I recently read an article about the value of hugs – lower blood pressure, stress relief, emotional comfort and more. Although I’ve looked for it again, I cannot find that specific article, but merely Googling a phrase related to the benefits of hugging will bring up hundreds of them.
An Irish folk singer, Ben Sands, wrote a song called “We All Need a Hug” that included this verse:
“Ah we all need a hug in the morning, and one at the end of the day.
And many as possible squeezed in between to keep life’s troubles at bay.
No matter where ever you ramble, our problems be great or be small.
It is my believe that for instant relief, a hug is the best cure of all.”
Virginia Satie, an American psychotherapist, is credited with determining an “RDA” for hugs, saying humans need “four per day for survival, eight per day for maintenance, and twelve per day for growth.” There’s even an International Hugging Day, for Pete’s sake. (It’s coming up soon, as a matter of fact – January 21st to be precise, which just happens to be coincidental as I wasn’t even aware of its existence when I started this post.)
In any case, given these benefits and suggested daily doses, it’s no surprise that I’m seriously lacking these days; I’m not even receiving the four hugs a day I supposedly need to survive, so how can I even attempt to grow? I’ve lamented before about my dry spell, and my situation obviously hasn’t changed since then. So how am I supposed to go about getting my “fair share” of daily affection?
Don’t get me wrong. My kids are fairly affectionate, and I generally receive a good morning / good night hug and kiss at minimum. And considering we’re talking about young adults here (including a testosterone-driven high school senior who would definitely prefer doling out hugs to his girlfriend than his mother), I probably get more affection than most in my position. But if I subscribe to Satie’s theory, I’m waaaaayyyyy behind in my allowance. I must have a serious cuddle deficiency by now.
Now I grew up in a household that didn’t hug much. I’m not sure why, but we just weren’t a demonstrative, lovey-dovey kind of family. My mother loves to get her hands on a baby or chubby-cheeked toddler and smother them with kisses, and my father showed his love by tossing the little ones in the air, often so high that their own mothers would have looks of sheer panic on their faces (at least the mothers who did not grow up in our crazy family and therefore had witnessed this kind of behavior since the dawn of time). But actual physical affection, or even verbal expressions of love, were a rarity in our home, so much so that I have a photo from my wedding, with my arms tightly wrapped around my father’s neck and tears streaming down my face. Immediately preceding that picture, as we twirled around the dance floor during the Father-Daughter dance, he had quietly spoken into my ear, saying “you know I love you, right?”
My parents loved me and I know that, and either one would have done nearly anything for me (at least as an adult – try as I might as a kid, I just could not get my mother to buy me a book from the Scholastic book order when I was a kid! She didn’t understand my obsession with the printed word, and would remind me that “money didn’t grow on trees”. I always envied those classmates who had a little plastic bag with several paperbacks inside when the order got delivered. But that’s another story for another time). And my extended family, especially on my father’s side, is a very huggy bunch.
Then when I became involved with A, I got all the hugs I ever needed in his giant gorilla-like embrace. (Believe me, I don’t mean that as an insult, but the man had freakishly long arms!) I would fit just so against his chest and he would allow me to snuggle for as long as I needed to. This didn’t happen overnight, though, because he didn’t come from a touchy-feely family, either, and like nearly all men, he was looking forward to what might come after the cuddling. The behavior took nurturing and adjustments, but eventually we both got what we needed from those hugs.
But because I had my own personal hugger at home, I tended to be…. well… stingy with others. Hugging is not second-nature to me and sometimes it seems awkward or strange to hug someone. I’m working on it, because I really am an affectionate person by nature, so sometimes it feels as if I’m being ungenuine. It’s as if my internal desire to show affection wars with my external expression of the same. If I’ve ever seemed stiff or formal around some of you, know that it really isn’t you, it’s me. Honest and truly.
Now I imagine hugs are not like acorns – you can’t store them up for hard times. You can only have so many at one time, and their shelf life seems relatively short. Yes, I have memories of the affection shared with A, and while I’m appreciative of those (so incredibly thankful to have them, especially in those loneliest of times), memories alone cannot maintain my affection level. Much like the memories of a fine meal or the remembrance of a refreshing nap cannot keep one nourished or rested long term, the recollection of a cuddle cannot preserve the effects of affection.
It seems the only real way to get your share is to simply keep on huggin’ (that reminds me of those Keep On Truckin’ bumper stickers and t-shirts in the 70s – does anyone else remember those, or am I dating myself?), and receiving hugs in return. So, if you see me out and about, and even if it may seem awkward (on my end or yours), feel free to give me a hug. Because even if I won’t say it out loud, I need all the squeezes I can get. I’ve still got some growing to do.
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