I know it’s important to focus on what we have, and to be thankful for it, but for those of us with loved ones out of reach during this pandemic, it’s hard not to dwell on our losses. On the folks we’re missing. On the hugs we’re craving, with no way of knowing when they’ll be within reach again.
And there are not enough people filling our days, there aren’t enough things to do or places to go. Life is hectic and there’s too much to do, yet somehow not enough to distract us from the gaping holes in our lives. Every time I am a little tired, or my hip aches particularly fiercely, or anything makes me a bit sad, the overwhelming anguish of being separated from my people seizes on the chink in my armour and floods my system with yearning.
Video calls are bitter sweet. Beloved faces right there in front of us, yet out of reach. Sweet, familiar voices land in our hearts like soothing ointment, but at the same time they leave raw scars. I spend an hour on a call with a loved one, and then spend all day alternately smiling and heaving deeply sorrowful sighs, as I alternate between how much I love them, and how far away they are.
It leaves plenty of time to contemplate the nature of hugs. Hugs have personality, just like people. One person can give many different hugs, but hugs between the same two people tend to develop a distinctive character over time. These are the hugs I crave:
The Fierce but Fleeting, or FbF – a short, sharp, intense hug, the FbF uses full body contact to convey deep affection and emotional need in the minimum time, moving straight on to coffee and conversation. The FbF is no nonsense, but heartfelt. A meaningful hug in a hurry.
The Fierce and Lasting, or FaL – as intense as the FbF but sustained for as long as both participants consent, the FaL is my favourite. A full body hug with no room for so much as a whisper in between, the FaL conveys deep affection and a yearning for the closeness we have been denied for too long. There may be tears. Eventually the FaL must give way to basic life support such as eating, drinking, and other bodily functions, but the need to postpone the moment for as long as humanly possible is overwhelming. The FaL is the maximum amount of hug in the maximum allowed time. It has nowhere it would rather be than in your arms.
The Friendly and Affectionate, or FaA – a firm hug with the intensity dialled back, this hug is very pleased to see you, but quite clear on its boundaries. The FaA conveys affection but not need. It is the friendly, neighbourhood hug. The FaA will be delighted to see you around, but it will not hunt you down, nor outstay its welcome.
I even miss the Tentative and Cautious, or TaC – An A-Frame hug, which aims to maintain minimum risk of intimate personal contact, yet still constitutes an embrace. In the TaC, arms and shoulders touch, possibly even cheeks in extreme cases, but nothing below the collarbone. It is the entry level hug, that promises nothing, but speaks of mild affection.
I use different hugs with different people, but I dream about Fierce and Lasting hugs with my far flung besties all the time now. When I can have them in real life, I might have to be reminded to let go.
What are your favourite hugs like?