Growing up, our home was not a handholding, hugging home. I recall standing in the front yard about to leave for my first semester of college, bidding my mother and sister farewell. (dad was driving) My mother raised her arms as if to wave and instead, to my surprise, awkwardly hugged me. I vividly remember thinking, "I don't think she has ever hugged me before."
I was the first and last memory I have of my mother hugging me. She's not a hugger.
I hug my dad. He is big and round and sqooshey, just like a dad should be. And it brings him joy when I embrace him, a large smile peeking out through his scruffy beard. He's my daddy and it pleases me to make him smile.
But I am not a hugger, and neither is he really.
I am an enthusiastic high fiver. I'm a fist bumper. A shoulder squeezer, an arm smacker if you are being cheeky, a soft shover. (in the nicest way possible!) But I am not a hugger.
I'm not a touchy person; I rather like my personal space. I bristle visibly, albeit involuntarily, if someone makes a move to hug me. Everyone knows this and give me fair clearance. The rule at work is unspoken yet understood, you do not cross to my side of the desk. I'm just not a hugger.
Humans have an innate need to be touched. Animals too! When I arrive home each day, my cats circle my ankles excitedly, meowing their demands to be held and petted. They too are huggers.
My hugging and hand holding needs were once met. No longer is this the case. And because of my reticence to reach out to others, I've created a wall, as if I'm wearing a "Do Not Touch" sign.
There were several occasions this year, where friends patted me on the shoulder and said, clearly uncomfortable, "I'd hug you, but I know you're not a hugger." And all I desperately wanted was someone to hold me and tell me things were going to be okay.
One Spring day, Lauren was in my office and I began to cry. Without hesitation, she crossed that imaginary boundary, my desk, and hugged me tight. She held me as I wept and comforted me. I remember thinking, that was the first time anyone had touched me in months.
Enter Jill. I met Jill recently through Boy Mom. Jill is a hugger. Even if it's the first time she's ever met you, she's going to hug you. Even if I'm gross from running 20 miles, she hugs me. I admire her unabashed love for people. She has an open heart and is so welcoming. She's a hugger.
The other night, my sweet friend Sare Bear came over and we explored the neighborhood on foot, stopping only to water my garden. She is a very wise woman and someone whom I admire greatly. She's a good listener and offers a sage perspective. Her friendship is edifying. As we talked, I became overcome with how well she knows my heart. Without thinking, I reached over, put my arm around her and leaned my head on her shoulder. She wrapped her arm around me and we walked like that, arm in arm, one friend leaning on another. Both physically and spiritually.
I want to tear that wall down. I can't promise that I'll become a hugger overnight. But I'm determined to be more receptive to giving and receiving love. And maybe someday, eventually, someone will describe me, "She's a hugger."