I am a hugger. That hasn’t always been true for me. For a long time, I was afraid that touching someone would let them in, let them see me. So I shook hands and avoided any semblance of physical affection.
Then I started healing.
I started growing as a person and realized the reason I was so guarded in my physical interactions was because it was my primary love language. I didn’t really believe in the love languages, but knew that opening up physically was in direct correlation to opening up mentally and emotionally for me. I believed that if you couldn’t touch me, you couldn’t love me… And better yet, I would be unable to love you. Life was easier that way. But I knew it wasn’t a healthy way to live.
It was awkward at first. Hugging people instead of shaking hands. Touching hands when we spoke. Asking my significant other if I could touch them in moments I needed reassurance. But with time, it became easier.
Now, I hug everyone! As I began to open myself up to love, I began to give what was so desperately lacking in my life. I became “that girl”. The one who greets people effusively and always reached out for the hug, even when it is awkward.
I grew up and started hugging my friends, holding their hands, touching their arm when they need reassurance, even, on occasion, giving the overly excited (or drunken) kiss. I am an avid proponent for physical intimacy, even in the most platonic of relationships. Touch became part of my identity. A very fulfilling part of my identity.
28 days ago, I locked myself in my house, quarantined from the outside world. COVID-19 — coronavirus — a plague for our times, was here and as an immunocompromised person with an asthmatic daughter, the best thing we could do was avoid human interaction.
Easy, right? I’ve done life on my own for a long time. I did just fine without physical touch for years at a time. I have my kids and between them and some adult interaction on social media, that should be enough… Or so I thought.
I know that other people have talked about it, far more eloquently and with more knowledge, but when a girl lives alone, it’s hard not to get touch hungry. I do. Certainly, cuddling my cat can help, and snuggling with my kids is even better, but it really isn’t the same thing as receiving a hug from a close friend or my partner. Those brief intimacies keep me human and reassure me that everything will work out because physical affection is the easiest way for me to feel like someone cares.
I desperately want to hug everyone. But I know the truth – that the best way to show love right now is NOT to touch people, not to visit. The best way to love our people is to stay at home.
And I’m not gonna lie, it’s become a little overwhelming for me.
My partner is considered essential. We don’t live together and I’m immunocompromised. He has to stay 6′ away.
My daughter has allergy-induced asthma that typically flares this time of year. I am terrified that will impact how she responds if/when she gets the virus.
My friends can’t come over to fill in the gaps, because the best thing for all of us is for them to stay away.
My kids are struggling with change. Hell, I’m struggling with it.
My daughter is extremely extroverted and is breaking down every day over her inability to spend time with other people.
My son had goals for this quarter at school and he isn’t sure the new homeschool style of learning will be the best for hitting those goals (this mama don’t do math).
This is hard. Scientific data even backs that up. Touch-deprived children fail to thrive emotionally, intellectually and physically. Touch-deprived adults suffer from depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and more. But all of this, the loneliness, the isolation, the craving for other people’s company, the nights spent alone, it’s all in an effort to protect each other.
I have to constantly remind myself of that fact. Deep discussions, dates, virtual museum tours, the brief “how’s it going?” message… they are all meaningful and they are the things that will keep us going. Continuing to reach out to each other is the best way to ensure we all make it to the other side of this.
In this time of uncertainty, the most important thing we can do is remind each other of our love, and show up in new and different ways. Right now, not touching each other is the safe and smart thing to do. It’s a way to show we care about each other and to take care of ourselves.
But when this is all over, I want to hug all of my friends and loved ones. I want to let them know I love them in the most emphatic way I can. I want to ensure that we don’t lose the intimacy that’s so important.
It’s isolation and internet for now, but get ready: when this epidemic is over and we’re all safe and healthy again, I’ll be greeting my friends with hugs, and I will hug them with all the life in me. Make sure you do the same.