On my way home from my ‘essential’ job as a therapist, after dropping off paperwork at my office, since I see clients via the marvels of modern technology (telehealth), I passed this sign in my suburban Bucks County, PA town of Doylestown. Someone had created it and displayed it at the corner of State and Main Streets to lift spirits and to remind us that we will see the end of the quarantine and find it safe to face each other heart to heart. What is meaningful for me about this intersection is that it is the jumping-off point for the FREE Hugs strolls I do through town. The last one occurred late last year. I have no clue when the next one will be permitted and welcome. That evokes a deep sense of sadness since it has been my mission and passion since 2014. Six years later, what was seen as nourishing is now viewed as potentially toxic. What a bizarre cosmic joke this is. In times of trauma and tragedy, loving physical contact heals many wounds.
We are finding new ways to maintain our connection via calls, Facetime, texts and Zoom gatherings. On the first night of Passover last week, I took part in what I call a cyber seder with friends in the DC, NY, PA area and another who joined us from her hammock in Costa Rica. It is a community holiday where people gather around tables heaped with food and ritual items that commemorate the flight of Jews from slavery in Egypt. On this night (which in the liturgy is asked why it is different from all other nights), these people, some who are part of my tribe from three hours south of my home, soothed my sad heart. It was bittersweet. I was grateful to be among them, but know that if we had been in each other’s physical presence, a whole lot of hugging and cuddling would have been happening.
As a touch/consent educator, I teach the concept that skin hunger is a need that is as important as food hunger. My friends send me memes and messages indicating that they know what a stretch this is for me. To take care of my tactile nourishment needs, I have been hugging myself, as well as trees. I have been using a heating pad either behind me or in front of me at night. I have a powder blue fuzzy blanket draped over my legs as I am nestled into my recliner chair.
I listen to inspiring music and podcasts, watch bolstering videos and television shows. I remind myself that I have gotten through other major challenges in my life, including several deaths, and multiple illnesses. What feels different is that the whole world is going through this together. There isn’t a single person on the planet for whom this doesn’t have an impact; large or small. Even while acknowledging my personal challenges, I simultaneously embrace my blessings: family, friends, home, job, car, computer, health, and hope. There’s that. Many’s the time in the past five weeks that I have felt sadness, grief, anger and frustration. I have also felt love, peace and trust. When I feel them flagging, I reach out to loved ones. I write. A LOT. The uncertainty factor is right up there as the most challenging aspect. No clue when the magic day will arrive.
I witness kind acts. People making and donating masks. People offering to shop for those who should not leave their homes. People purchasing food for hero front liners in medical settings. People having driveby birthday celebrations. People acting the way they should all year round, by simply being decent human beings.
I saw examples of Doylestown Strong today. As I was driving through town, I made a swoop by visit to Doylestown Produce and McCaffery’s. In both places, staff were masked and gloved, shoppers wore a mask and some wore gloves. Everyone was polite and courteous, allowing others to walk past them. We smiled wistfully at each other (I am guessing since we couldn’t see each other’s faces from the nose down). I was feeling wistful anyway. Rather than thinking of it as an inconvenience, I saw it over and over as an act of love. Keep on loving with all ya got. Stay healthy, y’all.
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Photos courtesy of the author