"Maybe that’s why I want to touch people so often -- it’s only another way of talking." ~ Georgia O’Keefe
I miss touch. I miss grabbing onto someone’s arm for support when I am bent over in laughter. I miss the casual brush of a hand across my skin. I miss shaking hands. I miss linking my arm with a friend’s as we walk along a path. I miss the soft touch of our cheek to cheek as we kiss the air. I miss intentionally bumping and nudging someone’s side. I miss the kind act of tension being kneaded out of my shoulders by a friend. I miss leaning into someone’s body. I miss collapsing into someone’s arms. I miss holding hands.
And boy do I miss real hugs!
I have heard expressions of longing for this last form of touch more than any other. Did we ever consciously know that we hug so much and how needful we are of those hugs? How needful we are of physical touch?
These, admittedly, are the yearnings of a single person, one not living with a pod of young children or a partner. Though I’ve actually been touched quite a bit over the past several months, by medical professionals and a pod of careful family and friends who assisted me during hospital visits. And I am grateful.
What I miss is the spontaneity of pre-pandemic touch.
When we were first asked to become socially distanced, quite aware of how much I connect through touch, my thoughts drifted to…. baby cuddlers! Hospital volunteers who hold and rock infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). I thought of the babies and how for their healthy development they needed to be held and touched. For me, gregarious soul that I am, it is as painter Georgia O’Keefe once said: touching is only another way of talking.
We are a social lot, we humans. We need communication in both verbal and non-verbal ways. Including touch that indicates I see you, I care about you, I’m happy to be with you, I love you, and countless other things. Touch that is desired and affirming. Though I’ve increasingly found myself thinking about people who prefer not to be touched. Like quiet people who prefer not to do all that much talking, but still manage to communicate in ways that are safe, and not an alarming invasion of body or space.
Which has caused me to notice other ways we communicate with bodies not touching, because who knows how long all this will last? I’ve learned to notice the unique movements of others that are always there, I realize, I’m just learning to “listen” in new ways. Most of all I’m appreciating the power of presence, being able to be with, in whatever ways I can, as a new gratitude.
Photo Credit: albertobouganem