Let’s Get Physical

I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time.  I received my undergrad training as a Speech Communication and Theatre Studies and English Ed major from SDSU in Brookings, SD.  What may sound less marketable in terms of trained skills has taught me more about human beings and interaction than anything I have ever learned from concrete learning.  One of the  that has most fascinated me is that of non-verbal communication.  We say so much without ever uttering a word….it is amazing.  I continue to watch people, their interactions, the messages they send to one another when they are the most unaware.  In short, people fascinate me.

This week has been a hard week for me.  A good friend has suffered some loss and oddly enough two others that are wonderful friends of mine have also lost family members.  In the span of 3 days, 3 losses for dear friends.  I feel their pain, and although I have not lost a family member in about 10 years….the last was my favorite uncle…and i miss him.–the connection and relationship that I have with these 3 people means that I hurt for them.  I cannot understand the emotions as yet, I will someday soon, but caring for them and their families…I can only imagine their journey. 

So, what does that mean in the great NON-verbal communication conversation…well.  My week has been a jumble and yesterday I took some time to myself to just BE.  You know, the hole up in your own space and talk to no one…maybe read a book, not really think about anyone kind of time?  The kind where you are so tired, you have no idea what to do, but so tired that sleep simply won’t come?  I know you know the kind.  I took some of that time yesterday.  It was cold, felt like bleak December in the Dakotas and I hunkered down with my heavy comforter, 80’s streamed music and my dog….an extremely noisy Pug, whom I love to pieces.

How did this animal, one who cannot speak, communicate in any human terms what she is thinking, refuse to leave my side?  Now, she follows pretty closely as my shadow, but yesterday she simply would not leave me alone.   I tried many times in the middle of the afternoon to use my computer and do some writing, she would not let me.  She sat, staring at me, with her huge brown eyes…she then would use her paw to scrape “please” at my hand, and look at me again and sigh.  I talked to her…just like I would another person….I swear she understood what I was saying.  Her eyes would blink, sometimes she would snort a response, then lean against me.  Other times when I sat simply staring off into space while trying to think of the next best Words With Friends option, she would climb up on my chest and sit on my stomach…wagging her tail in my face.  If I was not paying attention, then she circled to sit on my stomach and stare straight into my face.  GOOBER!

Does she know the week has been full of stuff?  I think so.  Funny thing, that communication.  What does that mean in a human sense?

One phenomena I have studied is that of human touch and physical presence.  In infants, an inadequate amount of human touch and interaction causes a Failure to Thrive.  Babies can stop growing and can pass away from lack of human exposure.  Touch and closeness is so important…and I think we forget it.  My boys are constantly egging each other on and looking for reasons to beat on one another.  I have discovered a) that is a boy thing, and b) it is their way of engaging with one another in a physical sense that does not make them look wimpy.  Go figure.  Never a day goes by that I do not physically touch them in a positive way…whether it is a rumple of the hair, a tweak of the nose, hugs, zerberts on the cheek….whatever it is that communicates that I love them and am willing to bump into their presence often.

I wonder though, sometimes when I reach out and hug them, who needs it more?  Am I hugging them because I know they need it or is my need greater in that moment?  Do I even admit that need.  Often we don’t.  I thought of it as I sat with my dog…am I absently petting her fur because it feels good to her, ( it does) or is there an emotional need that I am satisfying ?  Do I need to hug my dog?  Yes, and she knows it.

Think of it…at the end of the day what is the mood we are in if we have not physically interacted with a person in a positive and affirming way.  I am not talking sex here, I am referring to a handshake, hug, arm about the shoulders, a playful push or something else.  How do we feel?  We often feel grouchy, irritable, angry, and more tired than we would normally and most of the time we have no clue why.  Bingo!  That is part of the reason.  We can fail to thrive as well.

Thrive though, looks different as we age than it does when we are infants.  Babies stop eating, growing, neglect to communicate, they can pass away quietly.  As we age, we isolate, draw boundaries, exact judgment, remain aloof…replace.  Half the time, I contend, we have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing it.  Many hide behind something else–a computer screen, being busy, a career, children, the past, the past, the past.  Wow, do we hide. 

Wow, do I hide.  As I write this, I am in my husband’s classroom, having subbed for him all day, prepping my mind to travel to a prayer service.  What I really want to do is sit down and bawl for all those that have lost this week and the void in their lives.  I want to reach out in the midst of that and cry that I am scared that may happen for me in the future, my parents are no spring chickens anymore.  Most people will read that and claim that I am being overdramatic…..but when you care about others their pain is your pain….we bear it together.  I listened to my sons last night pray for one of the families who have lost this week.  It broke my heart as they prayed that God would be with one member specifically when they feel bad.  How honest, how real.  How revealing.  I shared that with the person last night, they were grateful for the words…I was humbled by my sons’ lesson.

Would that I could be that honest.  Would that I could articulate how painful it is for me to watch others hurt and to know in a sense I am letting go of people and places as well.  I know that makes little sense to many who may read this… but when the time comes to let go of expectations that we place on ourselves and others….loss and grief and mourning happen.  It also coincides with graduating from Seminary in 35 days!  The loss of something familiar ( no matter how destructive or positive) brings a change…and a reaction to that change.  More to come in the days on that topic

Now, I am rambling, and many will have tuned out by now.  Summarize?  Keep in touch with people…love on them, please.  I really think 90% of the crud out there would be eliminated if we would venture out of our safe places and meet people where they are…not matter how sticky and gross it may appear.  We old peeps need those affirmations as much, if not more than the little ones. 

Mkay, I think I am done.  I better close and get myself looking halfway decent for the evening.  May this find you enveloped in safe and peaceful comfort…knowing Shalom to your soul.



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