Know what this is? It’s a fairly new emoji on my iPhone (can you see it?). I’m told it’s supposed to be a hug (it comes up as a suggested emoji for “hug” in my predictive text), but it’s…a shadow. A shadow hug. How perfect for our times, now. We can’t hug, not really, because of this… dreaded virus. Hard to fathom, but oh-so-real. It says so much about our times, our world, right now. Our need for hugs, though, is not diminished, and that is wreaking havoc with our emotional state –at least, it is for MY emotional state, because I’m a hugger. So, in this time, this emoji is exactly how I feel. My own emotional need for physical contact is a shadow, wishing, and pretending, that physical contact is possible. It’s hard.
Still. I’m not one to accept a negative without looking for a positive – I’m the quintessential kid who, opening the door to a room piled high with horse manure, grabs a shovel and hollers, “there has to be a pony in here somewhere!” I’ve told you the down side – the lack of physical contact and my need for it. It has become part of our culture, right now – we can’t see the smiles because of the (essential) masks. Can’t touch a hand or hug a friend. Now what? It’s hard. Still…in the words of one of my new favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, we can do hard things.
I’m not going to be that person who says “eff it, I’m going to do what I want, it’s a free country,” and rip off my mask and run to hug you. I believe in the science. I care about the hundreds of thousands of people who have already died and the hundreds of thousands more who have suffered, some, who, “recovered,” are still suffering aftereffects, and some who are now infected and suffering. I know that even if I don’t exhibit signs of symptoms of this virus, I can potentially still be infected and pass it on – something I DON’T want my hugs to do.
So I need – we need – to get creative. To do the work of maintaining relationships without direct personal contact, without touching. It IS possible. Videoconferencing has shown us – especially the professional world — that it is possible to do business remotely, which will likely change many corporations’ paradigms forever. And my Zoom yoga classes, and Skype and FaceTime “friend visits,” are my visual reminders that there really ARE people out there that I know and miss and love, and help to keep me connected and somewhat sane.
We DO have other ways of reaching out. Phone calls (remember when your telephone was just for phone calls? Crazy!) Stationery (that’s the writing paper you use to write letters, and mail them, not e-mail them). Does it take effort? A little. Is it worth the effort? I think it is; you tell me. I want to think so; that maybe, just maybe, if we make the effort to connect in real ways with people, we can re-create a connected society, instead of a divided one. It’s been a crazy year, pandemic, racial inequity awaking, fear, division, division, division. We need connection, awareness, inclusion; we can do it Shadow hugs just …aren’t enough.
Am I dreaming? You tell me. I just hope that there’s a pony in there…somewhere.