In the early months of marriage I came back from grocery shopping and brought all the grocery bags into the kitchen and commenced to put them away in the appropriate cupboards. About 3 bags into this, Lee came in and started helping me. He put the cereal on top of the fridge, put the vanilla in the cup cupboard, cheese in the vegetable drawer, and found a spot between the canned corn and beans for a bag of chocolate chips. I stopped him and showed him how we had a baking cupboard for baking items, a deli drawer for cheese, and a whole cabinet for cereal. He nodded and then commenced to put the mustard on the shelf (not the door) of the fridge and the powdered sugar on top of the fridge where the cereal had been moments earlier. This was my KITCHEN, MY space, with all of MY things and I went just a little psycho wife. I told him to stop helping me, that he was messing it all up and that I would rather do it myself than spend ten minutes trying to find my paprika when I next made deviled eggs. He put up his hands in surrender and said "Fine, I won't help."
At the time I thanked him for this since I didn't want his help. Well, fast forward 17 years and four kids--unloading groceries is MY job. I now get 18 bags minimum when I go grocery shopping. Like many things that started out organized, putting stuff away is now a dash to the finish because I'm usually late for something. A few years ago as I'm 20 minutes into unloading groceries while Lee is on the couch I asked him to help me. He eyed me carefully. "You WANT me to help put away groceries? Are you sure?"
And thus here I am facing another lesson of stating ones opinions too strongly, without having adequate basis for having formed that opinion. Which brings me to hugs.
I will attempt to say the rest of this as non-creepy as possible. It won't be easy.
A couple years ago there was a debate on LDStorymakers about hugs. I don't remember who brought it up or why but I pulled out my soap box and stated my opinion loudly and with fervor. I didn't like hugs. I didn't like feeling obligated to have such a physical exchange. It made me uncomfortable, I worried there was a sexual connotation to it with certain men, and seemed insincere when everyone just hugs everyone for any reason. I waited for people to line up behind me agreeing with my stance "non-huggers unite!" A few people admitted that they could take hugs or leave them, others said some people overdid it, but none of them were as anti-hug as I was. I've no doubt I came across as rather neurotic and it got me wondering about that very thing. What was so difficult about a hug? Why was it hard for me?
Ah, the romantic notion of going back in time and burning that soap box.
Following this debate some people from LDStorymakers no longer hugged me when we got together--well, except Julie Wright because she didn't buy my defense. There were a few times when every other person is hugging and I'm shaking hands. They weren't being mean, and I knew this, they were simply respecting my loudy-stated wishes. But it felt weird. I hadn't realized certain benefits of hugging until I was getting less and less of it. The most awkward moment was after I'd been with someone, maybe for lunch and we're saying goodbye. It becomes a weight shifting "Well, okay, I'll see you later." That just feels weird. There were times I was REALLY glad to see someone, or REALLY grateful for something hey did and found myself unsure of how to show that. I missed the power of a hug and didn't know how to get it any other way. And it made me look at myself in regard to all kinds of affection which takes us to some deep seated emotional issues I'll keep off the blog :-)
Anyway, I stood by my pronouncement, and I hugged people but didn't seek it out and wondered if I was really screwed up. Then, last fall, Julie Wright and I went on the book tour. Now, if you've spent any time with Julie you know she is a bundle of energy and just makes people feel good. I've had the chance to spend lots of time with Julie over the last several years, but never this much time all at once. From the get-go I was well aware of my hug issues. People go out of their way to come to signings, do I hug them? Have they heard I don't hug? Will they be offended if I don't hug them? If I do hug them will they assume I'm being insincere? There were people I hugged automatically, without thinking about it at all, but someone else would have me wondering what I should do. Julie, of course, had none of these thoughts. She hugged everyone. I had a moment or two in the beginning of thinking, what if people don't like being hugged? She's forcing them to hug against their wishes!
But guess what. I didn't see one person flinch, pull away, or seem the least bit ill at ease. And Julie hugged hundreds people on that tour. Instead of flinching and teeth gritting, I saw people literally melt when Julie embraced them. At least two women literally held on to her and it made me wonder when the last time was that someone had hugged them. After she greeted people this way, things were different. Pretenses dropped, we heard people's stories, they opened up about who they were, what they struggled with, and they bought Julie's books like crazy. To summarize it, I saw all these people connect to her. I hugged too, but it was watching Julie and the people she embraced that changed something in the way I viewed a good ol' hug. There was power in it and because Julie sincerely cared about these people, the hugs weren't weird, no one was uncomfortable and good things happened. Was my problem that I didn't care about people? No. Was I being arrogant or germ-o-phobic? No, I just didn't know how to do it very well. So, I started practicing and hugging in the right situation. Instead of telling myself my personal space was being invaded I just enjoyed the closeness (I know, quickly descending into creepy. I'm done)
At the LDStorymakers conference last week L.T. Elliot came up to me--for the record, she is one of the best huggers around, you know she's absolutely sincere in her regard and I swear she transfers energy through some cosmic force. She said "I know you're not a hugger, but..." And I felt so embarrassed. Not because she'd said it, but because I had told the world that I didn't want or need such basic affection. I made her give me a hug and told her I was converted. She laughed and said she was glad and she went on her way. The thing is, I don't remember telling her I wasn't a hugger. I don't know where she got it. Granted, I might have told her, but what if I didn't and it was just one of those things that spread. It could be a conspiracy that's might be all my fault!
So, now I find myself in a very weird position. I told people I didn't like hugs, I avoided them, and now I find that, like Julie said, people need to be touched in ways like that. People like me need it, even if we felt sure we didn't. And yet, hugging still doesn't come naturally for me. I way overthink it, worry that people won't want me to hug them, worry that they know I've stated my dislike and therefore won't know how to accept it from me. Will they think I'm faking it? Will they they pull away? After people read this I'll worry that they think I hug them so that they'll buy my books.
But either way, here I am, raw with confession, squirmy in my seat for both having stated my original opinions and now going back on them. I don't think I'll ever be Julie, but I'm growing in this one part of my life, I guess. And growth is uncomfortable sometimes.