When we were sent into social isolation in mid-March, many of my friends found it comforting to write in their journals. It helped them identify, and cope with, everything they were feeling and experiencing. I, on the other hand, couldn’t bear to write during this period. There was just too much going on and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t write.
For a while I re-posted old blogposts but even that started to feel uncomfortable. I was tired of all the seriousness and didn’t want to write about that. At the same time, posting anything light-hearted felt frivolous to me. Nothing felt right, so I took an indefinite sabbatical.
It’s now October, almost eight months since COVID19 became a subject of daily conversations. It’s still here, but we have all adapted as well as we can to the now-normal. As we’re seeing on a daily basis, there is no consensus on the correct way to deal with the situation we’re in. Everyone has had to find their own level of comfort with how, or if, we socially interact. I have decided it’s time to start trying to write again.
I was called back to work in the fitness field in mid-May. At that point, I decided that if I was going to be around people almost every day to work, I might as well do some of the things I enjoyed with my free time. During the summer months I met friends on patios and in backyards for meals and laughs. It’s been good to be around people and we do our best to keep ourselves safe. But staying masked and socially distant keeps these interactions from feeling the same.
These social interactions help me feel connected. But not completely. One of the things that has been the most challenging for me in this changed world is the lack of hugs. In the “before” times, I would walk into the gym and start hugging people. A big hug of greeting was the norm in all of my social interactions. With people I know and love, the longer the hug, the better.
I didn’t realize how hard the lack of hugs had been for me until about six weeks into isolation. An old boyfriend, who recognized I was living alone with asthma, started calling me every day to check on me. When something in the house needed fixing, he volunteered to come over and fix it for me. He walked into the house, and enveloped me in a big bear hug. I don’t know which of us was more shocked when I burst out sobbing.
Six weeks without human contact had taken its toll. There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” I had gone all that time without a single hug. Unfortunately, the same was, and still is, true for too many people who live alone.
Since that day when a hug made me burst into tears, I have expanded my bubble and get hugs from family members. I certainly don’t get them every day, but neither am I going weeks at a time without them.
With all the serious problems we are living with getting hugs may not seem all that important. But they are. They are important for our basic humanity and mental health. I miss them.
Research shows that hugging is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. – Seema Sinha
(One of my earliest posts when I started my blog in 2014, was All You Need Is Hugs. It is about the benefits of hugs. It was well-researched and while it was early in my writing journey, I am still proud of that piece. You can read that original post by clicking on the linked title.)