“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” ~ Bette Midler
Yesterday was an unusually clear, bright sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest. The temps reached almost 50F.
After an incredibly long, rainy, windy, and exhausting week, I promised myself to do less, putter more and to rest this weekend. This translated into raking leaves, then stringing some early holiday lights on the front bushes.
What I didn’t expect was a few neighbors to come over and chat from an exceptionally safe distance.
It was delightful to laugh, share and listen to each other as we described our personal at-home-craziness and how we were coping.
We joked about how many people were decorating early for the upcoming holidays.
I added, “this is the first year I’ve ever put lights up so soon and yet I really needed to get outside and do something special.”
Neighbor A: “Everything is different but one thing I’ve been doing is treating myself to a weekly latte.” She shared as if confessing. “Sometimes the drive thru takes forever, but I need to get out of the house!”
Neighbor B: “I’ve finally had time to catch-up on movies and read more books, but I also love working from home. It’s easier than dealing with traffic.”
We kept volleying our comments back and forth, nodding and understanding each other.
Just before we returned to our respective homes, one neighbor wistfully said, “I wish we could give each other a hug.”
Without hesitation, I replied, “I wish we could too.”
For that brief spell, life felt simple and more normal than it has been.
Later that evening, as synchronicity would have it, I read an article by best-selling author, psychotherapist and relationship expert, Esther Perel, about how people are touch starved more now than ever.
She writes, “One of the hardest side effects [of the pandemic and our online world] has been loneliness, especially in the moments when we’ve needed touch the most.”
Wow! Spot on!
I kept reading and thinking, how amazing I felt earlier talking to my neighbors. How much lighter and rejuvenated I felt knowing we were all experiencing similar feelings.
But now, I also realized how much I miss hugs, an understanding touch, a kind pat on my back, even a handshake.
Those tactile and nonverbal ways of communicating are, well, so touching!
What if we are single and touch is a touchy subject? Perel’s article had some suggestions regardless of if you are with or without an intimate partner.
She explained we need to give ourselves: self-hugs, self-massage, and intimate self-pleasure, i.e. masturbating. Self-touch is nourishing and self-soothing. It settles our nervous system and helps ease stress. Who doesn’t need a little more of that!
What did I learn from this weekend? First, I’m going to purposefully walk about my neighborhood more often, waving more and saying, ‘hello’ to my neighbors. I need community and the connection of people. Conversations warm me. Yesterday’s leaf raking turned into a mini safe social gathering and did my mental well-being so much good.
As for touch, I’m going to add self-massage, and really notice how good it feels to touch my skin, show myself kindness, and give myself the loving touch I crave and deserve.
Perel, Esther (2020). Feeling Touch Starved? How Our Sense of Touch Keeps Us Radically Connected to Ourselves. Esther’s Blog, Original Articles, Resources, and Videos.
Originally published on Age of Empathy: You Touched Me with Your Empathy and Conversation
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."