A few weeks ago, my friend Ted Eytan (@tedeytan for you twitter followers) introduced me to a special lady named Lauree Ostrofsky (@simplyleap) through a tweet which was on the subject of hugs. Lauree is the founder of Simply Leap and has been going around the country on what she calls a "Hug Tour". The message is simple... Hug like you mean it.
"My hug tour is a personal journey with a larger purpose. I want the people in my life to know they are important. To feel that they are loved, because they are. I also hope that my actions encourage others to share love. As adults we can be apprehensive, or just preoccupied, to show how we really feel. In answer to that, I say: It’s time to hug like you really mean it." - LaureeHow can one tweet make you rethink how you hug? Rethink your life? I guess that's really the power of Twitter. The messages, though sometimes life-changing, are short and sweet - the reader must decide what and how to interpret and/or apply. When I read about Lauree's #hugtour, my first thought was... she really is brave. You see, I didn't come from a big family of huggers, at least not growing up. I don't recall my mom being overly affectionate, though I know she loved me. My dad was on the road a lot for work, so I do remember him hugging us as he would come and go. I DO remember a couple of family friends who were like uncles to us that always gave hugs. My uncle Dan, who was the stand in father figure when my dad was away and David who liked to hug a little too much (He turned out to be a child molester - so his creepy hugs don't count). My step-dad is a big hugger, but I think I felt like it would be betraying my dad if I accepted them as freely as they were given. Other than that, I didn't really have a lot of huggers in my life who hugged "like they meant it". You know the kind of hug that says, "I care about you and I'm not going to let you go".
It's such a strange and almost uncomfortable feeling for me when I encounter someone who hugs like they mean it. It is cathartic and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I have so much of my past built up inside me that I fear if someone were to hug me with their heart and soul too long I would quite possibly crumble in tears.
Is it a sad statement when you can list the hugs that you remember that changed you a little bit inside? Here are the hugs that I etched their memory in to my heart.
Hugging my dad when he and my mom separated and he was leaving for his new appt. Hugging him when he left for Saudi Arabia to work for a few years. Running to hug him every time he came to see us.
Hugging my sister Kellie who was going to live with my grandmother when she was 13.
Hugging my sister Kim after helping her pack a bag so she could run away. Having her tell me to look out for my younger sister.
Hugging my boss, who was more like a fatherly figure to me than a boss, who could just tell that something was wrong when I showed up for work without a smile on my face. He made me go sit down with him. Told me I didn't need to talk if I didn't want to. I couldn't find the words, but the tears I had been holding back for the last hour started to fall. He got up and hugged me. He hugged me through all of my sobbing and heart ache. He hugged me until I could whisper the words; Right before I left for work my younger sister told me that one of my best friends, Robbie, was killed in a car accident the night before.
Hugging my best friend Lara right before I drove away to start a new life in Southern California... without her. She was my family and a huge piece of my heart. Leaving her behind left a piece of me too.
Hugging my two year old after she saved me from her father who had me pinned down to ground and was strangling me. My brave little hero came to my rescue, climbing on his back as she cried "No papi No!" Her plea broke him from his wicked spell. He climbed off me, kicked me in the ribs and walked away. Leaving her to hold my head while I caught my breath.
Hugging my soon to be second husband as he broke down in tears. His ex-wife had taken their daughter (HIS heart and soul) and hid her away.
Hugging a lady named Sherri Green who I met when I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her hugs were so full of love and strength... they scared me. I wasn't used to someone hugging me like that... like a mother would do.
Hugging my sister Kim who moved away to Texas to start her new life when she was just 19 years old. I hadn't seen her for a couple years and I was in Texas for a conference that I was speaking at. She drove from Lubbock to San Antonio after working all day to spend a day and half with me. When she got to my hotel, she gave me one of her bear hugs. Tight and secure... full of sisterly love.
Hugging my nephew Matt when I stepped off the plane in Alabama to go to his college graduation. He and I have become quite close over the years and it was like hugging one of my own children. I wish he lived closer to us, but since he doesn't, our hugs have to last until the next time we'll see each other.
Hugging Lara again after not seeing her for several years. She will always be my best friend and soul sister.
Hugging my boss, Gail Lindsay(@nurseqm) and co-worker, Ruthie Goldberg, after having a bit of a nervous breakdown at work.
Hugging a lady at a grocery store who stopped me tell me I was beautiful. I broke down in tears and, without any hesitation, she hugged me whole again. Earlier that day my mother-in-law had told me I was fat and should consider gastric bypass. I spent the rest of the day telling myself I was ugly and unworthy, until I met this random woman who said I was beautiful.
Hugging two friends I had met through Twitter at DC HealthCamp and The Walking Gallery Event. The first was a hug from Regina Holliday(@reginalholliday). Her hug said, "I get you and I love you for being who you are." Then, meeting Lisa Fields(@practicalwisdom) who I had made an instant connection with through Twitter. When we met, she hugged me until I almost cried. Had nothing else in DC gone right, the trip would have all been worth it because of that hug.
Hugging my daughters every day, who won't let me walk by them without a REAL hug. I love the way they make me feel.
Hugging my chiropractors massage therapist who confided in me that he was feeling numb from the loss of a best friend. We talked about his pain and my own numbness when my best friend had died. When he finished massaging my neck, I reached out and gave him a hug. Only this hug was different from what I was used to giving. All I could hear in the back of my mind was Lauree saying "Hug him like you mean it. Show him that you care." So I hugged him tight and didn't let go. After about a minute he started to cry, and I cried with him. All I could think was... Hugs really do heal.
I will be 45 this Saturday, July 7th and I find it a little disturbing that I'm figuring this out so late in life, but there is no better time to start like the present. From now on, I'm going to hug like I mean it. If you are a sideways, one-arm-around-the-back hugger, please know that I will not let you get away without giving you a full on, two-armed hug. (If you only have one arm, I will still accept a one-armed hug, but you had better damn well mean it!)
I realize now, as I write this blog, that the hugs that really impacted me the most throughout my childhood are the hugs where someone was telling me goodbye. I don't want to think of hugs like that anymore. I want my hugs to be healing and full of love...for me and the recipient. To those who have hugged me with their whole heart... thank you. Whether you knew it or not, you have helped me heal a little bit with each embrace.
Huh... it seems that Twitter really can help change the world. One 140 character Tweet and hug at a time.
Need some hug inspiration? Check out Lauree's HugWall. You can even send her pictures and she'll post them.