter that she was my aunt. YUK! I was instantly relieved.

I was always very friendly, outgoing and approachable...just don't touch how I felt. I cared about people, but doing so at a distance with words was just fine with me. No touchy feely stuff for me. YUK!

And then when I married into my husband's family... was a big family and you had to hug everyone when you came in AND when you left! I tolerated it.

I felt hugs were for romance and that was it.

And then I met Pat, the pastor's wife who was soon to become my mentor and best friend.

I was 24 years old when we met. I decided to go to their Sunday night Bible study at their house. We became friends in the process.

Anyway, I dreaded my initial encounter with her after I rang the door bell. Every time without fail, she would see me at the distance and enthusiastically with a big smile as she was walking toward the back door, she'd say "Hi there! Come on in!" And as I entered she'd wrap her arms around me and give me a big hug. I hated it but never said anything, although I am sure she could feel it.

And then one night... something happened. When she hugged me... I eagerly reciprocated with a hug of equal proportions. And it felt good. :) From that night on...I have been a hugger ever since. Hugging is as natural as breathing to me now. :)

I don't know exactly what melted my icy walls... but I think it was a combination of her genuine love and enthusiasm and God doing some kind of emotional healing in me. I felt as though I had been liberated! I will go as far to say that he used Pat to do it.

From that point on..I have loved hugging family, friends and even strangers. I use discretion of course.
Hugging - Part II (Liberated and Free)

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I just realized..I mention how hard I hugged my uncle Jim in my other post when I was a little girl. Maybe it's the little girl in me still looking for those hugs and the drive is so deep, that it is only the strong ones that register, thus fill that desire. My favorite hugs are the firm strong ones. To me.. they say... I care. :)
I LOVE to hug all people I care about. Those are my heartfelt hugs. Have you ever hugged someone and felt like you didn't want to let them go... but you had to? It is a gift to hug someone you feel that way about, but it is also so hard to let go, but you have to.

Human touch is so important and I do believe it is healing on many levels.

When I am with my elderly mother, I hug and touch her often. She lives alone and doesn't have much contact like that. I can see that she likes it. :) Interestingly... she did not hug me when I was growing up because my family was not big on being demonstrative. You just knew you were loved. My aunt that kissed me on the lips was not my blood relative and so did things differently.

I have told our sons that I love them almost every day of their lives and hugged them daily and often too. And I still do when I see older son. I tell him that he will never be too big for a hug. :) I chose to raise them differently and it feels much better and they appreciate it. :)

And I do two things with my little granddaughter that she loves. She is 7 now and I started this when she was real little. I would say "Devan, do you know how much I love you? Then I would extend my arms all the way out from my body and say "T-h-i-i-i-i-i-s-s-s-s MUCH!" And when I get to the much I quickly bring my arms around and hug myself and give her a big smile. She loved it! And now... I'll say " much do I love you?" And she then mimics me, extends her arms and hugs herself while saying "This MUCH!" and gives me a big smile.

The other thing I do is I'll ask her to come by me because I am having a hug attack and then I hug and kiss her like crazy and she loves it. We both do! That is so different than how I grew up and I much prefer the physical contact. And you know... when you love and hug children, especially fathers with girls...when they are older they will be less likely to look for it in all the wrong places.

So, it is a given that I will hug family, friends and anyone I feel close to. Of course THEY get my BEST hugs. :)

But I have hugged hospital patients, lifeline clients, co-workers and strangers on the street. Only when it seemed appropriate and they appeared they could use a hug. I really don't go around hugging everyone. Um... THAT would be weird. Only when it seems right.

And sometimes... I need a hug. And I am most grateful for the hugs that I get in those times and cherish them greatly.

Sometimes... you don't even need words - they get in the way, but... the hug says it all. Those special hugs transcend all words and are absorbed instantly into our very souls... from one heart to another. Everyone should experience that depth of caring and compassion.

The ultimate hug will be from God himself... the unconditionally loving father of us all.

He does hug us. He hugs us in our spirits if we let him. He hugs us through other people. And I even thinks he hugs us when we hug other people to comfort or show them they are cared comes back to us..even at that moment. We can't help but to benefit from showing compassion. It is probably why Jesus said that it was more blessed to give than receive.

I guess my walls of ice have long since melted. :)
Hugging - Part III (A Sad Story-A Hug Returned)

Some years ago, a tragic accident happened locally. It is the worst thing I have ever heard about in our area and I say that as someone who because I worked closely with the ED for 20 years, was privy to many of the bad things that came through the Emergency Department. However, I was on vacation when this happened and so I am not violating a confidence, but know the story through local people.

Perhaps it is the worst because it involved a violent death of a child. It makes me sick to think about it. My heart goes out to everyone involved.

Katy (not her real name) was walking home from a local store with her children. They were all standing on the side of the road, waiting for the light to turn green so they could cross. Her little girl suddenly darted out onto the highway and was run over by a dump truck. She was killed instantly. Her head was crushed on the road. I can not imagine the depth of horror Katy, her other children, the truck driver and rescue personnel felt at the scene of that accident.

I do know that Katy was incapable of taking care of her children from that point on and her sister from another town took them in. I did not know her well but only remembered her from school. Her sister was in my French class and Katy was a year ahead of me. I would run in to Katy in the hallway or girls room and say hi... but I didn't know her. And then I never saw her again after she graduated until after the tragic accident.

I would see her walking around the streets as I drove through her town on my way to get my mother or do an errand. She looked a young, weathered bag woman. I know they didn't have much money, but it was obvious that she didn't care. Her hair was dirty and uncombed, her mismatched clothes larger than her small frame. She had a vacant look on her face and always seemed to be walking somewhere, but I had the impression she walked aimlessly.

So when I saw her I always said hi to her and asked her if she wanted a ride. She always turned me down. Then one day she said alright. And so she got in. I never brought up the accident or asked her anything about her personal life. She asked me how I knew her name. I told her I remembered her from school. She couldn't believe that I remembered her. She seemed flattered. That was sweet. She came from a poor family and she wasn't popular and was real quiet. I remember thinking she was very pretty.

And now here she was years later. Her face looked so dry and weathered. She just looked so sad. I don't remember if we said anything else that day. I brought her to her destination and I told her if she ever needed a ride that I would be glad to take her. She smiled and thanked me at which point I said that she was always so nice in school and that I liked running in to her. She seemed touched by that too and I just reached out and gave her a hug and she hugged me back.

She then got out and we said good bye. And she was smiling. We both were. But really, not everyone wants to be hugged... I know. It just felt right and that is why I reached out.

And I didn't see her much, but when I did I offered her rides, she usually declined, but occasionally accepted. The last time I saw her it was on a bright sunny day in the fall. I Cheerfully said "Hi Katy!" and pulled over to the corner on a little town street and asked her if she wanted a ride. She said "No thank you.", but came over to me. Her face was still very dry and she wasn't wearing any makeup. I noticed that her thick, dark, naturally curly hair was getting a lot of gray going through it and that it was fluffy and clean. Her eyes are strikingly beautiful, and the sunlight was intensifying the color. She always had a sweet, pretty smile and still did.

So I said "You have the most beautiful eyes!" She looked surprised and then smiled and said "I dooo?" "Yes you do ..they are gorgeous! I always thought that." "REALLY?" "Katy, You are a very pretty lady!" "Well thank you... I can't believe your saying that! Thank you!" And with that... she leaned in to me and gave me a half hug with one arm through my window with her face up by mine and I leaned back into her and said "Aww...thank you!" We said good bye and she walked away looking lighthearted. And I felt good about the encounter too.

That is the last time I saw her.

While writing this, I stopped to ask my husband if she still lived in the area and she does and is still basically the same. He told me that she asks how I am sometimes. Well that makes me smile... to know that in spite of her tragedy and deep sorrow... she remembers me... which tells me that maybe I brought a little sunshine into one little corner of her life. (Btw-he never told me she asked about me. Male brain again... going to his nothing box on the way home)

And if it wasn't for Pat with God's love flowing through her while she hugged me, breaking my icy emotional walls down... I may not have reached out to Katy or the countless others that I have with compassionate and caring hugs.

It's a tough and lonely world out there. I believe hugs send healing vibes through our minds, body and spirit and if the person is receptive... by all means hug. And even if they are not... try anyway. I am glad Pat never gave up on me. She taught me well. :)


Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Wow, that was a very long article on hugging. I must admit I only read part 1 and I understand that you are really inspired to write such a long article on hugging. Nothing wrong with that. We become so enthusiastically frantic when we write about our own personal experiences and time stands still when we reminisce. Hugging is one of man's most endearing activities. With that, we express our love and appreciation of the one we hug. Thanks for the very personal post. God bless you always.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Mel-for me this post was about a journey through certain emotions and how because of my Christian friend's influence and love and God working through her that my walls started to come down and how as a result... I hopefully in turn have brought joy, validation,healing and or love to others.

At the end... I was truly moved by Katy's gesture to hug me and that she left with a smile...even after the hideous tragedy sh had been through. Certainly I do not think that erased her pain but rather that perhaps I brought a little sunshine into her hurting and closed off soul.

But again... if it had not been for my friend and God's love...I might still be a closed off wall today. Only God knows. :)

I kept it all in one post so that if I want to come back to that it is all in one place. That is why I used the parts and different colors so that others could just read what they want. :)

Deb said...

Touch can be a very difficult or easy thing, depending on where and how you grew up. I am a good hugger. So here's one for you

(((((((BIG HUGS)))))))

John McElveen said...

Beautiful as always,

Big hug ((((((((((((((( no pun intended at all this time-- I mean it!!!!))))))))))))))))) Big Bear hug. Sorry if I smell like pepper-LOL.

I believe in the healing power of a simple hug. I love the one thing about Baptists and most church folk----we do hug! And that is usually heartfelt!

My wife and I are huggers, we never get jealous when we go out because we hug others all the time. Even at work in Assessment, I'll put my arm around a child, or teenager (WITH THEIR PARENTS PRESENT :-)!! And a lot of the seniors I'll just outright hug! You can tell the ones you can do that to. You talk about starting the healing process. They are more at ease and you can feel them relax even if they are in pain!

Awesome, awesome, did I say Awesome---POST!!!!


SeaSpray said...

Awww..thanks Dr Deb. Sending hugs your way too.I imagine you are good at it. Thanks for mine! :)

I am glad I thawed out. Much better this way. :)

SeaSpray said...

I love bear hugs John... and so yours is well received. :)

One of are church pastors always gives me a big bear hug when he sees me and I love it. He hugs everyone too. :)

I am glad you appreciated the post. Thanks for your kind words. :)