I was having a tough day. A really tough day. It was one of those days when the weight of life compounds into the crushing feeling of overwhelm. Aside from my pets, I was alone, and I didn’t want to be alone. I needed support. I needed to feel seen and heard. And, it turns out, most of all, I needed a hug.
I didn’t know how much I needed a hug until my friend Becca came through the door after responding to my text message asking if she was available for a walk. I told her I was having a tough day, and as good friends do, she read between the lines. She got into her car and came over. She walked through the door, navigated around the eager dogs, and pulled me into an embrace. We never went on that walk, instead we sat on my porch and she held presence for me in the way I needed her to, and for as long as I needed her. And, before she left, she pulled me into another hug.
I have a complicated history with hugs, some of which I have written about before. But it took those hugs, and the hugs that followed after from my children and husband, that made me realize how vital loving embrace is.
For some of us who have known conditional, abusive, and complicated love, in all its myriad forms, the right type of hug is not always easy to come by or receive. The wrong kind of hugs can feel like we are being violated instead of nurtured, and no hugs at all can make us feel unwanted. We are complicated beings with our own complicated sets of histories and emotions, and the seemingly simple act of hugging can be filled with nuances that are not easily defined or understood. It’s taken me almost fifty years on this planet to realize how vital the right type of hug is for my wellbeing, as well has how necessary it is for me to let others know this.
I spent a lot of time yesterday and last night thinking about my past and my relationships that have involved hugging in all its myriad forms. I thought about what I had never felt in my mother’s hugs, and how long it has been since she has embraced me. I thought of the violating feel of my stepfather’s hugs, and how when I had reunited with my birthfather as an adult I had finally felt the father hug I had been longing for. And I thought about all the hugs, those love-filled hugs, that I had experienced and was missing. I thought of Sue and Rachel, who both gave the best mother-love hugs one could ask for, and what a loss it has been in my life to have had them pass, less than two weeks apart, two years go. I thought of my grandmother’s loving touch, and the hugs of my dear friend Carol who has lived too far away for over a decade. And I thought of type of hugs I was missing from my adolescent children and my husband, and how much the complicated language of hugs had infiltrated our family life.
I’m still thinking about hugs, and how much I believe the right type of hugs can change a life, and maybe even the world. This simple act that is not simple at all. I have since spoken to my husband and children about hugs and told them how much I am missing theirs. I have opened myself into asking, and in the process am realizing how important that asking is, sometimes, to the act of receiving. And, although I have received my required doses of hugs in this moment, I know I will need more. And so will the people in my life.
We have a painted chalkboard on our kitchen wall where we post the day’s events, and this morning I moved the schedule around a bit to make space for something I believe to be even more important. I created a space for the request for an embrace by chalking the words, “Who needs a hug?” Underneath, I wrote the word “Mom.”
I hope that I, in turn, can be available for anyone who needs the right kind of hug in their life, in their moment of need. And, I hope if I don’t know they need that hug, they will ask me for it.