The Power of the Hug
If you are blessed enough to be on the receiving end of regular physical affection, you may not get it. I know I didn’t get it at first. I grew up in one of the most affirming, loving, affectionate homes in the whole of the United States (maybe even the world?). I was never in want for a hug or a kiss to the point that it almost got irksome to me to have to dole out the obligatory daily affections.
In between my junior and senior year of college, however, I moved into my own apartment where I lived alone for the first time ever. My parents had moved to New York, and I was on my own and suddenly feeling extremely lonely. I don’t think I realized just how lonely I was until I visited a small local church one Wednesday evening and the adorable, gray-haired woman at the door asked me my name. “Elisabeth,” I said warily. “Oh, Elisabeth!” she cried as she engulfed me in a bone-crushing hug, “It’s so nice to see you!”
And I cried. Cried! It suddenly dawned on me that it had been so long since I had just simply been hugged. I realized I was starved for affection and that I needed that hug. It blew my mind. It had never been a problem for me before, so realizing my deep lack of personal contact was eye-opening. At the time I was hanging out in my small apartment during the day and working at a restaurant at night. I had few friends who had not gone home for the summer, and none of my family was local. I was lonely. I didn’t know just how lonely until that soul-searing hug, I think.
I came to appreciate hugs again two years ago when we were walking through a time of deep sorrow and grief. Very few words spoken to me during that time held much resonance, and not for lack of trying on the part of the speakers. I just didn’t need to hear anything at that point. What I did need, however, was the dozens of strong hugs that I got from so many. There was actual comfort in those hugs. They were healing hugs.
I’m in such a place of love and security in my life now. My children shower me with the tight squeezes and slimy kisses all throughout the day. I have a husband who has strong arms that can hold me in times of sadness or celebration. But even just this past week, I had to go to my husband and tell him that I needed a hug. I was facing something and it made me sad, and I needed that extra squeeze to comfort me. The Lis of the past would have scoffed at this or called it needy, but this Lis knows better. This Lis knows that hugs are powerful.