Who IS that?

Did you ever see yourself through someone else’s eyes, and wonder how you became who you are?

I hadn’t even noticed it happening. One day a few years ago, when a friend of mine at work was particularly excited, she grabbed me and hugged me and then said, “I’m sorry. I know you don’t like to be touched,” and I thought. “Huh? When did I become that person? I was stunned. When did I become someone who gave the impression that I didn’t want to be touched?”

All my life I have been a touch-oriented person; and not always in a sexual way. I used to hug my girlfriends. Lean against my friends—male and female. I was comfortable touching people. I liked them to touch me. It made me feel close and warm and loved in that generalized, happy way. I once had a friend who was so close that when we were freezing on a hayride, he let me put my hands in his armpits to stay warm! How many friends offer that? How many friends would ACCEPT it? LOL!

I don’t know where or when that changed. On the inside, I don’t think it ever did. I still longed to be touched, but somehow, I lost my ability to instinctively reach out and touch. I became more aware of when and how I touched people, and how it would be perceived. The few people I did touch or allow to touch me were great sources of comfort. Over the years, as people hurt me, they became fewer.

I became more cautious and more reserved about who and when and how I touched. As my marriage began to fail and I felt more and more alone, my hesitance to touch other people only reinforced the loneliness I felt. Instead of reaching out and seeking comfort, I withdrew. It was such a gradual process that I didn’t even notice it, until she pointed it out. Since that day, I have actively looked for ways to touch people, both physically and emotionally. When my husband didn’t respond, I gave up. I couldn’t reach him emotionally, and I lost the will to reach out to him physically.

Eventually, I had to leave, to find out how to become myself again. I have rediscovered parts of me that I didn’t realize were missing, and I’ve been glad to have them back. I laugh more. I sing more. I tell people when I care about them. I try to make sure that they know they are important to me. I sympathize (a little) more. Still not my best thing. I try to judge less and support more. And I try to allow myself to reach out to people without always overthinking it.

A few days ago, I reached out to hug someone I hadn’t seen or touched in 30 years, but it was instinctive. We had always related by touch, from the first time we met; he used to bump into me on purpose as he’d walk by. I put my arm around his neck without thinking; partly to comfort him, and partly to take comfort from him. It was a good hug; the kind you hate to leave.

I want more hugs like that in my life. Not necessarily from him, but hugs from people who care and who need to give as much as they need to receive. Because I need to receive, as much as I need to give.

Go ahead—touch someone. You might be very glad you did. Who knows? They might be glad, too!

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