The Importance of Hugs

I never knew the importance of hugs until covid-19 kept us six feet apart. My hug-o-meter is on E. Running on fumes. Easily angered or on the brink of tears watching American Idol.

Yesterday, I graduated from Smith College. The commencement–a day of pomp and circumstance–took place outside my house on the deck. My husband set up a big screen TV to help give me the feeling of being at a real commencement. Soft breezes nudging my thin black gown.

Like many graduation ceremonies this May 2020, it was virtual. No picking up my sister at the airport. No making beds for my daughter and two granddaughters to stay a night or two. I felt un-tethered, texting them to make sure they didn’t miss the flash of my photo and name on the screen.

Names and faces flew by at record speed. No walking up the stairs and across the stage to exchange handshakes for well-deserved diplomas. No flashing cameras held by proud and teary parents. At the end, my husband videotaped me as I threw the mortar board up, into the backyard.

I felt the absence of my parents more deeply than the respective days they died. I’m 64. Still hoping they’re proud of me. Still wanting Mom to help me don my regalia. Maybe it was their spiritual presence that overwhelmed me with grief as I dressed in the bedroom alone before the big event. No hugs.

When the commencement ended, I ceremoniously moved my tassel from right to left. They never instructed us when to do so. I guess they assumed it would just be done. But we were watching from all parts of the globe at different times of the day and night. I felt disconnected. There was no patchwork of live faces on the screen–like on American Idol–with whom to share this rite of passage.

When the screen turned blue, we packed up wires and tissue boxes, went in the house, and watched TV. But not before I got a hug from my husband who said, “I’m so proud of you.”

An exercise to clear/heal the 5th chakra

I’ve had chronic neck pain and stiffness for years. I’ve thrown everything at it, but, so far, not the kitchen sink. That could make it worse.

Here’s an exercise that I read in a book and decided to try. It suggests going back in your mind to troubling incidents, and finally saying what you wish you could have said. It’s a very healing process.

What I wish I had been able to say…

…and maybe did say when I was an infant and my mother had postpartum and general depression: Where’s my mommy? Why is no one hearing me? Mommy, can’t you hear me? I need you! I’m hungry and I need to be held! I need your touch! I need to feel connected to you. I need to feel safe. I don’t feel safe. I feel cold. I need your warmth. Mommy, please come. Show me that you hear me. Show me that you care. Where are you? I need to see your eyes. I need to feel you close to me! Ma-a-a-m-a-a-a! Ma-a-a-m-a-a-a! Ma-a-a-m-a-a-a!

...when I was a young teenager and my mom asked me to sit with her while she lay depressed, sinking into the couch: Mom, I wish you didn’t feel so bad. I want to be happy and go outside and hang with my friends. I feel trapped. I feel like I can’t move. I feel like I can’t breathe. I think you might hate me if I say No, get up, and leave the house. I wish my siblings hadn’t left home. I wish you and Dad hadn’t divorced. I can’t handle your pain, Mom, it’s too much for me. It’s too big, too deep. I love you, but I can’t fix you. I just want to run and go have fun and forget you and your pain. I want to escape. I feel I’m being held hostage by the pain of your own childhood trauma. I need to go! I need to go! I need to go! I wish I could stand up, walk away from you, and go.

when I was 16 and my step-mother gave me the 3rd degree over many dinners at their apartment while my dad remained silent, except for occasionally chiming in his support of her: I’m not going to college because, frankly, I’m emotionally stunted from having been raised by a depressed and often emotionally unavailable mother whom my sister and I chose to live with after the divorce because we are girls, after having first chosen our dad because the lawyers and my parents couldn’t bring themselves to make the decision for us and now, hey, Dad, why are you double-teaming me and not letting up when you see tears of humiliation and shame roll down my cheeks because I am unable to give satisfactory answers about college and “Why do you love that boy?” Dad, please! I need you to defend me and tell her to back off, but you morphed into an obedient puppy when you married this loud Jewish woman who is seventeen years your younger.

…when my father and step-mother said that my adult boyfriend of several years could not be included in the family group photograph until we were married because he was not officially part of the family: Well, then all you married people can’t be in it either if you can’t guarantee that you’ll never, ever get divorced. This family photo is just a snapshot of who we are as a family right now, in this moment. (My “boyfriend” and I are still not married, but have been together going on sixteen years. One married couple in the photo has since gotten divorced.)