For the past few weeks, I’ve had an uneasy anxiety roiling in my head: my first follow-up oncology appointment. Logically, I realized the anxiety was a bit irrational. After all, no tests were to be conducted, this was simply a check-in with the possibility of a brief physical exam.
Despite logic, the nervousness persisted and I began to search for distractions. Looking for a daily mindful gratitude and beginning to document the positive has served as a tremendous distraction and I fully intended to be profoundly grateful for those diversions today (including trash magazines in the waiting room)!
But I have just returned from my appointment and realized I was profoundly grateful for something else today. A doctor who listens. And who hugs.
Day 11 – November 11th – Today I am ridiculously grateful for hugs and those that tolerate them, return them and dole them out.
I’m a talker. And a hugger. Prior to attending a social event, I have to remind myself that not everyone likes high energy conversation and some people can even be a little tactile defensive when I move in for an embrace.
Sometimes this quiet, self-reminder changes my natural behaviors. Usually it doesn’t.
So, when Dr. J walked into the exam room, shook my husband’s hand and opened her arms to me, I felt instantly at ease. I could be myself. This non-verbal prompt was all that I needed to feel instantly comfortable to share the good, the bad and the frustrating. A simple hug told me that I was safe to ask the questions, share the concerns and the celebrations of the last few months.
I could spend hours hypothesizing on why a hug has this effect on me but I believe most of the magic of an embrace has to do with energy. When I hug you, I am consciously sharing my energy with you. If you are sad, I am actively trying to take some of that pain away and replace it with hope. If you are happy, I am eagerly nuzzling up to that happy energy in order to share the moment with you.
A hug is a very physical connection that can lead to emotional closeness and empathy. And fundamentally, I believe we are stronger when we realize we are all in this together.
Embracing individuals within a circle of family or close friends doesn’t usually get a second glance but I also hug people in the workplace and people I have just met. While this may seem incredibly odd to some who prefer a quiet nod or a professional handshake, I can take solace in the fact an embrace seems far more civilized than the way dogs say hello.
And I can learn a lot from the way a veritable stranger responds to a hug.
- Someone who hangs on tight is probably a hugger too. And needs that physical connection
- Someone who receives a hug tentatively and then falls into the clinch definitely needs the connection.
- Someone who barely allows physical contact is unaccustomed to people like me, in which case they definitely need the hug!
(While the above may not be considered empirical data validating my theory that all people should hug more often, I do believe this paradigm shift would make the world a kinder, more empathetic place.)
For a few months this summer I needed hugs more than usual. Each one had tremendous value to either my physical or emotional health.
- I received hugs that calmed my fears.
- A particularly poignant hug broke the dam on tears that desperately needed to break free.
- Daily hugs reminded me I was never alone and inspired me to smile a little brighter.
Perhaps the power of touch in and of itself is the powerful mechanism which would render a handshake as impactful but my preferred method of delivery is a hug.
And I’m grateful for those who receive them (whether with grace or trepidation), those that reciprocate and those that initiate.
NOTE: If you'd like to spend the month in a similar state of gratitude, you can play along with me here in the comments section or check out KindSpring.org to sign up for their 21-day Challenge that began on November 7th.