For all the hugs I've given or received over the years ... and yes, each one special in its own way ... the best ever are the hugs that come from my two adorable little Canadians when I walk through the doors at the airport when I go for a visit. When they come running and shouting, "Ghee! Ghee! Ghee!" and wrap their little arms around me ... geez, Louise, there's just nothing better. I lift them into my arms and in a blink, their four little girl arms are squeezing around my neck as hard as they can possibly squeeze without choking me. They pull back and look into my eyes as if they're making sure I'm really there, and then they press their precious faces up against mine, giggling and squealing with pure, unadulterated delight to be with their Ghee.
Perhaps it's because my 58th birthday is coming up in just a few short weeks, but I've found myself wishing lately that I had kept a better accounting of certain things in my life. Things I wish I would have tallied up as I went and written them down so I could look back and, hopefully, be astounded by such a great number of good things and humbled by such an inconsequential amount of bad ones. Take hugs, for example ... how cool would it be if I had kept a record of every single hug I've given or received over the last almost 58 years? Just think ... had I written them all down, I could open my "Book of Hugs" anytime I needed to feel loved and remember the people and circumstances surrounding each one of those hugs.
A couple of weeks ago, an article popped up in my Facebook feed about how important hugging and/or being hugged are for both our mental and physical well-being. From triggering the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain (chemicals that affect both mood and emotion) to lowering blood pressure and reducing the production of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine (often referred to as the stress hormones), hugs have been scientifically proven to positively enhance the health of our bodies, minds and souls. Click here to read the article for yourself, and also take a couple of minutes to watch the video that appears near the end about the social experiment regarding real vs. fake hugs. (Note: The article is kind of long, but I think you'll find it's well worth the read time, and the video is most certainly worth taking a few minutes to watch.) Oh, and for the record, I agree that hugs ... hugs that are given from hearts that are pure ... are one of the most powerful ways to show someone you care.
I read an article yesterday discussing a piece that was published on the Girl Scouts of America website about the dangers of forcing girls (and I'll add in boys as well) to hug friends and family members at gatherings during the holidays. I'm sure a large part of the reasoning behind the decision to publish the information encouraging parents not to push their daughters (or sons) to hug friends and relatives was due to the unprecedented number of reports in the news as of late regarding the sexual misconduct of adults toward children and teens. Before you read one more word, please hear me on this ... I understand that reasoning completely, and I absolutely agree that as parents and grandparents, we must do everything in our power to protect our children and grandchildren from any and all forms of improper advances or sexual abuse. That's a no-brainer to me. I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who are coming forward to name their abusers. No matter their age or how long ago the abuse occurred, it takes a very special kind of courage to speak out. It does, however, make me incredibly sad to know that's the kind of world we now live in. The kind of world where something each one of us so desperately needs for our mental, emotional and physical well-being has been turned into something about which we must now question the motive or intent of the giver. The kind of world where a hug has become something sexual ... something we must be on guard about not only for our children and grandchildren, but for ourselves as well.
Every year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the company I work for holds an event called "Stretch Your Stomach." SHS provides the turkey and the employees contribute all the sides, desserts and drinks, and everyone gathers in the kitchen over the lunch hour to partake in the pre-Thanksgiving feast. I spent yesterday evening making deviled eggs ... not because I'm crazy about making deviled eggs for hours on end, but because apparently, at least according to some of my co-workers, I make darned good deviled eggs and people always ask me to bring them. The "Stretch Your Stomach" pre-Thanksgiving feast is a tradition at SHS ... a tradition that people look forward to every year. Last night, as I was boiling, peeling, slicing, mixing and filling all those eggs, I couldn't help but think about an office tradition of my own that I once had. On the last day in the office before a holiday or before I left to go on vacation, I would go to each of my co-workers' desks, wish them a happy holiday and give them a hug.
My old hugging tradition probably never meant as much to the folks I work with as it did to me, because it meant a great big old heck of a lot to me. I often say that's the worst thing about being an empty-nester ... not having my kids around to hug whenever I want. Don't worry, they would all tell you that when we do get together now, I make sure I get in a super abundance of hugs when they arrive and when they leave. OK, OK ... I may even hug them a few extra times in between the hellos and goodbyes. You may have read the quote from Dr. Virginia Satir in which she famously said, "We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." Man, oh, man ... if the great and wise Dr. Satir is correct in her findings, it's a freaking miracle that I, along with all the other people out there who live alone, are still breathing.
A young man I worked with several years ago stopped by the office a few weeks ago to say hello. When he saw me, the first thing he did was reach out his arms to hug me and as he did, he said, "You're the best hugger ever, Terrie. I always looked forward to your hugs because they made me know, even on my darkest days, there was someone who truly cared about me." I managed to squeak out a response of, "You're too sweet," before he pulled back and stared deeply into my eyes, leaned in to hug me again and whispered something in my ear that went straight to my heart. The tall, super-intelligent, handsome young man said softly, "You're not hugging me back, T. What's up with that? I need a real Terrie hug. Why aren't you hugging me back?" I could offer no answers for the young man's questions ... no answers except to hug him back as tightly as I could and whisper in his ear, "Thank you ... thank you ... thank you."
It's probably not a coincidence that I've been watching "This Is Us" as I was typing this post ... lots of powerful and emotional hugs in this episode, and yep, I cried my eyes out as I do pretty much every time I watch that show. Hug someone tomorrow ... don't let the bad others do keep you from doing the good you can do. Be thankful and kind and compassionate to one another, friends ... and hug. Hug often ... hug with a pure heart ... hug and show someone you care.