Day six: What precious things have you gathered this year?
Hugs. I gathered hugs.
I grew up in a reserved family with Northern European roots that didn’t show a whole lot of physical affection. Hugging, therefore, was an acquired skill that I had to learn on my own. As a teenager, a lot of my friends became huggers and I adapted quite nicely. I learned how to give and receive. Admittedly, it was awkward at first. But being a bit of a tactile-sensory-junkie, I secretly fell in love with it.
One of my very best friends is The Best Hugger In The World. Yes, she even puts that hugging saint, Amma, to shame. (Side note: Amma, now currently embroiled in controversy, fyi, with allegations of abuse and cultish behavior. But I digress…) When my friend, Kris, gives you a hug it is as though time stops. And really, it sorta does. It was overwhelming to experience at first, especially for someone like me who was not born into hugging naturally. But again, I am proud to say I quickly adapted. Kris is one of those people who teaches you how to be an exceptional friend through her exceptional example. And her hugs are legendary. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a Kris Hug can attest to this. She envelopes you in her arms and holds you tight. Not just for a moment, but for as long as it takes for her to inhale and absorb the very essence of you into her being. Because this is just the way she is. Exceptional. If you’re lucky, you might even get a kiss on the cheek. This year was a very good year for collecting Kris Hugs. Though she lives far, far away up in the frigid Canadian hinterlands, I was fortunate enough to spend time with her on three separate occasions in 2013. You can imagine how many hugs were gathered in that time. (Lots.)
I gathered hugs from a friend from long ago. A friend I hadn’t seen in decades. You know how those reunion hugs can sometimes seem a bit perfunctory and rote? Yeah, this wasn’t like that. This was the kind of hug that managed to dissolve nearly 30 years of separation in it’s midst. Just like that. One of those kind of hugs that immediately takes the edge off any nerves and anxiety. And here’s the thing–my friend from long ago is now one of my closest friends in the here and now and the hugs haven’t diminished. Not a bit. (I think he may have taken a workshop from Kris.)
Neil Gaiman gave me a hug. He gave me a hug at 1:00 in the morning on a Wednesday in Seattle. He’s a rather famous author, you see, and I went to listen to him read from his latest book. I waited in line for hours. Hours. I was the second to the last person in line at 1:00 in the morning and he had been signing books for as many hours as I had been in line. It was finally my turn to meet him and he was as gracious and present and wonderful as if it were 1:00 in the afternoon and he had just enjoyed a delightful lunch with a cup of tea and a quick nap. Neil Gaiman gives wonderful hugs. Not I’m-a-famous-person-and-I’m-tired-and-I-just-want-to-go-to-bed-hugs. Neil Gaiman gives long, tight, meaningful hugs. Even at 1:00AM. I cried. Just a little.
My college kid actually gives me hugs now that he spends most of the year living away from home. He, too, not a completely natural hugger. It must be in the genes. But he’s learning, just as I did. He knows he is required to give me hugs now. Not all the time, for crying out loud. But certainly when he comes home to visit and when he leaves again. Those leaving hugs are tough. For me anyway. He acts like it’s no big deal but I like to think his Mom Hugs are pretty important to him.
And then there are the many hugs from my yoga peeps. Hugs gathered after they share with me their struggles and breakthroughs and breakdowns. Hugs of relief. Hugs of grief and the mystery of not knowing what might come next. Hugs of gratitude and joy. A hug just to say “Hey, great class!” Other hugs coupled with tears in each of our eyes. The kind of hugs that make me walk out of class and sit in my car for a spell, allowing the emotion and experience and their words to wash over and fully land in me. Each one, a unique gem and each one never taken for granted.
I expect to collect at least one more meaningful hug this year. Next week I’ll be meeting my hero, Amanda Palmer, in Portland. She just happens to be married to Neil Gaiman. Word on the street is that she gives The Best Hugs In The World. I hope she knows she’s got some pretty high standards to meet.
I’ll let you know how it goes.